Reflections from the Airport

Reflections from the Santiago, Chile Airport

Waiting for my connecting flight at the airport in Santiago, Chile, this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down alone and reflect on this amazing adventure.

I think about how hard the last few weeks have been. I think about the life-long relationships I’ve made and the memories that I’ll take with me forever. I think about the sleepless last few nights and the surreal cab ride to the airport.

Although it was painful, the goodbye came with a great feeling of accomplishment. I think If saying goodbye was easy it meant nobody truly cared. Maybe that’s the advantage of backpacking. You can travel to a lot of places in a short period of time and never get too close for it to really hurt when you leave.

For me however, this trip was more about just seeing monuments, taking pictures and trying the food. “The Tourist 2 Townie Experiment” was about becoming part of a community.

As I sit here and think about it for the first time I can say, without reservation, that I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal.

Although I’ve realized long before this whole thing started that I’d never be considered a Porteno, I do feel like I have become part of a community, I feel like I have a place – a home in Argentina.

I arrived in Buenos Aires on October 1st without a contact in South America or a phone to call them on. I knew nothing about the city, didn’t speak the language and I had zero plans. I came on a whim and my first few days were lonely and full of doubt.

However, thanks to some amazing friends, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling more like a townie than a tourist. At the risk of sounding like the back of a high school yearbook, here’s who made this trip a success…

I was lucky enough to meet my roommates, Mariengela and Sergio in my first week in Buenos Aires. Now looking back, I couldn’t picture this experience without them. Just like I couldn’t imagine the apartment without Tatiana, Marcela, Les, Camila or Nate there.

My first friend in BA was Carolina who worked in the hostel and helped me find the apartment. She took me to see the “El Secreto De Sus Ojos” on my first night here and she got a kick out of the fact that I didn’t understood a word. Eliana was the first Argentine women who invited me into her home and I’ll never forget the pizza parties with her, Romina and the guys.

My basketball buddies including Joe, Sergio and Anibal became some of my best friends here in BA and thanks to Anibal, I got me the job bartending at Buller Pub, where I met an amazing group of friends. Late nights with the Buller crew made me feel more like a townie than anything, and their “Spanish lessons” assured me that I would never be short of dirty phrases.

Also, the expat community has been such a great source of friends and business associates. Although I was reluctant to be a part of this community at first, I’m very thankful I got involved. There are a lot of great people down here doing incredible things and it was cool to get to know them. You won’t find a better group of guys than The Shankees baseball team, The Pub Crawl crew or the Armenia Club Hoops squad.

There is also one other person who shined a light over this entire experience, but I’ll save my thank you for the next time we meet ; ).

Here are some common questions I’ve been asked over the last few days and after thinking about them more this is what I came up with…

Was there ever a time when you ready to go home?

Now. I’m super excited about seeing the family and celebrating some amazing weddings with my best friends. Otherwise, it was weird, there was never a day or time along this adventure where I wanted to give up and just go home. I think it was because there was always so much I wanted to see and do.

Was there ever a time you really missed home?

Not being at my grandma’s house for a white christmas and not throwing a New Years party with the guys back home sucked.

Worst Experience?

Hospital maybe, that was a pain in the ass. Otherwise, I really don’t have a good answer for this one. Anything that went wrong was manageable (i.e. the bloody nose on my first day of work wasn’t great). Hopefully this answer doesn’t change between Santiago and New York.

Hardest Experience?

Hands down throwing myself into the culture made for a lot of frustrating times with language barriers. I got made fun of a lot at the bar when it was busy and I couldn’t understand someone or they couldn’t understand me. I had to develop tough skin and it pushed me to learn faster. Also, not being able to say the things I wanted to if there was an argument or disagreement killed me.

Read – Spanish, Chapter 3: The Frustration

WTF Moments / Townie Moments?

1. Eating a Choripan with a group of cab drivers in Puerto Madero at 5:30am.

2. Drinking whisky with Carlos and Fernando from Catupecu Machu. – Read

3. Being serenaded by the Latin American Idol finalists in their dressing room. – Read

4. Playing futbol at 3am with the Buller kitchen staff. – See

5. Riding horses out in the country with Fernando from Polo Elite. – See

6. Celebrating the Argentina Open win with the champs! – Read

Any Regrets?

I wish I would have taken group Spanish lessons before I took private ones and took them for longer.

Anything on your list you really wanted to accomplish and didn’t?

Skiing in the Andes and getting into La Bombonera. Otherwise I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I could have gotten to more restaurants or nightclubs but what can you do. Money was definitely a factor in all of these.

Future plans?

I loved this past year – traveling, experiencing new things, meeting new people, learning Spanish, new media and marketing. The goal now is to go home, organize my life (and finances) and see what kind of adventure I can come up with next. I have a ton of photos, videos and information I will be adding to the site as well as documenting my return home, my website redesign and what goes into planning the next trip. There has been rumors of becoming a farmer in Colombia, chef in Peru or Martial Artist in Brasil…. stay tuned!

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

One Comment

  1. I totally agree with you. You’ve definitely had my point as well. It’s like you’ve read my mind. I was even planning to write quite similar post like this to share with the public especially to those who are also interested with this matter. Great post! Now, I’m left with only subscribing to your post and reading all of your writings. Thank you for this very informative and helpful post. =)

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