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Moving Around Vs. Settling Down in Latin America

Published December 16, 2020 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

Back when I first started traveling to Latin America…

My first few trips were pretty short and for specific purposes

However, I eventually decided to travel around South America.

The countries that I would spend the most time in during that year were Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia but with plenty of side trips also to other nearby countries.

During that time, I wasn’t perhaps acting as the stereotypical nomadic traveler that some think of or I have thought of anyway…

The type to basically just move from city to city on a weekly basis or such.

Although I did travel around quite a bit – much more than I had ever done before in my life.

And, as a result, I got tired of traveling around a bit from that.

It had its pros and cons and I felt the need to settle down somewhere for a longer length of time than just a few odd months here and there.

So I settled in Mexico City and have been here for almost 4 years as of this writing.

And while I have enjoyed sitting down in one location for longer for up to several years now…

And will probably leave Mexico City in around a year and a half to two years at most from this writing…

I have, funny enough, gotten a tiny bit tired of settling down in one place for a longer time period.

Though I believe it is mostly because I am relatively young….

And so I, to a degree, want to travel around again like before but slightly differently…

Instead of spending 2 to 7 months in any particular place…

I plan on spending about a year at least in certain countries in Latin America for a few years or more after I leave Mexico City in a year and a half or two years.

But all of this goes deeper into a particular topic that gringos sometimes stumble into when traveling around the world or in regions like Latin America…

That desire to settle down or keep on traveling around.

For most, settling down tends to win.

As I wrote more in this article here.

And for myself?

I plan on settling down absolutely but would like to travel a tiny bit more around this region before I pick a country.

And so here are my thoughts on the topic – the pros and cons that I have personally experienced with my limited time down here when it comes to living in a certain country for several years versus being on the move from country to country for several months to weeks in each place.

Moving Around

Back when I was moving around, there were some pros that I remember about the time that I liked.

First, it was easier to get a brief introduction and appreciation of the different cultures and scenery that Latin America has to offer.

It sometimes comes across to me that there are a lot of folks – Latinos included – who sometimes seem to think all of Latin America as the same.

From traveling around and getting a feel for the different countries and the regions they make up, it was really interesting to see the vast differences that each place had that made it unique.

From Oruro, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santo Domingo, DR to Xela, Guatemala to Masaya, Nicaragua to Pereira, Colombia and much more.

Second, it was just fun in general to be constantly on the move. On the other hand, it was tiring to a degree but there was a certain excitement to it.

For me anyway, as of now, I do have that urge to move around a bit – not like every week but every 6 months or so.

That’s one reason for why I have moved around from one neighborhood to the next in Mexico City consistently around every 6 months or so more or less.

Just to satisfy that urge to move around.

Plus, when you are on the move relatively constantly, then you appreciate your time there more and want to check out all the usual sites while you can.

In my experience, it is easier to do that last second when you are living someone longer term.

Like in Mexico City where I have been for some time now – there are touristy areas here that so many foreigners visit that I haven’t been to yet.

For example, there’s some touristy site called Teotihuacan nearby that so many foreigners go to that I still haven’t visited in the last 3.5 years or so.

I just never cared for it and always assumed I will get around to it near the end of my time here.

And I will – and because of that extra time I have had here, it’s easier to blow it off until later since it doesn’t matter as much to me anyway (I’m more of a fan of natural scenery than archeological sites anyway).

Third, by traveling around, it’s easier to make friendships with folks from various countries. When I was traveling around more often, I usually hung out with other local Latinos but also I hung out with a lot more gringos than I do now funny enough.

Now that I have been spending some years in Mexico City, I have almost exclusively only hung out with locals with the exception of the occasional gringo here and there.

Though the friendships you make on the consistent travel tend to be more superficial, I do think it somehow becomes easier to come across more people when on the move.

I feel that one of the reasons for that in my experience is because, similar to the point above, you appreciate your time in a certain area a bit more and feel the need to put your time to more efficient use.

Fourth, when you are younger, I feel there is a greater need to travel around and see different countries.

I know for sure that I had a greater drive to travel around when I was like 5 or so years younger and moving around South America.

And since I am still relatively young, I feel the need to travel around a bit soon before I ever turn into my 40s or so.

Because if the trend continues, I honestly can’t see myself wanting to live that lifestyle running around from one country to the next with a few months in each one when I’m around that age.

Fifth, by traveling around, I feel it can be easier to get a better idea as to what specific countries would fit best for you if you ever decide to settle down somewhere down here.

That’s not so much an issue for me anymore since I already have a very few select countries that I am more interested in than others.

And feel grateful that I was able to get a good introduction to this region going back a few odd years ago.

Had I not, then traveling around now would definitely help give me better real world experience to different regions of Latin America to make a better decision as to what area(s) suits me best for settling down in eventually.

And speaking of settling down…

Settling Down

First, settling down is simply more relaxing. It’s easier to just chill and have an easier life when you have a place called home and you won’t be packing your bags to go somewhere else again.

