UCWG 040: What if You Could Design Your Own Country? Starting a Sovereign Nation from Scratch with Vít Jedlička, President of Liberland.


Vít Jedlička is the president of the world’s youngest country. His new micronation, the Free Republic of Liberland, is only three square miles in size. It was established in April 2016 in an area between Croatia and Serbia which had been unclaimed by either country for many years. Unlike other emerging territories on Earth, there are no other claims to ownership on the land Liberland has been established on.

Founded primarily on libertarian values, the nation of Liberland is designed to cater to people who do not identify with the values of the place they were arbitrarily born into. Vít believes that people everywhere should be free to set up lives for themselves where they are free to live how they want, in line with their preferences and values. For most people in the world, their nationality and cultural values define their behavior and opportunities more than any other single factor in their lives. Without extraordinary effort to take these matters into their own hands by moving outside their culture and acquiring new nationalities, they remain slave to the social conditions of their birth.

What defines a nation today is nothing more than an arbitrary agreement among world powers of which boundaries matter and which do not. Throughout the world, there are over 100 areas which are considered disputed territories or demi-nations. Each is fighting for recognition among the leading world powers that are always in flux and generally taken for granted. The world does not have to look the way that it does, ruled by the groups that currently claim the power to make rules and raise armies to enforce their views. With changes in technology and philosophy, the layout of the world will evolve rapidly.

In its short lifespan, Liberland has acquired nearly half a million applicants for citizenship through its merit system, which will eventually award passports and citizenship to those who provide significant value for the development of the country. The team behind Liberland currently has the task of determining which of the many applicants adhere properly to the values they have declared for the nation, and which have earned the right to call themselves citizens by the time they are ready to start operating as an official part of the world political landscape.

Liberland is slowly being developed with physical structures and community activities, though it is still difficult to access the land. Currently, Croatia prevents entry into Liberland. In doing so, they are acknowledging that Liberland is a separate nation from itself. If Vít and his team go through the proper channels to establish their nationhood, Liberland will someday be respected by existing world powers as a real nation. Whether or not that ever happens, right now it still stands for an important principle of freedom and individual choice in how cultures evolve. Someday, nations will be far smaller and more personalized than the 196 monoliths we have now. Someday, they nations may be obsolete entirely.

 

Vít Jedlička, President of Liberland, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory Diehl

Vít Jedlička, President of Liberland, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory Diehl

Things mentioned:

Liberland:

https://liberland.org/

 

Vít Jedlička

https://www.facebook.com/vit.jedlicka/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%ADt_Jedli%C4%8Dka

 

Montevideo Convention, rules for starting a country:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montevideo_Convention

 

List of disputed territories in the world:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_territorial_disputes

 

Artsakh, between Armenia and Azerbaijan:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagorno-Karabakh_Republic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_status_of_Artsakh

http://www.president.am/en/Artsakh-nkr/

 

Abkhazia, Georgia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abkhazia

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030

 

Somaliland:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somaliland

www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14115069

 

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization:

http://www.unpo.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unrepresented_Nations_and_Peoples_Organization

UCWG 039: How Do You Take the First Step of the Exceptional Path? Overcoming the Burden of Lifestyle Choice and Arriving at Your Own Authentic Values.

A regular listener of Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory joins the show to have an emotionally vulnerable discussion about breaking away from the ordinary life she is trapped in. She learns that as much as she knows what she doesn’t want from her life, she has never seriously considered what she actually values. She has had no rational way to take the first step away from familiarity and embrace the unknown.

The nature of living in a complex society is such that it seems nearly impossible to extricate your life from the constantly moving pieces of the machinery you have grown to live as part of. Stay stuck in the motion too long, and it becomes impossible to envision what your life can look like beyond its boundaries. As a result, even the people who begin to realize that there is more to their identity than what they have been told can never figure out how to take the meaningful first step away from the life they already know. They only know that that do not want to repeat the defining values they already know.

This idle suffering, if it persists for too long, can bring an exceptional young person to madness. In one form or another, they must begin to make meaningful decisions in the pursuit of their personal values. Above all, these choices must move out of the realm of concepts and into actions that challenge them, physical, mentally, and emotionally all at once. That is the only way they see what remains true for them in the face of great challenge.

The point of having values is to segregate and evaluate what actions to take out of all possible choices. Your values define for you what is right and wrong, what will bring you the deepest sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. If you are never placed in a position to think with your own agency and arrive at a new choice with your values, you will always default to the values others have implanted within you. They have already made a million major and minor choices, so you don’t have to.

When you know the nature of your values, you will be able to reverse engineer the actions you can take, out of all possible actions, which will bring you closer to the embodiment of your values in your life. When you are thrust into the uncomfortable unknown, you will find that you have to make a choice. The nature of that choice will reveal who you fundamentally are.

