The ease of being

A Mariachi Band crashing your house party – only in Mexico.

Have you ever been in South America? If so, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I highly recommend you visit this part of the world.

Four months into my remote work experience here in South America I’m having trouble imagining going back to a world with less music, less dancing and less of an easy going, chilled and laid-back attitude, not to speak about the weather.

Despite all the hardship, the obvious disparity and the resulting social and political unrest the people are facing in this part of the world, they have a much more positive approach to life than the average European has.

All of the countries I had the chance to live in for a while are struggling with a huge disparity between rich and poor. But nevertheless, they never seem to lose their smiles and optimism.

Viva la vida!

Medellin/Colombia for instance – the City of Eternal Spring – has transformed from a violent past into a hub of entrepreneurship and an up and coming tourist destination. Colombia was seen as dangerous and conflict-ridden, a country known for drug wars, violent crime, poor infrastructure and corruption. Spending a month in Medellin I have not had a minute where I felt in danger or uneasy. Colombia still has problems, no doubt, but it is rebranding itself and I would not hesitate to return to Medellin, to its music, to the incredible landscape, the variety of birds not found anywhere else on the planet, to the rich literature culture and last but not least the modern and lifestyle hub it has become. Viva la vida!

The same is true for Santiago de Chile. A city that has been making international headlines for the last few months with people taking to the streets to raise awareness about an insane disparity in income. As I learned, the minimum wage in Chile’s private sector is approximately 350,000 Pesos, less than 500 Euros, and employees in public sector companies’ bag in millions of Pesos – some senators in Chile earn more than our German chancellor Angela Merkel…

But it’s not only about the money, it is about opportunities – be it in education, health care or equality in general. A message the protesters (most of them students) plastered around the city in countless graffities. They express their anger, their frustration, but also the hope for a new Chile. A blooming and economically stable country that wants to leave the past behind, especially the not so distant past during the cruel Pinochet dictatorship and its violation of human rights, tortures and disappearances. The people of Chile are fighting for a country where dignity is a habit.

And as far as I can tell, they have not lost their hope and optimism. I’ve hardly ever came across a nation that is distant and reserved at first but once you’ve cracked their shell is welcoming and warm hearted.

357 eyes and we can still see – a strong message about pain and hope.

Pursuit of happiness

Having spent the past four months in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile and now Mexico I got a taste of freedom, a taste of what is really important in life and especially a taste of what the ease of being can mean. Far away from our European or American way of life of buying things to be happy, I found my happiness in just being. Life is more lively here, there is more life to be lived there, the pursuit of happiness is not just an empty phrase.

I also have to admit that living out of a suitcase and sharing my accommodation with at least one or two other people contributed to it. I always thought that having more, is making me happier. That collecting possessions and making a lot of money defines who we are. It’s not. It is how we connect with other people, it’s the meaningful conversations, the walks in a city that you have never seen before, the experiences and the pure joy of being that makes a life happy. At least for me.

Connecting with people, having meaningful conversations and experience the world together – this is my happiness.

New Year’s Eve the Chilean way

NYE with some of my fellow remotes.

New Year’s Eve or Silvester as we call it in Germany is usually the biggest party of the year. You go out, dance on the streets and marvel at the countless fireworks at midnight. Not here in Santiago de Chile. At least not this year. Because of the unrest in recent months, there was no official firework and private fireworks are not allowed. It was an unusual sight to walk the streets in Santiago after midnight and not spotting a single soul.

Nevertheless, celebrating the start of a new year and a new decade here in Chile was memorable. In this part of the world festivities like this are a family affair. Being very family orientated, the Chileans prefer to have their parties at home with family and friends. Something I admire. And if they go out – as we discovered during our NYE dinner show at a reputed restaurant – they include the whole family. We had four generations sitting at the table next to us, obviously having an amazing time together and interacting with each other, chatting, laughing, dancing – no mobile phone to be seen. Unfortunately, in our yet so modern world, we do not see this very often anymore. Actually, pretty sad.

Interesting to see was also that NYE parties here in Santiago only start after midnight and it’s mostly the younger generation that turns night into day and party until the sun comes up. So, the people here in Santiago de Chile certainly do know how to party – they just do it in a more family orientated way.

When you plan to go to Chile and end up in Brazil

Airplane
Image by Nils Nedel

Don’t ever leave me in front of a computer to book a flight without supervision. As I was trying to sort my (direct) flight from Dubai to Santiago de Chile – the first stop of my Remote Year adventure – I happened to notice that there is a “technical stop” during the 20-hour long flight. In Rio de Janeiro!

Intrigued by the thought of stopping in Brazil’s famous seaside city – home of the Christ The Redeemer statue, the Copacabana and the Sugar Loaf Mountain – my mind started wandering. I already pictured myself taking images of the famous coastline from atop Mount Corcovado, strolling along Ipanema Beach and checking out Rio’s Lapa and Santa Teresa districts.

Rio de Janeiro
Image by Raphael Nogueira

Usually my favorite airline Emirates offers free stopovers, so I paused the booking process and gave them a call. To my dismay the lady on the other end told me that a stopover in Rio is not possible – we’re not even supposed to leave the plane.

Can you imagine how I felt, imagining sitting on the tarmac in Rio de Janeiro and not having the possibility to explore the world’s second largest city? So, I’ve spent the afternoon searching several flight portals and bingo – with a few twists and turns I was able to get my stopover and are now fortunate enough to spend three days in South America’s Samba capital. Imagine the grin on my face ;).

Samba, Bossa Nova, breathtaking landscape, here I come!