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.
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
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
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.
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.