My name is Graham Stagg, I am 32 years old, born in the United Kingdom but living in Ecuador since 2006. I live in an apartment in Guayaquil with my wife, Maria Fernanda and our son, Santino who is 4.
I first got interested in South America in my GCSE geography classes. Whether it was population movements to the favelas (shanty towns) in Belo Horizonte, the settlement and deforestation of large areas of the Amazon rainforest or the creation of the Andes mountain range, there seemed to be a case study in South America for every topic. South America was classed as the “second world”; neither as poor as Africa or as developed as Europe and North America. It was the continent of football, drug lords and totally chaotic politics and economies. I was fascinated to find out what had gone right and wrong there.
My parents vetoed my plans for a year out of solo backpacking and I went to Tanzania instead on a four week World Challenge expedition and then to Sussex University to study history. In my three years in Brighton I failed to find a course on Latin American history and failed to learn more than a smattering of Spanish despite visiting the language centre with good intentions at the start of almost every term. So while spending hours in the library surrounded by books on the French Revolution or wheeling the meal trolley around the nursing home where I worked I used to dream about making a trip.
I bought a return ticket to Recife in Brazil (because it seemed to be the nearest international airport to Europe) and in January 2001 I flew out there. I made my way down to Rio for carnival, via many beaches and Belo Horizonte. I spent the rest of the year travelling through the continent visiting most of the countries, including Ecuador.
I took a night bus from Piura to Loja, crossing the Ecuadorian border at about midnight across a little bridge at Macará. I awoke early in the morning to see sunshine, fields of green grass and undulating hills and immediately felt happy to be in Ecuador. On that trip I went horse riding from Vilcabamba, visited (innocently) the seediest night club in Zamora, enjoyed the tranquillity of a Sunday in Cuenca, made enough friends in Baños to take a tour of the forest near to Puyo, was left breathless by Laguna Quilotoa and then met my future wife in Quito.
I’d arrived in Quito with the express intention of watching England v Greece in the final qualifier for the 2002 World Cup (the one where Beckham scored the last minute equaliser), to the extent that I took the liberty of checking they had the appropriate channel available in the hostel before I registered. The next day I got up early, watched England qualify, then went to buy an Ecuador shirt to watch their equally important match against Bolivia. Ecuador won 5-1 in La Paz to virtually clinch their first qualification. As soon as the match finished people flooded out of bars and houses onto Calle Amazonas and started jumping, dancing, stopping cars and singing. Almost as quickly there were people moving through the crowd selling beer, cigarettes and snacks. Amidst these joyous scenes I started talking to Maria Fernanda. We went out dancing that night (although she turned up an hour late just as I had given up and was walking down the street). I couldn’t understand much of what she said (too quick) apart from the word chevere which she seemed to include in every sentence. Somehow over the next few days we managed to communicate enough to make a real connection and vow to stay in contact.
Nevertheless, I continued with my journey back to Recife. I spent the next few years living, working and enjoying life in England but then in 2004 I got on a plane again and flew to Guayaquil to visit Maria Fernanda. In those three weeks we were able to realise that the feelings we had had were real and worth fighting for. So in April 2006 I moved to live in Ecuador.
Hang on, why another two years? Well, she came to visit me in England. Then I had another trip planned, driving to Pakistan and India to watch some test matches. Then I took a course to get a CELTA qualification to teach English, bought a flight to Guayaquil via New York and came out here. Since then I’ve been teaching, writing, we’ve got married, built an apartment, we have our son and a cat who recently decided to lie down in a flowerbed and give birth to five kittens and has been living on the terrace ever since. Living and working in Ecuador is totally different to visiting on holiday. Some things are hilarious, others infuriating. Some days I feel exhilarated and totally happy, others I feel like an alien, completely outside my cultural comfort zone. I don’t get to travel as much as the times I’ve been here on holiday but we manage to visit somewhere new and a favourite place every time there is a public holiday or someone comes out to see us.
Above all I think Ecuador is an incredible country, partly because of the people but overwhelmingly because of the geography and the diversity of life. I’ve written this website to inspire and inform people who want to experience some of that. I hope it will give you lots of really useful information about what to do in Ecuador and how to make the most of your visit. It’s as honest and as personal as I can make it but I’d love to hear about your experiences and your impressions of the site. I’m going to keep travelling and improving the pages.
If you have any questions or need any assistance from outside Ecuador or when you are in the country we’ll always do our best to help you. Check out our details on the Contact Us page.
Click here if you would like to advertise or set up a link to your site.