My relationship with Patagonia began in 2006: a road trip from Buenos Aires guided by my father-in-law Adalberto. As someone who has been exploring the region since he was a little boy growing up in the province of Neuquén — in a time where the only way through the cordillera was on horseback — he was able to provide a rare perspective on the cultures, towns, rivers, and wildlife of southern Argentina.
Two seemingly contradictory things were really impressed upon me in this initial trip. One was the outright scale-shattering presence of the terrain. But the other was that no matter how deep you were into the massive landscape, you’d find people living there. There were paisanos, (a non-derogatory colloquialism for camepsino or “country folk”) scratching out a living on small isolated ranches. Refugieros, or shelter-keepers, with their home-brewed beer and herds of sheep on some high mountain aerie. Indigenous Mapuche living in small, self-sufficient homesteads (complete with small wind-driven power supplies) deep in the national parks.
What I learned was that far from empty, Patagonia is a peopled landscape. And that while perhaps in the US one associated wilderness with national forests and parks, places to visit but not live, something about this seemed grounded and real, inspiring.
My trips to the region left a strong sense of what could be possible, travel- and life-wise, if we could ever figure out how to move to Patagonia for an extended time. Then in 2010, when our first child was just two years old, we decided to give it a shot and moved to the small town of El Bolsón.
The following images and descriptions collect some of the most important lessons we learned living in Patagonia.