Let the Plan Rule 4

Before we continue with the list of things you need to do before September 30 — the date you have set as departure for Bogotá to begin your career as a freelance foreign correspondent — let’s talk briefly about money. You don’t have enough of it, and you’re going to need plenty. So, as you write “Depart for Bogotá” on your calendar for September 30, say goodbye to restaurant meals, three-dollar  cups of coffee, movies, and other luxuries. It is time to start living on the bone. Cook* and make your coffee at home. You’ll save a bundle. Move in with your parents if you have to. It won’t be defeat; it will be in service to that tyrant on the calendar. Get rid of your Netflix subscription and use the time you’d otherwise spend zoning out over movies to read books and academic journal articles about Colombia and Latin America. (A good start might be Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, which is an only-occasionally-stridently Marxist analysis of Latin America since the conquest. It will give you a good feel for the essential complaint that Latin America has with Europe and the United States, a complaint that is reflected to this day in much of the region’s politics and economics.) Every time you deny yourself something — that latte, dinner at the hip new place on the corner, etc. — will be a fresh reminder that you’re leaving for Bogotá on September 30, further cementing the plan into reality.**

Stop driving your car to save money on insurance and gasoline, and get yourself a bicycle and a transit pass (if you’re lucky enough to live in a place with transit) instead. In fact, unless it’s a beloved and irreplaceable heirloom, this would be an excellent time to sell the car altogether. You can’t take it to Bogotá, storing it while you’re gone will be difficult and hard on the car itself, and by the time you come back who knows where you’ll be living? You might be a reporter for The New York Times by then, living in a city where you certainly won’t want or need a car. So ditch it, now, and put the money in a new bank account you call “Bogotá.” 

You can use that time you’re saving by not watching movies and TV shows to get your Spanish back, if you’ve ever had it, or to start studying it. I know a Dutchman who taught himself really excellent Spanish in a matter of months by using the program Rosetta Stone. But he’s a Dutchman, with that preternatural knack for languages shared by his countrymen, so don’t necessarily expect the same results. If your Spanish is already solid, as it might be since you’ve chosen Latin America as the place you want to freelance, start on Portuguese. Brazil is a newsworthy place, and reporters who speak Portuguese are rarer, and therefore more valuable, than those who speak only Spanish.


* If you would like some ideas about how to feed yourself cheaply — kitchen equipment you’ll need, how to shop, and some recipes, let me know at danbaum@me.com

** Remember that “leaving for Bogotá” is shorthand for whatever unlikely reality you’re trying to make happen. But, if you’re trying to get a freelance career started and have any Spanish at all, setting yourself up as a freelance correspondent in Bogotá isn’t a half-bad idea. 

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