Why I Left Argentina

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I spent the entire year of 2022 in Argentina, from January until December. I have always loved Argentina, from the moment I arrived for the first time in 2005, to the day I boarded my international flight leaving Ezeiza 3 months ago. Argentina had, has and will always have a very special place in my heart. But I left.

I have been traveling and living abroad for the better part of 20 years, and the constant moving around started to get to me. I wanted consistent friends. I wanted community. I wanted to belong to a place. I wanted a home. So I started to think of all the places I truly loved, and for me most obvious answer was Argentina. So last January, I went. I went with the hope of finding my place in the world. I went with the intention of staying for years, if not forever. I left Buenos Aires in January 0f 2006, and spent the next 16 years with a broken heart, longing for the one place I felt I really belonged.

Nicki in Buenos Aires in 2005

My return in January 2022 felt full circle. I had come home. And for several months, it did feel that way. Argentina was my place. I traveled around the country in order to find the perfect city. The place that was meant to be for me, and I for it. Would it be Córdoba? Mendoza? Bariloche? Salta? Buenos Aires again?

I even took a 5-week detour into Peru to hike the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu. I considered traveling a bit more around Peru, but my heart kept telling me to go back to Argentina. So I listened. Argentina was where I really wanted to be. The moment my feet were back on Argentine soil, I could feel it. Yes! I’m home. Everything made me feel I was on the right path.

I traveled deep into the northern Argentine provinces and fell even more in love. Argentina with her red rocks. Her Indigenous cultures. Her food. Her nature.

And then I met someone. A Salteño. We had the same values. We liked the same things. We met in the magical mountains of Iruya and nothing could be more perfect. Our story was romantic, and perfect, and we quickly fell in love. This was exactly what I wanted. A place to call home. A partner to share it with. Everything was falling into place and the universe was proving it to me again and again.

Nicki in Iruya, feeling so happy

He had to move to Buenos Aires for work, so I went with him. We moved in together. We planned our future. We bought house plants, which to me is the truest sign of stability. We bought dozens of house plants.

As much as I loved Argentina, I started to struggle back in Buenos Aires. The city is big, and loud, and full of construction. I struggled with certain cultural aspects which the Salteño, being from Argentina, struggled to understand. My relationship was entirely in Spanish and I started to feel lost in a world I didn’t fully belong to- my second language, my adopted home, a culture I didn’t grow up with. My confidence faltered. My relationship unraveled.

Then my phone was stolen. In the middle of the day, sitting on a restaurant patio, waiting for lunch. My phone was snatched from my hands. I stopped feeling safe in the city and started feeling paranoid. It took me several days before I felt comfortable to leave the apartment on my own again. This is when the anxiety began. Every day at 4am. Anxiety became my alarm clock. I started questioning every choice. Every thought. Every feeling. Every emotion I had.

Everything started looking ugly. Buenos Aires no longer felt magical to me. I was frustrated by the noise. I was angered at the dog poo on every street. I was exhausted by the money situation in Argentina. I was tired all the time. Tired of speaking my second language. Tired of thinking so much about what I had to say. Tired of not always being understood. Tired of being asked if Americans eat hamburgers and french fries for every meal.

I felt ready to cry at any moment. I was living on the edge of every emotion; anything could push me off that ledge. I went to the national library in Recoleta, and as I was leaving, my card didn’t work to scan me out of the building. The security guard shouted something at me, but my brain was too foggy to comprehend. Another man passed me and dropped his card in a hole rather than scan, and I followed his lead. I was out the door, with tears in my eyes. I walked to the corner and sat on a concrete ledge, ready to cry in public. The security guard followed me to this corner to tell me I couldn’t sit there. The tears came harder. I rushed down the concrete ramp and found a place in the hilly park across the street where I felt nobody could see me. More tears.

I stood up to leave and walked a few minutes down the street until I stepped in dog poo. What was the universe telling me now? Maybe I didn’t belong here after all. There is dog feces on every corner of every street in Buenos Aires, and now I am standing in the middle of it. Juicy and fresh. As I scraped my shoe along the edge of curb, I knew I needed to make some changes.

The next several months were full of hard conversations. Both with myself and the Salteño.

By late October I knew one thing for certain. I needed to leave Buenos Aires for a bit to restore my sanity. I needed the fog to clear. I needed to sleep a whole 8 hours without my anxiety waking me up every morning. When I mentioned this to the Salteño, it lead to further conversations and ultimately the end of our relationship.

Three days later I was on a flight to Mendoza.

Questions swirled in my head. If we’re not together, do I stay in Buenos Aires? If I don’t stay in Buenos Aires, do I stay in Argentina? Where in Argentina? Which city?

Nicki enjoying the nature at the Cacheuta Thermal Baths in Mendoza

I spent the next month in nature between both Mendoza and Bariloche, and as fulfilling and nurturing as it was, I came to one main conclusion. I wanted to go home. Feel home. Because I don’t have a physical home, and the home I thought I was creating was crumbling, I needed my people. My people are my home. But my people were not in Argentina. I had no support system in Argentina.

Almost exactly one year after I arrived, I was back at the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. This time leaving the country that could have been my forever. I didn’t go to Argentina for him. I had no idea I would meet him. But after our relationship fell away, the dream I had of making Argentina my home seemed to fall away with it. It no longer felt right.

And so I left.

I spent the next three months in the United States, traveling around, visiting friends. Spending time with family. I met my baby niece.

I’m not saying I’ll never go back to Argentina. More than likely, I will. I love it too much to not go back. I just need some time away.

In a couple weeks I’m off to Mexico.

I know this isn’t my regular blog information-bestowing content that you can usually find here. But if you enjoyed hearing a more personal side to travel, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter on Substack. Over there things I talk about what goes on in the background of a full time digital nomad’s brain (and heart).


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