In order to be able to make any sort of meaningful choice at all, you first need one vital thing as the foundation of your actions, and it is something notably missing in young people today (especially young women): self-worth. Without confidence in your wants and your abilities, you will never do anything new at all. This is the primordial step away from the life you already know: to believe in yourself so well that no matter what happens, you trust you will always thrive in the infinite uncertainty of the universe at large.

UCWG 035: How Does Looking at the World as a Single Destination Transform You? Developing a New Philosophy of Travel with Nicos Hadjicostis, Author of Destination Earth.

Nicos Hadjicostis wrote the book Destination Earth after traveling to more than 70 countries in 6 years in his 40’s. His goal was to learn to look at all of earth as though it were a single destination, beyond arbitrary national and cultural borders. His book, and Gregory’s own Travel As Transformation, are a rare type of book to explore the philosophical implications and profound personal transformation made possible only by travel. Though Gregory and Nicos agree on many things, there is still a world of differentiated nuance in the conclusions their respective journeys have brought them to.

Gregory’s book is written from the perspective of a naïve young Californian man rapidly coming to realize how much bigger the world is than he was ever led to believe. Nicos’ book is written by a man approaching middle age who already had a wealth of practical and philosophical expertise on the world. Both books are predominantly philosophy books, presented through the categorical structure of travel experiences. They are not typical “travel” books.

Nicos compares the choices a traveler makes in the way he chooses where to go and what to do in a new country to the choices we make for how we structure every aspect of our lives and identities. There is always more to see and to do than we are capable of accomplishing with limited time. Diminishing returns also quickly become a factor in any new activity. Every traveler must choose for themselves when it is optimal to move on to the next location or activity, just as each of us must decide when to move on to a new stage of our personal development.

If you were to travel back in time to any ancient culture on Earth, you would be unable to understand the cultural mindset that existed back then to explain the dominant behaviors of any group of people. The same principle applies even many of the modern cultures that currently exist. The further away you step from your home country, the more flexible you are going to have to become in your analysis of why people act the ways they do. You must eventually accept that everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do, not matter how strange or offensive you might find their behavior to be.

The more you experience as you travel, and the older you are when you have these experiences, the harder it will be to reconcile the new knowledge you have acquired with your old interpretations of life. Nicos explains that travel engenders more travel. He originally planned to only travel for two years, but sooner after setting off he realized that the world was much bigger than he anticipated. There were so many more things to see and do than he could have guessed when he began.

People can only derive the principles of their identity by having a wide berth of incidental experiences that show them what is possible and how they respond to everything that can happen. If you work many different types of jobs in your life, you will quickly see what you like or dislike about each one.

Being proud of one’s nation necessarily divides the human race along arbitrary lines, pitting us against each other when we could all be working together for common goals. When national pride can expand to become global pride, we can evolve past our present sociological problems. World travel breaks down the identification barriers in an individual mind, and perhaps then may be a necessary part of the process of fixing the world’s dualistic problems of fighting against its own interests. Individuals can begin taking strategic steps now to start living the life of a global citizen now, even if the rest of the world isn’t ready. Your group identification ends only where you allow it to.

Moving into the unknown is a function of your will to act when you don’t know what’s going to happen. If you can master your fear, everything else in the journey begins to fall into place. It has nothing to do with how well you plan or what you think you want. Take the first step, and then be ready to take the next.

 

Destination Earth by Nicos Hadjicostis

Destination Earth by Nicos Hadjicostis

Things mentioned:
Nicos Hadjicostis website:
http://nicoshadjicostis.com/

 

Destination Earth by Nicos Hadjicostis:
http://amzn.to/2skocjr
Travel As Transformation by Gregory V. Diehl:
http://amzn.to/2fDzgkM

 

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts:
http://amzn.to/2szX30c

The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss:
http://amzn.to/2tKfRdl

 

Nicos Hadjicostis, Uncomfortable Comfortable Conversations With Gregory Diehl

Nicos Hadjicostis, Uncomfortable Comfortable Conversations With Gregory Diehl

UCWG 012: Will You Survive the Cultural Singularity? Third Culture Kids and Embracing Cultural Homelessness:
https://gregorydiehl.net/ucwg-012-survive-cultural-singularity-third-culture-kids-embracing-cultural-homelessness/

 

UCWG 024: What are the Processes and Objectives of Your Transformational Journey? 10 years and 100 Life Goals Accomplished by Tal Gur:
https://gregorydiehl.net/ucwg-024-fully-lived-transformational-journey-10-years-100-life-goals-tal-gur/

UCWG 029: How do Neuroatypicals Function in an Ordinary Society? Low Latent Inhibition, Divergent Thinking, and the Problem of Social Integration.

Natalie Marsh joins Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory to discuss the problems of unconventional, exceptional thinkers trying to thrive in a conventional world. Neuro atypicals, including those with Low Latent Inhibition (LLI), Autism, ADHD, and so on, must learn to construct their own societies in a world not made for how they naturally are, in spite of their great gifts.  

