My Favorite Cities Part 1: South America

Ever since finishing Remote Year, I’ve been asked the same question over and over: Which city was your favorite?

This is akin to asking an author what her favorite book is. I can’t answer it without at least 1 hour of your time and a PowerPoint presentation.

So, in lieu of owning a working copy of PowerPoint, I made a pros and cons list for each of the cities I lived in last year, to answer this question in a more succinct way than the hours-long rambles I’ve been delivering to my poor beleaguered friends. And since this list turned out to be not THAT succinct actually, I’ve broken it into 3 parts: South America, Europe, and Asia.

So, here goes part 1.


Mexico City, Mexico

Sup Teotihuacan?


  • THE FOOD (everything from the 15 cent street tacos up to the 19-course tasting menu at one of the top 10 restaurants in the world was incredible)
  • Affordability
  • Mezcal is the best alcohol since whiskey
  • So much history, between the pyramids, the anthropology museum, the walking tours through DF…
  • Micheladas and clamatos (where have these been all my hungover life??)


  • Pollution/air quality (if I thought Pittsburgh in the 90s was bad, I had no idea…)
  • Sidewalks are more hole than sidewalk
  • The water isn’t potable, which makes staying hydrated difficult (though that might also be the mezcal’s fault TBH)
  • That’s it end of cons

Bogotá, Colombia


  • The nightlife is truly unbeatable (it helped that Despacito was blowing up the month we lived here – no not the Justin Bieber version GTFO)
  • Weird shit to do (for example, tejo, the popular lawn game where you drink cases of beer while throwing rocks at explosives buried in mud; or chivas, which are party buses that drive around blasting music while you drink aguardiente – did I mention the nightlife?)
  • Weird shit to see (for example, the salt cathedral, a giant cathedral carved out of salt; salt Jesus, a big statue of Jesus carved out of salt; the salt mines… you get the picture)
  • Hiking (close to the city too!)
  • Gorgeous countryside
  • Views from Monserrate over the city that are truly unbeatable

View from Monserrate


  • The food (arepas are disgusting, sorry not sorry, and if I never eat trucha again it will still be too soon)
  • Aguardiente (a type of liquor I would describe as the jaeger bomb’s less classy cousin)
  • Hangovers from aguardiente
  • Air quality/pollution (I thought it was better than Mexico City, but other friends disagreed—it depended how close you lived to any of Bogotá’s city parks)
  • Pickpockets (especially when out enjoying the aforementioned nightlife)

Medellín, Colombia


  • Even weirder shit to see (for example, Pope John Paul II Airport, now a waterpark in downtown Medellín; or Pablo Escobar’s old bombed-out mansion, now a paintball park)
  • Bougie cafes (in the very digital-nomad-bubble-y neighborhood of El Poblado)
  • Street art (arguably some of the best in the world)

    The artist & his work

  • Aguardiente (yes I know this was a con in Bogotá but by this point you’ve been brainwashed and it tastes like nostalgia rather than regret and tin cans)
  • Living in a jungle (HOW COOL IS THAT)
  • Watching firsthand as a city with a very recent, very difficult past reinvents itself using a combination of brilliant city infrastructure planning and sheer compassion is truly awe-inspiring
  • The beer (microbrewing is up-and-coming in the city and it’s AMAZING also some of it has secret weed in it fair warning)


  • The safer neighborhoods feel like a bubble. I’d walk around for an hour and hear only English, French or German
  • Living in a jungle (your clothing will NEVER BE DRY AGAIN)
  • The coffee (sadly, all the best Colombian coffee gets exported – though there are some local shops trying to change this!)

Lima, Peru


  • Ceviche (eat it alllll)
  • Pisco (don’t drink it alllll because it will murder you after 1 cocktail)
  • Fine dining (Central & Maido were two of the best meals I’ve ever had, for a quarter of the price of what that caliber restaurant in NYC costs)
  • Sunsets to die for
  • SURFING, my new addiction
  • Sleeping (seriously, I don’t know if it’s the sea breeze, LA-esque weather or the relaxed pace of the town, but even the biggest insomniacs in our group slept great here)
  • Ecosystem diversity (from the beaches around Lima to the desert oasis town a mile away where you can sand-surf dunes; from the Peruvian side of the Amazon rainforest to the cloud forests of the Andes, you’ll never run out of new terrain to explore)

