January 21, 2013

The Latin American Experience. ~ Nadine Koehle

My trip was a first in many ways.

It was my first time to the continent of Latin America. The first time traveling outside of Europe completely on my own. The first time that I knew that chances of getting around with English might be very low. Without any Spanish skills I started my trip to Buenos Aires via Rome a couple of weeks ago and I’m telling you—I was honestly shitting my pants.

Even though I love traveling those long distance flights always make me feel a bit awkward, especially when I’m traveling on my own. Do you know the feeling of being scared of never coming back? Not seeing your loved ones anymore? Never seeing the places anymore which you love? Fearing not being able to do all those things you’re still dreaming and looking forward to in your life? Well, this time this feeling was particularly intense for me. Don’t ask me why—I guess it’s because I am in a really good and happy phase in my life and don’t want it to stop yet.

With all those thoughts about life and death and all the recommendations and warnings of my friends on my mind (“you gotta see this and that, but don’t go there on your own and don’t do this at night, bla bla…”), I started my trip without knowing yet that it was going to be one of the best in my life. The plan was to stay in Buenos Aires for three days and then go to Montevideo for one week of work with SOS Children’s Villages, the NGO I work for. Then back to Buenos Aires by ferry, two more days there for some interviews with my Argentine colleagues and then back to Rome.  I knew that I would be taken care of my lovely colleague in Uruguay, but in Buenos Aires I decided to stay on my own. And well, those days on my own were a big challenge and experience for me! Finding my way around without knowing any Spanish, overcoming my fears of tiny, normally absolutely normal things like taking a subway or a bus—every time I kicked my own ass and just did it, they all made me feel a bit braver and stronger from hour to hour. Exploring this amazing city of Evita was exhausting but enormously rewarding. I wanted to inhale everything and just make the very most out of it.

So my list of personal highlights is long, but maybe you can use it as inspiration of what to do if you spend some time there. Also, I collected some of my personal recommendations and tips. Maybe there’s someone out there who could find them useful and besides, it keeps my memories alive.

#1 Walk, walk, walk, walk. Exploring a city, even though it is big (BA has over 13 million inhabitants!), is not only good for your bum, it also makes you see so much more!

#2 Don’t be scared! And even if you are—stop worrying! Good attracts good and after this trip I can confirm this yogic these more than ever.

#3 Kick your ass! Yes, I know, it’s tempting to be lazy. But when you’re visiting a new country or a city for the first time (and it’s maybe freakin’ far away and you don’t know when the next time might be), try to make the most out of it. I promise, it’s so worth it.

#4 Enjoy it! Pure happiness on your own is a very intense feeling. Yes, it’s nice to share those moments with someone, laugh together, take photos and enjoy the beauties of life together. But enjoying those moments on your own, the feeling of doing it on your own and finding your own way is very rewarding.

#5 Appreciate the little things. The sun came out again? An old man on a bench starts talking to you? A young couple in love is sharing their Mate tea? You see a toddler on the ramla (beach promenade) making his first steps of his life? This is pure beauty! Open your eyes and your heart to others and you will be rewarded with moments of pure joy.

#6 Never forget music! I know, there are people who find it disturbing always to run around with headphones. But for me personally, the right music makes my experiences even stronger. The right, relaxing music for a long flight, inspiring music for the waiting hours reading at airports and ferries, animating music for exploring the city and pumping music for my beloved powerwalks at the ramla. I had all the tunes with me and they stay with me to make me smile countless times now that I am back.

#7 Be open! Being open without prejudices is not always an easy task. Considering myself pretty open even I get trapped by my subconsciousness when I see someone for the first time. This time I met loads of new people—people who crossed my ways, people I was set up meeting through others, people who are willing to spend some of their free time with total foreigners exploring a city on their own, like me! I can only say that I was impressed—by hospitality, conversations, fun and by reconfirming my strong belief in people. And the world is full of them if you are open.

#8 Give something back. This is my last point. And I am still thinking of it everyday I am back. I think giving back starts in each moment itself. It’s how you treat people, how interested you are in them, how open you are for adventures, how grateful you are and how open and honest you are in conversations. Giving back can mean so many things! Sharing a compliment, trying to talk—even though you don’t know the language, offering help or a hand but also staying in touch and looking after others. And this effects my work as much as my private life.

I feel truly blessed after this trip. For a great job, which I love, great people I work with and for seeing the great work that we do worldwide in real. I feel grateful meeting lots of inspiring, interesting people but also for being myself, cause only like that I could experience everything as intensely as I did.

Okay, now let’s turn to my personal highlights of my trip. These were the things and places I enjoyed the most:

Buenos Aires

* Chillhouse: Q lovely, simple but very stylish and relaxed hostel with lovely people who always offer great advice and have an open ear for your questions.

