David Miller [b. 1972] is an American writer and the senior editor of Matador, the largest independent travel magazine online. In 2009 he’s published everything from poetry to flash fiction to a chapter in Fodor’s Patagonia (Random House). A longtime kayaker, surfer, and snowboarder, he and his family split the year between various places in the US and Argentina, and have settled Patagonia in 2009. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller
Where are you from and where do you live now?
Born in San Francisco but grew up in Marietta, Georgia. Later went to school in Athens GA. In Nov 2009 I moved to El Bolsón
in Patagonia, Argentina. It’s worth noting that my wife and daughter are both Argentine
Where do you consider your home to be?
I still have emotional attachments to where I grew up, not so much Marietta, but more the rivers between Athens and North Georgia (The Chattooga), where so many ‘glory days’ went down. I feel like specific places here will always feel to a certain extent like my ‘home-terrain’ but on a much more on-the-ground level, which is really the only level that matters, home is here right now, Patagonia.
How many addresses have you had?
Not counting college or travel times where I’ve received mail general delivery, I’ve had 10 addresses in the US and 2 (now a third) in Argentina.
Can you tell me about the different jobs/careers you’ve had?
From back when I was a sophomore in college through the next 10 years I was an educator. I specialized in outdoor and experiential education, teaching kids how to paddle, leading wilderness adventures, etc. During this period there were also some extended travel times where I basically worked just to pay for the next long surf trip or snowboard season, and so therein I also had these crazy gigs doing everything from being a valet (San Francisco) to a parking lot attendant (Tahoe), to a commercial construction worker (Orange County)
In 2003 I went through this transition where I really wanted to start writing as a professional. I ended up winning some writing contests, and was able to work as a freelancer and regular contributor to a couple of different newspapers and alternative weeklies over the next few years. This led to me writing for Matador, and eventually being asked to edit in 2007. Since then I’ve done just a bit of freelancing and have contributed to last year’s Fodor’s Patagonia, but more or less I’m just busting ass like the rest of the team at Matador.
Can you describe the process behind deciding to travel/ become an expat?
As far as traveling, for me it’s never a rational process. I’m not even the biggest fan of “traveling,” per se, it’s really a form of suffering. I just like exploring new terrain (and the culture, cuisine, music, language that reflects it), especially in the Americas. For the most part I’ve never had enough money to travel in any other way besides total dirt-bagging along coastal areas in Latin America where it’s uber cheap and I can camp out and surf.
I never thought of “becoming an expat” in those explicit terms and still don’t; for me I think of it as just moving to Argentina. This was definitely a conscious and rational decision though, something that my wife and I felt like was a good plan for raising our family.We recognized certain elements of this place when we visited for the first time in 2005. Although there’s a great little town and a slowly developing tourist infrastructure, it has a very strong agrarian economy (it’s the center of fine fruit production in all of Argentina). This means that the place itself, what makes it unique, its land usage and the underlying economic system is all much more sustainable than other places in Argentina (or the US for that matter).
We also recognized an unusually well-educated population exists here, a result of waves of middle class urbanites who came from Buenos Aires during the 70′s. finally, we recognized that this is a place where we could raise our daughter very freely and in a culture where we both feel very at ease.
So all of this said, it was a very rational, thought-at process as far as deciding to move here, but it’s worth noting that the original visit here seemed just like a total random flow. Still, we felt so strongly about the place that when we first saw it in 2005 we bought a small plot of land here with the intention of coming back one day and building a cabin. That’s our goal over the next year.
What do you enjoy most about Patagonia?
I love how you’re in a little town but looking around at the huge mountains on all sides, you never forget that you’re also in this massive river valley, literally “the big pocket.” A couple hour’s hike in any direction from wherever you are will take you into total wilderness. But at ground level, I just love how the people treat each other down here. There’s a sweetness to it, and even though it is a kind of rural area, there’s still totally what you’d call vida de la calle–street life. Nobody’s tucked away in neighborhoods; everything happens out in the open, on the street. People in love, people broken hearted, babies, adolescents, old folks–everyone moving downstream all mixed together. It’s just out in the open here.
Is there anything you miss about ‘back home’? If so what is it?
Petty consumer shite comes to mind: types of things like organic bread and peanut butter and whatnot. So what? You learn to
make the food yourself. It is a bit annoying though how expensive any kind of tools or gear is here. No Home DePot. You literally have to bring all of this with you or you pay 3 times as much for something that’s only half as good.
I haven’t been down here long enough to miss my family that much yet, but I know I will.
How has travelling/ becoming and expat changed you as a person?
It’s mainly just a matter of gaining a bigger perspective on place, people, relationships. I just feel fortunate.
How has travelling changed your lifestyle?
I’ve gotten good at looking for boxes, and developed a skillset (writing, editing, social media) that enable me to work from anywhere.
Did you move with your family?
Yes. We flew together to Santiago, then I bussed it down here to Patagonia, while they visited family in Buenos Aires.
How has travelling/ changed your family life?
Traveling can be stressful with a family (especially flying) but the joys are so much greater. My daughter is the best traveler I know. She adapts and stays stoked wherever she goes.
Any last words…..?
I’d just like to say thank you for the opportunity to speak at your blog. Living in different continents may seem strange and unnatural sometimes, but then I like to remember that we’re all just traveling around the sun.