Living abroad changes lives, but some of us have chosen to spend our lives doing it. Gérman Kronfeld is one of our Uruguayan students who, having done it for more than 3 years, is the perfect role model.
It could have been just one more of those unusual hot days in Ireland if Gérman Kronfeld had not come to our office for a chat about his adventures around the world. This 32-year-old Uruguayan man once owned his own bar but, now everything he possesses is on display. He brings a confident and charismatic smile, his outgoing and relaxing style of dress, and, of course, his mate and thermo cup wherever he goes.
It goes without saying that it is not too hard to understand why he has become an inspiration for many people; it takes a lot of energy, enthusiasm and passion to explore the unknown and share it with others, things that he does not seem to lack.
However, let’s start the story from the beginning. The initial idea of travelling the world was not all his. In 2012, his brother decided that it was about time he went abroad, and his friend joined him. The meeting to discuss that “crazy idea”, as Gérman defined it, took place, of course, at Gérman’s bar. One day Gérman suddenly did what nobody was expecting. He jumped on their bandwagon. “I knew just one country. I realized that the world was much bigger; there were many better experiences I could have in my life”. Right after, he sold his pub, packed his luggage and went away. Away from his comfort zone, leaving behind a country that was growing fast economically (about to become the strongest economy in South America), his friends and family who supported their decision, but taking with him two close relationships and his new and borrowed dreams.
Working in Australia: Why are you cleaning the chairs?
Starting from taking a one-year work-holiday visa in Australia, they were able to improve their language skills and make some money. At the very beginning, they faced hard times due to their English level. Funny stories they like to tell involve are these three boys sharing the same mobile phone and none of them being able understand a word the interviewer was saying in the line.
Fortunately, they all got a job after a while. Playing the Devil’s advocate, I asked Gérman if he felt embarrassed working as a cleaner after having owned his own bar, but he just laughed and went on: “We never had this pride in us. Because we had finished our studies in our countries did not mean we could not do this or that, we were happy in so many ways that our jobs were just part of it”, he reckons.
Being positive about his situation does not mean they wanted to take that job forever, as Gérman explained, what made them work with a big smile stamped on their faces was the fact that they had a clear purpose; their aim was to travel the world feeding their bodies and thoughts. Even so, Gérman emphasizes that their positive attitudes were much more related to “How” they were doing things than “What” they were doing.
Although time had passed and things eventually improved, Gérman did not lose his humility. Even after having achieved a managerial position, he faced a situation where all the staff were asked who could clean the chairs at his workplace. To everyone’s surprise he was the only one who said “Yes, I can”. Gérman explains “I remembered I turned on the music, changed my clothes, and started doing the job”. Many people started to question why he was doing that task, as it was not part of his job, but his reply was straightforward “It is much better to clean chairs wearing shirts and listening to music than being smartly dressed”.
Going abroad might sound very exciting from the audience’s point of view, but it is highly demanding; facing different cultures, having to take on blue collar jobs and, in the very initial stages, the lack of knowledge of the language can be a strong deterrent. That is why it is very important to keep in mind your goals and be persistent. Obviously, in Gérman’s case his proactive and modest posture have played a crucial role in achieving success. When going abroad, do not forget to ask yourself what attitudes you want to take.
Two ways to travel
The trip started off in Australia where they spent more time than was foreseen. They had planned to work for ten months there to save up some money and afterwards head to Asia where they would finally start the trip the world. However, instead of travelling for one and a half years (in total), they lived in Australia for one year and they ended up travelling for 3 years and 2 months (just a small change).
Having to adjust their initial arrangements played a crucial role in their journey. As Gérman explained, by getting to know the amazing stories of locals in New Zealand they rethought their aims. From that point onwards, they decided to dig into other people’s culture:
“We understood that we could have two different types of trips. With the first option, we could just visit places, take pictures, have fun and keep going, but with the second option we could take more time to join ordinary people, try to understand them and to bring real memories from every place”.
