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- Latin America
The very first time I ever set foot in Latin America was when I was maybe around 18 or 19 years old.
Did I go to Cancun or Punta Cana?
Mexico City or Buenos Aires?
A small indigenous village in Chiapas, Mexico run by the Zapatista movement.
As you can read here.
Funny enough, it was also my very first trip outside of the US ever.
An interesting start to my time in Latin America.
Though I remember back in my life in America….
As you can read more about here.
Extending from that initial article.
I remember thinking to myself – “what do I want to do in my 20s?”
If I could pick one thing.
I shrugged my shoulders and thought “travel.”
To see the world outside of the US for once.
Starting with that initial trip to a small village in Chiapas, Mexico.
But also to leave behind some family problems that were happening throughout most of my life.
To find happiness away from that.
Little did I know that I would end up visiting over 30 countries in the next 4 years and be living in Latin America for close to 6 years by the point of this writing.
Suffice to say, so much of my life has been so dramatically different ever since I left Iowa.
To Ohio and Latin America.
Over the last decade, life has been so much different than how it was before that.
As I dived into a life in Latin America especially.
Once I got through the first few initial visits to Latin America from Mexico to Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Both of those last two trips you can read here and here.
I really started to get my feet wet in this region.
And over the years…
I remember different impressions I’ve had.
In the same way I reflect back on my life in America with the different impressions I have about my life then.
There are things that come to mind.
When I think about my life in Latin America.
In contrast to my life before.
Starting when I took time running through South America.
Finding Friends in the Andes
My first trip to South America was a trip I had hesitancy to commit to.
As you can read here…
I didn’t like my time in Nicaragua very well and was starting to doubt if it would be worthwhile to travel South America for some time.
At any rate, I started the trip going into the heart of South America flying from the heart of the US.
From Iowa to the Amazon Rainforest.
What a contrast between both worlds.
It really highlighted one of the things I love most about Latin America as a whole.
Which is the immense beauty in the natural scenery.
Though I love the scenery in Iowa and the larger Midwest due to the nostalgia I have for the region.
There is no arguing that the natural scenery in some of these countries like Bolivia is so much more.
And is one of the things that has kept me down here for so long now.
Those trips I take.
To explore the countryside.
Though I prefer living in the larger cities for all that they offer.
Decent nightlife, plenty of good food, interesting people to meet and lots of nice women to meet up with.
Those are all more physical pleasures than anything else.
The scenery in the countryside of Latin America offers so much more than all of that combined.
Memories that last forever.
As you become a witness to the beauty that this planet has to offer on another continent.
Among various countries.
Here are some photos of my time in the Amazon.
Of course, I couldn’t spend too much time in the Amazon.
I left fairly quickly to carry on with my time elsewhere in Bolivia.
To a city called Cochabamba.
And my experience offered an interesting contrast from the beginning to the end of my time there.
At the beginning…
I was lonely.
As anyone would be to an entirely different country knowing nobody with a different culture and still learning the language.
My first week in Cochabamba was a time when I wasn’t yet happy with my decision to travel abroad.
Because of the point made above.
Though that quickly changed.
Loneliness becomes quickly solved as you branch out.
Meet new people.
And ultimately it became a city where I found the locals to be some of the friendliest out of most Latin cities that I have been to as of this writing in 2021.
Still, the cities are nice as I said before.
But being from a small town in Iowa.
I have a strong appreciation for the countryside as I said.
Not only nature.
But also the rural areas.
The towns and the villages.
I love being able to visit them and just see…
How normal folk live outside the big cities in these countries.
Of course, it’s not always that much different from Iowa.
But it’s nice to see.
Reminds me of Iowa in a way.
Reminds me of home.
Finding a piece of home perhaps abroad.
Small Latin Towns in Paraguay
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that my very first trip to Latin America, as I said, was to a small village in Chiapas, Mexico.
Though, being honest, that place was quite different from home.
Even very small towns of under a 1,000 people in Iowa are very different from that.
And though visiting the smaller towns in Latin America reminds me of home…
Like when I went to a small town in Hidalgo, Mexico called Ixmiquilpan.
Which very much reminded me of home.
Though the town itself looked very different from my hometown.
It was similar enough in that I thought of Iowa when I was there.