From the episode of Prison Break where Michael Scofield is diagnosed with Low Latent Inhibition:

“People who suffer from low latent inhibition see everyday things like your or I do…but where we just process the image…they process everything. Their brains are more open to incoming stimuli and the surrounding environment. Other people’s brains, yours and mine, shut out the same information. We have to do it in order to keep our sanity. If someone with a low IQ has low latent inhibition, it almost always results in mental illness. But, if someone has a high IQ, it almost always results in creative genius.”

A genius is someone who is able to push the limits of normal conceptions of intellectual ability. Intelligence is the ability to categorize information. They are the next step in the evolution of the human psyche, in at least one specific domain. However, everyone symbolizes information differently, accounting for the various traits we associate with different “types” of genius. A person can be extremely capable in one domain of thinking (such as mathematics or language), but weak in others because of how they conceptualize the necessary factors.

A great painter understands the symbolic concepts of color and proportion. A musician’s ears are equipped to pick up sound better, and his mind to rearrange it meaningfully.

Geniuses and divergent thinkers are often socially isolated from average minds because they do not have a way to communicate effectively. The way they perceive the world is just too different. It often leads to a life of quiet desperation or rapid revolutionary innovation. Societies change over time as minority subgroups rapidly become more successful than the majority norms which randomly bred them. This is how humanity becomes more intelligent over time. Neuroatypicals today are analogous to the random genetic mutations that ultimately change the entire DNA of a species.

In the modern world, we are arbitrarily born into and conditioned to be part of social groups we never chose for ourselves. We are limited by trying to understand the world through the group we were born into. Social outliers question these rules and branch off on their own to form new groups with new rules. If you can live as an outlier but still meaningfully participate in society as it is, you can have the best of both worlds and still push the world in a positive direction. All you have to do is be able to adapt.

Society has prepared many conventional paths that are designed to give the average person an averagely successful life. For extreme outliers, these established paths are ideological death sentences. They must be willing to explore and design their own lifestyles, brick by brick, to find their own highest happiness. They need an indomitable will to match their powerful intellect.

Confidence is often mistaken for arrogance or narcissism. This is ironic in comparison to the fact that our culture glorifies specific types of acceptable exceptionalism, so long as they do not threaten the average mind too far. It is okay for someone to claim to be superior in a very specific way, so long as you have other ways to bolster your own ego. We don’t mind if someone is taller, faster, better at playing the piano, and so on, because we know we have other qualities. The moment a claim of superiority is generalized enough to apply to everyone and threaten their ego, a dominance dispute is created. The world resists.  

People of average intelligence can feel very threatened when faced with intelligence as an objective concept that can be measured and compared on an equal playing field. No one wants to consider the possibility that their brain does not work as well as someone else’s.

It was not until recently that outlying behaviors, such as nerdy and geeky pastimes, became socially celebrated. Nowadays, it seems that nearly every big budget movie has its roots in books, video games, and comics, which were once shunned and specialty pursuits to be ashamed of. The story of outlying behaviors is already changing.

Focus on your own evolution. The only person you can be responsible for is yourself. Do not be limited by your attachment to society. Build your own society so that you can be yourself to the maximum possible degree.

Pain is what tells us that something in our lives need to change. When you feel friction in your social life, question what is wrong and what you can alter to create the life that is best suited for you.

People will fight you because you are different. Your existence challenges them, forcing them to consider that reality might be different than they are comfortable dealing with. You disrupt the foundations of their identity, so they lash out. This is why they hate you on an existential level. Until they are ready, you cannot co-exist in the same space as they do.

If you just a little bit different than the norms of your environment, you may be celebrated for what makes you superior. If you are extremely different, you will be demonized and disadvantaged. People of IQ 120-140 find themselves as leaders among averagely intelligent people. People of IQ 150 or higher may find it impossible to interact at all.

If two normal people give birth to an exceptional person, they will struggle to raise and guide them effectively because the offspring will outgrow them much sooner than they or society are prepared to accept. A young child might quickly become smarter and more mature than his parents before he even becomes a teenager. These are the children who will suffer the most, resenting their own gifts and failing to apply them productively. They need guides and role models who can meet them where they are.

As normal society progresses in its acceptance of outliers, it will become easier for unconventional young people to follow their path and find their place in the world.  

Natalie Marsh - Low Latent Inhibition, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory

Natalie Marsh – Low Latent Inhibition, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory

Things mentioned:

Low Latent Inhibition group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/151833815112

Prison Break – Michael Scofield’s Low Latent Inhibition (LLI) diagnosis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDliPQAJIsY 

UCWG 006: Does Knowledge without Power Lead to Idle Suffering? Matching Intellect with Boldness of Action: https://gregorydiehl.net/ucwg-006-knowledge-power-lead-idle-suffering-matching-intellect-boldness-action/

UCWG 027 – Are You Self-Aware Enough to Parent Your Own Offspring? Unschooling and Unconventional Child Rearing in Vilcabamba, Ecuador: https://gregorydiehl.net/ucwg-027-self-aware-parent-offspring-unschooling-unconventional-child-rearing-vilcabamba-ecuador/

