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Tango in Argentina

Jim gives an epic guide showing how to work remotely from Buenos Aires.

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Hey everyone! Want to be “location independent” and work from exotic places but don’t know where to start? Today I am going to do an epic, 2,000+ word post AND have several sub-posts with photos and videos as a way to go way overboard and over-deliver on the amount of content you’re going to get.

I always strive to deliver “walk the walk” content to my readers, so after years of hinting at working remotely from a foreign country, I put my money where my mouth was and after leaving my full time job in November 2011, booked a 12-day trip to South America from Dec 29, 2011 – Jan 12, 2012. Where did YOU spend New Year’s Eve?

Below, I detail everything you need to know about working remotely from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Learn the safest neighborhood, best hotel, closest co-working space, 9 ways to generate income, the tech gadgets you’ll need and what to do for fun.

Additional content:
Review: On the road with the Macbook Air
Review: Best hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Review: Urban Station Coworking Space in Buenos Aires
How to set your iPhone for international travel
Gadget packing list for International Travel
How I generated 9 income streams within 30 days of getting laid off
Fun things to do in Buenos Aires while working remotely

Why work remotely?

So the first question you may be asking is, why work remotely? Well, there are plenty of resources out there such as books like The 4-Hour Workweek or The Art of Nonconformity and other blogs that promote the virtues of location independence, so I won’t go into it too deeply.

But it falls into what I’m seeing as the workplace trends that I spoke about in Episode 176, and what this new blog is all about.

Staying at your job and working from an office from 9 to 5 forever and taking the rare 3 day weekend here and there is no way to live. Similarly, the ability to take several weeks off away from the office on a stress-free vacation also isn’t an option for most people.

Working from a Cafe

Face it, the concept of a singular workplace is blurring.

For the majority of people I know, 1-2 hours a day are spent physically at work, yet doing personal things like being active on social media, answering email with friends, and surfing the web. However, 1-2 hours a day are spent outside of the office on their free time, checking on business email or catching up on work projects.

Being able to balance fun and international travel while keeping the bills paid can be a great option in the new economy.

Why Buenos Aires?

I will quote from John Belushi in Animal House:
-Kroger, your Delta Tau Chi name is Pinto.
-Why Pinto?
-[belches] Why not?!?!

Buenos Aires Intersection Street CrowdSeriously, this is how I answered this question. When you do something out of the ordinary that others aren’t used to, such as telling them you’re planning on going to South America by yourself for a few weeks just because, they really don’t know how to handle it.

Why Buenos Aires?

Why not?

Another answer I gave with a smile is, well, Tim Ferriss told me to go there. Listen, I’ve promoted this guy’s book so much I should get royalties, but I’m a believer in not reinventing the wheel, and since I’m trying to emulate the 4-Hour Workweek, why not follow in his footsteps?

I also LIKED that it shocked people. It sounded fun. It sounded exotic. It sounded scary. I wanted to push myself to do something that caused fear and uncertainty.

From a logical point of view, my other reasoning was simple:


It was freezing winter in New York, so why not go somewhere warm and sunny? That ruled out Europe or the Northern Hemisphere. Australia seemed too far. I’ve already been to South Africa. So hello Buenos Aires. Done.

Where to stay in Buenos Aires?

Now the fun part started for me, the research. I love love love the thrill of the search… for flights, for hotels, for neighborhoods.

I had two main considerations: Safety and Convenience

Since I was going to a foreign country that I had no knowledge of, I don’t speak Spanish, and was traveling alone, being in a safe part of town was very very important to me. I also wanted it to be incredibly convenient, with restaurants and cafes outside my door, anything else within taxi range.

Palermo Soho

After much research, I settled on the neighborhood (or barrio) of Palermo Soho. Runners up were Palermo Hollywood and Recoleta. After staying there and visiting all of those neighborhoods, my personal opinion is that I chose correctly and Palermo Soho is the absolute best choice for safety, convenience, and overall location for someone working remotely.

Hotel vs Apartment

This was my most difficult decision. For weeks I was juggling the following:

  • Researching hotels on Trip Advisor, analyzing reviews, locations, and cost
  • Debating going low-end with more of a fun element at hostels
  • Engaging with individuals on AirBnb.com and Roomorama.com to rent a private apartment
  • Doing a vacation swap with my New York City apartment
  • Communicating with apartment rental firms in Buenos Aires

5 Cool Rooms Hotel RoofAll of them had their pros and cons. The hostel would be cheap and beneficial as a solo traveler since it would force interaction with other people, but I’m a little too old for that demo and had security concerns. Apartments were lower cost and some were really amazing, but I was concerned about location, transfer of money, and getting trapped working inside all day – like I was already doing. Finding a person to exchange locations on the exact same dates wasn’t working.

So in the end, because this was my first time there, and I wanted the benefit of being able to speak with people that spoke English in the event of an emergency, I decided on a hotel.

I ended up splitting my time in half, first staying at a place called Five Cool Rooms, and then moving next door to the Soho All Suites. Both had amazing location and a hot tub on the roof. In the end I would highly recommend the Soho All Suites because the rooms were much larger and they have excellent WiFi.

