Work Abroad but earn in USD

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What are you running away from?

Check out this recent AP article, titled Run away to South America. The author mentions that most of the single expatriates she met in a Chile language school "came here to escape something." Doing a Google search on the phrase "move to South America" brings up the website called Escape Artist, which provides "resources for Americans fleeing America."

What I Was Escaping From...

I wasn't running from any one thing in particular, but rather an idea of what my life would become if I stayed in the United States. My life was quickly headed towards the bland and uninteresting existence that awaits most college gradates. I had just finished college and reached a turning point - I could focus 100% on my small business and try to seriously grow it, or take a job at one of the many large corporations recruiting out of the university. I watched as all my peers took jobs at Fortune 500s, moving to various places around the country that all seemed boring to me doing jobs that all seemed boring as well.

I decided I would focus on my own business and give it my all. That would require coming to Argentina, as my office, employees, and business partners were all here. More than that, though, it would be something challenging. I would be a fish out of water, forced to adapt to a new language, culture, and way of doing things.

I think I had just seen the movie About Schmidt and, despite being just 25 at the time, I had the very real fear of waking up in another 35 years at some corporate office having wasted my life and never done anything exciting. So, I made the decision to come here. Perhaps it wasn't the safe or conservative thing to do, but it felt right.

The Results

In the end, it ended up costing me a lot, and I don't just mean monetarily. In addition to selling everything I owned, I lost a 5-year relationship, the opportunity to easily visit with friends & family, and certainly all my built-in understanding about how society and things work. Things that I took for granted back in the U.S. have to be learned all over again here.

Still, I'm glad I did it. While I'm still adjusting here (hasn't even been a full year yet), I'm doing much better than when I first arrived. I'm learning about how things work and starting to understand the culture better. I don't see myself leaving anytime soon. In fact, I just signed a two year lease on an apartment.

I'd very much like to hear from the rest of the readers out there. Why did you or are you planning to come to Argentina? Are you running from something?

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Blogger johnny said...


I am glad to hear you are doing well after a year. I have only been here about 5 weeks, with plans for an indefinite stay. While I have found much to enjoy, much of my time has been spent making sure my consulting business is going to work here. So, many calls and emails back to the states to coordinate things. Also, my castellano is limited, though I do get by. Immediate priorities include finding long term housing, getting more immigration "legal" and wading through banking, grocery shopping etc. I just signed up with a local health care plan. Yes, alot of daunting things to do with more on the horizon. Why do all this ? Well, I too was bored after 11 years in superficial Miami, astounded at what I see as the possible ruination of our country's good standing in the world, and looking for a challenge. Also, at age 53 I was looking for a much less expensive lifestyle with an eye to possible retirement not too far down the road. As has been discussed here in the past, many expats from the states will be venturing "south" in the future to escape stress, and the erosion of their savings. I thought, well, that's what I'll do in the future, why not see if I can do it now ! Get a head start ! Plus, if I don't end up liking BA, there is the rest of Argentina and South America. And to top it off I have been divorced for many years, so I only have to worry about myself. I am sure there will be obstacles to being totally comfortable here. None of us are likely to become totally fluent in castellano. A limited understanding of the language of a culture poses real risks as regards ever feeling that sense of "belonging" we feel in our own "neck of the woods". So, acquiring a very good working knowledge of the language will be indispensable. To sum up, I am optimistic that my decision to relocate here will prove to be a big plus for me. Challenges, yes, but the benefits are so many, and the future much more interesting.



2/23/2006 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

35 years after the debacle at Altamont (for those of you who remember), the Stones are still playing in sold out stadiums, full of many crazed maniacs, and slipshod security. I love the Stones, but they have to be considered the most mercenary of any rock n roll band in history. Jagger, of course has a degree in economics.

2/23/2006 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Hi EE,

I've enjoyed your journey. It was quite a coincidence that we ended up meeting after I started reading your site.

I'm well aware of Escape Artist as I've been reading it for years. I spent the past 3 years before I moved to Argentina traveling all around the world. I think I went on over 50 international trips. I literally lived my life like a doctor told me I had 3 years to live. It was the best experience of my life. In fact, it was by doing this that I happened to discover Argentina so it literally changed my life.

Many people move out of the USA to escape, being they are going through some mid-life crises, etc. Not me, I was in the prime of my life. I had a very successful career, making lots of money, I had the big house, the BMW, great friends, good dating life. When I decided to move to Argentina everyone told me I was crazy. Everyone. They all said I was in the prime of my life. That I could work just a few more years and retire. Keep in mind I'm not the senior citizen that many assume I am. I'm fairly young still.