Lima sunsets


  • You’ll want to spend so much time exploring Cusco (and the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu), Huacachina (aforementioned oasis town with dune buggies and sand-surfing) and Iquitos (the Amazon), you’ll miss out on Lima
  • Nightlife (maybe we were just burned-out after 2 months in Colombia, but things seemed more chill this month—and the going-out spots we did find weren’t in the best neighborhoods to visit late at night)
  • The sidewalks (this is definitely a me-problem but THEY WERE SO SLIPPERY I COULD BARELY WALK. probably fine if you’re a normal human with functioning balance, though)

Córdoba, Argentina


  • Hot people (literally everyone in Argentina is gorgeous)
  • Gauchos (Argentinian hotness with all the sometimes-problematic masculinity of USian cowboys

    Playing cowboy in the Sierras

  • Everything around Córdoba (horseback riding through the Sierras, camping in the Sierras, visiting a cool German-style village in the middle of Argentina, renting an Airbnb in the distant suburbs, basically any way we could leave Córdoba…)
  • Nightlife if you are a 21-year-old college student, I guess
  • Feeling like you’ve stepped through a time portal into mid-1990s Europe (PLATFORM SHOES ARE BACK. PAY PHONES ARE A THING. CASH-ONLY ECONOMY. NO FUNCTIONING ELEVATORS wait ok maybe some of this is farther back than the 90s…)
  • Creepy decaying park that is probably the setting for a post-nuclear-apocalypse video game (some people might call this a con, but I genuinely enjoyed wandering around it at night envisioning dystopian near-futures. You know. Good preparation.)
  • You’ll learn how to cook because there are no good restaurants
  • You’ll start exercising out of sheer boredom
  • Really good produce actually, and tons of farmer’s markets!
  • Fernet and coke (if you like bitter liquor and buckets full of a drink guaranteed to make you forget where you are, this will be your jam)


  • Nightlife if you are not a 21-year-old college student. Córdoba is 90% bars, and of those, 90% are grungy clubs that open at 1am, close at 7am, and only serve flavored vodka shots and Angostura bitters they poured into an empty whiskey bottle in order to pretend they still had whiskey, probably
  • Random shouting parades in the middle of the street at 4am on a Tuesday
  • No sound-proofing whatsoever on any windows
  • The only food anywhere within the city limits is pizza. But that pizza has been made by someone who has only ever heard vague rumors of this mystery dish, never seen one in person. It consists of a Chicago deep-dish style crust, no sauce, more cheese than even I (a consummate dairy-addict) can handle, and a single green olive. Every time.

Buenos Aires, Argentina


  • More hot people
  • Oh thank god, good restaurants again, so I can stop living off of farmer’s market vegetables and get back to ruining my body
  • Asado, Argentina’s answer to Southern BBQ (FYI American South, Argentina is winning)
  • Speakeasy-style cocktail bars are enjoying A Moment in BA, and it’s The Best Moment
  • Fernet (seriously, I just don’t hate it—it’s like jaeger but without the gross licorice aftertaste)
  • Sexy accents (Argentinian is to Spanish as Scottish is to English; aka, THE BEST but also I could not communicate with anyone besides close friends who spoke slowly for the gringa)
  • Nightlife (all the action, excitement, and 7am closing times of Córdoba, but now with sound-proofing on our windows and residential neighborhoods where you can escape said excitement)
  • Theatrical shows (the nickname “Paris of South America” was floated a few times, and I can see it. BA reminds me of NYC, or London, or Paris—it’s a big, vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and it shows)

not a NYC subway stop, but a BA speakeasy


  • Cash-only economy (for such a big city, this is hard to adjust to. It also means that every time the ATMs are restocked you have to wait in a blocks-long line at whichever one has any cash left, and then take out as much as you possibly can at once)
  • The weather (learn from our mistakes, don’t go in June. It feels like NYC in November but without any of the excitement or decor leading up to Christmas. … So maybe more like NYC in January or mid-Feb)
  • The price tag (this was the most expensive city we visited in South America, and second only to Japan in price all year. Our wallets definitely felt the pain)

Phew. So that’s the first half of our year. Check out part 2 for pros and cons of the European cities we visited!

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