Expat Stories: I Moved to Bolivia from Australia and Started an Organization to Protect Jaguars

by Matt Stonehouse - From Australia
(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

1. How did you first hear about Bolivia and/or become interested in Bolivia as a possible place to live?

A friend that was living here recommended coming here to see what was happening with jaguars and cattle ranchers as I was planning to start an organization to stop poaching.

2. Where are you from originally and why are/were you considering living overseas when you first took Bolivia into account as an option?

I’m from Australia and I was already living in Switzerland when I decided to come here.

3. Which languages do you speak? If you do not speak Spanish, has this made adjusting to, and living in Bolivia more difficult for you?

I only speak English and this has made living here extremely difficult at times, especially while trying to start an organization here.

4. Did you come here as an individual, couple or family?


5. Are you planning to live in Bolivia short-term or long term?


6. Do you work or plan to work or start your own business in Bolivia?

I have just started my own organization to protect jaguars in Bolivia; I am also starting a few small businesses to help with the organization.

7. Is Bolivia the only country to which you contemplated moving, or did you consider other choices? If so, why did you ultimately choose Bolivia?

I had thought about other countries and had previously lived elsewhere however Bolivia was where I decided to stay because of what I am trying to do here.

8. What steps did you take to research about Bolivia to prepare yourself prior to arriving?

Nothing apart from jaguar research documents other than that I knew nothing.

9. What do you miss most about your home country?

My pets and my bonsai plants.

10. What do you like/love/appreciate most about Bolivia?

The food and the people.

11. Did you relocate on your own, or do you work for a company that relocated you to Bolivia?

On my own.

12. If your plan is/was to retire in Bolivia permanently, how did you prepare financially, and in other ways to make that possible?

It was never my plan to stay here originally but now that I am staying here I am trying to start a few small businesses that will support my organization and me.

13. For those of you who have lived in Bolivia for at least 6 months, now that you are here, what have you learned about Bolivia that you did not know before?

That Bolivia once had a beach and it is also one of the most bio diverse places in the world.

14. Is there anything about Bolivia that turned out to be very unexpected to you?

The extremely warm hospitality.

15. What special skills or attitudes do you think a person or family needs in order to ensure their stay in Bolivia is enjoyable/successful?

Being able to speak Spanish.

16. Is there any reason you would NOT recommend Bolivia as a place to live, work or retire?

No I think it is a beautiful place to retire although it can be very frustrating at times.

17. What is the most negative aspect about living in Bolivia in your opinion?

Bolivia has some extremely rude and stupid people here especially the ones that work in migration. If you are applying for a visa be prepared to deal with some of the stupidest people you will ever meet in your life. They will tell you to get papers you already have and then when you go and get more documents they will tell you that you don’t need them. It will cost you money and time and makes you realise why everyone pays bribes to get visas.

18. What are some of the most positive aspects about living in Bolivia in your opinion?

While Bolivia has some rude people it also has some amazingly friend people as well as some of the most beautiful bio diverse places to visit in the world and some great food.

19. Have you faced any unexpected difficulties while living here? Were you able to overcome those obstacles? Are they serious enough to cause you to want to leave?

I have had more than one visa issue while living here and it is a pain in the ass. Also the language difference for me, I’m still trying to learn Spanish but it is hard to find classes here that wont cost you a lot of money. At times I had considered leaving because it makes things difficult when you have to rely on people to translate to you all the time.

20. If your children moved overseas with you, how did you prepare them for the differences in lifestyle or culture shock?


21. For future potential expatriates who are considering living in Bolivia, what advice would you give them (how to prepare, what to bring or not bring, etc.)

Make sure you learn some Spanish and get your visa sorted before coming here; it will make things a lot easier for you.

22. What are some of the things that were most difficult for you to accept or adjust to in Bolivia?

Putting toilet paper in a bin and the language difference.

23. Prior to moving here, what aspects of living in Bolivia would you have liked to know more about or have more assistance with? Is there anything anyone could have done, or informed you about that would have made your choice to move to Bolivia, the relocation process itself, or your initial adjustment period easier, less stressful, less frightening?

It would have been nice to know how hard the visa issues were going to be because it has made, and is still making, things very difficult.

24. Hindsight is 20/20. If you could go back in time to the months before you moved to Bolivia, is there were anything you would do differently to prepare for living in Bolivia?

Learn Spanish and get my visa sorted out.

25. Just for statistical purposes, had you heard of BoliviaBella.com or Expat Services prior to moving to Bolivia? If so, which parts of our website were most helpful to you? What information would you like to see added for future potential expats?

No I had never heard of either until moving here.

Click these links to learn about, volunteer for, or help fund Matt's jaguar conservation project 'Fundación Yaguareté':

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