Travel As Transformation by Gregory V. Diehl: http://amzn.to/2fDzgkM

IQ and the Problem of Social Adjustment by Grady Towers: http://www.triplenine.org/Portals/0/Docs/download/IQ_and_the_Problem_of_Social_Adjustment.pdf

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris: http://amzn.to/2rQVque

UCWG 027: Are You Self-Aware Enough to Parent Your Own Offspring? Unschooling and Unconventional Child Rearing in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

At age 33, Antonio Pondichi had gone from growing up poor in communist Romania, to move a comfortably luxurious life in New York City as an adult where everything he ever needed was planned for him. One day, as his daughter reached age 5, he began to realize that many of the things he had been taught about how to live and raise her weren’t true. He moved his family and his life to the valley of Vilcabamba, Ecuador to explore unconventional ways of living that would allow all of them to find their happiness.

Many parents don’t realize that they are giving away the majority of their children’s upbringing to strangers who run the arbitrary schooling institutions of their culture. Schooling trains people in what to think, whereas a true education teaches people how thinking works. We can either acquire knowledge through inheritance from other sources or observing and reasoning it ourselves.

The social environment of schooling is frequently destructive to self-esteem and normal bonding habits. Segregating children into groups based on age is arbitrarily limiting to their understanding of their place in the world. Forcing children to learn kills their desire to learn. They can no longer effectively follow their intuition about what interests them. Parents and teachers are often threatened by a child’s natural learning capacity. They unconsciously feel compelled to control it.

If you see that the values of your culture are no longer serving you, you are obligated to question them. There is a natural separation now between upcoming generations and their parents who are stuck in old paradigms of growth. What was once considered the role of being parent is no longer true, and will continue to change into the future.

Do you feel equipped to give your children everything they need to discover who they are and pursue their own highest education?

Are you passing your inherited limitations onto the young people in your life?

Antonio’s family on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FamilyOfLight2010

Trivium education: https://tragedyandhope.com/trivium/

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto: https://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-Schooling-ebook/dp/B072F9VRZP/

UCWG 024: What are the Processes and Objectives of Your Transformational Journey? 10 years and 100 Life Goals Accomplished by Tal Gur.

Tal Gur, Fully Lived

Tal Gur, Fully Lived

Tal Gur is an author and personal development professional who recently completed a transformational journey of spending 10 years accomplishing 100 specific goals around the world. He started at 31, and is now ready to share what he learned in his upcoming autobiographical book, The Art of Fully Living: One Man, Ten Years, a Hundred Life Goals.

Tal devoted each year of his decade-long journey to a different aspect of his personal transformation. He learned that going to uncomfortable extremes could teach him more than staying in the comfortable middle of any domain.

Transformation is not random or spontaneous. It is cumulative and logical. We move in sequence from one change to another according to patterns and rules. Most people are not in tune with their own minds, bodies, and emotions, so they do not know the right path for themselves. Tal had to learn through his many trials how to get in tune with himself to find his authentic core.

Not everyone has to spend 10 years pursuing 100 goals to find themselves. The journey is different for everyone. You have to be curious. You have to be willing to go on your journey, whatever it is. Not everyone needs to know themselves deeply to be happy. But for others, it is the only option.

We all create our lifestyle and our goals based on the timescale through which we evaluate our lives. What would you do if you only had one day left to live? A decade? Forever? Your actions can be defined by processes or objectives, journeys or destinations.

 

Websites mentioned:

Tal Gur’s website, Fully Lived: http://fullylived.com/

Gregory Diehl’s book, Travel As Transformation: http://amzn.to/2fDzgkM

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Sisyphus comic strip: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3259

UCWG 022: What Would It Take for You to Kill Yourself? The Futility of Trying to be Bigger than Your Own Death.

Danny Flood, Open World Magazine

Danny Flood, Open World Magazine

Danny Flood is a writer, entrepreneur, and world traveler who chronicles useful information about life through his website, Open World Magazine. He joins Gregory to discuss two recent deaths: a suicide by Gregory’s hometown friend and an adventurer named Justin Alexander who never made it back from one of his more dangerous trips.

Hope is the belief in random, positive change – the idea that the unknown future can be better than what you currently have. If you’re at the end of your rope, why not throw yourself into an experience you’ve never had before? What have you got to lose?

Our culture of death is to bury and get away from it as fast as possible because we cannot stand the reality of it. It doesn’t matter what people say about you when you are gone. It only matters how you perceive your own life. A better question to ask yourself is how the world will be different because you ever existed.

You forget 99.999% of the things that ever happen to you. Only the memories with strong emotional ties remain in your ongoing memory, whether positive or negative. What your brain decides is an important event worth remembering is mostly arbitrary.

You can figure out what you really care about by examining your strongest positive and negative emotional reactions, but only if you are willing to ignore social expectations of what you ought to care about.

