How I Ended Up Settling in Buenos Aires

Full stop in Buenos Aires“So how did you end up moving to Buenos Aires?” asks the inquisitive local or traveler passing through. It’s a question that expats are assuredly asked way too often regardless of where there new adopted home is. I’ve been asked so many times that I entertain myself by trying to invent the most unbelievable stories, from entering the drug trade to arms trafficking to even exporting babies. It’s surprising what you can get people to believe if you remain serious and have a good back story.

So I guess it’s time I fess up and give the actual reasons for my move to this country, and more over this city, that I love to love and hate at the same time. So back to the beginning.

I came to Buenos Aires for the first time in January 2005. I wanted to learn Spanish and I assumed that Spain would be a great place to get started but my friend Tom wisely suggested that I go to Buenos Aires to get a taste of Latin America and Europe in one shot. I did a little research and a few months later arrived for the first of what would be several trips to Buenos Aires.

After Buenos Aires, I continued to travel for two years to see the world and to find a place to live and ultimately start a business. I narrowed my options down based on what I could afford and where I would enjoy living to three regions of the world: Latin America, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia. I realized quickly that Eastern Europe would be too cold for my tastes and there was also the language barrier. In South East Asia I thought that the Philippines would be a great option after ruling out Thailand and Vietnam. The Philippines has nice beaches, great food, is very cheap, English is spoken almost everywhere and there is lot of tech talent.

ManilaIn South America I narrowed my choices to Panamá, Colombia, and Argentina. Panamá and Colombia were both close to the States and very easy to get to from Florida. Panamá, while offering great beaches and tropical weather, lacked a strong cultural or cosmopolitan environment by comparison to the other candidates. Colombia has the most amazing people and is one of my personal favorites but I thought the IT infrastructure was far behind Buenos Aires and I worried about the availability of tech talent; at least in Medellín which was my top choice for cities in Colombia at the time. Buenos Aires offered a cosmopolitan city, low labor costs, and a very lively real estate market which would complement my business well.

I convinced myself that the Philippines made the most business sense so I purchased tickets to Manila. My life could have been very different right now but I just couldn’t let go of the idea of living in Buenos Aires. I already had been there three times, I spoke the language well, and I even knew what neighborhood I wanted to live in almost down to the block. Buenos Aires also has a relatively large middle class whereas in Manila poverty was much more prevalent and the disparity between the rich and poor is much greater.

Ultimately I decided to give Buenos Aires one more month. I flew to Buenos Aires in January 2007 to make the final decision and the rest, as they say, is history.

2 Years and 26 Countries

Close to three years ago I finished a two year journey around the world. I traveled from city to city telecommuting for work and spending generally a month or two in each city except for the last few months where I made a mad dash to the end through several cities.

I wanted to learn another language, find a place to eventually live, investigate places to launch a business, travel and see what it would be like to live in various different places around the world. I faithfully wrote several posts documenting the first six months of my trip but then quickly fell behind and eventually stopped all together.

This post is an attempt at summarizing the 26 countries I visited or lived in from January 2005 to December 2006.

South America

My last entry dated over four years ago left me in Colombia. No I haven’t been in Colombia since then although I was very tempted to stay and still consider it one of my favorite countries in the world.

My Colombian Parents Pilar and Fernando in Bogotá

My Colombian Parents Pilar and Fernando in Bogotá

Colombia is beautiful, untouched, and has some of the most friendly people that I’ve ever met. When I arrived I was essentially adopted by a wonderful family that took me in and treated me as if I were one of them. I miss my Colombian brothers sisters, parents, grandparents, and cousins and I’ll definitely find my way back someday to visit my Colombian family and their beautiful country.

After Colombia I spent just over three weeks in Lima, Perú with a short break during the long Thanksgiving weekend to see Machu Pichu. Machu Pichu is definitely in my top 5 places that I’ve ever visited. I haven’t been everywhere in Latin America but Perú probably has the most varied, interesting, and yes I dare say best food in Latin America. From the ceviche to the anticuchos de corazón, wonderful spices and even guinea pig on a skewer, I was more than satisfied.

