Welcome to My Latin Life.
A.K.A. The Gentleman's Guide To Loving and Living in Latin America.
I'm Vance, and I'll be your host.
(That's me in the picture, sporting a nasty Panamanian sunburn).
Now, I'm not sure how you found the site.
You may be looking to Rent an Apartment in Mexico City.
Perhaps you were wondering what it's like to live in Lima, Peru.
Could be that you just wanted to know where to find the hottest girls in South America.
Or, maybe you caught wind of my (in)famous City Guides, that will give you an overview of around 80 different Latin American Cities.
Regardless of why your here, I'm glad you came.
And I'm honoured that you're interested in getting to know me.
Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
Just A Small Town Dude, Living In A Lonely World
I was raised in a small town (population: 6,000) in British Columbia, Canada.
And I loved every minute of it.
I had a close group of friends (many of whom I'm still in contact with), plenty of wilderness to explore and everything I needed within walking distance. To this day, some of my best memories are simple things like swimming in the river or playing huge street hockey tournaments with the neighbourhood kids.
But, nothing lasts forever.
When I was thirteen, my mom got a job up the valley and we moved to another town. I left all my friends behind and settled into to a city over 10 times the size.
And let me tell you: I hated it.
I didn't understand the kids. The majority were loud-mouthed and entitled. In my old town, you'd get that beat out of you pretty quick - either by your parents or fellow students. All the teachers were pushovers, incapable of controlling their classrooms.
After going through the first 8 months and failing to meet anyone worth knowing, I decided to say fuck it: I'll be a lone wolf. So, for the next 4 years I focused on school and lacrosse. Nothing more. On the rare occasion I got invited to a party or social event I'd turn it down. If I wasn't at school or playing sports, I'd be chilling at home.
I didn't make my first real friend until 11th Grade (he'd moved from Ontario and hated the city as well).
Wait...Why Am I Telling You This?
Well, it was during this time that my interest in Latin America began. Since I had a lot of time alone those days, I needed a hobby. I recall buying a world map and putting it on the wall of my room. I'd spend hours looking at the damn thing, putting tacks in every city I wanted to visit.
I'm not sure why, but most of the cities were in Latin America.
After the tack-job, I'd hop on the computer, go to the CIA World Fact Book and research the countries. I'd click on Colombia or Argentina and read about all sorts of random shit: GDP, Demographics, HIV rates... I was inexplicably fascinated by these places.
This was all solidified one summer when my family and I took a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. My dad isn't the type to lay around on the beach all afternoon, so the day after our arrival we all took a bus into town.
I was enamoured.
I'll never forget the dusty roads, the crow of roosters and the little school girls in white shirts and black skirts giggling amongst each other on the steps of the town church. Fruit vendors, men with cowboy hats carrying gas tanks, smiling Indigenous women selling sarapes.
This place was full of life. It wasn't like back home.
It was at that moment I knew: If I do nothing else, I will live in a place like this one day.
As regular readers of the blog will know, I eventually did.
But it took a lot of stepping on my dick before I figured things out.
Back to Reality
"Kids with good grades in high-school should go to university."
That's what I was told by my parents and the school's guidance counsellor when I expressed my doubts about post-secondary education.
"But I have no idea what to study."
"Oh it doesn't matter. If an employer sees that you've got a degree, it will put you miles ahead of the competition."
The way I saw it, I had two choices:
1. Use the money I'd saved through years working as a cook during the school year and farm work during the summer to travel, thereby defying my parent's wishes (they'd accept it, but I knew they'd be disappointed)
2. Go to university
Because I didn't trust my own intuition enough, and the only people guiding me were urging the university route, I decided on the latter.
Off I went.
Vance, A College Boy
So, I moved to Vancouver to attend university.
It took me no longer than the first semester to realize it wasn't for me...at least, not yet.
But, instead of doing a smart thing like cutting my losses, stepping away from college and reevaluating, I did a very, very stupid thing.
I went all in.
I remember thinking: Alright, if we're doing this college thing, let's make it as fast and easy as possible.
Instead of studying something I actually might have been interested in, I looked at my grades after the first semester and asked myself: What is the easiest subject that you did the best in?
Biology = B+ (not bad)
Chemistry = B- (not great)
History = A- (decent)
Psychology = A- (could be better)
English = A (well, I guess that's it!)
So, based on that, I pursued a degree in English. I threw in some psychology and economics courses here and there to keep me sane, but I majored in English. I ripped through it (apathetically) in three years, simply parroting the views of my usually-Marxist professors in each one of my assignments.
I graduated with honours.
I was free! And, I was feeling good. Scholarships, working as a copywriter for a real estate company, and as a student advisor for the university (before I got deservedly fired), along with a bit of help from my parents meant that I was debt-free.
I had about zero dollars to my name, mind you, but I was debt free.
Now, I had to get a fucking job.
I moved to a new, touristy city where I knew a few people and rented a small apartment with a friend near downtown. I hit the Internet and applied for everything.
Within 3 days I was hired by STAPLES, an office supply company, to work in the electronic sales department. Two months after that, I quit STAPLES when I was hired to sell jewellery and gift wear, which eventually turned into selling and shipping Cuban cigars (more on that in a future blog post). I also did some landscaping on the side for some cash.
