Compared to the Pound or Euro, the American dollar has seen better times, but rest assured it still goes a long way in Latin America. With an exchange rate of three pesos to one dollar, there is no time like the present to take a mini-retirement vacation south of the border.
When I first arrived in Buenos Aires (BA), I spent most of my time dividing by three to ensure I was getting a good price. I soon realized that almost everything I was purchasing was very cheap and I was getting a lot more for my money.
Here are some of the prices you’ll find:
– cafe con leche (specialized coffee drink) = $1.50
– big bottle of water = $.33
– big bottle of local beer = $1.50
– local wine (good stuff) = $3-6
– block of cheese = $1.75
– bread = $.66
– huge steak (good cut) = $10
Of course, as an American, I immediately recognized the good deals and started hoarding everything in sight! I was like I a fat kid in a candy store. After a few days of running around comparing prices like a lunatic, I learned a very valuable lesson: It’s all relative.
Relative as in I’m very fortunate to be from a country that has a stronger monetary system. In the same sense, I’ve been to London and let’s just say exchanging dollars for pounds is not advantageous.
While in South America, I can’t help but wonder why everyone hasn’t moved here. Of course, not everyone wants to or is able to travel for weeks or months at a time. From experience, I can tell you that it costs less to live a month in South America than it does in the states. So in a sense, my vacation is saving me money!
In Buenos Aires, I pay $10 per night for a hostel and about $10 per day for food. Also, most tourist spots are free one day of the week and sitting at a cafe and watching people is almost free and very interesting. In some plazas, there’s free tango shows – bonus!
The culture in South America is very laid back. The people don’t just pass by and say a quick hello. They actually sit down and enjoy each other’s company for hours on end talking about anything and everything. It’s a kind of conversation art that has been almost lost in America and is mostly reserved for grandma and grandpa out on the front porch when drinking lemonade.
For me, it’s been a very eye-opening and relaxing time. It’s been a pseudo “mini-retirement” for me, a term blogger and author Tim Ferris coined (THANKS TIM!). Basically, his thought discusses how retirement at an old age should be a worse-case scenario. Instead of waiting for retirement to live life, you should take mini-retirements throughout your life. That doesn’t mean you have to move to a foreign country. It only means you should try to enjoy different experiences throughout your life.
Learn the guitar, go hiking, read a new book, take piano lessons, learn to ride a motorcycle, raft the Grand Canyon, eat banana pancakes everyday for a week… heck a month! The point is not the activity. The point is taking time for activities you enjoy.
How many senior citizen greeters have you encountered at Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, etc? While some can’t simply afford to live in complete retirement, I’m willing to bet most of them are completely bored out of their minds sitting at home without a hobby. Because we Americans work so hard… we forget to take time for ourselves. All we know is work, so that’s what we fall back on.
The good news is that no matter how old you are, there is always a hobby you can start to enjoy. Here are some tips to finding a hobby:
1. Make a list of things you enjoy or think you would enjoy.
2. Divide this list into two categories: “Now” and “Later”
– In the “now” category, list the items that you’ve always wanted to do and if you were to die tomorrow, you would regret not doing them. You will focus on this list in the next step.
– In the “later” category, list the items that interest you, but that if you were to die tomorrow, would not bother you as much as the former list. Put this list to the side for now.
3. With the “now” list in front of you, divide it into two categories: “Immediate” and “Needs Planning”
– The “immediate list” will include items that are local, less expensive and may only require minimal effort and time.
– Exercising two days a week by walking, running, biking or swimming. No expensive gym memberships required!
– Finish a book you’ve always wanted to read. Books are usually $10-15 and only require your time and a patio or lemonade if you have them. You can borrow books from your local library for free.
– Learn a musical instrument. You can take lessons from a local musician and chances are they’ll let you borrow an instrument for free or a small fee. If you already have an instrument and you haven’t had time to learn you can find free lessons online (iTunes, YouTube or search for “How to play…”).
The “needs planning” list will include items that require more effort, money, travel, commitment, etc.
– Backpacking for a week, two weeks or more than a month. The proper maps, clothing, food, etc. will need to be purchased and planned out.
– Rafting the Grand Canyon. My brother and I were fortunate enough to do this in 2007. It took about a year to plan because there were only certain date available that we could schedule around. It was also a bit pricey. It was definitely worth it though!
– Lean a new language. In most countries, you are required to learn a second language as soon as you start school. Learning a language is a comittment. Not only do you have to learn it, you have to use it… this perfect preparation for your “needs planning” list. How about learning French and taking a romantic trip to Paris! It is amazing there and you only have to learn “un table por deux” (a table for two)… well, that and how they say “frog legs.” 🙂
4. Star your top four must-do hobbies from the “now” list and start planning. Remember, only you can make the choice to try a new hobby. Your life… you decide.
5. Enjoy… and let me know what you decide to do!