At Machu Pichu with my Swiss travel partner Karin

Rainy day at Machu Pichu with my Swiss travel partner Karin

That's my guinea pig... hmm

That's my guinea pig... mmm

From Perú, I flew to Argentina, unpacked, relaxed for a few weeks and then flew to the States for the holidays and to stock up on tech gear. At the end of 2005,  laptops went for about triple the cost in the US. The amount I saved on the laptop covered the round trip flight.

Back in Buenos Aires, it was nice to return to a familiar place where I worked hard, ate out almost every night, and just enjoyed staying in one location for a while. I also spent a few weeks in Córdoba to see if I could consider living and setting up a business there but it just didn’t compare with the cosmopolitan and vibrant life that Buenos Aires offered.

Next up Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is surrounded by mountains, jungle, islands, and of course beaches. The locals known as cariocas say that god spent six days creating the world and the seventh day on Rio. After spending a month in the city I think the statement can be justified.

God spent the 7th day on Rio

God spent the 7th day on Rio

I found Rio to be the most difficult place to work from because there are so many tempting things to do outside. It’s tough to return to work when everybody else is headed to the beach.

The most shocking thing about Brazil, at least from my very little taste of Rio, is that everybody appears to be exceedingly happy. Compared to Buenos Aires, where very few people make eye contact or smile at least when in public areas by themselves, everybody in Rio smiles all of the time. The people always seem to be in a good mood, easy going, and enjoying life.

Hang gliding over Rio

Hang gliding over Rio

I studied Portuguese for three weeks after arriving and was surprised at how fluent I became in such a short period of time. The language sounds nothing at all like Spanish but is very similar grammatically. At first I didn’t like the sound of it at all but after studying for a day or two I completely fell in love with the way the Cariocas speak and the song like nature and tone of the language.

Europe

It was turning into winter 2006 in the southern hemisphere so I decided to do some traveling in Europe. My first stop was Munich and I arrived on a nice sunny spring day where everything in the world strangely seemed to work and people actually obeyed traffic laws to the point of not even jaywalking. I had definitely left South America.

Relaxing in Berlin

Roughing it in Berlin

My brother Chris lives about 45 minutes from Nuremberg and I used his place as a base. I spent a few months in total in Germany while traveling back and forth to Austria, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, and Holland. I then realized it would be too difficult to see Europe before winter if I were to continue telecommuting so I let my client know that I was going to take a break for a while to focus on traveling.

I spent the next six months bouncing from city to city spending weeks here and there and made a nice swath from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.

Enjoying a Little Mud on Corfu Island in Greece

Enjoying a Little Mud with Some Travel Friends on Corfu Island in Greece

I spent a little time in Eastern Europe investigating whether to live and setup a business there but the winters were a little too cold for my taste. I also had the feeling that Eastern Europe was still a bit too much of a risk compared to Argentina or Panamá which were my two top choices at the time.

When I made it to Paris my roommate Sophie who I lived with in Panamá invited me to stay with her and her boyfriend for a few weeks in Paris. I tried to talk her out of hosting me but she insisted. I am very grateful to her, her boyfriend and her parents who also invited me their place close to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast.

Amazing dinner with Sophie and her family

Amazing dinner with Sophie and her family

I thought the French, even the Parisians, were very friendly and polite which ran counter to several negative comments I previously heard from friends and others who have visited France. I’m sure my love of French food and respect for their appreciation of life to even the smallest detail helped us start off on the right foot but I’m still shocked how many people have said they’ve had bad experiences with the French whereas I fell in love with the people.

By November I’d seen enough churches to last a lifetime and it was also getting too cold for my blood so I bought a ticket to Bangkok and bid farewell to Europe. There were many places I wanted to see in Asia but after two years on the road I decided to focus on figuring out where to settle and setup a business.

