Leaving Buenos Aires

4 August 2012. Filed under category Personal.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a plane somewhere over South America, on my way to New York. Buenos Aires, my home for the last five months, is receding behind me at a rate of 896km/h.

This article is in the personal category. There are no travel descriptions, nomadic lifehacks or philosophical musings here. If you don’t care about my personal experiences, skip ahead to another article of more general interest. But if you want to get an idea of what a five-month nomadic stay in Buenos Aires may be like, read on.

My Daily Routine

I loved my Buenos Aires apartment. It was spacious and, most importantly, private. I wasn’t just a closed door away from my host but a whole terrace! This was my own space where I could establish a daily routine again, something I’ve been deprived of since I became a nomad. “Didn’t you become a nomad to fight stagnation?” I hear you ask. Well yes, but there is a difference between having a routine for five months and five years. I don’t mind structure as long as it doesn’t turn into rigor mortis.

My normal day in Buenos Aires consisted of me staying home and doing online work (blog restructuring, writing and generally getting things done) punctuated by my daily P90X exercises and cooking good healthy food. (Well, healthy at least. Every day featured the same scrambled eggs and chicken/vegetables bake.)

I danced tango three nights a week. Those were the main times that I got out of the flat. I didn’t do much sightseeing or clubbing, choosing instead to focus on my online work.

Goals Accomplished and Skills Acquired

On 1 January, I wrote an article about the Rocks, Pebbles and Sand metaphor. In short, rocks are the most important goals that you should focus on first, pebbles are secondary goals to work on when there isn’t a rock to be done and sand fills the remaining time. I listed some of my rocks and pebbles for 2012, and used that list to pick things to do in Buenos Aires.

P90X Fitness Program (Rock)

I had two main goals with Buenos Aires. The first was to get through a three-month exercise regime called P90X as a step towards one of my rocks this year, namely getting fit. I wrote a whole article on my experience of P90X, so I won’t say more here other than that it was a whole lot of work, I got through it and I’m happy with the results.

Learning Tango (New Rock)

The second goal was to learn Tango. I had sampled this sensual dance back in London, and I wanted more. It is a difficult dance and five months is not a long time to learn it, but I picked up enough to enjoy myself on the dance floor with some confidence. It isn’t enough, but like sex and chocolate, I could never have enough tango.

The Modern Nomad (Rock and Pebble)

During my five months in Buenos Aires, I’ve written 14 blog posts (two is waiting publication). Each one takes on average two days to write, meaning I’ve spent a month or a fifth of my time in Buenos Aires writing blog posts alone. It is a long time, but this is an important and on-going rock and hopefully worth it. (Admittedly, I sometimes feel like an underpants-collecting gnome. [Confused? Watch more South Park.])

But that isn’t the only work I’ve done on The Modern Nomad. I’ve also done a lot of programming, designing and optimization for it (including the new fancy front-page navigation) as well as promoting the blog with the verve of a Victorian newspaper boy. For being a year pebble, this took up far too much of my time, but once I get started, I’m like a crack addict, hunched over my computer until the rising sun tells me that I’ve geek-binged yet again.

Learning Spanish (Pebble)

I wanted to take advantage of living in a Spanish-speaking country to firm up my hold on the language, but with so many other projects taking up my time, I didn’t take any lessons, so my improvements have been modest. Still, I speak a bit better than when I arrived. I still can’t follow a conversation among natives in a pub, but I can hold a stumbling conversation with individuals.

Getting Things Done (Sand)

These five months I’ve cranked through my Getting Things Done list and got an awful lot of stuff done. I won’t list it all as I could probably be prosecuted for boring someone to death. I just want to mention how great it feels to finally get through those to-do items that for years have been lying at the bottom of the priority list.

Issues Encountered and Lessons Learned

Apart from some over-zealous mosquitos, I have not had any physical or practical issues in Buenos Aires. However, I’ve had a couple of mental slumps during which I’ve felt listless and inadequate. I wrote about this in Mental Monsters and the Language Barrier.

The main lesson I take away from those slumps is that I’m prone to self-isolation, especially in a country where I don’t speak the language, and I use busy work to dig myself deeper into the isolation. It is great for productivity but caustic on the mind.

More generally, I’ve learned that the nomadic life, with its constantly changing horizons, will stir up some mental monsters. I hope that with time, I’ll get better at seeing them for what they are and deal with them more quickly.

Friends Made

As mentioned, I stayed at home more than usual in Buenos Aires. The exception to this was tango nights, and so most of my friends come from the queer tango circuit. I can’t mention everyone I met there, but I want to give special thanks to Augusto (for being such a good teacher), Arts (for being my reliable lesson partner), Valerijs (for being my much needed English safety valve), Alfredo (for the connection), Gustavo (for that first dance that gave me my confidence back), Carlos (for dances I looked forward to all night), Pablo (for a hell of a ride), Josh and Niki (for bringing the crazy) and Edgardo (El XVI siempre quiere un otro!)

