After saving up for 10 months and quitting their jobs, Chris and Tamara left San Francisco in October 2013 to travel slowly through Latin America. They’re traveling with two backpacks and their 15-year old Cairn Terrier, Holly and working on improving their Spanish, re-imagining their working lives (no more 9-5 please!), and making some life-long memories. Here’s a week-in-the-life of Tamara and Chris in Argentina.
Day 1 – Friday
7:00am – It’s our sixth week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Despite the night owl culture here, we’re up early for our last week of Spanish classes. Since Chris starts class earlier, Tamara takes Holly for her morning walk in Palermo. Then, it’s back home for our morning ritual: coffee and reading the news online.
8:15am – Chris walks to class. It’s roughly 3km and would be faster using public transportation, but the walk is more interesting: shopkeepers cleaning the sidewalk, pastries (also known as facturas) in windows.
9:00am – In Chris’s class are students from Holland, France and Germany. Tamara’s class starts later, and she’s with students from Brazil, Japan and the U.S. Most of the time in conversation classes, we talk about our lives and our home countries.
1:00pm – Empanadas for lunch. Six for 51 pesos! That’s a $5 lunch for the two of us. Score.
5:00pm – We finally pull the trigger on a flight to Costa Rica, our next stop. Afterwards, Tamara calls the airline to add Holly to the reservation, only to find out we have to change it because they don’t allow pets to fly on weekends. We both exhale when we find out there are no change fees.
9:00pm – Head to a “happy hour” — Argentines start bar-hopping around 1am — called Mundo Lingo to practice our Spanish with locals and travelers. When we arrive, they give us U.S. and Argentine flag stickers to signify the languages we speak. Some people have five flags! We meet a couple of guys from Venezuela. One looks like Redfoo from LMFAO and complains that it’s a fiesta de bomberos, or firefighter party, because it’s all dudes. We explain that in English it’s called a sausage fest. Chuckles all around, and they leave to look for some ladies.
Day 2 – Saturday
9:00am – Morning ritual. Chris catches up on some work with his new location-independent job. Tamara updates the blog.
1:00pm – We re-pack our backpacks to switch housing. We rented a two-bedroom apartment to share with Chris’s mom when she visited us in Buenos Aires, but now that she’s left it’s too big and expensive for us to stay by ourselves. The new place is a small but clean studio with the essentials. We take a minute to kill a few mosquitoes. Then we realize there’s no coffee maker and we will have to go back to drinking Nescafe. Sigh. This photo from a museum in Chile best depicts our feelings about Nescafe.
3:00pm – Video call with Chris’s sister and mom. We miss our families a lot and use Skype to stay in touch every few weeks.
5:00pm – Venture out for a walk in Palermo Soho and to change our dollars to pesos. In other countries we used ATMs, but Argentina has a black-market rate for dollars. The official rate is around 8 pesos to the dollar, but we get 10.70. We could get more if we went to Florida Street downtown where guys whisper, “Cambio, cambio,” as you walk by, but we prefer a place with a storefront.
8:45pm – “Early” dinner at Cocina Sunae, one of Buenos Aires’ puertas cerradas, or closed-door restaurants where chefs cook out of their home. We heard about it after meeting a woman from Alaska who highly recommended it. It’s a splurge, but food is how we experience cities. And we’ve been majorly missing Asian food. We take a few moments to appreciate the spiciness; cuisine in Argentina is not spicy. The waitress offers to speak to us in English, but we tell her we want to practice our Spanish.
Day 3 – Sunday
9:00am – Morning ritual. Review some emails we got back from potential accommodations in Costa Rica that we’ve been contacting over the past several days. One is right on the beach but way too expensive, so we keep contacting others.
11:30am – Tamara calls her mom and apologizes that it’s been over a month since she called. (Sorry, Mom!)
2:00pm – Head to nearby supermercado to stock up on breakfast and sandwich supplies. We always forget that we have to weigh our produce before getting to the register. We pick up ingredients for a meal that should cover us for dinner for three nights to counter our weekend splurge. Most supermarkets carry delicious fresh pastas, a mark of Argentina’s Italian influence.
