As I sit on the doorstep of a new decade – I’ll turn 50 in less than 2 months – I thought about how I began this decade…on a 20 hour bus ride in Argentina with my then-boyfriend. It’s been a crazy decade filled with adventure, travel, love and loss. But, I thought about that trip to Argentina as I recently told someone a story about my time there. And it reminded me about what I love about travel.
The story goes like this.
My then-boyfriend and I had taken a 20 hour bus ride from Mendoza to Bariloche in the northern Patagonia region/Lake District. A gorgeous place which I highly recommend.
After a few days in Bariloche we took a much shorter bus ride up to a little town, a village really, called Villa la Angostura. It sits on the northern shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi. Once we secured a place to stay at the Italian Hostel (which I think was fairly new at the time and a nice, upgraded hostel), we headed to Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. It was a bit of a walk to the edge of the lake where you pick up the ferry, but we were used to walking. We ferried out to the tip of the peninsula where the park is located. The arrayán tree is also known as the Chilean myrtle and grows fairly tall in this area. It was really cool to walk among the forest of these trees with their reddish-brown bark. The light was creating shadows and the boyfriend and I had fun photographing. But, we were limited on time as the day was coming to an end. We had decided that instead of taking the ferry back, we would do the 12km walk back inland. So, I put us on a “death march” as boyfriend called it, and had us going at a fast pace so we wouldn’t be hiking in the dark. It was a close call.
Thankfully, the Argentinians are late diners. Once back in town and cleaned up, we headed out to find a place to eat. After walking through town and checking out the assorted restaurants, we decided to eat at La Encontada, a pizza place with more than pizza on the menu. It was a quiet night at the end of January and boyfriend and I were famished after all the walking. And as tired as we were, especially me, we ended up having the most amazing meal and the best overall dining experience in Argentina.
It started with our waiter who asked if he could speak English with us. He was young, cute, very nice. He wanted to improve his English. So, boyfriend, whose Spanish had gotten pretty good, gave up speaking Spanish, reluctantly, for the evening – at least to the waiter. We chatted about life in this part of Argentina and our lives in Colorado. The waiter was an avid skier.
We ordered a lovely white wine, a Tocai Friulano, which is typically Italian but we found the Alfredo Roca and fell in love with this wine. We had an appetizer, main plates and dessert. Everything was so delicious! We devoured it, savored it. We chatted with the waiter as we ate. A local woman sat near us and we chatted with her in a mix of English and Spanish. I think she was related to the owner or one of the men who worked there. We were having a travel moment, as I call them. A moment you can’t plan. A moment that just happens. Sometimes it’s simply because you chose to walk down a certain street, or because you decided to stop into that particular shop. Or it might be because you chose to take that bus at that time. Or maybe it’s because you liked the look of a menu at a certain restaurant. You can’t be afraid to go down one path instead of the main one, or to start a conversation with a complete stranger. You can’t plan these things. But, when these moments do begin to unfold, you simply need to go along for the ride. Because, I can guarantee you, it will be something you’ll remember, and talk about, a year later, 10 years later, 20 years later. Boyfriend and I even went back into the kitchen and talked to the chef, telling him how much we enjoyed the meal. What happened next? Hugs all around! It was indeed a travel moment.