It can be a bit of a pain then to always be the move relatively speaking.

Second, it’s more expensive to always be traveling around than settling down somewhere.

However, I know some folks who are able to lower their potential tax burden by traveling around from one country to the next down here than settling down and also getting residency somewhere.

So, in a way, there can be a cost to settling down if you happen to be getting residency in a country that also taxes worldwide income.

Check out this article I wrote by the way on income taxes in each Latin American country.

Either way, generally speaking, it is more expensive to be on the move than to settle down somewhere.

Third, it’s easier to focus on your work when settling down somewhere than moving around.

If you happen to be moving to places for longer term stays – like a year in the DR, a year in Brazil, etc…

Then it’ll be fine enough for allowing you to still be focused on your work online for whatever you happen to do.

But if you are traveling around much more frequently than that, then you could be likely sacrificing some of your ability to focus on your work for the pleasure of traveling around more consistently.

And speaking of sacrifices….

Fourth, by traveling around constantly, you will be sacrificing professional, romantic and friendship connections overtime.

While it can be easier to make more superficial friendships with folks from all over the world by traveling around more constantly…

Even if you happen to be living in each country for longer periods like a year or more…

You will end up having to leave behind contacts in each country you were in and perhaps won’t ever likely meet them again.

Be it professional contacts that could pose as good business or money-making opportunities…

To chicks that you have to leave behind that you had a deeper connection with….

And also just friends in general.

It is often tiring to leave behind people like that…

And, personally, I feel there is a negative psychological or mental effect to leaving behind people you connect with on such a more frequent pace than a normal person would living somewhere.

Versus traveling around and leaving behind at a much faster pace a lot of nice folks that you make good connections with.

 Fifth, easier to have your own stuff. Before I made the decision to begin traveling around again in the next year or so, I thought about getting some pets, a guitar, etc…

Other things as well.

And while I can have those things while traveling around from one country to the next…

Personally, I feel it would be relatively expensive and a big headache to carry around a lot of those things that I want to have to various countries…

And irresponsible also – I wouldn’t want to bring any pets on so many flights over time.

And guitars, pets, etc…

That’s just the start of stuff I would like to buy but it would be harder to do so if I plan on traveling around a bit.

Either way, when I do settle down eventually permanently, I will at least be able to enjoy that benefit of having a specific home and having certain things in my life that would be difficult to have while traveling internationally constantly.

Sixth, I feel it is easier to not feel as lonely when settling down somewhere.

While it might be easier, in my opinion, to make more superficial friendships when on the travel constantly.

It is easier to establish more serious friendships with people and a stronger little community for yourself that has more substance when settled down somewhere.

Seventh, while it is easier to get a broad feel for different countries in Latin America and to appreciate the broad diversity in culture and scenery that this region has by traveling around…

You will, most likely, only get a broad feel for each country and nothing of very deep substance.

By choosing to settle down somewhere, you will have a greater appreciation of the nuances of living there that a person visiting for just 6 months to a year will not be able to appreciate.

Eighth, you won’t have as much stress about your legal status in any country if you happen to settle down in a way that gives you residency.

Versus living on a tourist visa…

Or, similar to some folks I know in Mexico, living illegally actually.

Having that residency can be very nice in that regard.

Ninth, you can always travel to nearby Latin countries also for brief visits while settled down somewhere.

It’s something I have thought of doing but I would rather, as of this writing, spend a year or so in specific countries.

After that?

I will definitely take the occasional visit of a week or two to different places while settled down.

And if you don’t want to live in different countries for a year each or so…

Then you can just as easily enjoy the benefit of being settled somewhere and taking the occasional visit.

Tenth, while your family and friends back home will probably always be a little bit worried about you living abroad for various reasons…

I feel it is easier for folks back home when you are settled in a specific spot for a long time than always on the constant move relatively speaking.

Just because there is always more doubt than about where you are, if the place you are going to is safe or not, etc.

Eleventh, while it is easier to not only establish those professional, romantic and friendship connections when settled down as said before…

It is also easier to just establish a more formal life in general – maybe buy a house, start a local business, open a local bank, etc.

Final Verdict

So should you move around often or settle down?

It honestly depends on what life stage you are in and what you are looking for specifically.

For me personally – there is a feeling in me to not begin traveling around Latin America again after I leave Mexico.

But I feel that feeling comes from a resistance to rocking the boat so to speak…

Like how I had reservations to moving around South America after my time in Nicaragua as you can read here

I prefer to be comfortable.

But, on the other hand, my time moving around South America was fun as hell and I don’t regret it at all.

In fact, I’d be kicking myself had I not taken that trip.

So, given my younger age, it’s something I plan on doing again though not forever as I would, for reasons mentioned above, eventually settle down.

In all likelihood, as I wrote here

Most likely it will be in one of the following 3 places:

  • Chile
  • Panama
  • Mexico City

Which one?

Time will tell when I finish traveling around again – once I start doing that in a year or two.

Anyway, if you have any comments or questions, drop them below in the comment section.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

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