And the people seemed quite friendly as well.
But that’s Mexico for you.
In my experience…
Stepping into more rural areas in poorer Latin countries like Paraguay are notably more different than those in certain parts of Mexico like Hidalgo.
Like when I went to a more rural area in Paraguay as you can read more about here.
With a photo of Asuncion here.
Like I said, there is something I appreciate so much going to these more rural areas.
Outside of the typical tourist zone.
And to see how life is for more normal folks.
At times I will even look at random Youtube videos like this one below of random rural communities in Latin America.
Just to see what life is like outside of the big cities.
Where other normal folks live.
In places that often are forgotten.
Just to see the other side from rural Iowa.
To see rural Latin America.
You can often find really nice folks in these areas.
Some xenophobic though.
But plenty who are cool and have very interesting stories.
Though obviously not every small town is the same in Latin America.
As it’s a huge region.
And going from one area to the next…
You appreciate even more the intense diversity of this whole region.
Another thing about Latin America that I love so much.
In terms of the physical diversity at the very least…..
The South of the Southern Cone
Some months after my time in Paraguay….
A bit different from small towns in Paraguay.
Was when I showed up to a city known as Ushuaia in Argentina.
Known as the “southernmost city in the world.”
As you can see in this photo I took here.
Of course, it wasn’t just Ushuaia I visited.
As I crossed the border into Chile to visit cities close by.
At any rate, I remember standing in the airport in Ushuaia.
They had a map of the world in their airport with a spot that showed me where I was.
And the map extended way up to the US.
And I could gain a greater appreciation for the long way I had travelled.
Form Iowa to Ushuaia, Argentina.
And from there…
Well, like I said, to other parts of the south of the Southern Cone.
To Chile afterwards in this case.
And when contrasting that to when I first set foot into South America into the Amazon…
Or when I first stepped foot into Latin America into villages near the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas.
And thinking of my time in that small town in Paraguay.
To contrast all of that with my experience seeing the natural scenery near Ushuaia.
The physical diversity of this region is one thing that I am always impressed by.
And continue to be impressed by.
Though, of course, it’s not just the physical diversity of the continent.
But also the cultural.
To the Caribbean
As you can already note, I’m breaking this article up into different regions of Latin America.
Started with Central America.
To the Andes.
To the Southern Cone.
Back up to the Caribbean area
In this case, the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
As you can read more about here in an article I wrote.
One region to another.
One rural area to another.
As I wrote here explaining my time visiting a rural village in Colombia.
At the time, my girlfriend then wanted to take me to a rural village outside of the Colombian city of Barranquilla.
I hesitated at first due to concerns about how hot it would be visiting a small town.
Keep in mind that even 5 minutes outside in Barranquilla at that time meant sweating my ass off.
Well, I toughed it out and made the trip nonetheless.
As always, I was glad I made the trip.
To see life outside the typical tourist areas and see what most normal folk live like in more rural areas.
Still, it has been interesting to contrast different parts of Latin America from each other.
In a way, I miss that contrast.
I’ve been in Mexico and specifically Central Mexico for so long now.
About 4 years now as of this writing.
I miss that contrast.
And it’s one thing that drives me to want to travel again through Latin America.
In the next few years, I will begin that journey again to travel from one point to the next.
To appreciate the immense diversity of this region.
From the small towns in Paraguay to the small villages in Colombia.
Witnessing the tango in the streets of Buenos Aires to watching one of the largest carnivals of Latin America in the Colombian city of Barranquilla.
Which you can read more about here.
I always find it funny anyway how people group all of Latin America together.
Even Latinos do at times.
If I could, I’d break up the region by how I’ve come to see it.
With Argentina and Uruguay being its own region.
A part of Argentina called Misiones being grouped in with Paraguay.
Chile being its own.
The Andean region from North-western Argentina to Ecuador being its own.
Colombia and Venezuela put together.
Brazil being broken up between the northern coast, southern coast and the interior Amazonian region.
Panama and Costa Rica put together.
The rest of Central America (including Chiapas, Mexico) put together.
All of Mexico kept in place with the exception of northern Mexico being put in with the border states in the US.
And the Caribbean spots (DR, Puerto Rico and Cuba) put together.
