Why do I want to leave St. Louis, Mo., a medium-sized, mostly suburban city in the heart of the Midwest? I don’t like it, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d leave as soon as I completed my MBA. I’ve lived elsewhere for brief stints within the States, but always seem to come back.
I’ve been back almost three years and life is so boring that I have gotten back into the habit of getting in trouble. A few weeks ago at the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade, I punched three guys consecutively in a crowded bar. My cousin said one must’ve had a broken nose there was so much blood. I was so drunk I wouldn’t have recognized them if I saw them later that same night.
Two days later at the Dogtown parade, my partner-in-crime George shot me with a BB gun. I hit him with a full beer. We almost traded blows. Then his Hennessy-drinking friend and I almost traded blows. Then George beat up his Hennessy-drinking friend while I held back the other Hennessy-drinkers so it’d be fair. At Delmar Lounge after my going-away party, George punched somebody and my brother kicked him in the head. This guy and his friends waited for us outside but nothing happened because a cop was parked right there.
I wake up hung over most days. I’m lucky if I can get some exercise in before I start drinking again. I love my friends but I don’t see them enough to stay.
St. Louis has been on a long decline since the 1960s, with no end in sight. I don’t blame the politicians. I blame the people. St. Louis native Tennessee Williams, author of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie,” said of St. Louisans, “I found St. Louisans cold, smug, complacent, intolerant, stupid and provincial. … I hate the place.” I agree. There aren’t enough interesting ideas here to keep my mind occupied, and “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
After grad school, I assumed I’d get a job in New York, Chicago, or some other big business hub. I just want more.
Plans have changed. In 2006, at 27 years old, I traveled outside the United States for the first time and fell in love with it. I caught the travel bug. The next summer I took two more international trips. Altogether, I spent five weeks in London, Amsterdam, Lithuania and Brazil.
I went to UMSL, which was ranked eighth in the nation for International Business (tied with Georgetown). I took leadership roles in the International Business Club and AIESEC. I made friends from all over the world, and my curiosity grew to more than mere wanderlust.
A market research or consulting gig in New York, if I could even get one, no longer seemed like it would satisfy my international craving and the focus of my education. New York wouldn’t be as exciting for me as it would have just two years ago. So I accepted a job outside the U.S. to:
- fully leverage my IB education,
- pursue my interest in other countries and cultures and
- satisfy my need for adventure.
But why Peru?
“The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman has a profound effect on me. The world economy of my lifetime will look much different than it did for generations before me. The traditionally rich economies will be rivaled by newly emerging markets. The connectivity of people and businesses around the world after (A) the fall on the Berlin Wall and (B) the Internet will lead to an explosion in untapped human potential.
Three specific regions are poised for explosive growth: Asia, Eastern Europe and South America. Given the timing for starting my career, I want to ride this wave in an emerging market.
But where? Hint: I speak Spanish.
Any of those three regions would fulfill my three priorities above. But my Spanish fluency isn’t the only reason I was looking for work only in Latin America. I love Europe, but I fell in love with Brazil. Latin culture felt so right. The warm people, the food, the music, the passion!
This is usually where someone makes a comment about the women. I have a track record of dating Latin women, and that didn’t hurt the case for South America. But I’m going for the whole package. I loved Europe but never got the feeling that I wanted to live there. I did get that feeling in Brazil.
I don’t intend to come back. I bought a one-way ticket. I don’t know if I’ll end up in Peru, but I hope to make a new life somewhere in Latin America. I even have a backup plan. In case I can’t find work in business and need money, I’ve been certified to teach English.
Moving is hard. I don’t underestimate the challenges and culture shock which lie ahead. There will be things I miss about America. I can guess what they will be, but I don’t know for sure.
I’m not forgetting that I had it pretty easy in Brazil with two Brazilian friends to cart me around. Each one had a car. Each one had educated, English-speaking friends. I didn’t have to learn streets, take public transportation, communicate in Portuguese, make my own friends, find an apartment or incur any of the difficulties of moving to a new city.
I’m not ignoring this. I’m not unrealistic. But I’m not afraid. I have a dream, an abstract dream of becoming a marketing professional who can facilitate international business in Latin America.