See the World in its Comfortable Pajamas
“It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already
It’s funny, the people you meet on the road…the conversations you have.
On the weekend we dined with a real “international man.” He and his wife share a fascinating background, having lived and studied in multiple countries (on multiple continents) and visited dozens more besides.
Over a delightfully unhurried lunch, we heard tales about life in Lebanon (vibrant restaurant scene, cultural melting pot, great nightlife)…
…in southern Italy (inexpensive, family friendly, incompetent governance)…
…and in Brooklyn, NY (frightfully overpriced, crumbling infrastructure, vapid hipster central)…
During the conversation, our friends mentioned they’re looking for their next adventure. Turns out, they’re actually considering the possibility of relocating—part time—here to Buenos Aires, the “Paris of the South.”
As such, they were keen to learn of the rewards and pitfalls such a choice might entail. The Malbec was flowing freely enough, so your editor was only too happy to share a few thoughts (more about which, below).
One of the advantages of being geographically independent, everyone at the table agreed, is that you get to witness the bad along with the good.
This is not always an intuitive point.
Sure, vacationers get to see the sites…they get to visit the all-inclusive buffet…tag along with the rest of the tour…and view the appointed areas and scenes…
In a way, it’s a bit like having a first date with a new destination. The conversation is pleasant enough…you might perchance share a flirtatious wink…or even enjoy a daring nightcap together.
But actually living in a new place, that’s a whole ‘nutha matter.
That’s when you discover the real character of a community. The mettle of its people. The customs and the ways of life on the ground.
It’s the “three-day-stubble”…the “few-extra-pounds”…the “comfortable-pajamas” stage of the relationship.
Buying groceries from the local store…standing in line to pay a bill (or even a fine)…exchanging currency on the black market.
Now you’re beyond charm, intrigue, and chit chat. You’re getting to actually “know one another.”
Hang around long enough and you may even see some real action; economic collapse…political upheaval…currencies that go “poof!” and return to the earth whence they came.
In times of adversity you discover the real essence of a place. Now you’re in for the long haul. You have shared experiences. You’re finishing each other’s…sandwiches. After a while, you can barely imagine a day apart.
“Moving to Buenos Aires is a bit like that,” we concluded.
When we returned home, we found an email from another friend, also wanting the scoop on our southern city. (The subtropics are a hot topic, don’t you know!)
Specifically, our friend wanted to know if things had changed much down on the Pampas since the new government came to power late last year.
We thought for a moment…recalled the lunch conversation…let the two narratives infuse…and dashed off the following, private email to both interested parties.
Here we “cc” you, The Savvy Retiree Daily Reader, on the off chance you’re interested in sparking up a relationship down by the Rio de la Plata, or perhaps just looking to get the lay of the land…
“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” noted the great moral philosopher, Adam Smith.
After a dozen dirty years of Kirchnerism, the long-suffering Argentine people must have been wondering just how much ruin they had left in them.
Crippling inflation… Draconian censorship… Dictatorial speechmaking… Systemic corruption…
Economic protectionism… Punitive taxation… Rank populism…
The Kirchneristas never met an idea so vile they weren’t willing to give it a try.
Come 2015, election year, the Argentines were ready for a change.
“For better or for worse?” they seemed to ask. “Who cares? Just give us something else!”
When President Macri came to power late last year, ending the Kirchner regime…or at least pausing it…he did so on a platform of concepts that must have seemed strange, even alien, to most Argentines.
He promised “mercado libre” (free market) solutions to the many and varied problems plaguing the resource-rich, dollar-poor nation.
Some Argentines might have read about “free market” principles in dusty old textbooks or on whacky internet blogs…but they certainly didn’t have any “real life” experience with them.
Many were eager…or at least curious…to see some of these exotic creatures up close.
Would they bite? Did they smell funny? Did they have “buena onda?”
More importantly, would they adapt to their new environment down here on the Pampas? Would the local fauna prove to be friend or foe…peaceable or predatory?
A few weeks back, Macri passed the 100-day mark in the Casa Rosada, or “Pink House” (Argentina’s equivalent to the White House).
So, what’s the verdict?
Are such peregrine specimens as “supply” and “demand” flourishing in their new, foreign land…or is the local “decry” and “command” habitat proving unsuitable for growth?
In truth, the jury is still out.
So far, and to his credit, Marci has distinguished himself for the things he has not done.
To choose one such example of potent inaction, he has not continued his predecessor’s rabid abuse of the nation’s export industry. As such, optimism is slowly returning to that vital sector of the economy, which, in other environments, is known as the “producer class.”
Likewise, he has not interfered with the natural price-setting mechanisms in the currency market, therefore “allowing” the peso to “discover” a price all on its own. (Which it did…conspicuously close to where the “black” market had it: 15 pesos per one U.S. dollar.)
Thirdly, the Macri administration has been busy not employing (or, rather, “un-employing”) thousands of government workers. Naturally, the parasite/host ratio is dropping to a far more sustainable level.
The challenge for Macri, as is the case for all administrations, will be to resist “doing stuff.” As the ancients had it, primum non nocere… “First, do no harm.”
To the extent that Macri is able to resist the command impulse, there is a lot of value to unlock here in Argentina.
By the Staff of Truth and Plenty
We all dream of upping anchor someday, throwing caution to the wind, and setting out on our greatest adventure…but few of us get around to it in the end. In fact, not travelling is one of the most common items that tops the list of people’s regrets (along with love lost, but you’re on your own with that one).
The initial leap—and deciding the where’s and how’s of it all—can be daunting, but you’ll find sailing a lot smoother if you select a job complimentary to travel. As a travel writer you can hone your craft the more you travel and you’ll even be able to find publishers to cover certain travel expenses.
If you’re not sure how to begin, reading is a great way to blow off the cobwebs and a travel writing course like this one from Great Escape Publishing will kick start the engine. There’s no end of freelance work for a hungry travel writer and magazines like International Living always need writers who can consistently pitch fun and interesting ideas.