There are three framed pictures just above the couch, just above my head since I’m sitting here, working. It’s the kind of generic wall art you’d buy at IKEA to “personalize” your living space, conveniently forgetting that it’s unlikely it will look unique since thousands of customers had the same idea and grabbed the same cheap posters.
One of them is a close-up of a woman’s eyes. Watercolour was applied to the black-and-white picture, covering it with various shades of pink. The other two are typographic prints. “Do more of what makes you happy” in big bold white letters on a black background and “When in doubt, travel” in black cursive on a white background.
I sigh. “Gee, that helps…”
I get up from the couch and walk the two steps to the window. A storm is definitely brewing. It should have rained, already. It’s been very hot since I came back from Montevideo on Sunday, with temperatures between 35⁰C and 45⁰C. Air-con units are dripping water all over the streets of the capital and we had several power outages.
I called Feng and Mark on Skype a few minutes ago, but the connection wasn’t good. “It’s stormy here,” Feng explained. “We’re expecting a massive thunderstorm here too,” I replied. Then we brought our respective computers to the window for a live weather check even though it was pitch-black in Canada.
“Wow, yeah, looks like it’s gonna storm!”
“Wow, that’s a lot of snow!”
“The contractor finally showed up and cleared the driveway,” Feng adds. They were snowed in, last week.
Then I do some French homework with Mark and we hang up because it’s just too choppy and slow.
I make some instant soup and brainstorm.
Where do I go now?
“We always get stuck in Buenos Aires,” Feng sympathized. “Whatever you decide. Just let me know where you’re going next!”
Okay, “When in doubt, travel.” Duh. I ain’t settling in Buenos Aires, I need to move on.
Backpackers are masochists—you travel to a place, learn your way around, discover things you like and just when the environment is familiar and comfortable enough, you leave.
I have to go West. Not because life is peaceful there or the skies are blue—Go West, Pet Shop Boys, anyone?—but because we started East, in Brazil.
Much like Canada, Argentina is a big country where cities are few and far between.
I waste an hour looking for a cheap hotel in Mar del Plata, a popular seaside city a six-hour bus ride south of Buenos Aires. I find a good deal but then I realize the place is 8 km from the beach, which is a bit far, even for me who enjoys walking. There aren’t many options available because like Uruguay, it’s a popular summer destination. Plus, it’s difficult to travel onward from Mar del Plata. Okay, “Mardel” is out.
The most logical route across Argentina is Buenos Aires-Rosario-Córdoba-Mendoza. I like Rosario and there are plenty of cheap hotels, but I’m not a big fan of Córdoba (it was the city from hell for us a few years ago) and there aren’t many accommodation options. Besides, the bus ride from Córdoba to Mendoza is brutal—probably 10 hours, overnight.
“Check FlyBondi,” Feng reminded me. “We flew with them last year, they have weird routes.”
Their routes are so weird I have to Google a couple of the destinations. None of them appeal to me.
As I’m typing this, I’m realizing this is probably awfully boring to read because 1) it’s unlikely you are very familiar with the geography of Argentina 2) it’s my problem, not yours.
Maybe I should turn it into an engaging game.
“To send Juliette to Rosario, press one.”
“To send Juliette to Puerto Iguazú, press two.”
“To send Juliette to Patagonia, press three.”
Holy fuck, please don’t press three. I know, every traveller I meet is heading to Patagonia, but it’s cold down there and I don’t want to be cold. Plus, we’ve been there in 2009 and frankly, it kind of looks like Canada, complete with ice and beavers. Oh, and it’s expensive too.
No Patagonia for me.
I make travel decisions based on research—accommodation availability and prices, for instance—and opportunities—a cheap flight, an interesting bus route, etc.
It’s a bit like picking a book or a movie. You know what genre you’re into, the back cover grabs your attention and you start reading it. However, you can’t hesitate for too long between several books otherwise you’ll start doubting yourself. Have you ever found yourself browsing the shelves, unable to pick the perfect book for the evening? The more indecisive you are, the more picky you get—“yeah, sounds interesting, but I read a similar story a while ago…” “Oh, man, I can see how the plot will develop just based on the description!”
At one point, you just have to take a chance and hope for the best—and most of the time, you’ll get into the story and forget other options even existed.
Suddenly, I see a flash of lightning and then the thunder roars.
It’s finally raining. I stand behind the window and I see people many doing the same in other apartments across my building. A family is even sitting on the balcony, enjoying the shower.
Okay, I’m making a decision.
An hour later, I have a hotel and a plane ticket booked.
I hope I’m making the right move.