Why do you feel like you need to leave a legacy after you’re gone? Why isn’t your life enough? Do you need to feel bigger than death?

 

Websites mentioned:

Justin Alexander, Adventures of Justin: http://adventuresofjustin.com/

Gregory Diehl’s podcast interview on Open World Mag: http://www.openworldmag.com/33-wandering-consultant-gregory-diehl/

UCWG 020: Does Your Profession Align with Your Purpose? Matching Actions with Identity.


Alexa Glo is a 28-year-old multinational seeker of identity and meaning in life. She and Gregory discuss the importance of putting down roots and solidifying your identity on earth through your actions, which often means your professional path in life.

Home is where you feel most like yourself. Being outside your home is what gives you the perspective to know your home. The contrast of being something other than what you are is ultimately what shows you what you are.

Purpose is a principle, not a specific task you perform. Tasks are defined by your culture, which is always changing. There is always another way to express your purpose. You perform your purpose because of the energy it gives you, not to fulfill a social role. You have to give people what they are ready for. They can only be ready for so much as any given time.

Professions are outdated concepts. There is no law of nature that says you have to spend your entire life in one kind of productive role, just as you do not have to live your whole life in one place. Being a professional just means you accept money for what you do. Your profession does not have to define you.

Psychological adulthood is taking full responsibility for your own life, when you can see the figures from your past as just ordinary things.

UCWG 019: Are You Accountable for Your Subjective Preferences? Identifying and Living Out Your Principles.



Today’s guest, Rolf from Germany, is a strategic consultant for expensive professional problems. Ironically, he does not trust his own subjective evaluation on some of life’s most important topics, such as the worth of specific human lives. He states that he would rather flip a coin on certain life and death situations that be the one to make important decisions and live with the consequences. Yet, in other more menial areas he has no qualm about choosing and standing by his decisions.

In the political domain people frequently use words like “human rights” to defer responsibility away from their opinions and acting as though their preference were a natural law. Thus, nearly everyone is constantly at odds with everyone else about their idea of the natural order of things, and conflicts go forever unresolved. If instead they could own their statements as merely their own preferences, a common solution would become more obvious and available to everyone seeking something different.

Accuracy is not always the same thing as utility. A high-functioning person must willingly adopt accuracy as his goal if truth is to become his useful ally. They must look beyond momentary and emotionally gratifying base level actions like lust and gluttony. Rolf uses the philosophy of the free masons as his principal philosophical toolkit for determining truth and his own values. The root of order lies in changing the map or toolkit that people use to conceptualize reality.

The fact that you think a thing important does not make it objectively so. It is often not practical to seek accuracy and truth in all things. You can always choose not to choose. Your preference can be to exert no preference.

Do you hold honesty and accuracy as their highest value?

Are you willing to stand by the consequences of your preferences and principles?

An Honest Review of Edmund John, FlagTheory.com, and the Problem with the Offshore Services Industry

As most of my readers know, I’ve been living some variation of the “offshore” international lifestyle for the last ten years, since shortly after turning 18 and leaving my childhood home in San Diego to explore the planet. In addition to rapid travel and learning to work internationally, I started to plant strategic “flags” as I went, including common strategies like bank accounts, companies, residencies, and even multiple citizenships.

My sales background eventually put me in the position of working as a sales consultant for Andrew Henderson of Nomad Capitalist, which is one of the most popular offshore consultancies. The experience, which lasted more than a year in both remote and in-person positions, taught me an awful lot about what goes on behind the scenes in the offshore industry, including why it has the questionable reputation that it does. The less said about that experience, the better.

My point is, I’ve learned a lot both about the practical elements of living an international existence and how also this shady this industry can be.

In early 2016, I acquired my second passport after successfully proving my Armenian ancestry, which is no easy task in a country that had a genocide and mass emigration 100 years ago. It took a lot of research and documentation, but I was fortunate enough to have worked with highly competent Armenian legal council that made the questionable process much more manageable. I had no outside third-party help. I had to rely on my own judgment to assess the competence of the local legal council I hired. Out of 10 or so Armenian law firms in Yerevan I contacted, one seemed to be the clear winner. Most importantly, they seemed to understand that providing excellent service to me would be a valuable investment in their own reputation. That long-term view of things is essential for true professionalism.

 

How and Why I Hired Edmund John

I first met Edmund John at a digital nomad event in Chiang Mai, Thailand for members of an online community called the Dynamite Circle. At the time, I explained to him that as a result of the lifestyle I live and connections I have made, I am constantly being approached by people who need help figuring out how to internationalize their own lives. Edmund seemed friendly and knowledgeable, and we spoke several times at length about how we could possibly work together. I immediately felt comfortable enough with him to begin casually referring my friends and acquaintances to his company FlagTheory.com for help with their various incorporation and residency needs.

