3 Lessons I Learned from Moving to Argentina
One of the smartest and most successful people I know awed me one day when he mentioned he’d dropped everything and lived in Japan for a year after graduating from university.
“You… just… moved away?” I remember being incredibly skeptical. Despite his repeated urging to me that my early twenties was a time to “find myself,” and that “the world was my oyster” (he really is pretty cliché, honestly), I was always ready with an eye roll and a scoff.
I firmly believed that traveling was meant to be done after you found a perfect career, a perfect mate, and no longer needed to online order Chipotle while still sitting on the Metro because you only had a bottle of Yellow Tail and some stale bread at your apartment (this means you have your life together). Honestly, I doubted that really successful people even had the Chipotle app on their phone (this is untrue).
As a Millennial, it was programmed into my brain that I had to suffer at a worthless internship, then go into more debt paying for graduate school, then suffer additionally at another job before I had even a hope of becoming successful.
He repeatedly reassured me that no, he really did just take off. The years of medical school that followed, the successful career, the amazing wife, he told me, were all a result of that year. Now he was really losing me. As a Millennial, it was programmed into my brain that I had to suffer at a worthless internship, then go into more debt paying for graduate school, then suffer additionally at another job before I had even a hope of becoming successful.
Four years after this conversation, I’m sitting at a café on a street in Buenos Aires (after a year and a half, it really has become my street.) And four years later, I’m reminded that he really is one of the smartest, most successful people I know. Traveling and living abroad taught me a myriad of lessons about life, and these are my favorite three.
Since moving abroad, my entire concept of time has changed. First, my time is now for me. I never realized how much I parceled my time into chunks to give away to others. While yes, of course, I have responsibilities; I’ve learned to embrace a lifestyle that revolves around things that fulfill me. Likely it was many small processes that led to this newfound appreciation, but overall, I think it was being alone.
Moving abroad can be incredibly isolating, and you never realize how much you rely on answering to a boss, a significant other, or even a well-meaning friend until they aren’t around anymore. While I’m significantly less alone than I was in the beginning, I gained a much deeper understanding of myself in those lonely first months, and that has stayed with me throughout.
I’ve always been an avid cook, and, at first, living in Argentina seemed like it would be the end of that. I was initially daunted into submission by not having what I deemed as “necessary” items, and also processes that seemed utterly mad to me. “Who has time to dice an onion by hand?” “I CAN’T PREHEAT THE OVEN?!” “If there’s no garbage disposal… then what happens… to all the gunk…” I wondered all this silently as my new landlord guided me around my tiny new home.
While I’m hardly one to advocate for “returning to your roots,” these formerly dreaded tasks became part of my every day routine, and I cherish them. Well, maybe not scooping the “gunk” out of my sink drain, but we can’t have everything. Regardless, I never expected to enjoy something I loved if I couldn’t do it exactly the same way I had always done it. Instead, I enjoy it more. It fulfills me more, and I even have a greater sense of accomplishment (when I don’t burn the entire chicken).
There exists a passion living abroad that was never present when I was at home. Everywhere around me, I see people fulfilling their dreams. Opening restaurants, publishing books, falling in love, and taking major risks seem to come naturally to those who have embraced this lifestyle. Maybe they’re brave to begin with, but I think it also comes from a sense of determination. No one who has successfully traveled or lived abroad has given up after one try.
Just like the three chickens I burnt to a crisp before I learned to use the gas oven, we’ve all had attempts blow up in our face. But you learn to see the upside (no smoke alarms! And the dogs next door love me even more.), laugh about it with your friends, and give it another shot.
Have you traveled to Argentina? Email us at editor@to share your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.