- Personal Stories & Opinions>
- The Self-Doubt of the Gringo Living in Latin America
You are living in Barranquilla, Colombia.
It’s another hot day outside like always.
And you’ve been here for maybe 5 months now.
In which you’ve started a new life in Latin America trying to make it as an “expat.”
Before you made the move, you already had some doubts being thrown your way.
Perhaps there was good reason though behind those doubts.
But the typical ones you’d expect.
Like how dangerous it can be in Colombia….
Did you hear the news?
A gringo died in Colombia as you can see here!
Or concerns about money perhaps and how you’ll be able to support yourself…
So on and so on.
Those concerns are reasonable, I’d say.
But they are seemingly never ending.
As I wrote here months ago, you have this case where literally everyone back home thinks you are crazy for moving to some random Latin country.
Over time, you get used to it and it doesn’t bother you anymore.
However, you might have a moment in your life where you start to have self-doubt.
Starting to think that maybe your decision to move down here was dumb.
Maybe folks back home were right after all!
Though it doesn’t stem from just the annual criticism you might get from folks back home thinking you are crazy.
The self-doubt can come for various reasons that come to mind.
So let’s get to it briefly by first touching the point above.
The Crazy Gringo
I won’t elaborate too much here since I’ve already played out the typical example of this above.
In which people back home think you are simply crazy or weird for wanting to move to this part of the world.
But there’s a few things to mention…
First, the amount of concern you might get when you first start living down here will obviously be a bit more intense when you first take the move.
For example, one of the first Latin countries I ever traveled to was Guatemala some odd years ago.
In order to travel to Guatemala, I had some minister at some Methodist place give me like 1,200 bucks for the trip.
Now I’m not Methodist or religious – atheist actually.
But I knew the guy and we were on good terms.
And he often provided money to folks to do work abroad in other countries.
Anyway, 1,200 doesn’t seem like much but it did cover most of the trip.
If I remember right, the roundtrip costs were roughly 600 bucks more or less?
I forgot since it’s been so many years but it was around that.
And my rent in a homestay and food costs were about, if I had to guess, maybe 300 to 400 a month?
Which also included Spanish lessons each week.
You can read more about my experience in Guatemala here and my experience with homestays here.
Anyway, total cost of the trip was maybe 1,500 to 1,600 bucks more or less?
So he roughly covered most of what was a 2 month trip.
Anyway, I remember the reaction of someone in my family when the news broke to them that I had the funding to go to Guatemala.
The reaction over the phone was near hysterical about my safety.
One of the things I remember being said to me was….
“Who are you going to be living with at this homestay? White people, brown people, black people, Mexicans?!?!?”
I shit you not lol.
That was a funny reaction I remember anyway with shit like that literally being said to me word for word.
Either way, the concern passed away and I made it back home safe and sound.
Similarly, when my first year in Mexico was done years ago…
I got a similar reaction.
Although it was more to do regarding my future as my parents still thought this was all just a phase of my life that I’ll be done with being I’m young.
So less to do with safety and more to do with long term sustainability.
Which, to be fair, I don’t think either concerns of safety or finances are unreasonable as I’ll always emphasize.
Not being a parent myself, I can’t imagine the concern I’d have if a child of mine wanted to live in another country – especially if they were so young.
But the point here is made.
In that, due to the constant criticism of your choice to live here, that will create self-doubt.
Although that criticism does start to fade away over time and also you become more confident in your decision as you get more used to life here.
But it goes beyond that.
It might be the case, after all, that maybe you actually hate aspects of life here and that cause self-doubt.
The next thing that comes to mind is when you have gringos who have a “black day.”
Meaning that everything that could go wrong goes wrong.
As I wrote in this article here, I’ve always had the observation that you just have to get used to shit fucking up down here.
Even in a place as nice as Mexico City.
It is what it is.
Having said that, you might have a day once in a blue moon every few years or so when you just need to vent.
You go back home after everything imaginable fucking up…
Close the door.
Grab the vodka bottle.
And have the rest of the day to yourself fucking pissed off at whatever you can imagine.
The street vendor trying to gringo price you.
The metro fucking up.
A homeless person harassing you.
Simple shit that, in the end, doesn’t really matter.
The street vendor, if he succeeded, only got an extra few dollars out of you.
The metro will keep on working.
That homeless person will probably end up tonight laying on his back on the street with his dick in his hand pissing into the air as that piss falls back on his face due to gravity.
So life goes on.
But, in those days where you really want to vent, you’re likely to have some self-doubt about if your long term future here.
Though, if it’s just a day of venting and nothing more, then that’s normal.
You’ll probably continue on.
However, you do have some folks who never stop bitching about life down here and the locals.
With absolutely not a single thing they like about life down here.
I imagine the self-doubt must be strong with those.
