Wagner and Liany Nogueira are a Brazilian couple who moved halfway across the world to live in Bhutan! Both of them are well educated with Wagner holding a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Liany working as a pharmacist.
Since the second half of 2017, they gave up their jobs in Brazil to start a new life in Bhutan. They’ve been living there for over 8 months and plan to remain for the next 5 years.
Wagner became a school teacher and Liany became a tour assistant in the land of the thunder dragon. They have started to travel around Bhutan and begun exploring the many great things Bhutan has to offer. Funnily enough, they are one of the very few foreigners who can really call Bhutan their permanent home.
BT: You left everything to live in Bhutan, which we think is awesome! Why Bhutan? What attracted you there?
Wagner & Liany: With the surge of social media, it is becoming very difficult to find some mystery in the world. Bhutan is one of the places left where places remain untouched and unvisited up to this day. It made our life very difficult, but in retrospect, it was really nice to be unable to find a lot of information about the country in order to make our decision. We came to a country not knowing much about it, apart from that it is very closed off from the outside world, we would live in the Himalayas and I would be a teacher. Everything else, we discovered when we arrived. What attracted me to Bhutan the most was just how difficult it is to come here. It is a very expensive country to visit, they are still very reluctant to hire Westerners to work here, as we might interfere with the local culture a little too much. If you have been given the opportunity to come to one of the most remote places on Earth, the difficult thing is not to say yes, but to say no!
BT: Bhutan is a relatively remote destination, off the beaten path, if you will. Why do you think our backpacking community should be giving it a look when planning their next trip?
Wagner & Liany: Bhutan is, indeed, a place off the beaten track. It receives around 150 thousand tourists per year, which helps keep the country’s wilderness unexplored and pristine. Nevertheless, this is changing very fast. It is like a trip to Cuba. If you went to Cuba 10 years ago, you’d see an unexplored country, still very much set in its ways. If you travel to Cuba now, seeing how often it is appearing in social media, it is losing its charm to make way for uncontrolled tourism, as friends have shared with me.
In order to maintain its identity and attempt to keep the country as wild as possible, it is expensive to come here. The country charges a daily fee of US$250 per day (US$200 off-season), from which US$63 goes directly to the maintenance of national parks and reforestation. This fee covers everything: 3-star accommodation, food, driver, and a guide (the guide is non-negotiable).
Our backpacking community should be looking into coming to Bhutan because its “wildness” will not last much longer. In the next 10 years, you will not see the real Bhutan anymore, unfortunately. Come, and come soon! The investment is big, but the rewards are huge!
BT: What did you find the most challenging about moving your life to a new country? Any tips for dealing with challenges, for those backpackers also looking to make a major move?
Wagner & Liany: Bhutan is the fourth country I [Wagner] have lived in. I have lived in Brazil, Ireland, and England in the past.
Moving is never easy. Saying “bye” at the airport, either if you are leaving or someone is leaving, is never easy. Making a big move has many rewards, but it has many drawbacks too. The most important thing is to be aware and mindful that it will not be easy. It will be difficult as hell, particularly in the beginning and, the older you are, the more difficult it is. You will miss friends’ weddings, family funerals, the birth of new family members, graduations, etc, but you will also gain fantastic new friends, acquire a new language, experience different cultures, explore the country and its surroundings, and have many wonderful unexpected experiences.
One example: I teach students who are not financially privileged. They could not buy you a gift for a special occasion, or just to make you feel better. I build a greenhouse outside my wooden shack so that I could have some food that does not grow at 3200m above sea level.
Not too long ago, my uncle passed away in Brazil and, as you can imagine, we were unable to attend his funeral. I did not attend work for a couple of days. Knowing about this, some of my students turned up at my house with bags of soil that they dug themselves so that it would help me with my greenhouse. They walked 1km to my house with bags of soil on their backs, so that it would make me feel better. Guess what? It did! You will become a collection of stories like this when you get out of your comfort zone and throw yourself into the world.
Does it outweigh everything you’ll miss? It depends on who you are! Will you regret it? Perhaps! But from my experiences, it is better to regret having done something than wonder for the rest of your life what could have been. This becomes much easier when you have an understanding and supportive partner.
BT: What have you learned about each other from this move? Any thoughts on the positive and not-so-positive sides of traveling with a partner?
Wagner & Liany: The dynamics of a relationship changes after you get married. We were in a long-distance relationship for some time. After we married, soon after we moved to Bhutan. Interference from family is drastically diminished, so we have to rely on each other for everything. We spend a lot of time together and we have to learn to live in a very small space. There is no place in our house where we do not see each other or hear each other. We are as isolated as the age of information allows us to be. This has been a fantastic experience, as we have to learn and adapt very quickly to our “common way”.
We have traveled by ourselves in the past. I [Wagner] have visited 47 countries. Most of my trips were done on my own, mostly around Europe and South America. Liany has also traveled by herself. The most positive thing is to know that it is not because we are married that our solo traveler's life is dead. This would not work for us. Our holidays do not coincide all the time, so we have the freedom to explore the world on our own, should we need to. This has not happened a lot lately, but we have very similar travel styles. We like to camp, and hike, we mostly stay in shared dorms in hostels and we have no problem with it. It is difficult to find a travel companion with almost exact similar tastes as you, but we are as close as it gets.
Traveling with a partner, in our case, barely changed the dynamics from our solo backpacker days. Another positive is that we can share the responsibilities of planning our trips, but Liany usually does a lot more, I must confess. The not-so-positive is that, as well as our tastes, match, they do not always do.
Compromises have to be made as for destinations, which volcanoes to hike up, our top destinations do not always match. As we are living in Bhutan, that reduces our options and so, we decided to explore Asian countries during our time here. We always plan 2-3 different destinations, budget, weigh the pros and cons of each place and come to an agreement. None of us get exactly what we want, but we are always happy with the final decision. While traveling, sometimes when one wants to rest, the other does not, when one wants to hire a bike, the other wants to walk. Partners are not always in sync, but that is a fact of life, and we have to deal with it as well as we can.