“I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy.” -Anaïs Nin
It’s not enough to be a tourist, a two-week vacationer that only gets to experience the beauty of resorts and pre-packaged fun. It’s better to be an adventurer, a world traveler, a dare devil, a young 20-something woman living abroad. It’s easy to get caught up between finishing your degree, starting a 9-5 job, paying down credit cards, and chipping away at those student loans. But the truth is that the job and debt aren’t going anywhere; your youth is fleeting. It’s time to get serious, pack your bags, and experience a new life. Move to a foreign country, up your quality of life, and try something different for six months.
I moved to Brasil in September of 2011 with no savings, some credit cards, and a few freelance gigs. I had invested all of my money in the production of my magazine, Corset, and my documentary, Bideology. So with nothing to lose (literally) and time to kill before my investments paid off, I decided to take a risk and move to country that’s fascinated me since college.
I arrived to find that rent could be sky high or dirt cheap, depending on whom you know. I’ve paid anywhere from $200-$500 per month for a room (and yes, $500 is expensive in Bahia, Brasil). I found that food can cost New York City prices if you eat in the tourist saturated areas, or it could be like the dollar menu if you eat inside local non-tourist neighborhoods. And I’ve learned how to enjoy free fun with street festivals and beautiful beaches at my unlimited access.
But the truth is that had I come to Bahia as a temporary tourist with plans to only “vacation” for a week or two, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out the majority of the information listed above. Moreover, Bahia is also a place that is not connected very well with the Internet. So all of the job opportunities for teaching English or working at a hostel come through making in-person visits and connections. Basically, you have to step out of your comfort zone and just move here. You can’t always plan things, and unless you’re “in” it, you won’t succeed.
Overall, it took me about four months to get to the point where jobs, affordable rent, and cheap food were at my front door. I turned down the English teaching job because I wanted to travel to Rio de Janeiro, where I’m currently staying now, and because my freelance gigs started to pick up. You’ll find that American dollars goes a long way in certain countries, particularly in impoverished, high unemployment areas. Even pulling in just $1000 a month makes you wealthy to the local population. So better to garner remote income than join the local economy.
So how do you do it? How do you, a 20-something-year-old woman, make the big move abroad? How do you learn a new language? Find an affordable place to stay? Eat well but cheaply? And get that plane ticket?