Mental Elphs Shots from Argentina

Returned from Argentina one week ago today. This trip was so packed with adventures that I didn’t send any postcards, which is an anomaly (Postcards aren’t as good as souvenirs, but who doesn’t like getting personal snail-mail? In an age where most of my mail is comprised of unsolicited credit card applications, I love getting real mail).

First off, let me say that my sister introduced me to hostels last year, and I love them. For a few dollars a night ($7-10 in Argentina), I got a clean bed to sleep in, an internet connection (although it’s generally one computer for all hostel guests), wonderful hostel staff (who were great resources for city info, cabs, reservations), continental breakfast, and the opportunity to interact with adventurers from around the world. And, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you about some of the amazing women I met, and what I learned from them.

Janet – my 28 year old sister. Doing her residency in neurosurgery. Travel companion for the first 4 days. She’s got amazing gumption and drive. This is her second trip this year, having taken a week to explore Mexico City solo a couple months ago. She always inspires me to reach beyond my cozy circle of habit.

Lorena – late 20’s actuary from Mendoza, Argentina. In Buenos Aires for a couple weeks to meet a friend traveling from England. Working to improve her English. Spent her early 20’s being driven by her career, and is now taking more time to smell the roses. She came with me to a tango dinner show, intent on “expanding” my reservation for one into a reservation for two. Joke was on us, as the hostess didn’t have my reservation down at all. However, it worked out, and we were seated with Nicole and Dorabelle. Lorena and I had so much fun … we exchanged e-mail addresses, and have a pact to visit if we’re ever in one another’s area.

Nicole and Dorabelle – Canadian daughter and mother traveling together. Nicole works for an airline, and decided to take her mother to Argentina for her birthday. I really liked their spirit of camaraderie and adventure. Together with Lorena, we all ooh-ed and aah-ed over the fantastic tango dancers and singers. My table mates also gracefully suffered the swaying table and clinking glasses as I cut into my decidedly tough steak.

Alice – 22 year old Australian taking a break from college … 6 months of traveling. i wish I had taken more time to savor those years, instead of being so intent on getting through them rapidly.

Mari’ – 30-something ranch owner on the outskirts of Bariloche. Grew up in a hippie town, and has always worked with horses. Doesn’t ever want to live off of a farm. She came to pick me up at the hostel in her old pickup, whose brakes squealed each time she applied them too hastily, and each time she would shush them. At first I thought she was embarrassed that they were so noisy. Then, she explained that she used the same sound, with a gentle reign action, to slow down horses.

Dancing grandmother – late 60’s. During the outdoor tango exhibition in Plaza Dorrego, she got up during the interludes and danced by herself. I hope I will always have partners to dance with, but in the event that I don’t, I’ll end up like this abuelita (pictured above), dancing solo with purse in hand.

Married Columbian woman in her early 60’s. Traveling with her husband, two daughters, and friend, all staying at my hostel, no less. Couple very much in love even after so many decades. Holding hands while hiking, and oh-so solicitous of each other. Continuing to see the world with new eyes.

Jenny – late 20’s, from Chicago. During the first year of their marriage, she and her husband scrimped and saved. During this, the second year of their marriage, they’re taking 15 months off to travel South America and Africa. Reminds me to be more frugal about things that don’t matter, and save up for the things that do. Jenny and I also talked about the May 1st immigrant strikes back in the US … Argentina was celebrating International Workers Day on May 1st.

Amanda – 21 year old Swede. Taking a year to travel around South America. Taking Spanish lessons and hoping to find a job that will pay room and board. Volunteering with the disadvantaged in Bailoche. Lived a year in New Jersey as a high school exchange student. Passionate about environmentalism. Made me contemplate how much garbage I generate on a weekly basis, and resolve to be more proactive about recycling.

Luciana – 25 year old portena (meaning, from Buenos Aires). Occupational therapist. We had a lot to talk about regarding health care, and between our cobbled Spanish and English abilities, were able to communicate pretty effectively. She’s taking time to travel by herself and discover her nation. Argentina is still a very machismo society, but becoming more progressive. Talked about Argentine trends of marrying at a later age, and the increased presence of sperm banks. Shared mate tea all around on a day trip to Cerro Tronador (as pictured with us and the Columbians). Translated bits from the Spanish-speaking-only guide. The type of friendly and open person I hope to meet and be wherever I travel.

And that’s all I’ll relate for now. I learned so many things from all of these women. The biggest take home lesson for me was that everyone has something to share and teach, if only we have the wisdom to learn it.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

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  1. Caroline says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip! It’s great that you met so many interesting people. I admit that when I travel, I don’t make very many connections with other people. Makes me wish I were more outgoing when I am in foreign countries!

  2. jana says:

    Do you think that staying in hostels fosters more contact with fellow travelers than staying in hotels? Like caroline, I don’t interact w/enough folks when I travel, but I’ve never done the hostel thing so maybe that’s why?

  3. Deborah says:

    Amen to your dancing abuelita! Wonderful image. . .

  4. Dora says:

    Yes, I definitely think that hostels make for a more communal feeling than hotels! I find that hostel guests tend to more international … which, among other things, means that they generally have more vacation time than the standard US 2 weeks. Also, young people from Europe, Australia and South America seem to take more time during school breask with which to travel.

    Most hostels host a continental breakfast. And seeing as the tables are usually small and close, people generally engage more in conversation. Also, there’s something about exploring a new city that makes you want to bond with others who may be sharing the same experiences, or have recommendations on things to do.

    Lastly, the hostel we stayed at in Maui last year had daily “free” trips to places all over the island. Tips for the guide were suggested, but not obligatory. Met people from Japan, Australia, Germany, Argentina, England, France, and from various US cities all in one day trip to see the Haleakala crater.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You meet so many wonderful people in hostels!! If you want to meet lots of international travels I definately recommend them! Your trip sounds great, South America is supposed to be a wonderful place to travel in. Thanks for sharing your with us!


  6. ryan says:

    A great post and I like the pictures. I wouldn’t be suprised if these people aren’t ocassionally musing about the open, interesting, and wonderful Dora they met in Argentina.

    I hope to travel some day like you.

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