A short time later, I made the decision to return to my property in Ecuador and begin rooting my life in strategic parts of South America. After my recent success as a self-published author, Peru seemed like the ideal place to incorporate my new book publishing company, Identity Publications. I considered sourcing my own local legal council in Peru to complete this task, as I had done so earlier with my Armenian citizenship, but I remembered all the hours I had put into first finding the most trustworthy source and getting all my affairs in order. I knew it would be well worth whatever extra amount I might pay to have an experienced third party oversee the process for me. That way, I could just show up when I needed to, sign the right forms, pay my bill, and be on my way to incorporation and residency in Peru.

Of course, I turned to my friend Edmund John to take this burden off my shoulders. His price was quite reasonable as well: just $3,000 to oversee the process of incorporation and residency from start to finish. The quotes I had received from the Peruvian legal council I had reached out so far ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 anyway. I was eager to employ his services, and finally be able to recommend to others an honest and competent provider in an industry that is notoriously fraudulent.

I bought my ticket to Lima in early December 2016, informing Edmund John and his partner Terry Woltman (who I had also spoken with frequently on Skype about helping my various connections with their offshore goals) that I would be arriving on the 10th. I asked for a detailed outline of what I should expect when I arrived, including what documents I would need, how long the process would take, what each specific step in order would be, and when I would be free to leave Peru as I had other important events scheduled in Chile and other parts of the continent. I even let them know that I would be stopping briefly in the U.S. before arriving in Peru, so any documents I would need notarized or apostilled could be done while I was there. They gave me no specific requirements, even after I paid in full, so I naturally assumed nothing was required.

 

The First Trip to Lima, Peru

Upon arriving in Peru, I was bothered by the fact that several days had passed and they still had not given me any indication of how much longer I would need to remain in Lima. They kept saying they were waiting for the “local secretary” to send the requirements, but that it should not take much longer. To me, this was odd. If they had a program in place for incorporation in Peru, shouldn’t they already have at least a ballpark idea of how long the process would take and what documents I would need? Normally, I would take this as a sign that a provider did not know what they were doing and were only pretending to have a system in place, but because I trusted Edmund John I temporarily overlooked this error. This would prove to be a major flaw on my part.

On December 21, 19 days after I had informed them I was ready to begin the Peru incorporation process and 11 days after having arrived in Lima waiting further instructions, I was finally asked by FlagTheory.com’s associate Janice Lin to name additional shareholders for the publication company I wanted to set up, a vital step which had been omitted from the information I had been given up to this point. Suddenly, I needed to find at least one other person who wanted to participate in the incorporation with me. Again, why this information was kept from me until then was a mystery.

Fortunately, I was able to secure the passport, bank statement, and utility bill of my co-founder on short notice, as she was actually waiting for me to come join her in Santiago. I repeated to Flag Theory’s team once again that I wished to wrap things up and leave Peru as quickly as possible, as I had other business to attend to. I received no response. I reached out to both Edmund John and Terry Woltman individually on Skype to repeat this information, as we had conversed several times that way in the months before I became their paying client. Still nothing from either of them. Hmmmm.

A few days later, I concluded I was being a fool by allowing Flag Theory’s incompetence to hijack my time and drive up my living costs by waiting around in Lima for no reason. I booked an early morning flight to Santiago to meet with my girlfriend and co-founder who had been waiting for me the whole two and a half weeks I had been stuck to no avail in Lima. I had already missed important business meetings there and in Valdivia we had scheduled during that time, and now I had to make up for the losses. I still had no tangible progress in Peru after all this time. I knew that something was seriously wrong, but neither Edmund John, Terry Woltman, or Janice Lin were responding to my repeated messages. I began to entertain the idea that I had been ripped off or defrauded by FlagTheory.com, but in the meantime, I had other more important matters to take care of.

 

The Second Trip to Arequipa, Peru

On January 8, a full 17 days since the last time anyone from FlagTheory.com had contacted me, I sent all three of them another email, as my time in Chile was nearly done. I received a response the next day from Janice Lin explaining that the “local secretary” had been closed over the holidays, and that was why they had been silent for so long. Why they could not have emailed, Skyped, or phoned a single sentence telling me this so I would not have spent a month in Lima waiting around was never explained.

They all knew that I was waiting around for them to give me instructions on what to do next. I never even told them I had left Peru. For all they knew, I had spent a month sitting around in Lima for no reason. Their grossly unprofessional behavior astounded me, and I began to feel ashamed that I had ever referred friends and associates to work with them. However, I still held out hope for the possibility that things would be relatively straightforward from that point on, and I could at least walk away without any more wasted time or unnecessary expenses.

I was wrong.

Do you remember when I first hired Edmund John and his team and told them there would be a short window when I would be in the U.S. and could get any necessary documents apostilled and notarized? That’s important here.

Janice Lin then sent me Power of Attorney agreements to sign and be both apostilled and notarized in the country of origin of each shareholder (The U.S. in my case, and Ukraine in my partner’s case, which they mistakenly entered as Russia on the agreements, leading to further delays. Same difference though, right?). I asked them how they expected me to get the documents apostilled and notarized in Peru or Chile. Janice Lin’s response was that I would have to fly back to the U.S. to have it done. After all, it’s not their fault if their plans don’t always coincide with a client’s travel schedule.

