Marlo Perry grew up in Australia but has spent most of her life working and travelling around the world. She talks to us about her current home Buenos Aires.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I was born and spent the first 17 years of my life in Melbourne, Australia.
How did you end up in Buenos Aires?
Before settling in Buenos Aires I had spent 3 years working as a tour guide in South America, travelling with groups of tourists around the entire continent. I got to know many of the major cities including, Rio, Sao Paulo, Santiago and Lima. And of all these cities I knew that Buenos Aires was one of the only ones that would hold my interest for more than a month.
Have you lived abroad before?
I have spent most of my life outside of Australia. For around six years I lived and worked as an overland tour guide. This means I never had a base or ‘home’ but spent my time travelling with small groups of tourists moving with them every 2 days from town to town.
I had this life style for three years in South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand) and for another three years in South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina)
I have also lived for nearly two years in Peru – firstly as an exchange student in 1997 when I lived with a host family and studied at the local high school. I returned four years later to spend more time there with a bit of work and a bit of travel.
So what’s so good about Buenos Aires?
I love Buenos Aires because just when I think I have ‘figured out’ the city, the system and the people something will happen that will completely destroy the illusion of my understanding.
I love the feeling of the city, its pretentiousness and its beauty. There is always something going on and plenty of new places to explore.
And what don’t you like?
The food! A short term visitor will be overwhelmed by the tasty cheap steaks and great wine. But you can only live on steak and wine for so long. After my years spent in Asia I truly miss good spicy food, fiery soups and hot curries.
Argentine food lacks flavour and diversity. Chinatown in Buenos Aires is only about two streets. There is a very small Asian community for such a major cosmopolitan city and unfortunately they have not been able to introduce their phenomenal food to the local Argentines. The are numerous Chinese restaurants but they serve food for the Argentine palate so it is really bland with little spice. I can easily count the number of Thai, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants that are in the city. There really is little diversity in food!
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
A middlesider! Although I am tall, pale freckled skinned and blond unlike many cities in South America on first looks I could be from Buenos Aires.
No-one will assume you are not local unless
a) you speak and you don’t have a Porteño (Buenos Aires Spanish) accent
b) you are wearing hiking boots, and carrying a day pack and wandering the tourist sights with a guide book.
How do you support yourself?
After my years on hands on experience in the tourism industry I have now started my own tourism company, Vamos Adventure Travel. It is a component of a language school, Vamos Spanish Academy.
We work with WHL travel, promoting tours and activities in Buenos Aires online as well as Urban Adventures, a worldwide provider of unique day tours.
Any advice for wannabe Porteños?
Learn the language. This is a Spanish speaking country and English will only get you so far – usually paying triple the prices for anything and poor service!
Is the move permanent?
As permanent as my moves are!
Finally, tell us about something typically Buenos Aires
Fernet and coke, is a typical (alcoholic) local drink. Indescribable so you will just have to give it a try!
Marlo Perry manages the Buenos Aires WHL program for accommodation and tours in Buenos Aires and also offers free travel advice to the language students at Vamos Spanish Academy
When she isn’t finding the perfect jungle lodge for her clients she still finds the time to cycle the length of Brazil, Uruguay, Vietnam (8 times) and the width of Argentina and Cambodia (twice), summit a couple of 6000m mountain peaks in Bolivia, walk the Inca Trail (over 20 times), or run a marathon in Bangkok, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
Tango photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude
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