Please describe yourself and your current situation
- I’m 30 years old, from Seattle, and have been living in Buenos Aires since December 2010. I left the states in October 2010 with the goal to travel the world (indefinitely) and work online. I’ve been fortunate to travel to numerous parts of Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, but have always called Buenos Aires home during my time in South America. I just want to see what I can at my own pace, and enjoy it as much as I an. I currently work for an online finance community, and am moving to Europe this September.
What was your first experience living abroad, and what inspired the move?
- I lived in Suzhou, China (1 hour from Shanghai) in 2005-06 for 8 months. I taught English to adults for a school and then moved into private teaching. I was inspired to move there from a after a visit in early 2005 to see my cousin who had been there for a year teaching English. I fell in love with not only the place, but also the idea of living abroad and how exciting it could be. Different culture, food, sites, smells, people – EVERYTHING. China was the complete opposite of everything I was used to – I was sold on the idea. Additionally, I was shocked at how easy it actually could be to make the move, find a job, and stay there as long as I wanted. After that three week trip, I had to return to the states to tie up loose ends, but then returned September of 2005. Beyond the idea of living in a new place, was also the idea of forgoing the “path” that my fellow college graduates were on. Between graduation and moving, I worked at a full-time internship in an office and absolutely hated the idea of working in an office every day, 8-5. “People really do this every day?!” I asked myself. I was in disbelief. “There must be something better out there” I thought. And there was. These thoughts would also inspire me to start my own business after returning from China in 2006.
What parts of teaching English abroad did you like, and what made you quit?
- It was a great way to meet locals and learn about the local culture. We had so many conversations that carried on after class (in both English and Chinese – great practice for both of us) where we’d head to their favorite restaurant, bar, spa, movie theater, whatever. My first job was teaching in the afternoon/evening to working professionals. From a government official (with lots of connections – a very interesting person to hang out with) to a heart surgeon who had just pulled an all-nighter to businessmen who had to learn English for their job (and more motivation to learn than anyone I’ve ever seen as their pay/raises would be very tied to how well they spoke English), lawyers, etc.
- I had a trip planned to Europe in mid-2006 and I had to make a decision: go home and work a job to save money for the trip, or continue teaching in China and save money. Easy decision. I quit teaching at that school after my three month contract was up because private teaching paid more ($19/hr vs $12/hr) and allowed me to set my own schedule/teaching agenda. I taught Korean children in their homes after school. I also taught English at a university for a couple months.
Did you feel culture shock upon your first return to the US? In what ways could you recognize that your move abroad changed you?
- Definite culture shock; I saw everything differently. Every day I dreamt of the next time I could live abroad again. I missed the fun, the experience, the wonderment, the idea that on any given day anything could happen. On the bright side I saw the US differently, and there certainly are some things I appreciated more. Clean air and water, organization, shorter lines, less traffic (as unbelievable as it sounds), being able to understand people, being able to read signs on buildings, not having to struggle for even the smallest thing. I know it’s a cliché, but living abroad completely changed how I would see the world forever. It’s hard to describe exactly what this feeling is, but I think it involves more appreciating the little things, understanding that world is a huge but mostly welcoming place, that a lot of people suffer through a lot harder things than I can ever imagine and can find happiness. What else… in the US it’s so easy to not look outside the borders and to focus only within. Even NYC seemed to feel so far away and different from my life, now it feels like home in a way. I would recommend long-term (3-month minimum) traveling to anyone.
Can you give a quick timeline of what you did between living in China and what you’re doing now?
2006 Spring – Traveled 6 weeks in Italy, France, Spain. Returned back to Seattle. Started ecommerce consulting for small businesses.
2007 – Almost moved to Spain with a remote job in hand, but plans fell through.
2008 – Travel to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, continuing ecommerce work for small businesses, planning future travel.
2009 – 2 Weeks in Buenos Aires, 3 weeks in Turkey and Egypt, road trip across the US, officially decided on plan to leave in 2010 for Buenos Aires ASAP
2010 – Donated kidney to Uncle, travel plans pushed back six months, but all was worth it. Left for South America October 2010.
Are there any books or websites that inspired your desired lifestyle?
- 4-hour Work Week, when I read it in 2007, I said “holy sh*t this is like the blueprint for exactly what I’ve been thinking about”.
