Tales from the road: Spotlight on Argentina
Last Tuesday I decided to move to Argentina. Sometimes this kind of decision takes a while to percolate before coalescing into a concrete plan, but this one was impulsive.
My roommates in Colorado went to Patagonia last year, and kept talking about this one valley, a place like paradise that was so beautiful they almost couldn’t leave.
Then, last Monday, I met up with MatadorTravel.com editor David Miller, who told me about a fertile valley south of Bariloche, with trout streams and breweries.
As it turned out, both David and my roommates were talking about the very same place. The next day I booked a ticket to Buenos Aires with the last of my frequent flier miles. Home for the (Northern) winter will be a small cabin casting distance from enormous rainbow trout in the valley of El Bolson.
Despite my vague impressions of tango, steak, pampas, trout and mountains, I know very little about Argentina. What better way to get a sense of the country than by reading travel stories?
Thus, I give you the first single country edition of Tales From the Road. Who knows – maybe reading these 5 great stories will convince you to migrate south for the winter with me….
1) “Does This Guy Look Like a Model To You?” by Ben Brazil
In 1999 Ben Brazil was “looking to postpone life and have an adventure.” His strategy was basic – as in basically non-existent. Ben “simply got on a plane and moved to a different hemisphere.”
As it turned out, two weeks after his arrival in Buenos Aires, Ben scored a gig as an international fashion model – despite being “built a bit like a rubber chicken.” His story is absolutely freakin’ hilarious, chock-full of all the random, weird events that make travel such an unpredictable and exhilarating adventure.
2) “Aconcagua: the Whole Empanada” by Ross Borden
I love stumbling across travel stories where the writer’s enthusiasm comes through loud and clear – the sort of breathless narratives that are banged out in dingy Internet cafes by someone traveling hard, in the zone, who is just getting the story down while it’s still fresh and alive.
Ross Borden’s mountaineering tale about his assault on the highest mountain outside the Himalayas on his 23rd birthday isn’t the most polished travel literature you’ll ever read, but his enthusiasm and honesty pour right off the page.
Ross’ description of the struggle up Aconcagua makes me feel like I’m right there with him – braced against 80 mph gusts of wind and watching the setting sun light the sky on fire.
3) “Making the Most of Those Long Argentine Nights” by Matt Gross
My nemesis has done it again: Matt Gross beat me to Argentina by 6 months. To make matters worse, he wrote a terrific story about the awesome Buenos Aires nightlife.
I don’t know whether to gnash my teeth because Matt got there first, or to get even more excited to experience a night out in a place where the party doesn’t really start until 2 in the morning.
4) “Real Happy Feat: Penguin Cruise” by John Flinn
Shackleton he’s not, but John Flinn evidently had a great time on his cruise to the end of the earth. Of course, it can’t have hurt his mood to drink Johnie Walker on the rocks at 8:30 in the morning while chilling with penguins and elephant seals.
Mr. Flinn’s gorgeous description of the landscape of Tierra del Fuego are enough to awaken the inner explorer in all of us.
“It’s a world of almost unnerving beauty and tempestuous grandeur,” he writes – “of ribbony waterfalls streaking down misty mountainsides, of stone fingers thrusting into the clouds and colossal glaciers tumbling to the sea.”
Umm, word. Pass the whiskey, Mr. Flinn.
5) “Expatriate Games” by Allen Salkin
OK – this isn’t exactly a travel narrative, but it IS a terrific piece of travel journalism that explains why Argentina, and Buenos Aires in particular, are so appealing to North American ex-pats.
With the Argentine peso still recovering from an economic crisis, it’s possible to live well in Buenos Aires for a fraction of the cost of expensive cities like New York, Vancouver or London. Of course, there are lots of cheap destinations in the world, but as Salkin discovers, few places can match Buenos Aires for rocking nightlife, vibrant culture and functional urban design.
The only drawback? Apparently hearty bacon ‘n egg breakfasts are hard to come by in Argentina. Guess I’ll have to get used to sweet pastries.