Becoming well-known: From Facebook to the Papers
It is not a surprise that nowadays it is much easier to communicate with people from everywhere as we can avail of a huge number of gadgets. The boom caused by the popularization of photography in the 19th century is nothing compared to what we experience nowadays with the rise of social media channels, when the number of photos uploaded on Instagram outnumbers the world population, according to Omicore statistics.
Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that the three boys seized the opportunity to share their experiences on their social media channels. What started off with just a single Facebook page expanded to something a little more serious, as Gérman highlights “More and more people were following us and asking for more stories”. Due to this success, they were invited to broadcast their adventures weekly on a Uruguayan Radio Programme called Justicia Infinita
Straight away, the brothers put their varied skill set to use. Gérman, holding a degree in Advertising and his brother in Journalism, with his friend’s help, launched the blog Viaje a la vuelta: Dos hermanos por el mundo where through combined multimedia communication they have given their followers a taste of the world they were experiencing. After some time, they noticed that the audience was expanding among Spanish people and other nationalities.
They have been to more than 30 countries so far therefore Viaje a la Vuelta is now a big catalogue of interesting articles on the people, food and places they came across as well as an enormous collection of tips and tricks for those who want to do the same but have not got any idea of how to start. Furthermore, there are many videos and photographs ensuring a far more dynamic and immersive experience for its audience. It is not for nothing that they have been listed as one of the top 10 blogs for travellers by El País and by El Observador two Spanish newspaper. Check it out here: La travesía de dos uruguayos para descubrir el lado B del mundo
From outside to inside: the changes caused by the world
After travelling for more than three years, I was curious about knowing how Gérman has personally changed. As far as I could see, he came across to me as a very Uruguayan boy caring his “Mate y Termo” everywhere, but in his words what he experienced had turned him upside down: “I am now totally different from what I used to be”. He explained his statement telling me that life used to be way simpler beforehand. “We were supposed to grow up, get a good job, a good salary, a house, have a wife, some kids and that is it”. Nonetheless, having gone through experiences such as meeting people that are living a nomadic life proved him wrong. He understood that concepts such as happiness, war, danger and fear do not apply to everyone in the same way. “Everything is not the way I thought, but culturally determined. There is no just one single truth, everything depends on the angle you look at it from”, he admits.
As a positive consequence, Gérman became much more open minded and flexible to understand and accept other people’s traits and beliefs “I do not think I can do everything other people do, but I can accept most of them the way they are”. As regards any advice our student could have to others, he emphasizes that the most travelling is not funnier than any other thing in life, but nevertheless is a choice.
“It is important to get to know youself and what makes you happy, then you can choose your on own way” .
Trying to summarize what they experienced and the large number of unexpected events that changed them irreversibly is hard to fit on the sheet, yet there one final question that kept me wondering and you can check out the answer in German’s own words!
What was the most remarkable moment you had during your world trip?
“We went to Mongolia motorbiking. Arriving there in the evening, we did not have a place to stay. We walked through random houses (tents), knocking one of them and asking (using hand gestures) for shelter. We were sheltered and fed for 10 days by different people. I remember that we stayed with this family for two nights. They had a little girl who at first was hiding herself from us, but a few hours later, she was completely engaged with us. Two days later, when we left the house, she cried a lot. The funny fact was that this was happening even though we never had a proper conversation with them as we did not speak their language. However still we had shared a very special time together. Whenever amazing things like this one happen in our lives is not easy to explain. I guess it was humans helping humans, as it used to be 400 years ago. In the end, the people who have less, give more”..
I cannot rembember the dish’s name, but it happened to be in Japan.
Pigeons in Malaysia and in India the food tasted good, but extremelly spicy. I got ill for several days.
Mongolia for my trip (Even though, I would not live there).
The country you felt you belonged to
“Overall there are so many places I felt I belonged in. I think one could belong to any place nowadays, if they can adapt themselves and find a way to feel at home. Maybe I could belong to Ireland (laughs). Spain is one country I could say I would easily belong to just because of our history”.
The country you could not belong to
India, Japan, Mongolia and China. “I enjoyed the four countries, but their cultures are very different, I could never be like them, they are very different from us”.
What did you miss from you country
Family, friends and having a fridge full of food.