Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

Exactly one year ago Patricia and I left Brazil to begin a new life in another country: our beloved Argentina. At least that was the plan, but what actually happened was something else that we could never anticipate.


Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

The idea

In 2009, after a lovely trip to Buenos Aires I had this “crazy” idea: what if we moved to Buenos Aires? I suggested that to Patricia and she happily agreed that this would be really cool. The only problem is that this couldn’t happen any time soon.

You see, Patricia is a renowned wedding photographer in Brazil. So, although it was still 2009, she was already heavily booked for 2010. Meaning she would be taking pictures of weddings almost every weekend during 2010. So, the only thing we could do was to push the move to the end of 2010. And so we did it.
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

Experiments

Fortunately, by that time, she still had some room in the first months of the year. So we managed to squeeze a trip around the USA in the beginning of 2010.  That gave us an opportunity to experiment with remote working. Patricia works with Karol and I work with Leandro. They would both stay in Brazil during this USA trip and we’d be forced to work with them remotely.

Fortunately, everything went well and we found the confidence to go on with our plans. So Patricia worked her schedule of 2011 in a way that would allow less weddings and more time between each of them. This way, we’d be able to move to Argentina but still come back to Rio from time to time, so that she could take picture of weddings there. In my case, since my work could be accomplished remotely, I’d be just fine anywhere as long as there would be internet connection available.
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?
The preparation

The last months of 2010 were just crazy as we tried to prepare for the move. The major effort was to sell everything we had and clear the apartment. This proved to be a much harder endeavor than we could possibly anticipate. A kind of story that deserves many posts apart.
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

The beginning

Fortunately, on the 30th of December of 2010 we flew to Argentina. And just a couple of hours later we began to drive two thousand kilometers in order to arrive in beautiful Bariloche, just in time for New Years Eve. We arrived there exactly at 23:30h on the following day with no booking in any hotel. Yes, you can call me crazy. :-) But with the never ending list of pre-trip tasks, I couldn’t take care of this. I was barely able to book a car rental. 

Fortunately, after asking in different hotels with no luck we managed to find a nice place to stay. And that’s how we began our two months stay in this incredibly beautiful place, in Patagonia. What an amazing summer! Oh Lord, how I miss this place!

Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

But that wasn’t enough

When things finally settled down I began to read a few books that were waiting for my attention for a while. Two of them were about traveling. But not so much traveling as in tourism. Just traveling as in traveling. And them I came across this idea of traveling permanently. Like living in different parts of the world and never actually stoping in any place in a permanent way. 

I confess that when we left Brazil this was something that I didn’t think about. But then, reading the books, I realized that we had all of the necessary pre-requisites. Being a person that loves traveling myself, this obviously appealed to me. Next thing you know, I was asking Patricia: what if we traveled all the time instead of just living in Argentina? I mean, we both love Argentina. But we could also live in other places. Fortunately, she once more agreed with my crazy idea. :-)

By the way, the books in question are Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel and The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World. The later was the one I liked the most, as a matter of fact, although it’s not strictly about traveling. Chris and I have many similar points of view on how we should live our lives.
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?
Beyond the original plan

To test this idea, we booked a trip to Europe to take place by the end of our stay in Bariloche. Hence, in March. There we visited Spain, the South of France, Monaco and Italy. Always balancing some work, some level of sightseeing and a lot of delicious food tasting, which one can tell easily from my current shape. Oh, I’m in shape! Round is a shape, isn’t it? :D
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?
With this great start, we later spent some well anticipated time in Buenos Aires, followed by really cool travels to Colombia, Venezuela, Curaçao, Uruguay, Chile and more recently Australia and New Zealand where we are now. In total, we’ve been to twelve countries in three different continents, and also to many beautiful parts of Brazil. Specially Jericoacoara and Taíba. And we still managed to keep up with the work. Not bad at all. 

And, before I forget, let me tell you something. Of course we liked each place we visited. But I must say that South America is just so incredibly cool. It was so much fun to visit our neighbors. My only regret is that it took me so long to do it. Man, what a bunch of amazing countries and what a lovely people. Can’t wait to come back!

