Meet Jessica: a 32 year old Wisconsin-born author, animal-lover, and nomad who hasn’t lived in the same city for more than two years since she was 18! Having lived in Barcelona herself, I got a chance to meet her while she was visiting a mutual friend of ours. Her down-to-earth spirit and passion for creativity is what prompted a sit down with her as I picked her brain for my first ‘community’ post; a rendez-vous that was nothing short of wonderful. Her nomadic lifestyle has brought her and her dog Luna to various cities across the Americas and Europe. Now taking a half-court shot at Mexico City, Jessica hopes to settle down and focus her time and energy towards creative projects such as her physio-poetry blog, Skin on Sundays, and writing a logistical guide book to expat living.
I asked her to name one key take-away from all the moving around she’s done and her response was: “Give yourself enough time to find an apartment!” a lesson she learned the hard way while moving to Buenos Aires in 2007. Check out the full story below!
It was my first time living outside of the country not studying abroad. I had travelled before, but this was just me moving there, no job, no nothing. My boyfriend at the time was coming with me. We were both writers and had met in grad school. The plan was to teach English and we had saved money, but not a ton of money thinking it’d be cheaper than living in the U.S., but we happened to be there during the one year it was the most expensive to live in Argentina, ever. We gave ourselves three weeks to find an apartment and stayed in an Airbnb in the meantime. This was 2010 so we were lucky to find a way to rent an apartment online ahead of time.
My main concern was finding a place to stay with my dog Luna that wasn’t a hotel or a hostel. I figured three weeks would be plenty of time thinking there’d be plenty of places available since Buenos Aires is a big city. I’m sure there were, but I couldn’t find them and it’s not like there were Facebook groups like ‘Housing Buenos Aires’. Mind you, my Spanish wasn’t good at the time and Argentine Spanish was even more different than what I had learned. The first week was a shock for us so we mostly stayed inside, drank wine and played cards. It came down to the last week and we hadn’t found anything so the plan was to stay in a hostel and we’d take turns staying out all night with Luna while the other slept. We were terrified and he suggested that we go home and I said ‘absolutely not, we just got here’.
Through Google searching we found some ads similar to Craigslist and found a place. The apartment itself was OK and had a murphy bed, but it wasn’t in a great neighbourhood and it was with a woman in her 90s who’d sit in her rocking chair watching Argentine TV really loud. We were desperate so we agreed to take it and planned on showing up the next day with a deposit. Then I got an email from these two sisters who had inherited a mansion. It was meant for long-term travellers– those staying minimum one month. I told them I had a dog, that she’s a traveller and had lived in many places. They invited us over to come see the place and it ended up being a miracle! There was another guy from Wisconsin who’d been living there a year, a girl from Peru who’d been living there for three years and a guy from France who was 18 and so happy to be coming out as gay. Our room was opening up and they said we could have it.
So I got to live in the most beautiful house in San Telmo which is where all the artists live in the old, colonial-looking Buenos Aires that you see in pictures with all the colours and cafés. It was amazing! I was really close to being homeless or living with that 90 year-old woman in the rocking chair. I’m sure it would have made for some good writing or poetry but I was better off this way.
After that, I swore I would never give myself three weeks to look for a place again. Maybe you need less if you don’t have a dog and because it was 2010 and things weren’t as easy, but even still I’m scarred. Four weeks minimum, six weeks is better. To actually find a place you like and with people you like. Everyone got along with Luna, people fall in love with her. I’ve had her for ten years and I will take this dog anywhere, she’s my baby. I got her before I realized I was going to be travelling and moving outside of the U.S. Since then, it’s just like, would you leave your kid? No, I wouldn’t. She’s like my kid so you just figure out a way. It just builds into your costs after a while. My mom told me that she hopes reincarnation exists so she can come back as my dog and travel.”