South America Living

Expat Interview – Ande Wanderer in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Editor’s Note: Ande Wanderer is a journalist in Buenos Aires and the owner of Wander-Argentina.com and Wander-Argentina.org. She wrote the Argentine section for the book, Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America. She offers private consulting for those interested in relocating to Argentina. Wander-Argentina is on Facebook here.

Kitty on roof in La Boca Neighborhood

Kitty on roof in La Boca Neighborhood

Can you tell us a little about yourself (and family if applicable)?

I grew up in Atlanta. As soon as I got a car at 16, I started traveling, driving in my colorful ‘art car’ around the U.S. and Canada. I went to a college that had a a multi-cultural requirement and a focus on social change. While in India in my second year of college, I began freelance writing. After graduating, I worked as an alternative and community journalist in New York and then Denver before deciding to move here.
 

What made you decide to move abroad?

While assesing my life, I realized that it was a priority for me to live abroad again and become fluent in another language. I did a five-year plan and realized that I was at a point where I could either get more entrentched into the American ‘debt slavery lifestyle’ or I could try to create a new paradigm especially tailored to me.

I was also upset about the war in Iraq.

Also, a long-time friend had a terminal illness but was uninsured so instead of having his family go into debt to get him medical care, he just decided to let himself die, passing away a few days before I moved here.

Ande Wanderer in Buenos Aires

Ande Wanderer in Buenos Aires

So it was a combination of a prevailing sense of injustice, and a feeling that almost anyone could fall through the cracks (as many other did as the decade wore on), so I just decided to take a leap overseas instead!
 

Why did you choose the country/location you are in?

I had met Argentines in Europe, traveling there in the 90’s and I thought they were a fun bunch. One of those friends I met in the hostel I worked at in Amsterdam. Weeks later, we randomly bumped into each other in the street in Paris and ended up traveling together. We stayed in contact, sending compilation tapes back and forth of our favorite music over the years.

So I had an interest in visiting Argentina for a long time but before the economic crisis hit in 2002, it was more expensive than Europe. In 2003, I came for a six-week exploratory visit, (including visiting the above-mentioned friend and his family) and loved it, so with the U.S. on a downward trend, and Argentina on an upward trend, the move seemed like a good idea.
 

How long did it take to complete the move? Some folks pick-up and go in a few months, others agonize over leaving their home country for years!

After my visit, I went home, starting culling my possesions and saved up for six months. I put writing aside and worked like crazy as a bartender, stagehand, helped rebuild a photography school, registered people to vote for the now notorious ACORN, and even dumpster dived for treasures to raise as much cash as possible. Then I took off with a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires.
 

What were your greatest fears (if any) about moving abroad?

I tried not to let fear have an influence on my decision making, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have done it. Also, with the rate of violent crime and the risks associated with being uninsured or underinsured in the U.S., it is scarier than Argentina.
 

Did you experience much culture shock?

No I really didn’t experience culture shock. There are some things I have come to realize I may not ever become accustomed to though. My default is to be pretty friendly but it’s necessary to be a little more guarded here in some situations.
 

Are you glad you took the plunge & made the move? Any Regrets?

I’m glad I made the move. I accomplish most of the goals on my now expired five-year plan and added some new ones. I bought an apartment, learned Spanish well enough to get hired for translations, learned filmmaking, made music, and expanded my professional skills.

I did have some challenging times, but ultimately I feel like I dodged years in the rat race, have been able to do things on my terms and came out a bit ahead.

My only regret would be not being a vegetarian anymore. Argentina is carne country!
 

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a move abroad?

I would advise them to do a lot of research. If they are doing it Indie-style, i.e. without a job in place, sell all your wordly possessions, work hard, and save as much money as possible before leaving. Have a safety net in place in case things are more difficult than you thought.

If going somewhere with another language, I would recommend studying it before you leave. Before I came to Argentina I would constantly listen to Spanish-language media (I can still sing the theme song to Sábado Gigante) and would practice conversation with the kids in my neighborhood – it helped.
 

Can you share any resources that were helpful to you in the planning process such as websites, expat groups, facebook groups, books, etc.?

At that time the only forum around really was the Lonely Planet forum. I also used Meetup.com to find places to enjoy the music that I like.

The most effective way to find things in Argentina is still word of mouth. When I first got here, I went snowboarding and decided to ask every person I was on the lift with if they knew of a place for rent in Buenos Aires. I ended up sharing a great apartment with an Austrian guy I met on the slopes and his Argentine friends.

Today I would recommend Couchsurfing.com, to meet like-minded people and find a place to live. For those moving to Argentina, we have information at Wander-Argentina.org on living and working here and you can send questions to our Wander-Argentina Facebook page.

 
Thank you so much for sharing your incredibly impressive story and these great resources. Cheers, Molly

More Expat Interviews:
Tim in Cuenca, Ecuador
Rachel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Walter Rhein in Lima, Peru
Martin and Luisa in Tarija, Bolivia
 

Photographs by Ande Wanderer, all rights reserved.




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