In the process, we made lots of new friends, learned a ton about each place we’ve been to and had so many amazing experiences that would easily fill a book. And most importantly, Patricia took so many breathtaking pictures that it was really hard to choose just a few to illustrate this post.
Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?
Conclusion

One year later the only thing I can say is that we couldn’t have ask for more. This is just so much better that we could ever dream of.  And the best part is that it’s only the beginning. We don’t plan to settle anytime soon. 

We’re still learning to live like that. We still make many mistakes. But that is part of the process. We miss our family and friends in Brazil, as much as we miss Brazil itself, but we keep on hoping that friends and family not only understand this rather strange way of living but might also get inspired to travel more and live unusual experiences themselves.

Do we have plans for 2012? Oh yeah! We have many more places to visit, much more nice people to meet and yet Patricia and I will be spending enough time in Brazil as well, so that she can continue to do her brilliant work. But for now, we’ll still spend some more time here, in this part of this planet that we decided to take as our home, as a whole.

Wish you all an outstanding 2012. May you have some awesome journeys too!

Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?Why live in a country when you can live in a planet?

Our first week in Sydney, Australia

We’ve been in Sydney for almost a week now. So it’s time to share a few more impressions.

I was supposed to say that Sydney is awesome and incredible. Well, it certainly is a nice and beautiful place, but maybe for us it’s just a bit too similar to other parts of the world we’ve been to.

Our first week in Sydney, Australia

UK and the USA

I think it’s a common pattern for people to describe new places comparing them with others they’ve visited in the past. This, of course, gives us an inaccurate picture, but it’s just human nature. We can’t  help it.

So the first days in Sydney felt as if we were in what I would loosely describe as a mix of the best parts of the USA and the UK. More precisely, it felt like a blend of San Francisco and London. Sydney has an outstanding public transport network based on trains, buses and ferries during the day. And nightly buses at night, when the trains are not operating anymore. Just like in London. The difference here is that trains are used, instead of the underground, as the subway is called in London.

The suburbs are similar to the ones in the London area and you’d drive your car on the left side of the streets, just like in the UK. But what’s different here, is that houses tend to be much bigger which reminds us of the suburbs of several American cities. 

The area around the harbor also reminds me of San Francisco. There, the Golden Gate Bridge is the main landmark, while here this role is played by the Harbour bridge.

But as I said before, it looks like a mix of the best aspects of both cities. The trains are cleaner than the London underground trains and they’ve got much more seats. They’re certainly less crowded two. 

Sydney is a city that received many immigrants in the past. So, walking around or taking the trains, we often see people from different origins. And we’re often listening to languages that we can’t understand. There are many Asians, for instance, and we always wonder: what language are they speaking? This multicultural scene is something that we really appreciate, and it’s one more thing that reminds us of cities like London and New York, for instance.

Poverty or misery still haven’t shown their face to us in Sydney. We saw just one person begging in CBD (Sydney downtown) while in San Francisco there are lot’s of people begging in downtown as well as in London.

Weather

To be honest, we haven’t had luck with the weather so far. Except for yesterday, when we’ve have a bright sunny morning, the rest of the days have been quite rainy. I know that this can have a huge effect on our impressions. After all, rain just plain sucks. It hinders your ability to move around and explore the city properly, specially in Sydney, where the best attractions are outside, like in Rio. So this could very well explain why the city still didn’t captivate us.

Different habits

Sydney seems to be a city that welcomes daytime outdoor activities. It’s mostly closed for business at night, with a few exceptions, of course. The thing is that Patricia and I are night people. We like to sleep late and we love cities where we can walk at night and find people doing the same, enjoying restaurants and all kinds of conveniences overnight. So, Sydney isn’t a great match. But I have to admit that most cities in the world probably operate more like the way Sydney does, than the way we appreciate the most. That’s probably why we like Buenos Aires so much. The nightlife there is extremely rich, which is a very welcome feature for people like us. :-)

I should add that shops close really early in Sydney, as far as we could seen. Just to give a quick example, last Saturday we’ve been to a shopping mall in the suburbs, near the house we’re staying in. It’s a big shopping mall with many excellent stores, supermarkets, restaurants and all kinds of conveniences. To our surprise, it closed by 6 PM. This is really early for us! :-)

Party

Last Friday our good friends, Fabio and Camila, hosted a pre-Christmas Party and invited us. Thank you, Fabio! :-)

We had a great time with them and their friends from different parts of the world. Enif, one of their friends, is an amazing cook. So she prepared a delicious meal that was very much appreciated by everyone. Them we had a secret Santa gift exchange, which was a lot of fun!