Moving wasn't about escaping life, trying to make more money, etc. The USA is one of the best countries in the world. I don't miss it though. I didn't move because I had to or I was going through some mid-life crises. I moved because I truly believe that you should be with the person you enjoy being with, you should visit the cities you've always dreamed of visiting and you should live in a city that you are passionate about.

I found that most people complain about various aspects of their lives yet they do nothing to change it. To me it's very simple. If you aren't happy with your partner you find another one. If you don't like your job - quit and find another one. If you don't like the city you are living in - move to another one that you like better. Life is what you make of it.

Everyone that I knew told me it was very "risky" moving to Argentina, leaving a good job and the money. For me, the "risky" thing would have been to stay in the USA and give up the chance to fulfill a dream. It would have been "risky" to grow old and one day be sitting on a rocking chair and wonder how my life would have been if I moved to Argentina. Risk is a subjective term.

Most people lead very ordinary lives. They have an ordinary job, live in an ordinary house and do ordinary things. I found that if you want an extraordinary life you must do extraordinary things. Moving to Argentina was one of those things and after moving here I knew I made the right decision. I certainly didn't move to Argentina for the money. If I wanted to make a lot of money I would have stayed in the USA. Still, I figured if I could be in the city that I love and have a successful business, I would fulfill my dream. It's hard work but very fulfilling. I'm very fortunate to be living my dream.

2/24/2006 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger El Expatriado said...

I think I had a "quarter-life crisis". hahaha. Only God himself knows what my mid-life crisis is going to be!!! I expatriating and leaving everything behind is about as extreme as you can get. No idea what I'm going to do at 50 to top this...

ABA, I assumed you were much older before I met you as well. People assume the same thing about me all the time. I had a strange experience once. I was doing a deal with 2 other partners and none of us had met each other before. One from Spain, me from the U.S., and the other from Argentina. We all met in the U.S. and were totally freaked out. The Argentine guy was the same age as me. The Spanish guy, the one putting up the money for the deal (and not a small amount, mind you) was 20 years old at the time! CRAZY! We were all freaked out. We each expected to be meeting 2 other guys in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.

I try my best not to assume things anymore about people. I've been surprised at how consistently wrong my initial assumptions have been.

2/24/2006 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger said...

So true about never assuming. In the USA I was dealing with very high level executives (CEO's, CFO's, Partners, "decision makers" of large Fortune 500 companies and private wealthy families like the Hunt, Bass, Dell, etc.) Most of these "sales cycles" would sometimes last 2 years so I would be talking to the CEO of Nokia or another big company for 2 years then finally meet them. EVERY single time they met they were shocked as they assumed I was going to be older.

I learned never to assume a long time ago. Always evaluate the situation and judge someone on their merits, what they have accomplished and what they are capable of accomplishing rather than how old they are, how long they have been living here, etc. If will be very surprised sometimes....

Good luck all.

2/24/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Hi, all...

I've also sold my house and everything in it, and am giving up my safe but boring career as a Project Manager in safe but boring Boise, Idaho.

I'm not really running away from anything, other than a safe, comfortable, boring life. Now that my daughter is grown, I have the opportunity to do whatever I want.

I don't have the business connections that you all have, so I'm going a different route. I'm getting a certificate to teach English as a Foreign Language. I've taught English to refugees in the US as a volunteer and a short stint in Mexico, but trying to make a living at it is a different story. Not sure how it will work out, but that's part of the adventure.

I'll be in BA in April for at least 3 months, depending on how things work out. This blog has been invaluable to me. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your experiences.

2/24/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brand├ín Buenosayres said...

I don't know if I'm an escapee, but I do enjoy the ability to move in and out of different spaces as a foreigner:

2/24/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger said...


It's the first step that is always the hardest. Just because I had a lot of connections in the USA didn't mean jack here in Argentina. I had to start over. The first step of deciding to move is the hardest. Consider that when I first decided to move, I couldn't speak Spanish, didn't know a sole in BA, and didn't have any connections at all.

It took time to build up relationships just like anywhere else in the world. I didn't have any investors whatsoever. Anything is possible if you work hard, have a solid plan and most importantly take the first step.

The thing is that people are inherently lazy and scared to try something new. Most people that are unhappy with their life stay unhappy because they are too scared or too lazy to change a certain aspect of their life.

Everything starts somewhere. Nothing is easy. People assume I am some gazillionaire but that just isn't true. I started out renting and then subleasing one apartment here in Buenos Aires in 2002. From that one small step I built it into what I have today.

If i didn't take the first step or decision to move here I probably would have been bored in my job in the USA never knowing the joys of living out my dream of living in Argentina.