South East Asia

I spent a few weeks in Bangkok writing a business plan and looking into the feasibility of bootstrapping a business there or somewhere in Vietnam. I had been to Thailand before and love the food, culture, and of course the beaches. Regardless, I came to the conclusion that due to costs, language issues, and availability of software engineers that the Philippines would be better from a business perspective so I packed up after a few weeks and headed off to Manila.

On my way there I stopped over in Phuket to relax for few days and enjoy the beaches which was a nice break from Bangkok and then stopped in Singapore for a few days on my next layover.

Short Touristy Break on Ko Phi Phi Beach from The Beach

Short Touristy Break on Ko Phi Phi Beach From the Movie "The Beach"

I’ve never made it faster through customs and immigrations than in Singapore. My seatmate who was an expat living in Singapore commented that even with his electronic ID, which allowed him to walk straight through immigrations without stopping, could never get to baggage claim before his baggage arrived. It took me took about 10 minutes to get through customs and immigration to my baggage claim from the plane and of course my luggage was there waiting for me. I wish other airports could copy how the Singaporeans manage an airport.

Singapore is a nice city but too perfect and cookie cutter for my tastes. I can see why it attracts so many expat retirees. You could consider it the Florida of Asia. I only stayed two nights so I’m sure there is a lot more to Singapore than what I saw. I did manage to catch up with Henrik an old friend I met years before in Thailand who ended up making Singapore his home. He showed me around a bit and we enjoyed some great food before I left for Manila.

Catching up with Henrik in Singapore before Christmas

Catching up with Henrik in Singapore before Christmas

Manila was completely opposite of Singapore. They definitely didn’t win any speed records for getting people through immigration or customs. It was also completely insane getting downtown. There was so much traffic on the highway that kids came by knocking on the doors asking for money and street vendors peddled their wares through the traffic on the major highways. Ahh, a little bit more reminiscent of South America.

Manila is not pretty by any means but I had a great time and it’s not too far away from beaches. I don’t know if I could live there but I definitely think there could be some very nice places to live in the Philippines and it has a fairly friendly business environment.

After a few days I left for Puerto Galera to take a class to get certified as an advanced open water diver. There is some great diving there and it was an amazing place to get certified. My favorite dive was a drift dive where we were swept quickly along for several kilometers along the side of a coral cliff.

Final Advanced Open Water Test (US vs. UK)

Advanced Open Water Diver Final Exam - USA vs. UK

Once I finished my advanced open water certification I headed back to Manila for a day or two and then finished my trip flying back to the States for the holidays and to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Where to settle and setup my business.

In this quick recap I left out many great locations, friendships and interesting anecdotes from my two year trip but I don’t think I would ever finish this post if I tried to mention them all. It was an amazing experience and one that’s changed my life in many ways. I never imagined I would see so many places or meet so many great people. It was a trip of a lifetime.

Below are all of the countries I entered into or exited from during the course of my trip.

CountryEntry DateDeparture Date
Argentina1/30/20054/3/2005
Uruguay4/3/20054/3/2005
Argentina4/3/20054/20/2005
United States4/21/20055/4/2005
Costa Rica5/4/20057/11/2005
Panama7/11/20058/11/2005
Colombia8/11/200511/18/2005
Peru11/18/200512/6/2005
Argentina12/7/200512/23/2005
United States12/24/20051/8/2006
Argentina1/9/20064/7/2006
Brazil4/7/20065/10/2006
Germany5/11/20067/2/2006
Austria6/23/20067/2/2006
Hungary7/2/20067/7/2006
Poland7/7/20067/21/2006
Germany7/21/20068/1/2006
Belgium8/1/20068/4/2006
Holland8/4/20068/6/2009
Germany8/8/20068/10/2006
Czech Republic8/10/20068/11/2006
Bulgaria8/11/20068/27/2006
Greece8/27/20069/6/2006
Italy9/6/20069/14/2006
Germany9/15/20069/23/2006
Switzerland9/23/20069/25/2006
France9/25/200610/10/2006
Spain10/10/200610/27/2006
Portugal10/27/200611/2/2006
Spain11/3/200611/3/2006
Germany11/3/200611/11/2006
Thailand11/12/200612/6/2006
Singapore12/6/200612/8/2006
Philippines12/8/200612/19/2006
United States12/19/20061/13/2007
Argentina1/14/2007