At some point Patricia and I were exhausted. Maybe we were finally feeling the effects of the jet lag. At 2 AM we just couldn’t cope anymore. The thing was: how to get back home?

We use the train to come back home and, as far as we know, trains just stop working during the night. A little bit before midnight, we checked to see the time of the last train. And the information we got made us believe that trains would be working all night long every hour. So we relaxed. Later, when we were really tired, we checked again and found that actually, trains really stopped operating and we’d only be able to use the night bus. When we checked before, we misinterpreted the information.

Theoretically, night buses are fine. But, the journey is longer and we’d have to learn how to use them at a time when we were already very tired. Fortunately, Juliana, one of Fabio and Camila’s friends, had a car and lived not far from the place we’re staying in. So she offered to bring us to a place near and we caught a taxi to cover the last miles. She can’t imagine how much we appreciated that. It really helped a lot in a moment when we were just incredibly tired. Thank you so much, Juliana!

Planning

I wrote about this because it’s something that raised my attention to something very important during our trips: planning. We wouldn’t have had any trouble coming back home if I had checked the train timetable before even going to the party. I had the timetable with me all of the time. So I just needed to check it and we’d have been much better of. Why didn’t I do that?

After observing people from other parts of the world, I came to realize that Brazilians are not very used to plan. Or at least, tend not to plan as much or as thoroughly as other people. I guess that is one the reasons why we’re always late. And many times, very late! :-)

This is an area where I’ve been improving a lot over the years, but there’s still a long way to go. Planning is essential for our trips and I certainly do a lot of planning before the trips. But it’s still very hard to me to plan the little details of a specific day. So deciding what to do tomorrow, what time to leave home, what time to do this or that, which time to take the train back etc is just very unnatural to me as a Brazilian. It’s something I’m still struggling with and hopefully I’ll get better at. I just need to and I’ll use a quick anecdote to explain why.

We have some friends in Switzerland that we visited several times. And one thing that always called my attention there is how they planned everyday so carefully. During breakfast, the family would always discuss briefly the plans for the day, with precise hours for each activity. For instance, at 9 AM we’ll leave for a hiking followed by a picnic. Then we should be back at 11:45h and have lunch at 12:15h. At 2 PM we’ll visit the lake, have some snacks around 4:30 PM and be back home at 7 PM for dinner. 

This kind of planning would happen briefly every morning. And it felt really strange for us as Brazilians. But you know what? By the end of the day, everybody managed to do a lot and have a good time, because things were well planned. It felt too rigorous for us at first, but the end result was excellent. So eventually I understood that this was actually a very good practice and I’ve been trying to apply it ever since. Unfortunately, though, I still have a long way to master it. 

Next weeks

Speaking of planning, we’re now trying to decide what to do on the next weeks. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. 

To the North, there are great beaches and the Great Barrier Reef. But I have to admit that we’re not very attracted by them. We’re very used to beaches and we’ve been to some amazing beaches in Brazil and the Caribbean throughout this year. So that’s not what we’re looking for now. Besides, going to those places and diving on the Great Barrier Reef we’ll certainly prove to be a beautiful experience but also a quite expensive one. Since we still have a lot to cover in this trip and other countries ahead of us, we’re preferring not to spend so much now on something that is, to some extend, more of the same.

Besides, finding reasonably priced places to stay where we can balance a bit of tourism and work is really hard. Specially because internet access in Australia is often offered with some serious restrictions that are often deal breakers for us. As a matter of fact, this is something that I really really didn’t like at all about Australia. The way internet access if offered here is awful. But, I also have to admit that I already knew that.

Going to the outback would be interesting, because it would really be a different experience. But, this is certainly not the right time of the year to do that. Visiting the desert during summer tends to be, well, too hot. And heat definitely doesn’t bring me a lot of happiness. 

So we’re probably heading south. We’ll probably move on to Melbourne and possibly visit some places nearby. The challenge now is to find accommodation, reasonably priced and with some serious internet access. By the way, have I told you how expensive this country is? On a positive note, people here are really nice and we feel very welcome everywhere we go. This is pretty awesome!

