The Village View

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back on the grid

Well, my regular blog readers (thanks Mom & Dad) may have noticed I took a bit of a hiatus over the Christmas break. I'm actually not even back in the office yet, but at my folks' house in Florida. Heading back to NYC tomorrow.

I spent 10 days in Argentina, mostly in Buenos Aires, but also a few days in the wine area of Mendoza. If you're not familiar with Argentine wines, they are generally a good value wine. My favorite varietals are Malbec (red) and Torrent├ęs (white). I took a half day tour to two wineries: Lagarde and Terra. Here's a few pics:

From Argentina 06 07


From Argentina 06 07


I also took a trip up into the Andes (or past the foothills, but before you get to the really big stuff). Went to the entrance of Aconcagua park. Aconcagua is, as I'm sure you're all aware, the tallest mountain in the Americas. 6900+ meters or over 21,000 feet. Most of the area out there is pretty arid and some of it reminds one of the desert Southwest in the US. More pics for your viewing pleasure:

From Argentina 06 07


From Argentina 06 07


From Argentina 06 07



I spent most of the time visiting a couple of friends in Buenos Aires. As much as I love New York, I think that Buenos Aires is my favorite city in the world. I say this having lived there during the beginning of a crisis. Currently, Argentina (and especially Buenos Aires) are booming - something like 8% GDP growth for the last 3 years (if my memory and Spanish reading skills are serving me correctly). There are apartment buildings going up everywhere - nice ones too. The kind I could never afford to live in in New York - the kind my investment banking friends don't even live in, well, ok, almost. Not a few of the apts are being bought by foreigners, including Americans.
The place is jammed with US and Brazilian tourists. The Brazilians have always been going there, but the number of Americans was new. When I lived there (98-01) there were few American tourists. The Americans you saw were mostly business people or the occasional fly fisher/hunter in the domestic airport heading south. Not any more, BA has become fashionable. And why not, it's a European-esque city where you can have a fantastic meal at literally a 1/3 of the price it would cost you in New York.

Here's a pic of me on New Years Eve at my friend's weekend house - we had a traditional Argentine asado:
From Argentina 06 07


My Argentine friends were pressing me to move back telling me how well I could live on my US$ salary. I can imagine; I lived well when I lived there and I earned a 1/3 or less of what I do now. (It also seems to have gotten safer than when I was there 3 years ago. My friends were comfortable with me taking taxis, something they discouraged 3 years ago.)

It got me thinking about this whole idea of "location arbitrage" that I read about in Life 2.0. Someone left this book lying around the office and I picked it up. The basic idea as I understood it of this type of arbitrage is to earn coastal US salaries while living in low cost areas. It talks a lot about folks who worked for years in the Valley or in New York, but then went back to Iowa or Minnesota and kept earning about the same amount, but bought huge houses etc and had much better commutes and more family time. Now, I'm greatly simplifing the premise, but it does make sense. SAP is a pretty virtual company and I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't move back to Florida (Orlando or even Miami) or to a lower cost tech hub (Austin - hang out with Charlie and Cote, or Raleigh). I even played around with one of those cost-of-living calculators and looked at some real estate sites. Needless to say, I could probably live "very well" in Raleigh or Orlando. I'm defining "very well" as in I could afford to buy a nice place, pay less tax, have more disposable income etc. However, as a single, still young-ish, guy, and for a lot of intangibles, I don't think I could get myself to leave New York (or maybe San Francisco) just yet. Anyway, it was an interesting thought process and I feel good about where I live (at least until I talk to my buddies in Florida who are paying less for their mortgage then I am for my much smaller apt). But, back to reality....

I'm going to start back on my regular posting schedule now and will go back to mostly software/tech topics - so if you want any more vacation photos, ping me and i'll send you a link.

Happy New Year!

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