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Citizen of the World

Tony Lloyd is a Canadian ... technically. But with a multi-ethnic heritage and a life of travel behind him, he’s found it difficult to define himself by any stereotypes. And he’s not the only one.

from Johnny Bliss

Reality Check Special

Listen to a Reality Check Special with Johnny Bliss in an informal chat with Tony Lloyd, the multi-cultural traveller, and ex-pat hostel owner, at his guesthouse, El Cafecito, in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca.

Saturday, April 22nd, 12-13, and afterwards seven days on demand.

Even though I haven’t personally lived in Canada for about twenty years, I find something ‚comfortable‘ and ‚safe‘ about identifying as a Canadian, and I often look for other Canadians when I do business abroad.

Were that not the case, odds are good I never would have stumbled upon Tony Lloyd and his El Cafecito restaurant, bar, and hostel, in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca. He set up another one in the capital Quito, but the Cuenca location is where you will usually find Tony, these days.

Tony Lloyd

Tony Lloyd

Today, we’re going to be focusing on this Canadian

I’d been looking online for cheap guesthouses, when I saw the listing for his place, along with the words ‚run by a Canadian‘. The reviews online were positive, as they were for any number of other locations, but really the deciding factor was the word ‚Canadian‘. Embarrassing, but true.

Contrary to what you might think, a Canadian will not necessarily be a bearded white lumberjack in a checkered shirt, holding an axe in one hand (with which he just recently chopped down a maple tree), and in the other hand a shot of maple syrup from said maple tree, which he is offering to you in apology for any shock the felling of said tree may have caused.

Tony Lloyd, an eloquent speaker and storyteller with a love for the traveling lifestyle, has spent less than eight years of his life in Canada. He describes himself as Canadian largely because, well, he had to describe himself as a something, and this is a description that is not expressly untrue.

Meeting him was almost a bit odd. I didn’t get the feeling that I was meeting a business owner at his place of business; more, I had the feeling that a friend had dragged me to a housewarming party, and this was the person who was hosting the thing. He was inquisitive about who I was, and interested in getting to know me. The absence of an actual party around me (it was somewhat quiet at the time) could be ascribed to this being low season, but otherwise, yeah, it was a housewarming party with bunkbeds.

zwei Personen an einem Tisch

Hernan Frattini

With a friend over breakfast

Kleines Café

Tony Lloyd

El Cafecito rooftop

Tony on his heritage

"[My passport is Canadian], but my mother’s Jamaican and my father’s English. I lived six years in the United States, three and a half years in Colombia, and it’s now been twenty years here in Ecuador.

"People try to place you in a certain way, and if I say Canada, they automatically have these stereotypes. Every so often, when I say, ‘okay, I’m Jamaican’, then Bob Marley songs start coming out of their mouths, and I’m like, ‘well, no, that’s not what I am’, and if you say English, a cup of tea comes up… although I’m proud of my different cultures, I don’t really feel like I fit exactly one of those.


Cafecito Travel Talks

The deaf traveller in question

„I’ve since learned in the last few years that there’s something called a ‘Trans-Cultural Kid’ (TCK), and I identify myself as [one of those].“

Tony on why he started El Cafecito

"Dealing with this transient community, I felt at home. I was always somebody who couldn’t identify where home was, and I created a home, and these people were coming into my [home], and they were sharing in this space. Nothing is worth doing unless you can share it with somebody.

„Everyone has a story, but recently, I heard one I’d never seen before. She inspired me so much that I started [a blog] called El Cafecito Travel Talks. One story per month, and we started off with this inspiring story of this woman from Texas who’s deaf and decided not to let it stop her.“

Cafecito Travel Talks Inspiration

Tony on how his heritage has gotten him in trouble

Sunset in Havanna

Johnny Bliss, 2015

"I had a great holiday [to Cuba]!

"Cuban people all saw me and assumed that I was Cuban; unless I opened my mouth for too long, most people couldn’t recognize that I was not Cuban. But after completing my month-long trip in Cuba, I got to the airport, presented my Canadian passport with my airline ticket to Quito, Ecuador...

"I had three immigration officers that said, ‘could you please come with us?’ and then I was brought into a very small room, just a desk and two chairs.

"[They were] trying to convince me that I should give up. They said, ‘we know that you’re from Cuba. Why don’t you just admit it, and this will be much easier for you, because we’re going to find out the truth’.

„Basically, ninety percent or ninety eight percent of the Canadians who would go to Cuba on holiday are usually white, blond, blue-eyes, and not… black. The majority will not speak Spanish. The other thing is that, when they leave, they’re heading back to Canada! They’re not heading back to some odd country like Ecuador. I sort of matched all of these tags. And that’s when I started to get really scared... because I was like, okay, how do I then convince these people that I really am who I am?“

Tony Lloyd mit Freunden

Tony Lloyd

With some friends

Tony on how his heritage has saved his life

"I’d just set up a hostel in the Colombian capital, Bogotá...

"Early on a Monday morning, I opened my eyes and I had four men in business suits [in my room]. Obviously, since I’m not accustomed to having four men in my room when I wake up, I just grabbed a blanket and I just rolled over. I thought I might be dreaming. One of them grabbed ahold of the blanket and pulled it off of me, and then they started saying, ‘get up, get up, get out of bed, right now!’ and then they brought me downstairs.

"I saw my three Colombian counterparts, they were on the floor, and they indicated to me not to say anything. There was another guy who was working with us from Spain, José... and a few minutes later, they brought José down, but unfortunately, his face was swollen, he was bleeding…

"One of the men pointed the gun directly at me, and he said, ‘you’re the boss! You must be the boss!’. I said to him, in Spanish, ‘no! Yo no soy el jefe!’, basically, ‘no, I am not the boss, the boss is not here right now’.

"Later on, my Colombian counterparts were laughing, because they said that basically they’d never heard me [speak] such a perfect Spanish, with such a perfect Colombian accent, in the entire time that they knew me.

„The men actually knew my name. When they showed up at the front door, they said ‘Is Señor Tony here?’ … They were looking for the Canadian [boss]. But they left the building never identifying who the Canadian was that they came to look for. They never expected to see a black Canadian.“

A couple more great stories

Aside from the stories which feature in this Saturday’s special, Tony also told me about his spiritual philosophy, which refers to a ‚bank in the sky‘:

Tony Lloyd - a Banker of the Sky

He also told me a riveting yarn about an occasion where he nearly died, and was forced to come to terms with his own mortality:

Tony wrestling with his mortality

FM4 Reality Check Special on Saturday, April 22nd

Listen to a Reality Check Special with Johnny Bliss in an informal chat with Tony Lloyd, the multi-cultural traveller, and ex-pat hostel owner, at his guesthouse, the El Cafecito, in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca.

Saturday, April 22nd, 12-13, and afterwards seven days on demand.

If you miss the program, you can still stream it via the Reality Check podcast or at


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