Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Buenos Aires - ‘the long stay’

After enjoying temperatures in the upper 20’s and lower 30’s, this week they have plummeted to a chilly 24 degrees centigrade, with a light bright breeze and today unusually, an overcast sky.

Stephanie and I have been here in Buenos Aires since early December, and have now entered our last week. Coming to the end of the trip, some of you have asked how it feels to have been away four months. In particular you have asked about the merits of longer stays abroad; winter in the southern hemisphere; and the prospect of a return home after an extended time away. 

With the change of season the time seems right to reflect back and share our thoughts on our Buenos Aires sojourn.

We have loved wintering in Argentina, but for it to be successful you need to address three principal issues. 

The first is ‘opportunity’. 

Working full-time, the prospect of taking three or four months holiday in one go is problematic, but not impossible. Ideally you need to be rich, self-employed, fully or semi-retired, but requesting sabbatical leave is another possibility, and was the gateway for my first trip to Buenos Aires eleven years ago.

Some of you may have other responsibilities that you see as precluding a longer trip. I have addressed these concerns in a previous blog - with thought and planning they can often be managed at a distance for an extended stay. Frequently having ‘other responsibilities’ is simply an excuse not to take - or to defer - an extended trip.

The next issue is ‘cost’. 

After several trips to Buenos Aires using different airlines, Stephanie and I now simply book a direct British Airways flight from Heathrow, at an individual return cost of 900 pounds. For a journey of 7,000 miles the flight time is inevitably long, so a direct flight is our preferred option. It is possible to source cheaper, indirect flights from London to Buenos Aires, but be warned - those that go via the USA are long, stressful, and require the USA visa (ESTA) to enter and exit even for connecting flights. A further option is to travel London-Paris/Madrid- Buenos Aires, but the saving still leaves a sizeable ticket price. 

Once cheap in Buenos Aires, the cost of accommodation now approaches European prices, so the longer the stay, the more prohibitive the bill. Stephanie and I mitigate this by renting an apartment in the city, driving a preferential deal for an extended stay. Nevertheless, we recommend allowing $50 US per night for accommodation - $350 per week (250 pounds sterling).

The cost of living has risen substantially over the last decade here in Buenos Aires. Ten years ago we received 4-6 pesos in exchange for 1 pound sterling. Today, the Azimo rate (arguably the best way to receive cash here) is 26.97 pesos to the pound. Yet inflation costs have risen so dramatically over the years that your peso buys much less with many prices similar to those in the USA and Europe. That said, wine and beef are a lot cheaper, as is eating out, and of course you don’t face the winter fuel bills.

The third issue is ‘imagination and lifestyle’. 

If you put your mind to it you can come up with a thousand reasons why you should not take long-stay trips. But for Stephanie and me, ‘the long escape’ offers opportunities for a different, varied and exciting lifestyle, with new friends, experiencing a new culture - and of course, enjoying a second summer.

Climate and culture provide the two best reasons to make Buenos Aires as a choice for an extended stay. A smattering of Spanish language helps, but is not essential for Buenos Aires remains the most European of cities in South America by way of outlook. 

Life after a ‘long-stay’ - returning home.

Of course, we are yet to return to the UK, but this is our fourth successive ‘long-stay’ in Buenos Aires so we can make comment on life after Buenos Aires.

Returning home is always difficult. Arctic temperatures in London and the North, and the news from the UK, do not impell return. Yet, a benefit of ‘the long-stay’ is the chance to review with fresh eyes the things you appreciate about home, and the changes you may want to make.

The one inevitability of the long-stay is that the experience does change your outlook. You don’t return as the same person that left months earlier. Your consciousness is enriched, as is your understanding of other people. That is why, whether young, old (or somewhere in between) you should try to find time to travel and, where possible, take the ‘long-stay’.

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