Sarah’s Excellent Adventure

Travel, work, and making it work

It’s official: in a little under a month, I’ll have my things all packed away in storage, and I’ll be on my way to gorgeous Buenos Aires, nearly 9000 km from home, and quite literally the other side of the world. I’ll be staying for three months, which officially makes it my longest trip ever.

I’ve had my tickets booked for some time, which is about as close as I come to long-term commitments these days, and I’ve been slowly preparing for the trip—by which I basically mean “talking along to my Spanish tapes as I walk down the street” (no, that crazy girl isn’t talking to herself!) and “contemplating how many shoes I can fit into a jumbo-size suitcase” (the answer, by the by, is “nowhere nearly enough”).

Shoes
My pretties! I'm going to miss them.

After spending 2009 falling in love with travel (I went to Mexico, to New York, and did a tour of Eastern Europe for five weeks), I spent the entirety of the following year in my own country, in spite of my thwarted-by-circumstance attempts at World Travel. I vowed, some time ago (alright, this is probably no more than two years ago) that I would spend more time traveling—after all, part of the appeal of running this business, and working from home, has always been that I can work from anywhere in the world (so long as there’s internet).

Of course, in order for this to work, I’ve needed to make some adjustments to the way that I travel. My South America trip is very much a litmus test—if it works, I’ll most likely be doing an awful lot more of it, but I’m willing to consider the idea that it may well not work at all. I am, naturally, terrified of all sorts of things, but most notably of my business tanking, and me going broke, stranded in a foreign country.

Here are a few things I’m doing differently:

1. I’m renting an apartment abroad.

Rather than paying for three months of rent for an apartment I won’t be living in (and will need to worry about), I’m moving out of my apartment and into a friend’s basement for the time that I’m here. (I’ll worry about where I go next when I return.) I’m instead using that money to rent an utterly gorgeous apartment in Buenos Aires (complete with private rooftop terrace and office space), which I’ll be sharing with one of my favourite people in the universe. I love Couchsurfing, but it’s simply impractical for the length of my stay, and oftentimes can be unreliable. (I’ve had hosts who don’t leave me a key, and working space is most definitely limited!) With a local apartment, I’ll have security, a guaranteed good-spot-to-work, and I won’t need to live out of a backpack. (Trust me, five weeks with six outfits and one pair of shoes gets tired fast.)

Apartment
My utterly stunning BA apartment, far prettier, and cheaper, than apartments here, in the old cobblestone-street barrio of San Telmo. Every Sunday they have a huge street fair & market down Defensa Calle, which I'm on the corner of.

2. I have a secretary, of sorts.

Luckily, I have some amazing friends who are willing to help me out. So, instead of letting three months’ worth of cheques pile up in a PO box or dealing with the logistic nightmare of having all mail redirected to Argentina for three months, but not a second longer, my “permanent” mailing address is a friend’s house, and he’ll track and deposit my cheques in exchange for a small fee. This way, too, I can keep on top of errant accounts (always handy!) and I won’t need to make everyone use PayPal.

3. I’m traveling slowly.

I’m most excited about this aspect, as I really do enjoy longer trips. In effect, it’s almost more as though I’m living in South America for a season. I’ll get to better experience the culture of the city around me, and traveling more slowly means that I’ll be able to pay better attention to my work, instead of, say, furiously typing out emails while standing up in a McDonald’s across from the Pantheon. Bringing a friend—and half of my shoe collection—with me means that I’ll suffer less homesickness and alienation, and I plan to get out often, to network and to make new friends in foreign cities (I hope!)

4. I’m taking my first-ever real vacation.

I think the last time I wasn’t either in school or working was… maybe the week before I left home to go to university, and I’m not even sure that was the case. At any rate, it’s been basically forever, and as much as I blather on about balance and taking time off, I’m utterly useless at it. However, since my number one, oh-my-goodness-I’ll-just-die-if-I-don’t-get-to-go place in South America is the Amazon, I’ve already plotted out a trip there, which involves a five-day stint in the jungle, where I’m pretty sure they don’t get internet access. (And if they do, it’s the rainy season, so I’m not sure my computer would survive.) Yep, I’m going away for five whole days, and I’m not even bringing my computer with me! Scary thought, but I’ve planned the trip for the period between Christmas and New Year’s, where I figure I’ll have the least client demands of pretty much the whole year, so I’m hoping it’ll all go smoothly. And if it does, I may not wait another eight years to try it again!

The Amazon
The Amazon rainforest, where I'll be sleeping with the jaguars and the tarantulas, fishing for piranhas, and generally having the most insane and amazing Christmas ever.

The nice thing about the way I run my business is that most of my clients won’t even notice I’m gone. I’ve always loved the idea that my business is so transportable that I can pick up at any moment and run off somewhere without it impacting my clients, and I think I’ve covered my bases so that it’ll work out perfectly.

The cultural experiences of travel, and all the foreign visual ephemera of a strange new place, will invariably influence my design work for the better, and I’ll constantly have new stimuli surrounding me. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am that I can do this. I have pretty much the greatest job in the world: I can do what I love, and I can experience the world as I do it!

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