Day 4 – Monday
7:00am – Morning ritual. Tamara is excited because sales from her book are holding steady. It’s still not enough to live on, but it feels good when you create something and people actually buy it.
1:00pm – Classes end, and we recruit two classmates to go to La Bomba de Tiempo, an evening drum show that takes place on Mondays that multiple people from home said we should go to. It’s held at an outdoor cultural center that used to be a cooking oil factory.
2:00pm – Chris goes back to class because it’s a holiday on Thursday and we have afternoon make-up classes. Argentina has a lot more holidays than the U.S. Also, they have puentes, or bridges, so if there’s a holiday on Thursday everyone takes Friday off too. Tamara goes home to call her sister and then her dad.
7:30pm – Head over to La Bomba de Tiempo. We manage to find our classmates without the use of cell phones! People are handing out flyers for after-parties. The drumming is fun and lively, but we find the best part is the people watching. We’re all standing along the back wall feeling like chaperones while the mostly younger crowd smokes a lot of pot. We laugh and ask ourselves, what did we expect? Our classmate from Brazil says the drumming reminds him of samba a little bit.
Day 5 – Tuesday
7:00am – Morning ritual. Holly happily chews on her bone before going back to sleep while Tamara updates the blog.
3:00pm – In an effort to get coins for the laundry machine, Chris buys some facturas after class from a nearby bakery and pays with a big bill. No luck — people hoard their change here. Even at big grocery stores, registers have very few small bills and even fewer coins, and cashiers are always asking you for exact change.
6:00pm – After scrounging together every coin we have, we still come up short. We end up dropping laundry off at a nearby wash-and-fold which is convenient but much more expensive.
Day 6 – Wednesday
7:00am – Morning ritual. We’re both feeling sad and relieved that it’s our last day of school. There’s also a torrential downpour. Guess it’s good practice for Costa Rica! We’re starting to feel anxious to get out of the city and closer to nature. Throughout our travels, we’ve alternated between big/medium-sized cities and smaller towns.
1:00pm – Scarf down homemade salami and cheese sandwiches at school, then head to El Ateneo, a theater-turned-bookstore with a red curtain and all. It’s beautiful and we’re not the only ones taking photos. Since bookstores are going extinct in the U.S., we decide to stay and have coffee before Tamara goes back for her final class.
4:00pm – Class is over, and Tamara says goodbye to her teachers and fellow students with a kiss on the cheek. (It’s hard to remember that’s customary! Handshakes are for impersonal estadounidenses.) Tamara feels sad because travel is always full of goodbyes. She hands out our “business cards” with our contact information that were inspired by a couple from Holland we met a month ago who are cycling across the Americas. They told us they want to open a bike shop in Canada.
Day 7 – Thursday
8:30am – Morning ritual. While taking Holly for her morning walk, some people are just walking home from a bar! Chris catches up on work while Tamara updates the blog.
12:30pm – Wander around Palermo Soho and stop to eat lunch. We’re feeling nice and relaxed, when we realize we’re seated under a tree with a lot of birds. Tamara gets pooped on three times by sparrows. We laugh and get out of there as quickly as possible before wandering over to Plaza Serrano to check out the street fair.
5:00pm – We decide to embrace the holiday and have a quiet evening at home, reading and watching movies. We can’t believe we only have one more week in Buenos Aires. We’ve gotten all the touristy stuff out of the way, so we’re relaxed and just enjoying the city like the porteños.
Tamara and Chris are now hitting the one-year mark of their Latin American travels. They are enroute back home to San Francisco, where they will backpack the Tahoe Rim Trail with Tamara’s dad, then scoot over to New York for a friend’s wedding. While on the road, Chris found a location independent job, and Tamara wrote a book about how to be an awesome supervisor. You can find out more about Tamara’s projects at Hello I’m Tamara, and follow their journey at Our Leap Year.