On Travel and Spontaneity
It was just past 9 P.M. Jared and I had spent the previous evening at the Pumas-Wallabies rugby match, an event that culminated in coming home at 2 o’clock in the morning.
I know, I know – in Argentina, the party is just getting started at 2AM. But I’m old. My 2AM is a 21-year-old’s sunrise.
We spent the day in Rosario doing little to nothing, and I was minutes away from closing my laptop and announcing my intention to go to bed.
Then the Australians returned to the hostel. They were a group of four ex-Navy sailors, three men and a woman, who were in the middle of a mammoth sailing trip. They’d started in Scotland, traversed the Atlantic, and arrived in Argentina via the Caribbean. Up next was a four month expedition to Antarctica.
In fact, we’d both been at the same pub the night before but couldn’t work out how we hadn’t run into each other. They’d had such a massive night that Tina, the woman, had declared the pub off-limits.
“O’Connell’s, right?” the boys asked us.
Jared and I confirmed that yes, we’d been at O’Connell’s.
Matt described the bar. “You walk in, the bar’s on the right, tables on the left. Small upstairs section.”
I was confused. “No…the bar’s on the left. There’s a pretty big room to the right and a bunch of tables upstairs.”
At that moment, it clicked. There were two Irish pubs in Rosario, and both of them were named O’Connell’s.
“This is fantastic news,” the boys crowed. “Wait’ll Tina hears that we found a loophole.” They turned to us. “You have to come, you know. Can’t get out of it now.”
I thought about how tired I was. Then I thought about the days when I first started traveling, when I wouldn’t have hesitated to say yes.
Jared stood up. “All right boys, I suppose I’ll come for one,” Jared said. “It’d be rude not to.”
Once upon a time, I would have fretted about my hair, which hadn’t been washed since the day before. Or my clothes, which were casual at best. Or how tired I had been all day. But I didn’t come to Argentina to impress anyone.
I shut the computer, put my hair in a braid, and applied what little makeup I’ve got with me.
“Ready,” I said.
The six of us stayed out until the bar shut down at three, talking about life, travel, the past, and the future. I spent the next day exhausted, but still managed to go for an afternoon run instead of my morning one.
This is travel – establishing new, flexible routines that allow for spontaneity.
The next night, Jared and I were discussing our dinner plans. The Australians were gone and we planned to cook a quiet dinner of bean and veggie wraps. Both of us were looking forward to something different than the meat, bread, and cheese we’d been eating on autopilot for weeks.
“Give me about 20 minutes,” I said. “Then we’ll go to the grocery store.”
A few minutes later, the hostel owner, Juan, arrived for his evening shift.
“Okay,” he announced. “What will we eat for dinner? It is raining, so no asado. Mexican? Argentinian? I know! Empanadas. We will make empanadas.”
And just like that, we were in for a meal of communally cooked empanadas. Jared and I teamed up with an English guy to chop a mound of peppers and onions.
“Now, add the oil,” Juan said, pouring the vegetables into a pot. “More oil! And salt. More salt!”
A kilo of onions were joined by a kilo of meat, and the whole thing was soon bubbling on the stove.
“Laowra,” Juan shouted. “Come smell it.” He waved his hand in the air until the delectable aroma of meat and onions wafted up my nose. As we cooked, Juan filled our glasses with Malbec and Tannat. The empanada filling cooled on the patio while we peeled boiled eggs and drained a bag of olives. Finally, I stood around a table with a Brazilian couple and we laughed in a mixture of Spanish, English, and Portuguese as we stuffed and sealed empanadas.
At midnight, we took our first bites of juicy empanadas in the dining room while rain beat down on the roof.
Instead of saying no, we’d said yes. It wasn’t part of our plan, it wasn’t necessarily what we’d envisioned, but it was undoubtedly the right call.
And I remembered – I don’t travel to say no, to turn down offers of kindness and friendship. I travel to be spontaneous. And that includes bar hopping with sailors, cooking unexpected meals, experimenting with foreign languages, and eating dinner when I’m usually in bed. I travel to do all the things I don’t usually do at home.
I travel to say yes.