And maybe a few extra bottles of vodka a day that I’m not accustomed to.
Either way, as I said, I imagine they have a shit ton of self-doubt.
In either case….
Be it your venting is temporary and just getting shit off your chest…
Or a deep hatred of the country you are in…
I imagine either scenario produces that self-doubt.
Finally, if you’ve ever struggled to make ends meet down here, then you’ll probably have self-doubt.
I’ve had days like that.
In my earlier days in Mexico, I had plenty of self-doubt as I struggled to make money.
As you can read here, I moved to some shitty neighborhood trying to make it on 300 bucks a month while working long hours each day in front of my laptop trying to figure out how the fuck to get money into my US bank account.
Ultimately, I’m past that point in life and doing as nice as I ever have financially.
But there was no lying to myself in those days – I knew fairly well that a trip back home might be needed if the finances didn’t approve.
Either because the money would run out with nothing coming in…
Which is a topic I wrote about here in which gringos take trips home to earn USD to fund another trip down here…
Or I would make just enough to get by but never anything more…
Living perpetually on 300 bucks a month…
And thinking to myself “this is fucking bullshit. Time to go home.”
And, being honest with you, I definitely would’ve gone home by now if I was still as desperate for cash.
Life down here, oddly enough, isn’t very fun when you work 12 hours in front of a laptop on a 300 dollar a month budget.
So that’s another avenue in which self-doubt might arise.
Here are my final tips for all three scenarios above.
On the black days – learn to vent when you need to.
Maybe have a friend you can vent to.
But don’t make it a forever thing.
Learn to accept the faults of life down here.
If you never can find anything positive about life down here, it might be best to move on.
Which is perfectly fine.
After all, who wants to live in a place they seemingly hate?
On the money issue, well, try to make it work.
I wrote an article here briefly discussing what I’ve seen gringos do to more typically have success financially down here.
Maybe make a brand for yourself online.
Get some skills that are in demand that can be done remotely.
So on and so on.
And before you move, make sure you have plenty of savings to back your ass up in case money coming in becomes tight.
Also, make sure you have that remote income coming in ideally also.
When it comes to family and friends thinking you are crazy?
Again, learn to accept that the criticism evaporates overtime.
Don’t take it offensively either.
Just know people are expressing concerns that are reasonable in my opinion.
Also, understand that you might not ever break through to them in making them know why you prefer living down here.
I’ve explained it a million times.
It never lands.
In the same way that their criticisms never land on me.
You have to understand at least 2 things here:
First, some folks still believe that all of Latin America is truly a dark shithole where nothing good happens.
Where you will get shanked in the kidney and gangraped the second you step off the plane down here.
I remember years ago before I took my first flight to Mexico to live here…
Some older guy in a gas station was explaining to another person about how his daughter is going to take a trip to Cancun, Mexico.
The other guy taking it in was as hysterical as that example of someone I know when I decided to visit Guatemala.
Almost foaming at the mouth hysterical this guy was going “OH NO NOT MEXICO ANYWHERE BUT MEXICO THEY’LL WAIT FOR HER ASS AT THE AIRPORT GATE!!!!111!1!”
Literally he said that.
That these supposed villains are going to be waiting for his daughter at the airport gate.
Just jockeying in position waiting to gangrape her and sell her into sex trafficking!
Or whatever crazy shit.
And the dude literally seemed like he believed that.
He genuinely seemed concerned about his daughter.
If that is the other persons mindset about life here, you will never come through to them about how life down here can be alright to live in as a gringo.
Unless your gringo ass is going to go be a drug dealer in some favela or some shit…
You’ll probably be fine.
Though, to be fair, Latin America as a whole can be more dangerous.
I’m not taking away from that.
Just saying that the vision of what life is like down here is miles away from reality and some folks will never accept anything else.
But also another tip on this….
Second, understand also that everyone has different mindsets and value systems.
What one person values to have in life can be extremely different from another person!
That’s just the way it is.
Some people value safety and security.
They value routine as a reader named Dazza put it.
They value things being familiar.
Perhaps they value working at Corporate America trying to make 6 figures or whatever.
And, to that person….
A life making 2,000 a month in a place that doesn’t seem safe and secure is a completely insane.
But you value different things.
You don’t care about those 6 figures in Corporate America.
You want to enjoy life now.
Do crazy shit.
Travel the world.
Granted, you could make 6 figures online.
I’m not saying those two things cannot exist together.
Though many gringos don’t when they live abroad…
But you get the idea.
You value having certain things in your life that the other person simply doesn’t prioritize as much or doesn’t give a flying fuck about.
And that’s OK.
Nothing wrong with their values.
But it means that you will never come through to them and they will never come through to you.
And that’s how it is from what I’ve seen.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say for now.
I think this will be my last article on the topic for a while since there isn't anything else to say that I can think of.
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Thanks for reading.