When I traveled to Argentina, it was March 2019, a very promising year when no one suspected what was coming. 2019 was my best year, the year where I decided to join the Digital Nomad community. I quit my 9 to 5 even though the pay was pretty good. There were also certain commodities about my previous job as project manager in a translation agency. But like most of you, I wanted something else, something different, and I wanted to travel. I wanted to be free and independent.
Learning about Workaway
One of my very close friends went to Brazil a couple months before. She wanted to brush up on her Portuguese and visit a few friends. She stayed in Rio for a while, working in a hostel through the Workaway program and she introduced that concept to me. So I went to visit her in January 2019 and loved the idea of working somewhere in exchange for accommodation.
When I came back to Croatia I started browsing the web and reading more about Workaway. I finally decided to take my chances working at the front desk of B.A. Stop hostel in Buenos Aires. As volunteers, we worked 3 days a week and had 4 days off. We had a bed in a shared dormitory and a basic breakfast included. My mother went ballistic when I told her about my plans but nothing could really stop me! I always had Argentina in the back of my mind for some reason that I don’t even remember anymore. So I just packed my bags and left.
For all budget travelers, before the pandemic hit, hostels were the place to be. Having a good time meeting other people, usually in a good central location, or near the beach, you would have an incredible stay for a relatively low price. And if you applied to volunteer through Workaway you hit the jackpot; meeting locals, doing something good for the community and staying somewhere for free.
My 2019 Workaway experience was the time of my life – I met a lot of amazing people, stayed close friends with some of them to this day. I experienced Buenos Aires to the extent not a lot of visitors can and most importantly, learned a lot about myself. It was in Argentina that I realized the opportunities that digital nomad lifestyle offered. I joined the meetups of Digital Nomads in Argentina, met the brains behind Nomads Giving Back and other organizations that put focus on volunteering for the community.
I decided I didn’t want to go back to my “old” life working in an office from sunrise to sunset. I’d had enough of waking up at 7 am, commute, sit at a desk having the same view of a parking lot every day. No more daydreaming about vacation, my 30 days that I had to wait for months to get. Even then I had to hope it would be approved for the days I want to, to be able to book those flight tickets that I just found were cheapest at certain dates. Otherwise you end up spending a fortune because your boss decides to give you 3 weeks starting right after the discounted options.
I didn’t want to depend on anybody anymore telling me what to do and when to do it. Instead I wanted to make my own decisions at the time I wanted to make them. I’d discovered a type of courage in me that I didn’t know was there. Maybe a part of it was the Argentine spirit that calls for a fight, the solidarity people have for the groups they belong to. Coworkers standing together against those above; a kind of socialist movement that is almost forgotten in the Western world is what keeps their nation together.
Fighting against all odds, and surviving the inflation, country’s numerous bankruptcies year after year, pay cuts and layoffs, food shortages, power outs and everything that you could think of. Especially for those who lived in the late 80s and the 90s (and especially in the Balkans).
Walking down the streets of Buenos Aires Microcentro (the city center) had me feeling like I was in a time capsule. I just had flashbacks of what it was like in the old Yugoslavia that I heard about from my parents. Full of memorabilia shops, second hand clothes, and repair shops where you could get your typewriter fixed (do you even know anyone who still uses those?). As well as shoe repair shops, hardware stores in case you needed some parts to repair something by yourself at your home (like a washing machine for example because it is expensive to call a person to fix it for you).
The Argentine Spirit
There is a special kind of resilience that those in Argentina have and it is influenced by their political history and dance. The daily life of unions’ marches and protests, political speeches and complaints and a nightlife of tango and passion. A way to stick together despite the injustice, despite the pain. A lot of people I met were people from Buenos Aires, or from other areas that came here to find jobs.
They are musicians or poets, artists, accepting any kind of day jobs to survive. But when the sun sets, they live their real lives. They played gigs in some underground clubs. Perhaps they recited poetry in artsy bars or cultural centers like the one in Recoleta or CC Kirchner. Some even ran a side project. They were all around me, like my photographer friend Ines, who used to work as our hostel manager. Mauro, another friend who moved to Buenos Aires from Mar del Plata to start a band. He ended up working at the hostel for over 10 years, doing music off the clock.
The nightlife is one of the core elements that make Argentina into what it is, whether a digital nomad or not. A living and breathing entity roaring with passion into the night, screaming “I am alive, you will never defeat me, I put my soul, my heart and my life into this fight!” – alma, corazon y vida (soul, heart and life) – that’s what the Argentines give and put into everything, just like the folklore song (of the same title) says.
To be a digital nomad who impacts a community, and lets the community impact them, goes beyond just moving from one place to the other and taking photos in front of must-see sights. It means stripping yourself to the bone with the people around you,. It means letting yourself be absorbed in the culture you explore and giving back in the same intensity. The intensity that I experienced as a digital nomad in Argentina surely isn’t lacking. I have taken it with me and integrated into my being when I left Buenos Aires, in July 2020.
Next week I will share with you how it was to explore the far south of Argentina and reach the world’s southernmost town – Ushuaia, in Patagonia, within the aspects of responsible travel, so stay tuned and for any questions – hit our Facebook and Instagram pages.
by Antonija Bosanac
Antonija was born and raised in Split, Croatia. Now a restless traveller gone digital nomad in 2019, she’s passionate about building communities, volunteer work, education and human & civil rights. Currently working as a coach in the field of interpersonal communication and self development, she’s promoting change through individual work with clients; as well as being en route to getting a degree in psychotherapy. For her current location, check her Instagram profile.