Goobye Argentina (At Least Until Spring)

After two and a half months in Argentina I unfortunately had to leave abruptly to attend a funeral service in the United States. Even with two and a half months I didn’t feel as if I had enough time there so I bought a ticket to return back to Argentina in September. I was actually able to buy a ticket that allows me to stop in Costa Rica and Peru on the return flight. Since I’m not particularly fond of cold weather, I plan to travel around Latin America until its spring before returning.

 When I first arrived I have to admit I didn’t enjoy the city too much. Most of the food wasn’t very appetizing, the people weren’t that friendly and I had a hell of a time trying to find an apartment. However, each day I grew to like the city more and more. A large part is due to actually being able to communicate, which made it a lot easier to get to know people and the city. The city actually grows on you too.

If someone were to ask me what is the one single thing they need to see or do in Buenos Aires I would have a tough time answering. For me it is not just one single specific thing. It’s being able to relax at one of the hundreds of cafes and people watch, or walk through one of the many parks or wait in line that overflows out of an ice cream shop at 2:30 AM. It’s just the ambiance that the city offers.

Iguazú Falls

 

View From the Brazilian Side

The Iguazú Falls in northern Argentina bordering Brazil are a must see for anyone visiting Argentina. I flew there with Lauren, a friend of mine from school, for a weekend. There is a Brazilian side and an Argentinean side of the falls. We went with a tour group that toured the Argentinean side the first day and the Brazilian side the next. The park is actually quite large and outside of admiring the great views of the falls there are paths for hiking and plenty of flora and fauna to keep you busy. We also took a short boat ride that actually rams you into two of the falls completely drenching everyone onboard.

I splurged on this trip and stayed at the Sheraton which has wonderful views of the falls. The hotel was nice but it is actually located on the park so it’s far from everything except the falls. There is only one restaurant and a small bar at the hotel too and unfortunately the food was disappointing. Since there isn’t any competition in the resort you have to take a 15 minute taxi ride to the city of Puerto Iguazú. I recommend that you save your money and go to one of the cheaper hotels in the city of Puerto Iguazú.

We also found a decent club in Puerto Iguazú that overlooked the river delta the divides Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil that I would recommend if I could remember the name. There are also some decent bars and clubs on the Brazilian side but didn’t have a chance to check them out.

The falls were one of the most impressive sites that I have seen in my life. I enjoyed hiking through the paths around the falls and the little bit of the nightlife we were able to see. It’s definitely something you shouldn’t miss if you ever make it to Argentina.

 

Garganta del Diablo

 

View From the Garganta del Diablo

 

Lauren and I

 

View From the Trail

 

Rainbow View From Above

 

More Falls with Me

 

Falls Into which the Boat Rams

 

Preparing to Go Under the Falls

 

View of One of the Falls From the Boat

 

Trail Guard

 

View From the Brazilian Side 2

 

View From the Brazilian Side 3

 

View From the Brazilian Side with Me

 

View From the Brazilian Side 4

 

View From the Hotel

Tigre

 

Tigre is a small quiet city about one hour from Buenos Aires. I went there with a few friends on a Saturday a while ago to escape from the city. It was a nice break from Buenos Aires. Tigre is at the base of a river delta and is a popular vacation spot for Porteños. The river is the main highlight but some of the other diversions are a theme park, casino, and a river side market. We walked around the city, checked out the market, and took a boat tour of the delta and the surrounding areas. After the tour we stopped by the casino but unfortunately it wasn’t that impressive. There are also a few resorts you can stay at but we just opted for the day trip which I felt was enough time to see everything. It is definitely a nice inexpensive escape from the city.

 

Friends at the Train Station to Tigre

The Tigre Train Station

 

Just About to Embark for the Boat Tour

View From the Back of the Boat

Another River Shot (The water is naturally that brown)

A View From the Shore