Buenos Aires Stories and Tips

Making Peace with Argentina

Buenos Aires Photo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

It's been almost a year since we left Buenos Aires, and I still look back on it and shake my head.

We were there for 18 months. It's an amazing place, no doubt, and I've always found it difficult to speak negatively of any place on the planet -- anywhere has its pros and cons, and some people connect with a place, some people don't.

It's not that we didn't like it there, per se. But we didn't connect.

We met a lot of amazing people, two of whom have since come to visit us at our new home in Panama -- one of whom moved to Panama! We found our favorite restaurants and our favorite activities, things we truly did love, which you might have read about here.

We also met a lot of people who loved Buenos Aires. I did notice that these people had a few things in common: They were young (mostly in their early 20s). They weren't planning to stay long. They weren't trying to make a living.

The city, for us, while grand and beautiful and intriguing, was difficult. It's crowded and loud and rude. Each time I stepped out my door, I had to take a deep breath and put my head down, knowing that any long walk down the streets was an exercise in careful avoidance of reckless drivers and pedestrians who were as tuned out as I wish I could have been.

It was difficult to rent in the city. After dollars became illegal to purchase, many landlords tried to demand them, then insisted on tying the exchange rate to the black market rate. Also, as a long-term renter (leases are supposed to be a minimum of two years) you are required to have a co-signer who owns property in the city. You can get around this by doing vacation rentals, but they are more expensive and you run into issues with the currency. We got lucky in that we found a lovely couple with a lovely apartment who were willing to rent to us without the co-sign.

Prices rose. And rose. We were there in 2011-2012, and it was something you could see every week in the grocery stores. While the government claimed inflation wasn't a problem, the numbers told of a 25% annual problem.

Don't get me wrong. We had a good time. We love our friends from there, many of whom are still there. But we wouldn't do it again. Not there.

Part of it is knowing we're not really city kids, not at heart. And Buenos Aires is so large -- it's hard to escape. When you're trying to start a business, you hate to leave anyway, but literally, as well, it was hard to leave. From where we were, it was a multiple-bus or expensive taxi ride or a VERY long walk to the train/bus station, and from there at least an hour on either one just to get outside the chaos. There are a few big green spaces in the city, but if you check the map -- there aren't that many. So if you don't live near those couple of big ones, you don't have much to choose from.

As travelers, we tend to get caught up in the romance of it all. The unknown, the unexpected -- it's what we live for, why we do what we do. I had wildly romantic notions of Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular, before I went there. I think if we had stayed a couple of weeks, I would probably still feel that way. But 18 months gave me the reality of it. It's still beautiful, but it's no longer under a halo for me.

And it took me awhile to admit that.

Any time you tell someone you've been somewhere "exotic" for 18 months, they expect you to rave about it. I could for short periods of time about certain things. The overall experience of it, though -- no.

It's become an important travel lesson for me: not every place is going to be your favorite place. You're not going to connect with every place the way I connected with Krakow, Poland, with Zagreb, Croatia. It's okay to admit that -- and it's okay to say that long waits in train stations are tedious, that it's hard to carry luggage (and various bottles of nationally-prided liquor) from place to place, that sometimes stuff gets stolen and "the locals" are actually rude and you miss hot showers. It doesn't make you less of a traveler. It makes you human.

So go to Buenos Aires. Please, please go, and experience what it has to offer. Explore the rest of the country and enjoy. I hope you love it the way I didn't. But if you don't, I hope you feel okay in just saying that, and traveling on.

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