Look at Grumpy Cat

Originally this blog post started with my lamenting the plight of the solo traveler, but I went ahead and deleted that little pity party and am just going to give you the point: traveling alone is freakin’ hard and a lot of times I just want to pack my bags one, lone backpack and return home. But, alas, I keep pushing forward.

I’m nine days into my stay in Buenos Aires and have already determined it to be an incredible city. On any given day, you’ll for sure find me in a coffee shop, of which there are many here, and you might (heavy emphasis on the might) find me going on a jog. When I’m not drinking coffee, I’m probably just walking through the various neighborhoods to see the architecture, to peoplewatch, and to discover the little idiosyncracies that make Buenos Aires the intriguing city that it is. 

In my many visits to the local coffee shops, I’ve learned that such establishments are not only good for revitalizing the spirits but also for informing me of interesting opportunities in the area and for making friends. Last weekend, I attended a small party for a major soccer game in the city; last night, I was able to make it to a chess class*; and starting next Monday, I’ll be taking a barista training class.

As you might recall from my previous post, I’m trying my hardest to not think about the future and to not worry about life after this trip. While I want to work on searching for a job and while everything within me tells me that I should be studying for the LSAT or working on writing samples for grad school, I’m determined instead to learn how to make latte art and also checkmate my boyfriend in a game of chess. If I could learn how to do those two things simultaneously, all the better. 

With my ambitions reallocated to more fun endeavors for the time being, I have an opportunity to focus on the present, which as I stated in my previous post, is kind of the point here. So, for the next several weeks I’ll be doing just that, enjoying the present, and then I’ll be on to Chile to do the same.

* Yes, you read correctly; I’m spending my vacation time playing chess.

Objective: to Have No Objective

Do mosquitos have nests? If so, I most definitely walked through one yesterday. I now know that the little demons can bite you through your clothes and consequently drive you to near insanity. 

And that pretty much sums up my short visit to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Colonia, originally a Portuguese settlement, is located on the Río de la Plata across from Buenos Aires, and is known for its cobblestone streets and quaint historic district. I know it for the mosquitoes.

I’m over it though. In fact, Colonia’s got some things going for it. First of all, it offers a pretty nice cup of coffee. Too, it serves as a great transition from the capital of Uruguay to the nearly fourteen-million-people-strong Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. 

A short ferry ride from Colonia to Argentina, and I’ve begun my month-long stay in a city that I’ve dreamed about for a long, long time. Argentina’s unique mix between European and Latin American cultures draws me in. I had hoped to study abroad here, so while that didn’t work out (and I certainly don’t regret my time in Spain), I’m very happy to have the present opportunity. 

Many people have asked me what I’ll do for a month in the city, and to that I answer, “I don’t really know.” A month of wandering through–and wondering at–this city will be interesting to say the least. I feel pretty aimless and a bit lost. But, I believe this lack of an apparent objective or any quantifiable progress (think: my entire schooling career) is good for me. I need to work on enjoying the ‘here and now’ and worrying less about what’s to come.  

Aaaand I suppose, with that last sentence, I’ve somewhat found my objective: to be present in both mind and heart. My planning skills are impeccable; my ‘being present’ skills could use some developing.

Note: I would add captions to my pictures, but none of my devices can seem to manage that… so just make up your own captions. 

Montevideo, Uruguay

While my head and my heart love traveling, my stomach sure hates it. All I can say is, I’m just glad to be on land after three flights.

To Uruguay, I bring with me just a backpack and a purse as well as a few valuable lessons I learned from my last trip abroad. Because we can’t all be winners, I was able to remember one lesson and, unfortunately, forget the other.

What I remembered was that rarely do I ever have to be in a rush while traveling. Particularly for this trip, I have great freedom in my schedule. Because it’s my nature to be in a hurry for everything I do, I had to consciously decide to slow down as I stepped off the plane. In Europe, it wasn’t until the end of five months there that I realized how miserable I was making myself by pushing so hard to see things and be places and meet people. This time around, I am trying my hardest to relax and just enjoy the ride (except for the plane flights–those just can’t be enjoyed).

And for the lesson I forgot, the upside was that my mistake was quickly remedied. It’s a simple fact that one should not take out an even amount of money from an ATM unless your desire is to have one large denomination that few will accept. Generally, bus drivers won’t take a bill worth some seventy USD to pay for a fare costing a few pesos (I mean, they will, they just won’t give you change…).

In my post-flight exhaustion, I failed to recall this important lesson and found myself with a seemingly unbreakable bill. In my defense, I will say that foreign ATMs are terrifying. When you read that the ATM fee is $171.60, you hope to God that the currency the dollar sign is referring to is Uruguayan pesos and not US dollars.

After accepting an ATM fee of $171.60 (Uruguayan pesos, I later discovered, praise God) and receiving a $2000.00 pesos bill, I felt nothing but despair. That is, until I noticed two golden arches far off in the distance. Leave it to McDonald’s to come to my rescue. One cup of coffee later, I had the bills I needed to board the bus and head to my hostel.

As I write this post, it’s my second day in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I’ve only just scratched the surface of my experience here. Whatever I end up doing and wherever I end up going, my goal is to simply go slow and enjoy the walks, the coffee, and the people. If I remember to do that, I think I’ll be okay.