After I decided for sure I wanted to live abroad again I decided I didn’t want to rely on teaching English again, mainly because it wasn’t connected to my career aspirations and I knew I could work online and continue building my career experience.. I just had to figure out exactly what it was that I would do and how I would do it. I studied marketing in college, was currently doing freelance ecommerce marketing, and the basics come pretty natural to me, so I decided to study up as much as I could on internet marketing – something that could definitely be done remotely. Here’s some of what I studied:
- Internet Business Mastery podcast and website
- Tropical MBA Blog and Podcast
- 10 golden rules internet marketing podcast
- Art of Nonconformity website and book
- Masters Certificate courses in Internet Marketing at the University of San Francisco
- Indie Travel Podcast
- Rick Steves podcast
- Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
- The Alchemist
- Various Lonely Planets and other travel books to wet my appetite and keep me motivated. I remember just sitting in that section at the bookstore for hours browsing through different ones and getting ideas, whether it was India, Cuba, Argentina, Turkey, etc.
How did you convince your first client to allow you to work for them remotely? What resistance, if any, did you have to overcome?
- I had two clients at the time that I started making travel plans, and in the end one decided to keep me. There was some resistance at first, and definitely some questions, “wow how did you come up with this idea?! That’s pretty amazing…” The client (small online store) kept me because:
- We started in small steps, with me working part time from home first and then gradually adding in more steps over a ~3-month period
- I took a pay cut for the first year and then after proving myself we agreed for it to go back up
- I designed the whole system and showed them how it could actually be better for them – which it has been
- I worked my ass off in the transition period to show that I could do an even better job while working remote because of the motivation to keep it going
- The position with the other client just ended naturally, not because I was leaving.
What do you do now to support yourself abroad? What is a typical workday like?
- I still have that original client, but now my main client is wallstreetoasis.com, the largest online community for young finance professionals and students. My official title is “COO” which basically means I have a wide variety of tasks. Main tasks are managing our content, managing our interns (20+), managing our campus reps, general day-to-day operations, partnerships with universities, and community management. Have several other clients (such as an Indie film producer/director) that I do marketing projects for from time to time.
- Typical workday… maybe ⅔ of time I set aside for work is billable hours working for a client, the rest of the time involves one of the following: drumming up future business, talking / meeting with mentors and people in my network, reading books / blogs (currently reading The Lean Startup), and working on projects for friends/family (building a website for my mom).
What allure does South America hold for you?
- As a traveler it has everything you could ever want: beaches, mountains, jungle, culture, music, amazing food, spectacular weather (here in Buenos Aires, at least), friendly people.. I could go on – never a dull day. I’ve lived in Argentina 2.5 years and traveled for 4 months of it, but have so much more to see. You hear stories from friends and fellow travelers.. Bolvia and its uniqueness, Cuzco, Peru and its charm and natural wonders, Perito Moreno Glacier, the list goes on. Then there’s Brazil, its own world in itself – would take me a year just to see everything I want to see there. Then there’s Colombia: salsa/beaches/extreme friendliness/an undiscovered feel/Medellin/etc. I will miss South America so much when I leave, it truly feels like home. The day I leave (~Aug 20th) I will always be wondering when that date will be that I will be coming back.
Why settle in Buenos Aires?
- I originally wanted to live in Barcelona, but after a visit here in 2009 (inspired by the many books/podcasts I had read)I promised myself I would come back to live. The things that grabbed me then still grab me now: great weather / wine / steak / the European feel (even more so if you’re not from there nor used to it), the ease for me to stay here (one can overstay his/her visa for a 300 peso fine, within limits). What else.. my neighborhood is extremely relaxed, it’s easy to get work done, there’s a great community of expats here, there’s just enough of a slice of home in my area to keep me from being homesick, I could go on..
- I stayed longer than I originally planned, mainly because I love my apartment, (has an amazing patio and a pizza oven!) , found a great group of friends, found a baseball team to play on (the Shankees!), it’s a great hub from which to travel to other places (Brazil, Uruguay among others) and I felt my time wasn’t done here as there is so so much to see here.
In what ways do you feel like you fit into the culture of BA, and in what ways do you still feel very much like a foreigner?
- How I fit in:
I was thinking about this question tonight. I met an Argentine friend for dinner at a neighborhood steakhouse who I hadn’t seen for almost a year and we interacted with each other like Argentines. Kiss on the cheek greeting, “che this” and “che that”, all in flowing Spanish. I’ve known him for two years now and it’s funny to think back when I first met him and couldn’t understand a word he was saying because of the pace and accent of which he speaks.
