Life After Boston University
by Maria Popova
Graphic by Deanna Kilma-Rajchel and Sranee Bayapureddy
As a Russian saying goes, being a guest is nice, but being at home is better.
However, Matt Negrin (COM ’09) and Cambria Davies (Questrom ’16) are not just enthusiastic vacationists. They are committed to abandoning their comfort zones and exploring the world. It’s a romance with traveling, and they are in it for the long haul.
Negrin is currently a writer at Bloomberg Politics. He calls himself “an adult” who “[thinks] about the future” and holds a prestigious corporate job.
Yet his voice rings with excitement and bittersweet nostalgia as he recalls the adventures of his 20s: perils in the Brazilian slums and encounters with Amazonian tribes, trips to Croatia, Japan, Finland and Germany, where he wrote stories about soccer fans and the World Cup that were later published in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation, Deadspin and more.
“There is nothing like it,” said Negrin about the experiences. “There is really nothing that comes even close.”
Negrin was constantly on the go ever since the last semester of his senior year at Boston University, when he traveled to Japan to intern for the Associated Press.
He went to Brazil in 2014, determined to write about the World Cup. He spent three months there, stayed in six different cities and lived with a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon that started an indigenous football team. Negrin ended up writing a story about them and selling it to Sports Illustrated for $3,500.
“It sounds like a lot, but I spent $4,000 working on this story,” said Negrin. “I had to hire a photographer and a translator that were following me for seven days. It is virtually impossible to be a freelancer today. You have to pay for everything yourself.”
The costs he had to fill were worth the adventure, he added.
“I loved it,” he said. “It was wild.”
Negrin was eager to adapt to local behavioral patterns to minimize the cultural gaps and build meaningful relationships, as he enjoys being around new people. He started to love everything about the people but knows that he won’t see them again.
“Sometimes I remember them,” said Negrin, recounting a friendly Brazilian boy who introduced him to açaí before it was a hot trend in the U.S.
“There were around 30 different toppings,” Negrin said. “All chocolate, cereal, caramel … And he had it with all of them at once! Every time I get açaí here I remember him.”
Negrin talked about the difficulties he faced. Foreigners, for example, always learn about the metric system the hard way.
“I almost planned my whole itinerary backwards once,” Negrin said.
It was then that he found out that practically everywhere but in the United States the home team goes first in the title of the game. “I was going to the cities where they were home and I was backwards the whole time,” said Negrin.
Some adventures were a little riskier than others. Negrin encountered military police during his trips in both Bosnia and in the Brazilian favelas.
“You feel your heart gallop,” Negrin said. “When you travel, you have to embrace these things, you need to acknowledge you are not an insider.”
Nevertheless, Negrin tried to pass for one.
“I learned to look people in the eyes,” he said. “This way they did not think I was a foreigner.”
After traveling and reporting non-stop for months, Negrin found himself burned out, and feeling more drawn to settling down than going travelling for extensive times again.
“The minute you feel comfortable and safe you can fall away in complacency and this is bad. Routines can kill,” he said.
Negrin is never afraid to try new things and challenge his comfort zone, whether it is trying a hairy wild boar that was buried in fire for 12 hours or going to Japan to discover where all the people went after a big soccer game was canceled due to racist graffiti.
After all, he is a writer.
“Saying no to something is saying no to your reader,” Negrin said.
Cambria Davies found out that her company has an international headquarters in Dublin and decided to begin her career across the pond. Matters were simplified by her possession of a U.K. passport.
Davies studied abroad in Madrid, but after coming home her travel bug still lingered. She simply asked her company if she could work in Dublin, and there she was.
“I plan on staying for a year or two, and then I'll probably return to Boston or make my way to another city like London, NYC or San Francisco,” Davies said. “Wherever the wind takes me.”
As it turns out, anyone who thinks the United Kingdom is not a real stretch from the States is mistaken.
Learning the language was the hardest part for Davies. She implemented a routine to acclimate herself, but made an effort to hang out with new people. Through the adjustment, she learned more about the culture and people and gained genuine friendships with her Irish roommate and coworkers.
“I think it's really easy to fall back into what's comfortable and gravitate towards fellow Americans when you're abroad, but it's important to branch out so you get the most out of your experience,” Davies said.
No matter how candid and amiable the people around you are, being far away from one’s natural environment bestows a certain uncertainty. It was terrifying for Davies, reaching into the unknown—trying to find an apartment, making new friends and getting along with her roommate. However, it was also exciting.
“I live a much more nomadic lifestyle now,” said Davies. “I travel more frequently than I would back in the states because Europe is so accessible here and because it feels so temporary that I need to take advantage of it.”
After all, changing scenery allows one to indulge in culinary masterpieces.
“I developed a keen affinity for Guinness, beef stew and shepherd’s pie,” Davies said.