Empanadas & beer: Forget about your diet and about eating to many carbs. Those are worth it! You get them everywhere with all different kinds of fillings (I liked spinach, cheese and onions the best) and they go just perfectly down with a nice cold cerveza (beer). Nothing nicer than a long stroll around the city and then reward yourself with a local snack like that. And even though I don’t like deep fried stuff normally: the deep fried version is just awesome, too!

* Public transportation: A story ín itself. I think you only see the half truth of the city if you don’t find your way with public transportion. Especially buses give you a great ride around and make you improve your orientation a lot! Yep, I made peace with good old paper maps.

Recoleta: The world famous cemetery where Evita Péron was buried. But less because of them, rather more because of the beautiful graveyards and ornaments it’s worth walking around there and enjoy the clash between those old, artful statues and buildings and the high skyscrapers in the background. What I liked even better was the lovely market all around the entrance when you leave the cemetery where they sell all the typical things like Empanadas, Alfajores (a typical sweet which is just divine!), products of beautiful leather, huge earrings and all the other trendy things which are just in fashion (right now everything there was in neon colors and related to love and peace).

* Palermo: Yes, everybody who recommend me to go there was so right! For me it was the nicest part of my strolls. Actually, the whole walk from Recoletta to Palermo Soho is great and shows you the different sides of Palermo: huge parks, the Malba Design museum, the Japanese garden, the metal flower and tons of people on bikes, roller blades, skateboards etc. Finally arriving in Palermo Soho it reminded me a bit of Portobello in London—this trendy, bohemian district is just too cool to leave it again! Honestly, I couldn’t even start digging my head in all the creative and interesting shops. The atmosphere is vibrating and buzzing and even just having a drink and watching people pass by is so much fun!

* Catedral de tango: Something not to be missed. Cynthia, my Cicerones guide who has been dancing tango since she was a teen, brought me there on a Saturday night for a tango class. No, I didn’t understand the teacher and no, my partner couldn’t speak a word of English—but yes, I would do it again. It was so much fun!

* San Telmo: A lovely Sunday market perfect for a stroll after breakfast. Again, it’s worth it to go by bus in the morning to arrive there before the big crowds come and it’s getting full of hustle and bustle. Perfect to buy some little presents for your lovelies at home or some memories for yourself.

* La Boca: Much better than it’s reputation. Or maybe I was just lucky going there on an early Monday evening. I didn’t feel that it was overcrowded, neither did I feel in danger at any time. This district, which used to be a multicultural melting pot where the tango originated, is so pretty with all its colorful houses and should definitely not be missed!

* Puerto Madero & Puente de la Mujer: Last but not least, I saw one of my favorite highlights! It’s a quite new, modern district with beautifully restored brick stone warehouses and perfect for a walk in the evening hours. The bridge of the women, Puente de la Mujer, makes a lovely stop with a beautiful setting at the water.

Cicerones: Without them my visit would have not been the same. Cicerones is an NGO where locals take you out and show you “their” Buenos Aires. I was super lucky to go out with two very nice people, both young, fun and open minded and we ended up getting on so well together that it really felt like having new friends there when I left! 


This part is a bit shorter as we were mainly working the whole time. Still I would like to share my personal highlights:

* The rambla in Montevideo: For me the highlight of the city. Endless and endless and endless paths for walking, the rambla goes all along the coast of the country. First along Rio Plata and later on when the river ends in the Atlantic ocean. All the life happens there. As it was spring, you could see people’s souls waking up after weeks of rain and bad weather, and everybody loves to hang out at the rambla. Thank God I brought my running shoes with me to go on some energizing powerwalks after work ! The sun only went down at 8.30 pm so it was simply but truly wonderful.

Punta Carretas: On the grounds of an old prison they built a beautiful shopping center with lots of interesting shops in the area around. Incredible what you can make out of an old prison!

* Punta del Este: On our day off my dear colleague Tami took me on a day trip to Punta del Este. Coming out of the city was great and driving through the country side of Uruguay was pure pleasure after a week of working in the city. Nature, nature, nature, all green and lush—they have a really beautiful countryside!

When it comes to wines: I found them simply delicious in both countries. The reds and the whites—Malbec, Tannat— were really gorgeous.

The only thing I did not like that much was the world famous Assado. So many people told me I would get the best meat of my life but maybe it’s because I hardly ever eat red meat or my taste just changed—I tried, but was not too impressed with it.

So, guys—if you are still reading this you’ve been very patient! I hope you can related to some of those things or will let me know if you share/ disagree with some of my thoughts and experiences. Keep on enjoying the pleasures of life!

Nadine Koehle’s big passions are yoga and food. She enjoys eating, cooking, exploring new restaurants, cafés and bars—no matter if it’s for a nice coffee, long breakfast or a smoothie in the sun. Luckily all of this suits perfectly with one of her other passions: traveling. Which means even more to explore! Food, nature, new people, shops, spas—it’s all about the pleasures of life. Connect with Nadine via email at [email protected], on Facebook  or her blog. Every like and share makes her day a little brighter!




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Assistant Ed: Malin Bergman
Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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