Lago Falkner, on the Route of the Seven Lakes, Patagonia
I’m on my last leg of Argentina. In fact, I’m currently writing this article thousands of miles in the sky, on my way back to Europe. This week I went to Bariloche, Patagonia. I returned to Buenos Aires for one night before returning back to Brussels (with an exotic layover in Frankfurt).
Patagonia is breathtaking. I wasn’t expecting to see such a wide array of beautiful landscapes in such a small space of time. I expected Patagonia would be beautiful, but I didn’t think there would be so much of it. I became overwhelmed rather quickly. The views were incredible, but there are only so many stunning scenes you can take in within a day before it becomes exhausting.
Otherwise, my trip to Argentina has been weird. It had a mix of solo travel, spending time with some family (brothers/cousins) and also travelling with extended/new friends. What has also been travelling with me is a consistent cough, which has been a particular challenge on certain days too.
I’ve not been shy to share that this trip did not come at the greatest time for me. The beginning of the year has brought a pretty intense level of existential questioning. Sometimes this has felt like a real burden – I felt guilty for not enjoying my trip more. And yet, I also realised with hindsight that it is better to get on with life rather than what I would otherwise be doing – staring at my ceiling from my bedroom in Brussels.
I think I’m entering my chaotic era in life. This trip had less planning, more emotional vulnerability and greater amounts of spontaneous fun. Whilst I did go see the tourist sites, I also went out in Buenos Aires to a techno party till 7am, which definitely wasn’t part of the usual itinerary. I also had more of a sense of obligation to be there for my family, which was the primary reason for the trip. I find such things difficult, and this was no exception here.
When I stop to think, it’s actually amazing what I achieved. I booked a full trip a few weeks away, turned up to a brand new country in a different continent and rolled through speaking Spanish from day one with no issues. I often take my skills for granted, and it was only when I was travelling with non-Spanish speakers that I remembered how far I had come with my mastery of language and cross-cultural communication.
In the last few days I noticed something about myself. My urge to conform and connect with local cultures with respect is something that really drives me. On the positive side, this is what has spurred my strengths in understanding others. On the other hand, this can also make me feel very uncomfortable when not doing what I’m supposed to do. I had a sharp pain in my chest when I was travelling with others and I felt like we were not respecting the local customs. I had never connected the dots around my sensitivities with the deep desire to conform within a culture.
I think that deep down, I am someone who really desires harmony and peace. When I go to my core, I am actually the ultimate people pleaser – this has come out really intensely when I’ve gotten close with people.
The painful part of this is that this does not really reflect how many people see me, or indeed how I saw myself for a long time. The nicer words people have used about me are that I am passionate and fight for what I believe in, the less nice words are that I am a troublemaker.
This trip has been a reminder that at my core I am deeply sensitive – for many people probably overly so. So I have learnt to adapt, whether that be to attach myself to more masculine traits of logical thinking whilst also heavily suppressing my emotional side, or learning to be more outspoken as a way to follow my beliefs.
After all, if I was still the quiet, peace loving ethnic minority, I would probably be doing some admin job in the back of an office with half the salary with my skills being wasted. The troublemaker brand is one I’ve reluctantly accepted to make it in a world not built for people like me.