Moving from New Zealand to Ecuador and Beyond: Interview With The Stateless Man
Fergus Hodgson is host, editor, and founder of The Stateless Man radio show and e-newsletter and a policy adviser with The Future of Freedom Foundation. Follow his Facebook page and his personal twitter account @FergHodgson.
What does being a stateless man mean to you?
It means letting go of fallacious mental traps that impede you from living the life of your choosing. That includes, among other things, allegiance to nationality, race, and geographical confines. It also means taking the initiative to embrace personal independence and responsibility for your own life, since so long as you are dependent on others for your livelihood, you will not be free to pursue your own interests.
How can people overcome moving inertia?
Just get off the couch and do it. I've heard too many excuses for one life — most of them pathetic — perhaps because many people fail to realize that every day they are voluntarily cutting down their own options by accepting long-term commitments and buying possessions they do not need. People can talk on forever about expatriating and where they'd love to travel, but at some point, you've just got to buy the ticket and make it happen. Otherwise, life will pass you by, and the only person you have to blame is yourself.
How do you tap into the real city when you move?
We are fortunate to live in an era when you never need be alone as you travel and come to know new cities. I'm not sure about other travellers, but my strong preference is to get to know locals rather than travellers. If I don't already have contacts in a city, my first habit is to contact people through CouchSurfing.org in advance of my arrival, and I'll get their wisdom on where to stay and what to see. Once I arrive, I head out for a run to explore the area, and I seek to find running meetups to network with. Mainly, though, I just make an effort to be friendly and inquisitive with people I meet. This may take people out of their comfort zones and challenge them to overcome language barriers, but positive relationships develop rapidly, and I have so many stories from places I never knew of but got to visit by befriending locals.
Which local customs surprised you the most during your travels?
I never knew that people in Latin America still ate "cuy" or guinea pig, but I really enjoyed it when I tried some in Peru.
Three day weddings in Poland are a sight to see, and sometimes I wonder how people live through them. They know how to handle their liquor, and their vodka is impeccable.
New Orleanians have multiple festivals on the same weekend and even during the week, but given the incredible food and music there, I'm hardly complaining. In fact, I could do with a muffuletta sandwich right now from Commerce Restaurant on Camp Street.
What areas in Ecuador would be most suitable for a family to live in?
Ecuador has a great deal of variety to offer, so I would recommend visiting around the country before making such a decision. On the other hand, Ecuador is not high on my list of expatriation destinations, even if many people from the United States are going there, since corruption, bureaucratic incompetence, and collectivist policies are rampant there.
Should you wish to go, though, I would steer clear of Quito and Guayaquil, since they both appear dirty, congested, and polluted — at least in my judgement. If I were going with a family, I would seek out more pleasant places like Cuenca in the mountains or the outskirts of Manta on the Pacific Coast.
If you're willing to live in smaller towns, there are many options for a more tranquil life and at a very low cost. Cotacachi, near Otavalo, is one such town. It is a haven for fine leather work — where I bought my favorite jacket — and even the AARP has published an article describing it as a "paradise at the end of the rainbow." I've also had a guest on my show who moved from North Carolina to Vilcabamba in the southern mountains, near Peru. Keep in mind, you need not follow the expats already in these places, and I would recommend just exploring the many other towns that have yet to attract expats.
What did you miss most from your home country?
Roast lamb and the fresh air and open spaces of the farm where I grew up. I used to love to run the hills and roads that still surround our organic sheep and cattle farm, Te Akatea Station.
I've lost touch with rugby, but I used to love to play and attend matches with friends and family. My lifestyle simply does not allow that anymore.
In the ten years since I first left for college abroad, a lot has changed in New Zealand, but I've changed too. That means I see it with different eyes, and I'm accustomed to the bigger sights and events on offer in North America. My profession has also Americanized me in many regards, at least in terms of my competitiveness, outspokenness, and appreciation for individual liberty and free enterprise.
Is there anything you wished you knew before you arrived in a new country?
Not that I can think of. The reality is when you arrive there is always a knowledge gap, but I just find that exciting, and I enjoy the rapid learning process. I look back at the many places I only knew from looking at the map, and now they are so familiar and dear to my heart.
Do you have any favourite secret places to visit?
I'm not sure that they are secrets, but many places have touched me, with their natural beauty, warm people, and distinct ways of living. There is one place that comes to mind, though. Often I think I would like to just go there to live for a year or so, to get away from the hustle and write my first book. However, like many travelers, I am torn between different places and would likely get restless before the year was up.