Life is pretty wild and serendipitous. Three years ago – on February 16, 2017, to be exact – my friend Laurel sent me a message on Instagram with a photo of the coziest-looking dome in Chilean Patagonia. “Apparently, this is in Chile,” she wrote. “I think we should try to find it when I come visit you!”
“OMG! Yes! How soon can you get here?” I responded.
We chatted a little about dates and travel plans and left it at that. Nothing really came of it that year.
Then, in December 2017, my story with Torres del Paine began, as I spent five days hiking and camping the “W” with my friend Lindsay. I’ve since written about that experience for Stay Wild Magazine and Osprey.
There’s magic in the park. I firmly believe that. Be it the water, the calafate berries, the larger-than-life mountains, the ever-changing [and dramatic and intense] weather or something else altogether, there is something to Torres del Paine.
The park, and southern Patagonia, seem to always leave me wanting more. More time. More moments of connection. More adventures. Just more.
“Who would’ve thought that when we met five years ago we’d be trekking in Torres del Paine together?” I say to Lindsay as we hike from Refugio Grey to Refugio Paine Grande in one of southern Patagonia’s most famous national parks.
Life, and the crossing of paths, is a seemingly strange and mind-blowing thing. Today, our second of five days in Torres del Paine, my mind traipses through my story with Lindsay.
She and I met in August 2012. I was fresh out of college and looking for marketing work in the social impact space. Lindsay was the national director of Right To Play – USA, an organization I was keen to work with. We initially connected through email, and then, when I was traveling through San Francisco, we met for coffee on a Friday afternoon at La Boulange. Our relationship, a mentorship and now a friendship, has grown from there.
Five days and four nights of Patagonian trekking and camping in Torres del Paine started a week ago today – and flew by in the blink of an eye, as I knew it would. I’m certainly different now from the girl who stepped into that adventure one week ago, and really, that’s one of many takeaways I love about time in nature. Disconnecting from what has become the hustle and bustle of life allows for infinite genuine connections with ourselves, the people around us and some of the most important parts of this planet we’re so lucky to call home – and Torres del Paine is one special place.
I carried so much on the trail with me throughout those five days. Some anticipated. Some unanticipated. It’s been an emotional adventure, to say the least, and I am grateful in the depths of my soul for every step of the journey. Quite literally. It was amazing to see the expanse of the park on Monday as we drove back to Puerto Natales. The postcard view was something we hadn’t yet seen, and as we drove further from the mountains, we could more or less see all the ground we’d traversed as each mountainous benchmark became visible. Every day. Every kilometer. Every memory. It’s crazy how time flies and, really, how the world can feel so small and ginormous all at once.
Today is a Nuquí day. A reminder that travel, and life, does not always go according to plan.
I woke up at 5:20 a.m. today to catch a 7:00 a.m. bus to Osorno, Chile. (I need to cross the border to renew my passport.) I brushed my teeth, washed my face, got dressed, packed my backpack and then walked to the neighborhood bus stop to catch the local bus to the terminal in town. It was 5:50 a.m. Mornings are slow, still and silent in Argentina, especially 12 kilometers out from Bariloche.
At the bus stop, I stood in the little shelter as rain drizzled outside. I waited 40 minutes for any bus heading into town to appear. I counted four or five buses heading in the opposite direction, but there was nothing coming my way. For 40 minutes. Nada.
At 6:30, a bus came into view. It wouldn’t take me directly to the terminal, but it was the first bus to show up in the direction I needed to go and I figured it would get me close.
This year, I spent the holidays in Chile. I spent a week, including Christmas, in Pichilemu, a sleepy little surf town three hours south of Santiago, and then ventured north to Valparaiso, a colorful coastal town built into hills overlooking the Pacific, to ring in 2017.
In all, it was a great trip. I really loved both towns and hope to return to each of them again someday — hopefully with a fellow traveler, or more, in tow.
During my travels, I had my share of tough times, too, especially since I was traveling solo during the holidays.
The distance from my family, friends and even my new home in Buenos Aires gave me new perspective. Traveling solo during the holidays gave me a deeper appreciation for the familiar in my life. It made me see my holiday traditions, the way I usually spend my holidays, in a different way. New places and experiences do that. It’s part of the reason to travel, to explore, to see the world. But it’s tough to do that and stomach those lessons on your own around the holidays.