The cigar job was a riot, but not particularly fulfilling.
Nevertheless, I stuck with it for 10 months, coinciding with the end of the apartment rental contract, and then I bailed.
"So what, you're just going to chill out in the Mexican desert?" asked my manager, upon hearing that I'd be quitting.
"Sounds fucking awesome," I said.
"Well, don't get killed. If you ever want to come back, I've got a job waiting for you."
"Thanks man," I said, knowing I'd never work there again.
I spent the next 3 months or so bumming around north and central Mexico.
And goddamn I had some good times down there.
I've got it all written down, but I'm saving those tales for those who join my email list.
Unfortunately I ran out of money and I had to come home (you may be noticing a trend here).
I went back to Vancouver. Once again, I had to start from scratch. I'm not going to lie, I was depressed. I liked Vancouver just fine, but I couldn't shake the thought of life in Latin America. I'd wanted to experience it since I was a kid and, after finally getting stuck into it, I couldn't get enough.
I knew I wasn't going to make it long in Canada this time around.
The Trip That Changed Everything
Eventually, I stumbled my way into a copywriting and content writing position at a small marketing firm in Vancouver. I was working in the same office as my boss, a woefully unstable bitch of a women who called herself a "Social Media Guru." I spent most of my days writing fake Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews, blog posts for a pet insurance company and a dating website designed for spouses to cheat on their wives and husbands, as well as various press releases that I'm sure no one ever read.
It was disgusting work.
One day I snapped.
"Carly. I'd like to work from home. It's difficult to focus on getting any writing done when you're beside me talking on the phone all day.
"No. I need you here to make sure you're doing everything correctly."
"You hired me as an independent contractor, not an employee. I fail to see any reason why I can't work from home. Matter of fact, I'm legally entitled to.
"OK," I said.
I packed up my stuff and left.
About a week later, I found myself on the malecón in Havana, Cuba with a friend, wondering what the fuck to do with my life. I spent the next two weeks or so travelling around the island trying to figure it out.
The trip changed me in a lot of ways. I saw folks with nothing making the best of it; doing what they could to create the life they wanted regardless of their unfortunate circumstances.
And here I was, unsatisfied, despite having all the opportunities in the world. It was unacceptable.
I was unacceptable.
When I came home, I got to work.
I looked for any and every opportunity to make a location independent income through the Internet. I edited how-to ebooks, penned articles for a men's magazine. I even wrote people's essays for them.
Nothing was beneath me.
I wanted to live in Latin America. I had wanted it for the better part of a decade. It was time to take control of my reality and make it happen.
It wasn't easy, but eventually I got my shit together. Once I made my first $500.00 (thus realizing that making money on the Internet was possible) I took a massive trip through Latin America - notebook in hand - jotting down all my observations.
That's where the city guides - and ultimately the blog - were born.
I came back home (again, with no money) and immediately started building my online income. I eventually landed two contract gigs: one for content writing and one for editing and proofreading. As soon as they proved to be relatively stable positions, I didn't waste any time.
I booked a one-way flight to Mexico City, finally achieving my childhood goal of living in Latin America.
But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows - In those 20 months or so in the Mexican capital I went broke a couple times.
Once, in what was a particularly low-point, I found myself boiling tap water because I didn't want to "waste" two dollars on bottled water.
But goddamn was it fun.
Fortunately, things have stabilized, and, for the most part, I've been happily jaunting around Latin America ever since.
As of now, I have four different income streams, two of which are growing fairly steadily each month.
I'm not rich, but I'm not boiling tap water anymore, either.
And that's pretty much my story.
I imagine you're sick of hearing about me by now, but in case you're not, here are 10 interesting facts about me.
(I swear, after this I'll release you to explore the website)
10 Random Facts About Me
1. I'm 27 years old, 6'0", 180 lb.
2. I was almost born with a third nipple, but it never developed. If (god-forbid) you ever see me naked, you'll notice a small pinkish-brown spot below my right nipple. So, that's what that is.
3. I can drink half a bottle of whisky, tequila or vodka without being that drunk, but 5 beers gets me pretty tipsy.
4. Despite travelling extensively, I'm terrible with directions. That part of my brain just doesn't work well. I need to set aside a full day of conscious effort simply to map out the neighbourhood I'm staying in.
5. I didn't own a smartphone until age 25.
6. I fucking love black licorice and I fucking hate that you can't find it in Latin America.
7. I've read over 100 books and watched over 100 movies about Latin America. You can find some of my favourites ones here (books) and here (movies)
8. Despite my voracious interest in Latin America, I don't have a preference for Latinas over any other type of woman.
9. I've been told countless times that I look like a "rich, white Latino."
10. I hold both Canadian and Irish (EU) citizenship. If I don't settle in Latin America, I will likely live in Spain or Portugal.
That was quite a long and self-indulgent "About Me" page. If you got through all that and still don't think I'm insane, shoot me an email because we could probably be friends.
...And that's about it!
If you're wondering how to navigate the site, check out the Start Here Section
If you have any questions or want to chat, toss me an email.
Finally, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy My Latin Life!
Until next time,