Life Update 2020 – What a Year!

… and we’re not even half way through it!

Hey guys! These last couple of months have been something, haven’t they? 2020 definitely hasn’t been what I expected it to be. I’m sure you’d agree! I haven’t been very talkative here or on social media lately, but a TON has happened lately, so it’s definitely time for me to write a little update about what’s going on, where am I, and what are our plans.

We Are Stuck in Brazil

Olà from Sao Paulo, Brazil! I’ve been in Brazil since the end of February. We had an incredible two and half months trip around Brazil planned. We were supposed to travel all the way from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador de Bahia, then continue to the north of Brazil and finish in the Amazon. It was going to be so cool, and I’m pretty sad it didn’t go as planned.

We were only able to see Iguazu Falls and spend a week in Rio de Janeiro. Both destinations were incredible, and I really liked the vibe of Rio. A post is coming soon! We started traveling north to Buzios, a charming coastal town a couple of hours away, when everything came to a stop. Italy went into lockdown and I started getting anxious that we would get stuck in some remote small town with no services and good hospitals in case something happened.

After thinking it through for a few days, we decided we needed to stop somewhere and see how the situation evolved. We flew to Brasilia, the administrative capital of Brazil, as we thought there had to be good hospitals since all the diplomats lived there, and the city wasn’t as big as Rio or Sao Paulo.

Well, it wasn’t a great choice. We spent two months in Brasilia, in an apartment that was overpriced and full of issues such as mold and construction noise all. day. every. day. No kidding. And the problem was, there was nothing better on Airbnb! For a city of 3 million people, the selection of apartments was extremely limited and really overpriced.

Why didn’t we go back to Europe, you say? Well, we can’t. I could go back to Italy if I wanted to, there are plenty of flights, but Fran doesn’t have a European passport and is currently not allowed to enter Europe. We also can’t go back to Argentina, his country, because Argentina has suspended flights to and from the country until September. Basically, if we want to stay together, we are stuck here until some country opens its borders for both of us.

So, we decided to move and head to Sao Paulo. We were pretty scared of flying (and it was quite scary, no one seemed to care about protective measures) but now I can say it was the best decision ever. We are in love with our new apartment (pretty important since we have to stay in lock down) and we’re right next door to a supermarket. Our lease is up on July 22nd, and we hope by that time we’ll be able to head to Europe. For now, all I’m doing is working, baking, and watching Netflix.

I’ll be honest. The situation in Brazil isn’t great. The number of cases keeps going up dramatically, and Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, is still minimizing the situation. Any other country would have declared a lock down months ago, but here there are no rules whatsoever except for wearing masks (that most people wear on their chin so that’s useless). Actually, malls opened again last week! Crazy. However, we decided to declare our own lock down in March and we’ve been inside the apartment ever since, only going out for groceries when needed.

It’s crazy that we’ve been in Sao Paulo for a couple of weeks and we haven’t seen anything except for the highway. So when the other day we found out that our condo is located just a 20-minutes walk from the “Rodeo Drive” of Sao Paulo, we decided to go for a walk. I really start missing some fresh air!

A few days earlier I had received a package in the mail from Keebos, and this was the perfect occasion for me to try out their crossbody phone case.

Keebos Review

When Keebos got in touch and asked me if I wanted to review their product, at first I didn’t understand how their phone case was different from the rest of the products out there. I already had a phone case after all. But then I realized this isn’t a regular case. It’s functional and fashionable at the same time, and even celebrities like Eva Longoria are using it around LA!

We found some pretty cool spots!

Sometimes you just don’t need to or don’t want to carry a bag around. If you’re just going for a walk around the neighborhood, or to have a coffee or lunch with a friend, chances are all you need are your phone, and your credit card or some cash. Keebos resolves both problems at once. It has a convenient wallet attached to the case where you can fit both your card and some cash, so it removes the need for a purse.

You can wear the Keebos crossbody like I did, or as a necklace. The necklace straps are adjustable so you can decide their length.

I know that it will be a super useful accessory for when I travel and I want to be hands free yet I need my phone close at all times. You never know when you want to photograph something quickly and guess what? Every single time you put your phone away the occasion for a perfect shot comes up… but it’s too late. There’s also an elastic strap on the back of the case that makes it even easier to hold your phone and take selfies or grab vlogs.

I’ve seen online that other customers are using it when riding a bike, or to go to festivals or clubs and make sure they never drop or lose their phone. Pretty smart! When I used to go clubbing (yes, I’m old now!), I didn’t want to carry a purse but there was no alternative.

You guys also know that I love partnering with brands that care about the environment. I love the fact that for each Keebos purchased, one tree is planted through their partner organization One Tree Planted. Reforestation focus areas over 4 continents include wildfire restoration, biodiversity and habitat expansion, agro-forestry, food security and social impact, and watershed maintenance among others.

I personally got the Crossbody Iphone case in Sunset Black, but there are quite a few other colors you can choose from, and cases are available for both iPhones and Samsung phones. Check out the whole range of crossbody phone cases on the official website.

#BlackLivesMatter

I refuse to write a life update and not acknowledge what is happening in the world. The systemic racism against black people in the US is absolutely tragic and shocking, something like this should not be happening in 2020. But it is, and we all have to wake up and do something about it. And no, posting a black square on Instagram isn’t enough.