Finally, mind the fact that I’ve written this after spending the last three days trying very hard to decide what to do and where to go next, in a way that balances expenses, experiences, preferences and ability to work using a good internet connection. There are many options, there is a lot to do, and there are also some important constraints to pay attention to. It’s been a hard exercise so far. Hence, this write up might look a bit  sour. Australia is a nice country for sure, we’re just still trying to find our way around.

Cheers, mate.

Our first week in Sydney, Australia

First impressions of Sydney, Australia

Patricia and I arrived in Sydney on Tuesday, 6th of December 2011. So let me share some of our first impressions.

First impressions of Sydney, Australia

Flight
 
We took a Qantas non-stop flight in Buenos Aires, that lasted 14 hours and was much less painful than anticipated. The airplane flies over the shores of Antarctica for quite a while. So we had the chance to see images of huge ice blocks floating on the ocean. It’s a very interesting view. But most of the time there was just that bright white all around us.

Before the flight I chose a good seat for us with the help of SeatGuru and I stocked a good selection of Argentinian movies in my iPad. So, in the end, the flight was actually comfortable and entertaining. 

 The plane left from Buenos Aires at around 1:30 PM (Buenos Aires local time) and arrived in Sydney at 5:30 PM (Sydney local time) on the following day. So it was daytime during the whole flight.  The good news is that we arrive in Sydney in the beginning of the night. And since we’re tired, the natural thing to do is to sleep. So, we go to bed at the right time, in the new time zone. Which helps us adjust and avoid jet leg. So far, we hadn’t felt any jet leg at all.

 
Bed and breakfast

We chose this bed and breakfast in the suburbs of Sydney. The place is absolutely excellent and the price was quite affordable, in a city where accommodation is often very expensive. Arriving here from the airport is easy by train, although it takes a while (one hour).

 Transport

Sydney has an excellent railway system, with several lines and trains coming and going frequently. And it is also possible to buy multi day passes, which reduces the expenses significantly. We bought a 7 days pass that not only allows us to take trains, but also buses and ferries. It costed AUS 48 each.

 Visiting the city

For staters, we went to the Opera House, one of the most well known landmarks of Sydney. It’s a beautiful place, of course, with great views to the bay and the Harbor Bridge. The Botanical Gardens are just beside, so we spent some time there as well. It’s a large and beautiful park.

 CBD

Next we decided to stroll around CBD, or Central Business District, which is basically Sydney’s downtown. It has a cool and futuristic skyline and, of course lot’s of office buildings and stores. But one interesting thing about it is that we saw not only people wearing suites, but also lots of them wearing sports outfits. Since CBD is close to the Botanical Gardens, a place where many people come to exercise, we often see lots of the exercising mates walking around CBD, which creates a rather interesting contrast.

 Internet

While we were in CBD, we tried to find some free WIFI. Unfortunately, no luck there. There was free access at the Circular Quay train station and that was it. We couldn’t find any other consistent free WIFI hotspot around CBD. No coffee shops seemed to offer it, or any other kind of place. Actually we saw a McDonald’s that supposedly offered it, but no luck when we tried to connect. So, we realized that reports from previous travelers about this subject seem to be on spot. Sydney and free WIFI still don’t know each other very well. 

 Later, talking to our friend, Fabio Pereira, we learned that internet connection is most commonly offered in Sydney with a limited amount of gigabytes for download and upload. I’m not only talking about 3G. It also applies to the ADSL connections and any other kind of internet connection around here, so it seems. For us it’s like coming back in time one decade or more. It’s weird. But it also helps to explain why establishments in general won’t offer free internet connection. Besides, it’s kind of expensive. Fabio told us that this probably happens because of the monopoly that takes place in the telecommunication sector. 

 Anyway, please understand that these are just first impressions. As such, they’re probably not accurate at all. Over the next days we’ll hopefully have a clearer picture. I just decided to mention it because internet access is quite crucial in general and more so for travelers and people working remotely.

Just one last curious fact while on this topic. The fastest internet connection I’ve ever used in my life was offered for free by a hotel in Medellín, Colombia.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t in a developed country.

Fabio and ThoughtWorks

By the end of the day we finally met our good friend Fabio and we paid a quick visit to the nice ThoughtWorks office here in Sydney, where he works, followed by a visit to his house and, of course, some pizza. :-)

 It was really really good to see Fabio again. And we’re looking forward to spend more time with him in the next days.