Some other ways I connect with the culture – Sports: I’ve been lucky enough to play goalie in several leagues here and that has brought me closer to a lot of locals. Having a girlfriend here has given me more insider perspective into the country and its customs than I could ever imagine. I can have a conversation with anyone from any part of South America and ask questions about their country, food I’ve tried, places I want to visit, things going on in their country (if I’ve been following the news). Additionally I’ve fit in well with the nightlife, the laid back cafe culture.
- How I still am an outsider:
No matter how hard I try to hide it I’m still a “yanqui” (Yankee) or “extranjero” (foreigner). No sense in trying to hide it; three words from my mouth and they know I’m not a local. They may not know where from, but there starts the guessing game of where I’m from. Here are some specifics of things I was unable to experience like a local, whether by choice or not:
- Problems with the economy in Argentina don’t affect me. Rather the harder it is for locals to get dollars, the higher the demand, the higher the black market rate, and the higher conversion I get when changing USD to Pesos through Xoom.
- The language barrier still exists with more in-depth conversations, particularly when with a group of Argentines, and between the mix of slang, speed, and my lack vocabulary in certain areas I’m left completely lost at times. Though I imagine this to be even harder after I move away from a Spanish speaking country – things will be very difficult at times, but I guess us travelers always figure a way to communicate somehow :)
- I don’t feel what life is like for a local (both good and bad), ie commuting, earning pesos, corruption and bad decisions with the government, I have the freedom to leave at any time, while others here can only dream to someday visit other places, especially the way that the government has blocked their access to dollars and their ease in accessing cash overseas.
Do you think that you will stay in BA, or do you have plans to move on?
- I am leaving for sure to meet my mom in Paris in September, and then I plan to stay in Europe for as long as I can hold off the temptation to head to SE Asia. Likely 1-2 years, though I said 6mo’s – 1 year in Argentina and it’s been 2.5 so far.
What are some moments during your time living abroad that really stick in your mind?
- On my return to China, during the middle of the flight I awoke from a nap and said to myself “wow I have no idea what I’m getting into!” – as I had no hostel booked for the night, barely spoke the language, and didn’t know at all what I was doing once I picked up my bags. I had a rough plan that I would meet my cousin and eventually find a job teaching English, but didn’t really think about the minor details… getting that all figured out was some of the most fun / trying times of my life.
- During one my first nights on my own in China I got completely lost while biking home from work. I was in the middle of these ancient tiny streets in one of the oldest parts of my city. It was the first time I’d felt truly lost since I could remember. I knew I was safe, but getting lost (actually lost) and the fun communicating with people to try and find home was truly an amazing feeling.
- Toughest time: living in a hostel for a month in a half in China
- Scariest: walking within feet of a crocodile (without knowing until after) on a beach in Colombia
- Almost getting hit by a car in Cairo, Egypt. Number one killer of Americans abroad is related to traffic accidents, be careful!
- The moment in Buenos Aires I realized that my dream had come true – pretty surreal feeling
- This has taken some time, but the realization of how permanent this is – I’m in this for the long haul
10 things still on your bucket list:
- See all that the world that has to offer. To help push me along I made a few quantitative goals:
- “Travel” for at least 10 years (the official start date of this trip was October 21, 2010)
- Live in 10 countries (at least 6 months or more in each)
- Travel to 100 countries
- Visit 500 cities
- Live in a mountain ski resort in Europe this coming winter (Bansko, Bulgaria perhaps)
- Live on a yacht (with wifi?) in the Mediterranean for several months
- Travel all through Asia, including SE Asia, China, Nepal, Tibet, India..
- Live in Medellin, Colombia for a year
- Take the Trans-Siberian Railway all across Russia
- Learn how to scuba dive, surf, become a respectable goalie, and learn to cook well a dish or two from each country I live in
- Grow my own business and web presence, and figure out exactly what it is I want to specialize in. I love giving advice to other people about how to live abroad and travel while working online so I’m definitely considering starting some type of consulting in this area
- Travel from Ushuaia, Argentina to Mexico by land
- Visit every continent (Australia and Antarctica still remain)
How can people contact you? (social media, website, etc)
email is fine, NandrinLouis@gmail.com, feel free and ask questions / give feedback