I’ve been talking about this topic on my Instagram, and while researching the topic I realized that this is not just a US matter, but systemic racism and place brutality unfortunately happens all around the world. People from developing countries, though, don’t even have a voice. If you’re interested in learning more, I’m telling a few stories from the world on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

João Pedro Matos Pinto, 14, died last month when police shot him in the back with a rifle during a drug raid in one of many Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. The police stormed into the home where João was playing with 5 other cousins, all 6 unarmed, shot João, then they took his body out in an helicopter. His family looked for him for 17 hours before finding him in the coroner’s office. He was “caught in the crossfire”, the police said, but this, unfortunately , this isn’t an isolated case. Thousands of black, young men have been killed, and we can’t be silent anymore. • Rio State police in April alone killed 117 people. Police in Brazil over the last decade has killed 33,000 people. In 2017 and 2018, at least 75% of the police victims were black. • Right before COVID-19 happened and we had to cut short our trip and shelter in São Paulo (where we currently are), we were in Rio de Janeiro. I always make it a point to see beyond the touristy side of a city, IF I find an ethical way to do so. We found a guy from Rocinha, the biggest favela in Brazil, who was willing to show us around and explain how society works in Brazil (part of the proceeds finance a few social projects he manages in Rocinha). • The media always portrays favelas like dumps filled with drug cartels and criminals, but this wasn’t my experience at all. People were welcoming and curious. In fact, favelas are home to a ton of good people. Most of the people who work in the hospitality industries call home Rocinha or another favela, and so do builders, and people who work in maintenance. And then of course there are the drug dealers and the criminals, like there are in any society in the world. But the good, hard-working people can’t be casualties of the system. • This is just one story from the world that shows that systemic racism and police brutality are unfortunately a widespread tragedy. The spotlight is now on the US, but let’s remember that black lives matter everywhere, and in some countries they don’t even have a voice to denounce it. Let’s be their voice. #allblacklivesmatter #vidasnegrasimportam

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Please don’t forget about this issue next week. Protesting for one week won’t change things. We need to do more, we need to fight our own bias, we need to have conversations with the people around us.

My Business Went Down 95%

The virus unfortunately has affected the travel industry as a whole – hotels, airlines, tour operators… and content creators in the travel niche as well, such as me. All of a sudden, seemingly overnight, my blog’s traffic went from 100,000 monthly page views to less than 20,000 – which makes total sense. Travel was (and still is) the last thing on people’s minds. And while traffic went down 80%, my income went down 90-95%.

In fact, most of my income comes from affiliate marketing (I earn a commission for product and services readers buy through the blog) and banner ads. People stopped making any travel-related purchases, and brands had to cut their ads and marketing budget.

Let’s say I’m very grateful for the fact that over the last couple of years we were able to accumulate a good amount of savings, and we’re not particularly worried about the present moment. I’m still working a lot to create new content for the blog, as I’m sure travel is going to come back. Maybe not in 6 months, but it will.

On top of this, we pivoted. In fact…

We Launched Our First Product!

I don’t know if you guys follow me on Instagram (and if not, you should!), but if you do you might remember that in January I was in Cordoba, Argentina (Fran’s hometown), and that we we shooting a million videos for a course we were going to launch. We went all in with this project, we rented a professional recording studio, and spent two weeks working 16-hour days scripting and recording over 120 videos! It was quite intense, to use an euphemism.

Could I be a TV host?

It took a few months of work of our video editor, Agus, to get to the final product, a course aimed at Spanish speaking people on how to create a long-term, sustainable business as content creators. If you’re curious, you can check out the course page here.

We soft-launched (meaning we didn’t pay for any ads) the course on Fran’s Instagram and YouTube channel and it went really well, especially considering the current economic situation of Argentina and other Latin American countries. We currently have 20 students aged 22 to 45, from 8 different countries (Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela) and for now the feedback has been great!

Some of the students have already started their blog or YouTube channels, and they’ve got some great ideas in all sort of niches – finance, property management, travel, architecture… we love the diversity.

I’m really loving this new project, I love how we can help these people creating a business out of nothing but their laptop and their hard work, and how they can become independent from the economy of their birth countries. Where you were born doesn’t have to define how your life’s going to be.

Our Plans for the Rest of 2020

Honestly, I have no idea what is going to happen! Which is pretty nerve-wracking for a control freak like me who wants to make decisions and plan everything months in advance.

We were supposed to spend the summer in Georgia again like last year. We really like living in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and we’re actually thinking of buying an apartment there! Last year we were thiiiis close to buy a studio apartment, but we didn’t feel 100% convinced so we decided to wait one more year before making such an important decision.

Currently we don’t have a home base, and we start feeling the need for one. One place to call home where we are going to live for a few months a year, where we can leave our clothes inside a wardrobe…simple things like this. We also want to have some sort of a community. Traveling around the world is great, we have friends all over the planet, but it’d be great to have people we can see often face to face, you know? It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year (although I still have some hope), so we might have to postpone our plans until next spring or so.

Then we had planned to travel around Europe in September-October. We wanted to travel a little more around Italy, going for a road trip in South France, and then visit Portugal. I’ve been to all these places in the past, but Fran hasn’t been yet, and I also want to create more content about Europe for the blog. There’s a chance this might still happen, we just have to wait and see.

Our condo in Chiang Mai… I miss it!

Lastly, we were planning to spend the winter again in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We looove Chiang Mai! It’s so livable, there’s a million great cafes where I like to work at, and many other blogger friends pass through the city so we always have friends around. Plus, you can have a great condo with pool, gym, etc. for quite cheap.

We’re always very productive when we live in Chiang Mai, so we’d like to stay there and focus on building our businesses for a few months, then maybe we can explore more of the Thailand islands and a few destinations in Asia. Again, we’ll see! Thailand has publicly said they don’t plan to open to foreigners until the 4th quarter of the year at least, so there is hope.

And that’s it for now! If you want to follow my day to day, check out my Instagram.

This post was written in collaboration with Keebos, but all opinions are my own and my own only.


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