Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Six Month Itch

We are born nomads.

From our hunter-gatherer days, we’ve chosen our homes based on where the resources are that can support our lifestyles, and we’ve moved on after taking all we could. Through all stages of evolution, this much has not changed. But the traveling breed requires something beyond water, heat, food and shelter. We are doers, and we need stimulation.

Every six months I find myself restless. Not because I don’t love wherever I am (how could I not? I moved there, after all) but because I realize I’ve stopped appreciating the place to the fullest. My DNA reminds me its time to refresh my surroundings and seek out new diversions, and I find myself in a self-induced (and sometimes winter-induced) rut.

What can you do? How can you avoid treating your city like a working adult and more like a kid on a playground again? Your inner 8-year-old’s thrill in taking a train to work has become a daily commute. You finally met your neighbors; they are not famous fashion editors, starving artists and Nobel Prize-winning rocket scientists, but contractors and low-level businessmen with five kids and pets that are smellier than they are lovable.

In the real world, we can’t just pack our bags and find something new and fun when the place we’ve romanticized turns from a fairy tale into a more permanent home (your roots). I’ve been in NYC for more than nine months now and I’m sorry to say I’ve let it stale. As much as I’d like to jet off to London and pretend to write a novel for the next year, it’s not a possibility when you know you’ll be restless again six months later. Like in any other relationship, you have to stop, take a breath and find a solution both you and your city can agree on. It’s time to bring back that honeymoon feeling and get out of the rut!

The goal is to feel uncomfortable in your own city. You know that rush of excitement when you step out of that taxi/bus/gondola/rental/RV and take a first look around you, amazed you have so much to explore in the coming hours/days/weeks/months? To grasp that feeling whenever and wherever I want to have it, I need a plan.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be testing all my own strategies and taking requests. Anchors away!


The Buenos Aires Podcast

I’m keeping today’s post short, because I’m directing you instead to a place that has already done the work of packaging up Buenos Aires insight and condensed into podcast form for your listening pleasure. It’s called the Buenos Aires Podcast, or B.A. Cast.

I stumbled upon the B.A. Cast a couple months into my time in Buenos Aires and listened to all the (as of then) released episodes in one sitting. The hosts of the 20-ish minute podcasts—which are in English—are Dan Karlin, a Buenos Aires transplant originally from the U.S. and Fernando Farias, a B.A. local. They work into the episodes such varied topics as Argentine history, current events and Spanish slang (lunfardo) lessons, as well as cultural happenings and the need-to-know, all while achieving that perfect tone and balance between the informative and funny.

I have now met both the hosts, but I didn’t know either of them when they found my post right here on this blog, Joining a Gym in Buenos Aires, and quoted it on their show. They often include interviews with other expats or locals on their show, and draw on stories and posts by others about the city, as they did with this blog. One of the most fascinating episodes, in my opinion, is Episode 20 of Season 1, in which discuss body image in Argentina and bring in some female guests to share their opinions.

Check out the YouTube B.A. Cast trailer here:

Even if you’re not living in Buenos Aires, if you’ve just visited once or hope to visit one day, I encourage you listen to some of the episodes. At the very least you’ll leave more knowledgeable about this crazy, pulsating city in the Southern Hemisphere, and the mama of a country in which it’s located. You have time to start and finish Season 1 before Season 2 debuts. Do it!


Shot of the Week

San Telmo, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, is appropriately filled today with stores selling antiques and assorted vintage items. This dress was on display outside a store in a converted mansion from the 1800s.


Visiting El Chaltén, Argentina

A three-hour bus ride from El Calafate is the teeny hikers’ and climbers’ town of El Chaltén. While very (very very) small, the town of El Chaltén with the jagged Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains rising up behind is an iconic image of Argentine Patagonia.

Welcome to El Chaltén!

Getting there

The most common way to arrive in town is to take three-hour bus ride from El Calafate. Some people choose to stay overnight, but if you are a more casual hiker—file me under that—it is very doable to just go for the day. Catch the first bus of the day out of El Calafate and then last one out of Chaltén back to Calafate at the end of the day, and you will have had time for some scenic hikes and relaxing meals.

My shot of the playground in El Chaltén

In fact, unless you are planning some intense climbing or trekking expeditions, I would not recommend staying overnight, as the town is even smaller and more quiet than El Calafate. Still, it is gorgeous and I do recommend scheduling a day to visit.

Residences in El Chaltén

What to do

Stop in the town’s tourism office to grab a trail map and get hike recommendations. My mom and I did about two hours of hiking total, which took us to two different, yet equally stunning, viewpoints.

Made it up to Mirador Las Águilas in Chaltén

Bus ride from Chaltén to Calafate, by Karina

Mom hiking back to town, with Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in El Chaltén

Also, grab a meal at La Cervecería, an artesanal beer/food joint in town that was one of the tastiest and most comforting meals I had had in some time. (The Argentine stew locro is the house specialty.) Be warned, though, that because this is almost exclusively a tourist town—tourists being the hikers and climbers—many establishments close for the low-season months beginning in April, the Cervecería included.

Our lunch at La Cervecería in Chaltén

Otherwise, wander town, grab some Patagonian chocolates and take lots of pictures!

See more for Argentina’s Santa Cruz province in this TKGO post about visiting El Calafate and Perito Moreno glacier.


Visiting El Calafate and Perito Moreno

One of Argentina’s Patagonian gems is El Calafate, a charming town of about 10,000 permanent residents (according to our chatty taxi driver) in Santa Cruz Province. El Calafate reminded me of a ski town, but instead of skiing, it’s is hiking: hiking on ice, in fact.

El Calafate from the Hotel Edenia, by Karina

View of Perito Moreno from the airplane, by Karina

El Calafate is beloved tourist destination because of its proximity to Los Glaciares Nacional Park, which contains Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the most visited glaciers in the park. An elaborate set of bridges allow tourists to walk near the glacier and view the vast and striking ice formation from different angles. The real adventure to be had, though, is hiking the glacier, crampons strapped on and the whole deal.

"Mini Trekking" on Perito Moreno, by Karina

Perito Moreno from the bridges, by Karina

My mom and I participated in the glacier hiking tour (“Mini Trekking”) through Hielo y Aventura, which I highly, highly recommend it. The tour takes trekkers on, up and across a good portion of the glacier, and it is phenomenal.

If you travel to El Calafate, you are going to see Perito Moreno glacier, as that’s the biggest draw. In my (strong) opinion, go all the way with your trip and spring for the ice trekking tour, because climbing on such an impressive natural wonders is really unlike anything else.

The Mini Trekking tour ended with whiskey and alfajores

Also recommended in El Calafate

Eating at La Tablita, where everyone will direct you anyway. It’s the nicest dining spot in town, with delicious, no-nonsense Argentine fare (meats and pastas) perfect for the chilly Calafate temperatures. It gets crowded, so make reservations! Also, don’t miss the lamb cooking on a glassed-in spit by the kitchen.

Staying at Hotel Edenia. The simply decorated but very comfortable hotel (heated bathroom floors!) is a little outside town on the opposite side of the bay, which makes for some spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.

Visiting the hiker’s dream town of  El Chalten. (You can read more about El Chalten and see photos in the next post.)

If you’re interested in seeing more photos of Arctic wonders or reading about what it’s like to go even farther south, check out Tara’s posts about her trip to Antarctica.


Shot of the Week

Soweto, Johannesburg, South AfricaThree men work on a car in the outskirts of Soweto, a township in the southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2006.