I became good friends with my landlady and landlord, Beatrice and Kragen. They made me feel right at home with their chilled attitude, and I loved the board-game evenings!

I met Trey through Beatrice and Kragen. We became good friends, and my family and I owe him for some fantastic restaurant recommendations! Also, thanks for a memorable goodbye!

You know the kind of bartender you see in movies, who lean over and lend an ear to the lonely stranger sitting at the bar, nursing a beer? Well, that bartender exists, and his name is Matthias. We became friends over a few more beers, and I only regret not having had more time to get to know him better!

I give my most heartfelt thanks to Dario for being such a good and reliable friend. Our restaurant visits were the highlight of my weeks, and I can still not find the words to thank him enough for our trip to Mendoza! Our friendship means a lot to me.

Finally, I know that I made a difference to at least one person in Buenos Aires. I’m not going to cause embarrassment by going into it further. I’m just proud and happy that that I had a positive influence on someone.

A Cherished Visit

My mother, brother and I at Iguazu.

My mother, brother and I at Iguazu.

At the end of my stay in Buenos Aires, my mother and brother came to visit me for sixteen days. I planned a power-tourist itinerary for us, and we managed to see Buenos Aires, Colonia, Iguazu, Salta and Tigre. My isolation and lack of sightseeing turned out to be a good thing since I got to explore the city’s many attraction together with my family.

I hope it was useful for my mother to see for herself a slice of my life as a nomad, from the place where I stayed (and if I kept it clean) through how I ate (to evaluate the risk of food-poisoning) to the friends I made (who she met at the tango club.)

Re-evaluating My Rocks

Sisyphus pushing his rocks in London's Highgate Cemetery

Sisyphus pushing his rocks in London’s Highgate Cemetery

It is time to refocus.

I’ll continue to work out, but to a lesser degree, and I won’t continue the video diary. I’ll stop working on The Modern Nomad apart from maintenance and writing blog posts. With any luck (and your help if you’re willing to give it), word of mouth will do the job of promoting the blog. Learning tango and Spanish will naturally stop now that I’ve left Buenos Aires.

This will free up a lot of time and energy that I’ll use for the next big thing: earning money. It is time to start building some kind of career and make my nomadic life economically sustainable.

For this year, I put down writing a book as a rock, but I will push that goal to the future. I will first get the money situation under control and then chase the dream of publishing my book.

Looking Forward

I’m finishing this article in Madison Square Park in New York, leaning against a tree. The air is warm and humid, and I feel fantastic! I am energized, enthusiastic and optimistic to be on the road again as well as back in the United States.

I will stay eight days in New York, and then I head back to Long Beach to prepare for Burning Man at the end of August. After the festival, I’ll hang around California for a while to visit friends after which I … am not sure. I might head towards New Zealand and Australia via Hawaii, but those are tentative plans and subject to change at the flimsiest if whims.


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  1. Allan says:

    Hi Gustav. Were you sad when you left? I think I would find that difficult, although I can almost feel you being re-energised getting to NYC. I have lived in London now for 22 years, since I was 18 years old (that means I am 32) and I have seen a lot of people ‘come and go’. I do not mean visitors, but people who lived here for 5, 6, 10, 15 years. I have lost a few very close friends (usually to where they came from originally). I always find it difficult when people leave and I have to reevaluate the city. Its feels weird that Gustav, Mark, Dawn, Emma (and Nani – RIP) are no longer here to meet in Soho or come round for dinner. So how do you feel leaving? Have you accepted that leaving is just part of the life you have chosen, which has advantages and disadvantages? Enjoy NYC kid. Allan

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I had a wonderful mix of emotions when leaving. On one hand, I felt sad that I was leaving the people I’d met and especially the tango. But I was also excited to move on and do something new. And this is important. As I mentioned in Saying Goodbye, the nomad who leaves has an easier time than the people they leave because the nomad is the one who chooses to go and he does so to go to something he is excited about.

      And also, I think I am getting used to leaving. Nothing lasts forever, and I don’t expect them to anymore, so I don’t get disappointed when it doesn’t. It’s like relationships. The first few times they end, we feel like the world has ended, but after a few broken relationships, we learn that we pick ourselves up again and new love will come and we can look forward to that.