I found that a bit odd, considering that from my point of view the whole reason hire a middleman like Edmund John was precisely to handle little logistical details like this for me. I guess not? There must have been some other reason I was missing.

When I expressed my extreme frustration and unwillingness to shell out another $1,000+ in roundtrip plane tickets, Edmund (who had been absent from the conversation since the time he received my payment) jumped back in to kindly inform me that I could get the documents notarized at the U.S. embassy in Santiago, and my Ukrainian partner could do the same at the Ukraine embassy. We received this information on our final day in the city and had just enough time to get it done, but the embassies could not provide us with apostilles.

Edmund John’s next solution was to have us come back to Peru, where we could apply for authorization to sign documents for a limited period of time, thus obviating the need for apostille. My partner and I then spent three weeks waiting in Arequipa for our public deed number to be processed by local authorities. It had been two months since I hired Edmund John and Terry Woltman. In addition to the $3,000 I paid them, I had now wracked up thousands of dollars in Peruvian living expenses in Lima and Arequipa following their instructions (or more often just waiting for instructions to be given). And still, I was no tangibly closer to actually having my publishing company incorporated or applying for residency in Peru.

 

Finally, a Full Outline of the Peru Process

On January 31, after repeated badgering, I received the following outline of the remainder of the process from Janice Lin:

“1. First we need to complete incorporation of the company.

  1. You can enter the country on a business visa, so you will be allowed to sign agreements. If not, you may request a special authorisation after your arrival in Peru to sign agreements before the immigration authority.
  2. After obtaining the special authorization, you must sign the labor agreement.
  3. The labor agreement must be filed for authorization before the Ministry of Labor.
  4. When the agreement is approved by the Ministry of Labor, we will apply for the work visa.
  5. The local office will arrange appointments before Interpol and the FBI, as the immigration authority requires a clean criminal record in order to grant the visa.
  6. Once this process is completed, we will apply for the Foreigner’s card so you have a valid identification document before the Peruvian authorities.

This whole process can take between 45 or 60 business days. You will not be considered as an employee until steps 1 to 7 are completed.”

This was the information I had repeatedly asked for back in early December when we began working together, so that I could plan my travels appropriately. They had just now supplied it to me, presumably because they either did not know the appropriate information to give me (because they had never worked in Peru before), or they wanted to wait until they had secured my payment and were willing to tell me whatever was necessary to do so. I asked again, repeatedly, for either Edmund, Terry, or Janice to call me briefly as I was having trouble understanding things from their confusing and contradictory instructions what to do next. Despite our long history of exchanging messages and Skype calls back when it was in Flag Theory’s financial interest to do so, my requests were now all ignored.

 

Retroactively Requiring a College Degree

On February 8, now more than two months since I hired Edmund John, I received the following new information from his associate Janice Lin:

“The next time you’ll have to be in Peru is when we begin the visa process. As mentioned, you will have to enter the country on a business visa so you’ll be allowed to sign agreements. If not, you may request a special authorisation after your arrival in Peru to sign agreements before the immigration authority.

You will have to bring with you a certified and apostilled copy of your university diploma, which is required by the Ministry of Labor for the approval of your employment agreement (please refer to item 9 on the status checklist previously sent to you). Certification should be made by the university that issued the diploma. The certified copy must then be apostilled in the country where the certification was made. If the country where the document was issued is not a member state of the Apostille Convention, the diploma must be certified, notarised and then legalised by the Peruvian consulate in that country.

Please note that without a university diploma, the Ministry of Labor may not approve the employment agreement on which the worker visa is based. An alternative would be work certificates from previous employers as to your experience, expertise and performance, which would justify your hiring in the Peruvian company. However, these work certificates may be harder to come by than a certified copy of the university diploma. Let me know if you have any issues.”

What? Now suddenly I need a university diploma or certifications from previous employers? Wasn’t Edmund John fully aware that I was a self-employed author entrepreneur? Didn’t he know I had been traveling since 18 and never attended university or hardly ever had a conventional job? Hadn’t our many conversations over the past year and membership in the Dynamite Circle digital nomad community made that clear? Why hadn’t I been given these requirements months ago before I paid him and started the process? Again, two obvious answers  presented themselves. Either Edmund John’s team did not know the requirements, or they intentionally omitted them to secure my payment.

Edmund John’s proposed solution was to have my former client, his industry competition, Andrew Henderson of Nomad Capitalist, create a certificate praising my competency in the domain of publishing books and educational materials, a task which I never performed in my role as a sales consultant for him. So now I was being told to inconvenience other people I no longer maintained contact with to lie, or at least be highly misleading, about our work history so they could scramble together enough of a case to finish the job I hired them for under the guise that they were experienced in what they were doing. No thanks.

