Funding a New Life and Travels in Argentina

buenos-aires

We’ve all gone on vacation and fallen in love with a place. You promise yourself you’ll visit again…but you really wish you never had to go home at all.

Well you don’t, necessarily. You can figure out a way to stay. I did…

For me the place was Buenos Aires, Argentina. I love its unique mix of European and Latin American cultures, the cafés in the sun-dappled shadow of French and Spanish colonial architecture.

On any given day, I can go to a French bakery and a Bolivian market in the same afternoon. In spring and summer I can sit in one of the many parks or botanical gardens, and there’s something to do at any hour of the night…live music, theater and tango (I don’t dance much, but I love to watch!)

I arrived on vacation and was seduced into staying. You see, I figured out how to hemisphere-hop for free. This way I get two summers a year plus the snowy New England Christmas I couldn’t give up. I’m not a true expat. I’m a cheater.

At first I lived off savings, and then pieced together an income from freelance writing and editing. By earning in dollars and spending Argentine pesos, my dream of working in my pajamas started to come true. But writing enough to pay for trips back home wasn’t easy.

So I devised a plan. I began to export fair-trade crafts from Argentina to the U.S. Suddenly every journey through the skies became a profit-yielding opportunity. I could support communities in Argentina, see my old friends and family twice a year, and find new friends and adventures.

I source fair-trade crafts in three ways:

  1. Buying from established non-profits
  2. Approaching artisans at local street fairs
  3. Heading out to small towns and simply asking around for artisans and cooperatives

When I want a break from Buenos Aires, I head for the mountains, hiking to isolated Kolla villages in the northern province of Jujuy. Over a lantern-lit meal of hearty vegetable stew, spicy empanadas, freshly baked bread and goat’s cheese, I might arrange an order with an elderly couple for llama wool hats, scarves and shawls to be shipped by burro and bus to Buenos Aires.

Venturing out to find artisans in rural communities is fun, and I’m bringing the market to people who have less access to it. I try to choose unique crafts and carve out my own non-competitive niche. The most popular products are quirky hand-painted wooden animal masks made by the Chané tribe in northern Argentina—each jaguar, marmot, and parrot face has an original character and style.

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