Saturday, November 5, 2016
A little less than an hour ago, my dad dropped me off at DTW. We loaded my bags out of the car — two big ones and two backpacks — and hugged each other goodbye. I could hear the concern in his voice as he said, “I love you. Be careful down there.”
With my camping pack on my back, my backpack on my front and my duffel bag perched precariously on my suitcase, I hobbled through the sliding glass doors to check in.
After printing my boarding passes at the kiosk, I proceeded to the counter to check my luggage. The Delta agent peppered me with questions. Where are you going? I see you have no return ticket; when are you leaving Argentina? How long are you traveling? Have you done this before? Are you traveling with other people?
His questions made me feel as though I was doing something wrong, as though I had no business going to Argentina. But I’m not doing anything wrong and I do have a reason to be going, albeit a personal one.
I’m moving to Buenos Aires to change things up a bit, to challenge myself in new ways and explore South America — a continent I’ve not yet visited.
Why move internationally?
The timing feels right. I’m at a point in my life where I have the freedom to make a leap like this.
I’m going into this move without many expectations. I don’t know what this journey will hold; I can’t anticipate the ways in which it will move and shake me. But that’s part of the reason for doing this.
I will never forget flying to Bath, England in June 2010 for a five-week study abroad program — and the way leaving the U.S. and arriving in England made me feel. I remember saying goodbye to Mom and Dad outside the security checkpoint at DTW, going through security and then turning around to wave goodbye to them before I went down the escalator to my gate.
I remember the feeling of sitting at the gate, waiting for my flight to Heathrow and realizing how on my own I was. It was my first time truly traveling alone, and I’ve looked back on the feeling of that moment often — a healthy mix of nerves and excitement. I remember landing in London and navigating my way through Heathrow. My success was up to me and me alone.
Since that study abroad experience, I’ve known I wanted to move and work internationally at some point in my life. The travel bug bit, but it was more than that. I wanted to immerse myself for more than just a few weeks. I credit that moment and those emotions with the reason for making a leap like this.
Now, more than six years later, I’m sitting in the same airport, waiting for a flight to a far different location. I’m headed south of the equator to an entirely new continent where English is not the primary language.
Just about everyone I talk to about my move asks me this question.
A year ago, when I seriously started thinking through an international move, South Africa, Europe and South America were all on the table.
In South Africa, I had Cape Town in mind, and while South Africa looks beautiful and full of adventure, it felt a little too far from home for me this time around.
I felt as though Europe, although incredibly appealing, wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me. Or rather, it would be a different kind of challenge — and far more similar to the U.S.
In South America, I considered Argentina, Chile and Peru. The web agency that works on One World Play Project’s website is based in Buenos Aires. So with a South American move in mind, I talked to two of their team members about Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima. It didn’t take more than 30 minutes for them to sell me on Buenos Aires, which they described as a European city “lost” in South America.
So, here I am, on my way to Buenos Aires.
How long will I stay?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. My move is open-ended. I plan to take it a month at a time and see where I’m at as time goes on.
Do I speak Spanish?
Not yet :)
What do I plan to do in Buenos Aires?
In terms of work, I’m moving with a job. I’m staying on with One World Play Project as a consultant and will continue to manage our storytelling and campaigns from afar. I feel fortunate to be working for a company that’s allowing me to make a move like this.
I also plan to pick up freelance writing and content marketing work, so if you or someone you know is in the market for a writer and / or content marketer, drop me a line. I’d love to talk with you about all things writing, content marketing and how I might be able to help.
Beyond work, I plan to travel around Argentina and South America a bit, especially to Patagonia, and make the most of my time there.
How am I feeling?
I honestly have no clue what to expect. I personally don’t know anyone in Buenos Aires. I’ve met people through work and also through family and friends, but I don’t know anyone there personally.
This moment feels surreal in many ways. And I think I’m partially paralyzed — and tired. I’ve been running, and quite literally driving and flying, around the U.S. and Mexico for the past two to three months. Since I started packing up and then left my apartment in Berkeley, California, I feel as though I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath. So I’m looking forward to getting to Buenos Aires, finding a place to call home and settling into some sort of routine.
I’m excited and also slightly terrified. Nerves, fear, excitement and wonder. It’s a healthy mix of emotions — the same as when I went to Bath, England — but I think there’s much more uncertainty this time around. I’m not entering a country that speaks the same language, and I’m also not traveling with other people through an established program. I’m 100% on my own.
I don’t think it’s hit me yet that, unlike studying abroad, this isn’t a five-week gig. This time around, I don’t know how long I’ll be abroad. That’s liberating; it’s also slightly terrifying. I want to know when I’ll be returning to the comfort of home, the comfort of familiar American things. But again, that’s part of the reason for doing something like this. And it’s not a prison sentence. Duh. I have the ability and freedom to move as I choose.
I have to remind myself of these things, and I have to remind myself to breathe. Breathe, Emily, breathe. And be brave. You’ve got this.
As I told Mom a week or so ago, it would be so easy to stay. So easy to stay with my family and friends and everything that’s familiar to me in the U.S. Leaving isn’t easy. But there are so many reasons for embarking on this adventure, and this is something I’ve wanted for several years now. I keep reminding myself of that, too.
I’ll be in touch with more updates soon. For now, it’s time to take off and get my feet on the ground in an entirely new place. So long, America. Hello, Argentina.