 

My Theory about Edmund John and FlagTheory.com

I could go on about the additional weeks I waited for easy answers to simple questions, but I think by now you probably get the point. Here’s what I think happened, based on my own behind-the-scenes perspective on how third party providers in the offshore industry typically operate.

Edmund John established a name for himself as an expert in all things offshore. He plays off the ignorance of people who have never lived in another country and are scared of trying to navigate legal processes on their own or finding their own local legal council. He promises to be able to do just about anything and everything a client could require. As soon as he secures their payment, he begins searching for legal council to fulfill what he promised and explain the actual legal requirements which he had been unaware of up until this point (beyond whatever a brief look at a government website could tell him).

The result is that he and his team act as an unnecessary middleman between the client and local legal council, just relaying information as they receive it and having no additional authority or expertise. The whole operation, if it is successful at all in the end, is patched together with duct tape and string, greatly increasing time delays, costs, and stresses on behalf of the client – all so that Edmund John and his team can skim their cut off the top.

Again, this is just a theory. But it’s an informed one.

Now what really puzzles me is exactly how Edmund John thought he stood to benefit by trying to pull this with me, as he knows I am someone who has extensive work and lifestyle experience in this domain. I share many connections with his potential target market, and (for God’s sake) I even wrote a book about maintaining a positive brand reputation by keeping clients happy. Whatever he thought he was gaining from my $3,000 payment would quickly be overshadowed by the reputational harm he might face from leaving me a dissatisfied client.

 

My Advice to Anyone Pursuing Offshore Services

This entire industry is wrought with con artists and sketchy salesmen. While some of them are ultimately capable of delivering what they promise, they will likely have to do so at an enormous markup from the actual costs you would pay if you handled the process yourself. And as you can see from my experience with Edmund John, their “help” might actually cause more harm than good. I guess that is the price I pay for thinking someone based in Singapore would be the right person to handle a complex process on the ground in Peru.

That brings me to my final point. Always, always, always work with local sources yourself. You need to be dealing with someone who knows the intricate ins and outs of the jurisdiction you are working with. The reason I was successful in getting my second passport in Armenia last year was because I used good judgment in hiring a team of lawyers who knew how the local system worked there and could acquire everything I would need to make my unique case work.

Incidentally, while I was still on good terms with Edmund John and FlagTheory.com (months before I hired him), I actually connected him with the lawyer I had had such a good experience with in Armenia, in case they saw an opportunity to work together. After this whole Peru fiasco, I reached out to the Armenian lawyer again to ask if he had ever ended up working with Edmund John, as I was curious to see if my horrendous experience was an isolated incident or not. The Armenian lawyer told me they had immediately decided not to work with Edmund John, as he had tried to coax them into doing things that were illegal in Armenia. I wish I could say that I was surprised at this point.

(Update: on March 28, Flag Theory’s email newsletter was sent out promoting their services for setting up companies in both Armenia and Peru. In light of my recent experiences and the word of my lawyers in Armenia, readers should be extremely cautious of such claims.)

Look, I really don’t want to create the impression that it’s all bad guys in the offshore world, or that anyone should be scared of taking steps to move themselves away from their home country. You just need to be extremely diligent about who you trust here. At the absolute very least, you should speak to someone who has worked successfully with the person you want to hire, and in a manner similar to how you plan to hire them. By some accounts, Edmund John has given some quality advice to people who have hired him as an offshore consultant, yet my experience shows he clearly did not know what he was doing, at least when it came to Peru. Being competent in one domain does not necessarily make you competent in another related one. Of course, I’ve since also heard from several others who have had similar negative experiences with Edmund and FlagTheory.com, so it pays to check around.

(Related: Listen to my podcast interview with Bobby Casey of Global Wealth Protection on fraud and reputation in the offshore services industry: https://gregorydiehl.net/ucwg-017-personal-brand-lie-bobby-casey-global-wealth-protection/)

I think the era of the “omni-expert” (people who posture themselves as the ultimate go-to authority on any given broad domain) is quickly going to fade away. Individual specialists are rising up to take their places. Ironically, the only thing many of the so-called experts are truly any good at is branding themselves as experts. I am going to make the offer to any of my readers right now that if you are ever considering working with an offshore service provider or plant any flags, feel free to reach out and ask my opinion first (email: contact@gregorydiehl.net). I may have worked with them, or odds are that I will at least know someone who has. We all need to watch each others’ backs and take this industry back from the fraudsters and imposters who portray themselves as leaders.

And if you want to learn more about what the last ten years of living this lifestyle and working in this industry have taught me, I encourage you to read my travel memoir published on Amazon, Travel As Transformation. If you are concerned about your own tax situation as an American expatriate living or working abroad, I encourage you to read U.S. Taxes For Worldly Americans by my friend Olivier Wagner (an accountant who specializes in this area). Each of us has more freedom today than ever before to live and work anywhere we want, and we owe it to ourselves to use it.

In freedom,

Gregory V. Diehl