Of course, even that simplification of how Latin America looks to me culturally is overly simplistic.
I’m sure someone more knowledgeable with Central America would disagree with Nicaragua being put in with Chiapas.
In the same way that even a country like Venezuela alone has considerable differences from the Llanos region to the Orinoco River region.
Or Colombia from the Caribbean Coast to the area around Pasto.
So on and so on…
Still, it all comes back to the same point.
Realizing just how immensely diverse this region really is that we call Latin America.
A region with so much cultural diversity that it is really amazing.
And one of the highlights for why I like this region so much.
With how it has grown on me so much as well over the years of being down here.
And even after that trip to the Caribbean Coast of Colombia….
Experiencing life there and all of its benefits.
With a trip right afterwards to the Dominican Republic as you can read here.
From the DR to Brazil.
There has, from the start, been a personal interest of mine in exploring some academic topics regarding the region.
Social Movements in Latin America
When I went to the Dominican Republic, it was in part due to academic reasons to attend some conference there at the time.
Same could be said for Brazil.
When I went there, I ended up visiting a social movement called the Landless Workers Movement.
Which you can read more about my time with them in this article here.
But it’s fairly similar to my initial days in Latin America way back when I went to Chiapas, Mexico to see the Zapatista movement.
There is something I have always been into.
Which is rural movements in Latin America.
Who work to represent the interest of normal folks in rural areas often forgotten by folks in capital cities.
Be it Mexico City to Brasilia.
Similar to finding an interest to life in small rural areas…
I’ve always found it interesting how folks organize to promote their birthplace together.
Be it the small villages in Chiapas to the small villages in Brazil.
A view to this part of the world that most don’t bother to look into.
And of which really shows life in Latin America on a deeper level.
Regardless of your own personal politics…
Because I’m definitely not endorsing any particular movement or ideology.
All I can say is I find rural life and all with it more interesting.
Similar to enjoying my time in rural Paraguay just to see how normal folks live beyond the cities like Asuncion.
As it reminds me of Paraguay.
Same how I find it interesting – on an academic and personal level – to see social movements in rural areas of Latin America also.
As you can see in some of the photos I took of the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil below here.
Again – it gives you a window into life beyond the typical tourist trail.
And helps you begin to see life down here deeper than the surface.
And with that a greater appreciation of Latin America as a whole.
Of course, not everything is so personal or academic.
Sometimes the joy of living down here is more selfish.
As you commonly hear from folks talking a good deal about the low cost of living.
In places all over the land.
From Paraguay to Peru to Colombia.
Living in Guatemala
As I return back to my earliest days in Latin America….
Going back to Guatemala.
I remember making a budget for how much it was going to cost me to live there in the Guatemalan city of Xela.
Though I don’t remember the exact numbers…
I believe it was going to be about 300 to 400 bucks a month more or less.
To live in a homestay, have some Spanish classes and just live there in general.
A fiend of mine named Nick was shocked when I was telling him the budget.
“Damn that’s cheap” was his response.
But that is the other benefit to living down here.
As I wrote more about in this article here.
Of course, there are many benefits that derive from that.
But yes – it was cheap.
And probably still is as of this writing.
Though that type of budget is arguably more suited for a 20 year old kid than someone in their 40s or 50s to be fair.
Nonetheless, it was one of my initial exposures to this region.
And one of the principal benefits that so many expats claim when they live down here.
The low cost of living.
“Would I live there again?”
Well, it might have been cheap and Xela might’ve been a nice enough city…
But I wouldn’t go back to living in Xela.
Nothing against the city personally.
People there seemed nice.
But Xela was fairly similar to smaller cities in Mexico.
There is a degree to which you get what you pay for.
And over the years of traveling around Latin America…
From one place to the next as you have already seen in this article.
Perhaps it is no surprise as to why I have ended up back in Mexico.
Where it all began.
At least for the last 4 years now as of this writing.
Back to Where it Started
Not Chiapas exactly.
But Mexico City.
Same country but different location technically.
It is peculiar all of this.
My first trip to Latin America was to one of the poorest regions of the country I have settled down in for some time now.
Though after traveling through the rest of Latin America…
I chose to resettle back where it all started but in the capital city in this case.