See: Review: Best hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina (including videos and photos)

Getting work done

While relaxing with my laptop in a caf̩ or on the rooftop deck is a great way to get work done Рand one I did often, sometimes you really want to spend several hours in a highly productive office environment.

Based on my recent experience in New York, I decided to investigate co-working spaces. As it turns out, there was an amazing one exactly 1.5 blocks from my hotel. The space was big, bright, and I got a ton of work done. I ended up sitting across from someone from Brooklyn.

Urban Station Coworking

See: Review of the Urban Station Coworking Space in Buenos Aires (including videos and photos)

Gadgets and technology needed for international travelers

Ah, my favorite part – gadgets. No digital media traveler is complete without a personalized list of all the cool things they ‘need’ in order to be productive.

Being a solopreneur often means going against conventional thinking. That’s why, just 2 weeks after getting laid off, my first thought wasn’t to crawl into a turtle shell of radical cost savings, but rather, to strut into the Apple Store and drop $1500 on a new 11′ Macbook Air and upgrade my aging iPhone 3G on AT&T to the new iPhone 4S on Verizon.

Of course, I don’t recommend this if doing so would cause a “can’t-pay-the-rent” level of pain in your finances. But the reason I did so is that I viewed these items as investments to help me make money, rather than expenses costing me money.

– Simply, my iPhone 3G under AT&T was not high enough quality for me to make professional phone calls for my business; when you’re speaking to someone about hiring you, continual dropped calls and apologies doesn’t cut it.

– Secondly, the new Macbook Air solved many problems. It was faster than my old 15′ Macbook Pro. It was smaller and lighter, saving back pain and making it a no brainer to always have with me. And lastly, I feel it exuded a more polished, professional image for me as a consultant and speaker.

See: Review: On the road with the Macbook Air (including videos and photos)

Speaking of my phone, another question that every international traveler has, is what the heck do you do about a phone when traveling?
– How do you avoid killer roaming charges?
– Do you change your plan with your carrier?
– Do you rent a phone when you are there?
– What about something with a sim card?

I considered all of these things, and my decision was to turn off phone and data coverage and rely on Skype, Email, and Wi-Fi. There are 2 specific screens you need to know about to do this, so again, it’s easier explained on it’s own, under:

See: How to set your iPhone for international travel (including videos and photos)

Gadgets for international travel
So in addition to the Macbook Air and my iPhone 4S, the rest of my arsenal was made up of the following:

Kensington travel plug adapter Note that if you have a modern device like a laptop or phone, as long as the charger says it can handle both 110 and 220, you just need this adapter to handle the difference in the outlet size, not voltage. If you have a hair dryer or something like that, do more research.
Sandisk 16GB thumb drive
Transcend adapter to transfer photos from my camera’s memory card to my laptop
Canon T2i DSLR camera and mini tripod
iPod Nano and Nike+ for running and music
Buenos Aires tour book
Ear plugs
Moleskin notebooks

See: Gadget packing list for International Travel (including videos and photos)

Making money while working remotely

Now the tricky part. How do you make money while working remotely? Preparing for a fun trip is well and good, but the ideal scenario is to be able to earn while you travel.

To be clear, this was the very first trip I took in the attempt to work remotely, so in every way I was viewing this as a test. Did I make enough money while I was gone to pay for everything? Definitely not.

But what surprised me, was that I was able to pinpoint 9 different ways I was able to earn some small amount income – or in most cases, create scenarios for future income — while traveling abroad.

Working via SkypeThese include:
1. Renting out my apartment when I was gone
2. Being paid to write a blog post
3. Worked on my podcast, which is sponsored
4. Planning a conference, email saying sign-ups
5. Consulting over Skype for Salary Tutor
6. Plan a Skillshare Class
7. Consult at the hotel in return for a free night
8. Affiliate commission for web hosting
9. Fun Fantasy Football ‘earnings’

See: How I generated 9 income streams within 30 days of getting laid off (including videos and photos)

Fun things to do in Buenos Aires

So lastly, all this seems like a lot of work. What about the fun? Let me say that it was an amazing country. The weather was spectacular, the people were friendly and beautiful, the Palermo Soho was safer than New York, and free, strong Wi-Fi was available in 90% of all the bars, restaurants, hotels, and cafes I went to.

Some of the highlights includeLaBoca Colorful House

  • Cafes like Mott and Bar 6
  • Restaurants like Campo Bravo
  • Clubs
  • Running in their version of Central Park
  • Recoleta Cemetery where Evita is buried
  • Taking Tango lessons
  • San Telmo street fair
  • The colorful buidlings in La Boca
  • The government buildings of downtown
  • Even going to an Ex Pat Bar to watch NFL playoff football

See: Fun things to do in Buenos Aires while working remotely (including photos)

If there’s one thing I regret, it’s that I went at time during the year that there was no professional soccer being played. But hey, that gives me an excuse to go back.

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