  2. Crys says:

    Ah, Gustav, what lovely memories you made in Buenos Aires,not just for youself and those you met but for me, as a reader of your blogs. I have to admit, I feel that ache in my throat of a mother seeing her son off on another adventure, sorry, trying not to be sacchrine or invasive, just the truth. I love that you keep growing in your desire to be more and more Gustav, whomever that may be. I envy your upcoming time at Burning Man, please, if you remember, write something in the temple for me to Josh. The picture of you and your mom and brother is incredibly sweet, good to know there is always someone back home loving you while you trek the globe. Now, I need to go have a good old fashioned cry for things lost and things gained.
    P.S. be assured you have been a positive influence on MANY people.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Crys, thank you for those sweet sweet words! They really mean a lot to me, and I’m truly humbled that my words affect you like this.

      It would be an honour to bring something of Josh’s to leave at the temple for you. I can send you an address in the US where you can send it. Or, if you want me to simply write something, I’d be happy to do that too. Think about it.

      1. Crys says:

        Gustav, oh my God, you would take something to the temple for Josh? My head is swimming. For you to offer is the greatest gift you could ever have given me. You understand.
        I will not send you anything as the time is short but I will email you a favorite quote and if you could just put it in the temple for me, I would be grateful beyond words. I know they are going back to the true temple construction so I am sure it will be beautiful. To know my words to him are blazing up into the desert sky, I don’t have words to express the emotions that brings me. Thank you, Gustav

        1. J. says:

          A visit to the temple at Burning Man is an experience that even as I think of it brings me goose-bumps. The communal celebration and rememberence of others that have had an impact on our lives combined with those sharing their sense of loss; with all to be sent to the universe, makes for the most concentrated nexus of emotion I have ever experienced.

          As Gustav said, it is an honor to bring an item or leave a messege.

          Peace to you.

    2. Levin says:

      As I read through and catch up on old blogposts on this site I find myself more and more caught up in the lives of the commenters as well, glimpsed through their comments. I wish you all good things, Crys!

  3. Maaris1 says:

    Ah Gustav, London is longing for you again. As you probably have heard LJs is at sale now, but Mr. M.S. has the plan B. Hope to see you soon.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      What?! LJ is out of business! No! Now I have no reason to come back anymore… OK, maybe I do, but still, bad news indeed. Sorry to hear it!

      1. Maaris1 says:

        As I said, I have plan b….

  4. J. says:

    I have always found it easier when things change or come to an end, (jobs, relationships, travel, etc), to tell myself and others that have come into my life that it is, “Never goodbye- only till next time,” whether in actuality or spiritually.

  5. Corey says:

    I know Mattias! He is a great guy that I met during my 3.5 months in BA last year. You were lucky to meet him. Did you enjoy the bar where he works?

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Sure did! Any bar playing Rammstein is good in my book!

  6. Annie Post says:

    So cool! You confirmed my wavering commitment to begin p90x. Thanks!

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Did you read the P90X post? If not, check it out, and then sit down and promise yourself to give it your best shot for 90 days. It’s just 90 days, right? You can do 90 days for sure! And then you can re-evaluate. My guess is that you’ll be so pleased by your improved body that you’ll be motivated to continue a life of good health.

  7. Edgardo Fernández says:

    Thanks Karl Gustav XVI! I will remember you at least 1 tango a night. ABRAZOS

  8. Hi Gustav,
    Just read you are in NY. I live here and would love to meet you! I am also a Tango dancer. Please e mail me if you would like to meet.

    Love following your journeys!
    All my best,

    Robin Joy

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      It was great meeting you in person! I hope that I get to connect with more readers like this when I’m passing through various cities.

      And if you want to see some intriguing art, check out Robin’s site!

  9. niki says:

    Me? Bringing the crazy? Are you sure you haven’t confused me with someone else? 🙂

  10. Brother Henrik says:

    I love to read all the comments you gett especially the one from Crys it seams like she is writing from the heart 🙂

    1. Crys says:

      Henrik, thank you, and yes, I do write from the heart. Your brother has been a source of inspiration for me ever since I first started reading his blog. He writes with such honesty, humor, and vulnerability and he has such a love of life. He has given me courage to live my life more fully. I love the pictures of you, your mom and Gustav because I see the joy of living in all of you. I also love to see your comments since they come from a brother’s point of view. We need to tease Gustav just a little once in awhile. 🙂

      1. Brother Henrik says:

        Unfortunately i dont write long coments and the main reason for that is nr1 becaus i dont use all 10 fingers on the keyboard only 2 nr2 becaus my english is bad nr3 i dont sitdown by the computer long enough to gett time.

  11. Lia says:

    Oh I love Buenos Aires, I got to live there for 2 months and it swept me off my feet 🙂 But like you said, being a nomad keeps it romantic..you dont overstay your welcome and when you leave you still have amazing memories fresh in your mind and dulce de leche gresh in your stomach..and no desire to escape boredom! I also really liked your point that establishing short term routine can be good too, making EVERY day a spontaneous adventure is not realistic. But there is a big difference between letting yourself get “comfortable” in life rather than comfortable for a few weeks in somewhere new. Keep on living the dream!!

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