Looking for a place that is more comfortable.
It again shows just how different every region of Latin America can be.
Even within countries like Mexico.
Chiapas is, without doubt, another world from Mexico City.
Both in terms of physical and cultural geography.
But here I am.
And I have enjoyed it ever since my arrival to this city 4 years ago.
I remember when I first arrived here.
Sitting down in my hotel bed with heavy rain in the middle of July 2017…
With this random song playing specifically from my laptop.
And sending some nudes to a Mexican chick named Stephanie that I met on tinder.
Who would ultimately be the first Mexican chick I would hookup with about a week later.
And while listening to that song…
For some reason, it stuck with me.
Even though the theme of the song has nothing to do with any of the reasons for why I like living in Latin America.
I feel a tiny bit of nostalgia with it.
Most likely because it just happened to be the first song I was listening to in my first night in Mexico City.
And perhaps because I finally made the real move to Latin America.
Not just visiting the region.
But moving down here.
There has always been a peace of mind to leaving Iowa.
Even though I like Iowa.
A peace of mind always came when leaving for elsewhere.
First to Ohio.
Then to Latin America.
And among the heavy rain outside…
Listening again to that same song above among others...
I remember thinking to myself "I'm going to make this work. I'm going to find a way to make money to support myself down here."
As I started to feel more at ease living down here.
A peace of mind away from everything.
Despite its negatives, Mexico City checks the box on many things I look for in life.
So I can’t complain.
But will I stay down here long term?
The Future in Latin America
Latin America is as home to me as Iowa by this point.
It feels so to me by this point.
There’s so much I appreciate about this region.
The friends I’ve made from country to country.
The immense physical and cultural beauty of each country.
From the Amazon to the Andes mountains to the lakes and so much more…
And living a life down here.
Is something I appreciate.
There’s just a lot I appreciate about this region.
It makes me feel a little more at ease in a way.
Will I stay in Mexico City indefinitely?
I’m still young.
I’m willing to trade away a little bit of feeling comfortable to travel again.
To appreciate that beauty and diversity of the region again.
I crave to experience it again.
From Mexico to Nicaragua….
To Colombia and Venezuela….
To Peru and Bolivia…
To the east by around Brazil…
South to Paraguay…
And then eventually Argentina and Chile as well.
Of course, I get the need to get residency someday also.
Something I will strive for.
But when speaking my future down here…
I plan to kick it around in Mexico for another year or two…
Before ultimately reliving what I experienced in my first few years in Latin America.
Setting up base temporarily in a few countries while experiencing the region at large again.
And from there?
Get residency and settle down somewhere officially.
As of this writing, I’m thinking either Mexico or Chile.
Those are the two countries that are most interesting to me long term.
In Mexico, most likely it would be Mexico City…
When it comes to Chile (or Argentina)…
Perhaps a city like Santiago could do long term…
Or maybe I can find peace and happiness in a small city in Patagonia.
Maybe Puerto Montt.
Have some pets.
And live a life of anonymity.
Drinking away a little bit by the day to some black tea and vodka.
With the amazing sound of the nearby South American sea moving back and forth.
Like what you can hear with this video below here from Astrud Gilberto.
Of course, the small house in Patagonia with nice music and some drinks alone won’t change much.
Finding happiness is within.
But maybe that’s the symbolism with it.
To find happiness somehow.
And, maybe physically, that is where I end up.
But we will see.
Of course, things could change.
I’m only speaking of as of this writing.
But either country…
Or any Latin country…
Could do just fine.
Even the small indigenous villages of Chiapas.
Assuming they’d accept me into their community to live there.
As this region is full of natural beauty.
And there is plenty to enjoy within any country of Latin America.
Something I’ve come to appreciate little by little after each year down here.
And something I hope to appreciate more as I get more experience in this part of the world.
From America to Latin America.
And back and forth.
At any rate, that’s all I got to say for now.
Enjoy this jazz song below here that I quite like.
And make a glass of vodka & black tea.
Sit back in the middle of the night and listen away.
You will feel philosophical.
Ready to write the next Great American Novel.
Or something like that….
Here is a photo from my little balcony of where I am at right now….
In my little corner of Latin America.
Drop any comments anyway below in the comment section.
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Thanks for reading.