Couple left the US in search of American dream and now they are helping others do the same

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A couple who moved from Colorado to Ecuador six years ago under serious financial hardship has built a business assisting other Americans realize their dreams of living abroad. 

“I would say that we’ve helped at least a thousand people if not considerably more, and the number is growing,” JP Stonestreet told Fox News Digital. “There is a growing trend of people wanting to leave or at least dreaming about leaving because the cost of living in the United States has just skyrocketed, especially since the pandemic.”

The increasing number of TikTok videos tagged #expatlife #digitalnomad #leavingtheusa posted in the past year are convincing some people that a better life exists outside U.S. borders. 

Americans living abroad are documenting their new stress-free lifestyles outside the U.S. on social media and explaining why they think the American dream has a new meaning.


“The new American dream is to leave America,” TikToker Andrea Elliott previously told Fox News Digital. “It used to be to stay here, to have a job, to retire when you’re 60, to have a house, to have a family, and now we’re not even able to live.”

JP Stonestreet and Amelia Basista moved from Colorado to Ecuador in hopes of escaping America’s high cost of living and better enjoying their lives. (Courtesy of JP Stonestreet )

Stonestreet, 50, met his wife, Amelia Basista, 55, in Denver 11 years ago and the two quickly built a life together. That life was flipped upside-down when Stonestreet was diagnosed with a serious spinal disease in 2015, which kicked off what the couple calls “the year from hell.” 

Stonestreet underwent two major surgeries and had to relearn how to walk. Basista switched to a job that paid less but didn’t require travel so she could care for her husband at home. Though insurance covered most of the surgery expenses, they still faced an influx of medical bills and lived off less than half their previous monthly income.

They considered refinancing their house but ended up selling it and moving into a one-bedroom apartment. But the cuts weren’t enough to keep them out of the red each month. 

“We just really looked at our lives and said, ‘Is this worth it? The house, the cars, the American dream and all of that. Is it worth it just to work all the time and have debt and not be able to spend any time with each other?’” Stonestreet told Fox News Digital. 

He originally mentioned moving abroad as a joke, but the idea grew more appealing to the couple the longer they sat on it. 

“We just decided that it wasn’t worth it, that we were going to just end up dying in debt,” Stonestreet said. 


After considering cities in Mexico and Portugal, the couple settled on Ecuador for their new home due to its low cost of living. 

jp stonestreet and amelia basista in cunca ecuador

Stonestreet and Basista settled on moving to Ecuador due to its low cost of living. (Courtesy of JP Stonestreet )

In 2022, the U.S. had the 17th-highest cost of living compared to the rest of the world, according to America’s cost of living is over twice the amount of Ecuador’s, found.

Stonestreet and Basista also liked that the South American country was in the Eastern Standard Time zone and used the U.S. dollar.

Basista insisted on an exploratory trip before making a final decision, but after a few days in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca, she was sold. She was able to keep her existing job by working remotely while Stonestreet maintained his business building websites. They officially moved in September 2017.

“After we moved to Ecuador, we were out of debt in three years,” Stonestreet said.

The low cost of living allowed them to pay off $60,000 in credit card debt and loans. Stonestreet said they spent around 70% less money on food and went from paying $1,800 for a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Denver to paying $800 for a three-bedroom house in Cuenca.

In recent years, the belief that anyone can succeed in America, regardless of background, with enough time, hustle and grit has waned among its citizens. Americans are dreaming less about upward mobility and more about a stress-free lifestyle that’s more affordable and flexible than what they experienced in the U.S.

An October WSJ/NORC survey found only 36% of people said the American dream described as “if you work hard you’ll get ahead” still held true, down from 53% in 2012. The poll found 45% of people said the belief “if you work hard you’ll get ahead” once held true, but not anymore. 

amelia basista in loja ecuador

Stonestreet and Basista run a Youtube channel documenting their travels abroad and sell courses on the best practices for moving out of the U.S. (Courtesy of JP Stonestreet )


Basista and Stonestreet started a YouTube channel shortly after moving that now has over 100,000 followers. They said they were inspired to start documenting their life abroad to “bust the myth” that a high-quality lifestyle wasn’t possible outside the U.S. 

After receiving an influx of messages from Americans interested in leaving the U.S., they began selling online courses titled “Embrace the Unconventional Life” to share the best practices for living abroad.

“We figured out everything the hard way and it was painful. We made a lot of mistakes,” Basista said. “We kind of provide the road map and the support system.”

Their main piece of advice to the over 1,000 Americans they’ve helped relocate: have a stream of income coming from the U.S.

“The key is to have a U.S. based source of income, either Social Security, a pension, some sort of retirement or online income,” Stonestreet said. “That’s what makes it all possible.” 

“Because if you go to another country and expect to make a wage to live an American standard of living, you’re not going to get it because the wages are a lot lower,” he added.

jp stonestreet hiking in cuenca ecuador

Stonestreet said the key to having a high-quality lifestyle abroad is to maintain a U.S.-based stream of income. (Courtesy of JP Stonestreet )


While the couple says they are healthier mentally and physically since abandoning what they were raised to believe was “the American dream,” they have no plans to renounce their U.S. citizenship.

“We’re very thankful that we were born in the United States and have a U.S. passport and U.S. income,” Basista said. “But we also like the freedom and the flexibility to live where we want to and do different things in different places.”

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