Monday, January 20, 2014

Expatriating, The Nomadic Way

article from December 15, 2010
By Jamie Douglas

My wife and I, being the nomads that we are, had spent a lot of time in Pátzcuaro, in the State of Michoacán, in Central-Western Mexico. It is a very artistic town, with many writers, sculptors and painters, and the whole region’s economy is based on the various indigenous artisans who produce some of the finest handcrafts I have ever encountered in my travels over this planet. Since the early 1970s, I have made many friends and felt very much at home there, being surrounded by so much creativity. Through the years, we have spent many a late night carrying on highly intellectual discourses with friends, fueled by a little tequila, or pulque, or agavero, sitting by fireplaces, discussing art and poetry, and solving all the world’s problems.

So when George W. Bush was to be sworn in for his second term, we felt we could no longer live in the USA, and one year later, we moved to Pátzcuaro, lock, stock and barrel, with our two dogs and our minivan loaded to the hilt with everything we owned. Of course, having lived in a motor home for many years made this much less complicated than moving out of a house.

Unfortunately, during our two-year absence, much had changed. More and more gringos had discovered out private paradise, and all sorts of scammers had moved in. And then there were the drug dealers. The now-infamous Zetas were kidnapping people out of restaurants in broad daylight, and horrific crimes were being committed in Michoacán. During one particular weekend, 17 people were murdered in another town in the state, and the following Monday, we headed back to the USA, where crime was a little less unnerving.

The next few years were brutal for us. It was like living on an economic sine wave, where the ups kept being less up, the lows became lower than one could have imagined, and when the collapse of the housing bubble finally came, we again plotted to do the only thing that I could think of: Get the Hell out!

Weeks of research led us to this time select either Uruguay or Argentina as our destination, and with more research and the help of Expedia.com, I was able to secure two roundtrip tickets from Miami to Buenos Aires for under $1,000 – for both of us! I hit the “buy” button immediately, and the date was set: April 20, 2009.

Once again, we gathered together all of our belongings, taking stock of the assets in our jewelry business, and we launched our fire sale. Our plan worked perfectly. During weekly trips to the local flea market, we liquidated virtually everything we owned, saving the necessities for last, giving some of our best treasures to good friends, and whatever was left on the final day went to Mexican migrant workers. The most difficult task was to find a good home for our one remaining dog. Selling our car came last, and then we rode the train to Miami and flew on Aerolineas Argentinas off into darkening skies.

As luck would have it, one of my dearest friends in Miami was connected with this airline, and in spite of having probably the cheapest tickets on that plane, we ended up getting upgraded to Condor Class, where we were introduced to the hospitality of Argentina with some of the country´s rich Malbec wine, the vineyards of which thrive along the sunny Andean precordillera of Mendoza Province. We enjoyed a great meal, and after the second glass of Malbec, Julie slept through the rest of our pass over Cuba, and the storm-avoiding tour over Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, but woke up in time to see our early morning approach into Buenos Aires. It is from the air, in darkness, when you can really grasp the immense size of greater Buenos Aires, one of the largest urban areas in the known universe.

One flawless landing later, we whisked through customs and immigration, then went directly to the nearest café, where we learned that croissants were called media lunas, or half moons, and we were able to enjoy the first of many a great cup of coffee, which are traditionally served with little pastries and a small glass of bubbly mineral water. As coffee addicts, we had indeed ascended.

By the time we had finished our first Argentine breakfast, and we had sent emails and Facebook messages to our friends and family that we had indeed arrived safely, the tourist information businesses opened up, and we soon found ourselves in an old hotel near the city center, with 20-foot-high ceilings and a caged elevator that required two trips to lift us and our luggage upstairs. We were right on one of the main arteries bisecting downtown Buenos Aires, where the added commotion of the Federal Police Headquarters across the street assured that we quickly got used to big-city noise.

We had arrived, and our big adventure had just begun. I will elaborate more on how we spent the next few weeks and then ended up in a quaint little abandoned beach town, La Paloma, in eastern Uruguay, close to the Brazilian border, where we could buy our beloved coffee by the kilo very economically.

Live your dreams!
Jamie Douglas

Photos by Jamie Douglas

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.