Congratulations for taking the first step which is always the hardest. Selling your house and deciding to move is very difficult. I remember I had all these custom made things in my large house in the USA. No one wants to pay what you paid for your personal items. I remember thinking I'd rather just donate it to charity then sell it for a fraction of what I paid so that is what I did and took the tax write off.

Not everyone will succeed with a move to a foreign country but I guarantee it will enrich your life and you will never grow old wondering what would have happened if you only tried.

I wish you the best of luck.

2/24/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger miss tango in her eyes said...

I have this huge burning desire to move to Buenos Aires in the next 18 months. The city feeds my soul in a way I have been craving and hadn't yet found elsewhere. There certainly is that wonderful feeling of reinventing my life, but I don't know if this is the right word. I have been exploring this idea with others who have lived in different places around the world. I enjoy living my Argentine personality, this side of me is really alive and vital!
Your site has been very informative. Thank you!

2/26/2006 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Tango in her eyes,

BA is a special city indeed. I spent several years just traveling around the world aimslessly. Some months I'd be in Switzerland, Peru and Cuba all in the same time general time frame. I never got the feelings that I got in BA.

Still, keep reality in focus as well. It can be 'romantic' or exciting to just walk away from life but have a solid gameplan. I can't emphasize this enough. I see so many foreigners (especially Americans) moving to BA to live out some fantasy. Most of them live here just a few months and reality sets in. They have no prospects for a job or making money and have to move back home.

I own a consulting firm that helps foreigners start and do businesses here and I can tell you that 90% of the people I talk to have no real business plan. They have ideas or dreams of moving and living here but no foundation of making money.

Unemployment rates have drastically fallen from their highs but keep in mind that salaries are extremely low here and cost of living is going up. There are many bilingual, educated English speaking college graduates here. They aren't making a lot of money so why would someone pay you more? You have to look at things in terms of that. Most Americans I talk to that want to live here can't speak any Spanish (let alone decent Spanish) yet they still think somehow they will find this great paying job and live their dream life.

The reality is that you have to plan well. Honestly, look around and you will see that most foreigners fail here. In fact, El Expatriado is one of the only ones that I know that has succeeded and it's because he had a solid foundation and good business plan and planned things out.

I'm not trying to scare anyone. I'm just trying to put reality into this thread. It's easy to glamourous living here and having this great life. But look at it like this. What if you don't have that much savings and you are younger and you move here and make a decent living but you can't earn enough to save. Then what? What future will you have? What income will you live off of?

It's good to dream but also good to have reality as well.

Good luck all.


2/26/2006 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger mattyboy said...

I'm going to plug my blog here for diane, I tried English teaching in BA, post #63 sums it up.


3/07/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interesting site. I found it the other day and have finally got around to writing.
I have been in Argentina twice and fell for it immediately. I have even been looking into buying property in BA.
I was interested to read about the Americans escaping America. I am British living in Spain and believe me there are far more reasons for people to want to escape Europe than USA. In fact many - even from Scandanavia - are escaping to the US daily.
The main reason - although it may be hard to get people to admit it - can be summed up in a single word which is a rapidly expanding religion - Islam!.
Americans are generally not liked in any country - or so they say. In reality most people are ok but it doesn't take much to whip them up. With characters like Diego Maradonna (great footballer but idiot) and the Venezuelan leader,Chavez around it can happen suddenly and your world can soon be turned upside-down, so beware.
I will read more of your site and post accordingly.
Keep everyone posted.

3/21/2006 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous AJ said...

I'm 24 and just coming out of a marriage with an Argentine women (girl I should say). I live in the US but have been to Argentina about 6 times previously. My main reason for wanting to move to Argentina is the cost of living benefit I could receive by maintaining my American salary. (I do design work on the computer for a consultant company, so I can do it pretty much anywhere) Also, simple but very important aspects like quality of food and labor services are much better in Argentina due to the limited number of jobs available. For instance, here in Florida, I'll pay $65 an hour for an average mechanic to work on my car and I may have to bring it back for additional repairs.

Another huge aspect for me is my disdain for the recent activities of our administration and even fear of what will come in the future a la martial law - scary stuff.

3/24/2006 04:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've not departed the US but I will be, to either BA or New Zealand and it will be for one reason: politics. The US - she ain;t what she used to be. But if you're a rapture loving right wing bible thumping luddite then it's just puuuurfect.

4/10/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Anonymous juanita said...

well, I'm studying architecture and planning in the UK and I am planning on finishing the second part of my degree in Argentina(Mendoza if possible). I'm trying to escape from the bad weather lool. I've been living in England for nearly 5 years and although I don't mind it I feel I need a new challenge, a new approach to life maybe.

12/31/2006 11:42:00 AM  

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