Yes, you can leave the North America bubble
I resisted moving to South America, as much as I enjoyed my time there during my mini-lives over the past several years.
But one year ago, after selling or giving away all of my stuff, I moved to Colombia.
In some ways, life is clearly better for me in Colombia than in the U.S.. I can get all of the fresh vegetables I can carry from the farmer’s market for less than $10, I can afford an apartment in a building with a pool, and my health insurance plan — the best available — is about $100 a month. Even though I’ve learned I can be miserable or happy in just about any kind of weather, the climate is an added bonus: 75˚F and sunny all year.
I have to admit, the lack of American-level convenience was one of the factors that held me back. Can you imagine living without Amazon Prime? Still, I can get items from Amazon within about 2 weeks (after paying 30% extra on shipping and import taxes).
But the challenging parts of living in a developing country are the parts that make it worth doing. For example, since I’m operating in Spanish day-to-day — and interacting with people from a totally different culture — I’m forced toconstantly assume that I’m wrong. The foreigner is always wrong. This is a kind of “patience therapy.” At first I get frustrated easily, but the relaxed rhythm of Colombian life eventually takes over.
For reference, New York City has the opposite effect. It fools me into thinking that I’m right, and there’s somewhere I have to be.
It’s hard to quantify the value of immersing yourself in another culture. Like a cold shower, it’s all at the same time shocking, refreshing, and invigorating. Once I reached the level of Spanish where I was able to give directions on the street, I felt like I had discovered a secret level on Super Mario Bros..
Suddenly, the world felt bigger. Not only could I now travel in newfound comfort in 13 countries, I had — in the process of learning and living — developed a new understanding of humanity at large: Having a sense of the universality of emotions like happiness, fear, and love; and the myriad…