Surviving in Style

So, turns out that not many of you actually knew that I was going to go traveling all summer.  This is not an accident… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you all the deets but I had mixed feelings about the trip, and it was an impulsive, irresponsible, and last-minute decision.  From before I even left the States for Argentina I had been planning some sort of extensive trip through South America during the Argentine summer (December-February), but things didn’t quite go to plan as I’d expected financially.  Trip cancelled.  I wasn’t tooooo upset though.  My friends had invited me to spend 5 days including New Year’s with them on an island in Tigre which sounded awesome, I’d be spending Christmas with my host family, and I still had plenty left to explore and get to know in Buenos Aires.  Staying would be comfortable and I’d still have a marvelous summer.  Then came along Maxi.

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Max sent me a couch request on a site called couchsurfing.com  (go there if you don’t know what it is because I’m too lazy to explain it or read this blog about how freaking awesome it is) asking for a place to stay in Buenos Aires.  He was traveling for eight months in South America after doing an intensive month of Spanish in Chile by hitch hiking.  Obviously I couldn’t offer him a place to stay because I live with a family, but I told him we could meet up and I could show him what little I know about the city.  It was his birthday so we made a chocotorta (dulce de leche with chocolate graham crackers and cream…ummm duh) and then tried to rent free city bikes and visit some of the parks in the city.  We only managed to get our hands on one bike…so while we attempted to ride it together quite comically through the traffic-heavy streets of the city, he told me all about the places he planned on visiting and how he’d hitchhiked all the way from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina and what a great experience it was and and and and…well I got that little Autumn urge that sometimes often makes me do crazy things.

After thinking about it for not nearly enough time and bouncing the idea off a few friends—“So I’m thinking of going hitch hiking around a country I don’t know very well with this guy from Germany I just met through an online travel site, what do you think?”—and receiving, cough, mixed, cough cough, advice and opinions, I decided to jump ship and go anyways.  You only live once, and I AM supposed to be on a crazy one-year adventure in Argentina, so I found excuse to go.  I was both terrified and thrilled by the idea of hitchhiking.  It sounds so adventurous and hippy-glamorous to a young person like me; it sounds so dangerous and rash to a mother…like my mom.  Consequently, I kept all that hitchhiking/sleeping in gas stations stuff on the down low, which may be why you didn’t hear that much about it before I left.  I honestly didn’t like telling people that I’d be thumbing rides because I expected negativity and fear among the people that cared about me.  Only about 90% of the time was I actually met with negativity and fear before I left; now that I’m back 90% seem to think it was a cool idea…thanks for the support, guys.

Clearly, I didn’t die (until Bolivia but that’s a whole other tangent.)

Because I decided to spend Christmas with my host family, and Maxi was getting anxious and antsy to leave Buenos Aires, he went on ahead without me.

Image^^Totally went swimming on Christmas 😛

I had to take a bus from Buenos Aires to Rosario to meet him the day after Christmas (about 185 miles or 298 kilometers.)  I packed up my things, emptied out my backpack, put half of my things back in the closet, packed up my things again, took out another half of my things in order to shut my backpack, cleaned my room, said goodbye to my host mom and set out for the bus station.  The decision to leave was so rushed that I didn’t even really get to say goodbye to the rest of my host family.  I didn’t feel anything while riding to the bus station.  Not nervousness, not excitement, not fear.  I was attempting to suppress all of my feelings in order to focus on getting to Rosario and Max all by myself.  All of those emotions hit me at once when I arrived to the platform in Buenos Aires waiting to board the bus.  It wasn’t very much fun.  It felt like I’d eaten too much, had to pee, and couldn’t breathe all at the same time.  No bueno.  What the ;akshg;aihsg was I thinking?!  We didn’t even really know where we were going!!!  I was the only one who could really understand Spanish well and even then it was more than obvious that I was a foreigner if I spoke more than two words.  Scenes from Taken kept flashing behind my eyelids every I blinked.  I sat down, swallowed and took a deep breath, mentally encouraging myself to be strong.  I finally managed to settle down by going over and over the directions to the hostel Max was staying at in Rosario and reminding myself not to talk to cute foreign French guys because they might abduct me like in the movie.  Deep breaths.

The bus ride was uneventful.  Halfway through we got a second rate ham and cheese sandwich with what I think were supposed to be crackers; vegetarian translation: some bread and cheese.  I tried to enjoy my ungrilled cheese while watching the quality Hollywood entertainment on the mini screen in front of me (Twilight) and admiring my nails.  I realized that painting them before I left had been a waste of time.

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Dainty nails and roughing it on the road don’t really go well together.  I realized I was going to have to put my glamorous side away and find my inner granola girl…and soon.  I fell asleep imagining myself chasing animals with a sharpened stick, brambles and sticks in my tangled hair wearing rags and sporting chipped fingernail polish, a real survivor Autumn.

When I woke up we had arrived in Rosario.  I checked my (Otto’s) iPhone and it was about 1 in the morning, not prime time to walk the 20 blocks with all of my things to Max’s hostel…I was exhausted, but I kept telling myself to pony up—after all I planned on “backpacking” all summer and couldn’t wimp out on my first night!  Think of the survivor Autumn, think of the survivor Autumn!  Things went smoothly.  I arrived, hugged Maxi, showered, and fell asleep.  We ate continental breakfast in the morning and talked with the friends Max had made in the hostel the night before.  Moshe, an Israeli who was also traveling South America, gave us some advice about Peru and Ecuador (although we didn’t really plan on making it that far) and I made friends with the hostel kitten, Lorenzo.

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As we were paying and checking out I began to grow nervous again.  We had a new destination in mind—Villa Carlos Paz and Cuesta Blanca.  Maxi had stumbled across it online and fallen in love virtually; I had already been there once before in August when I visited Cordoba and knew it was beautiful.  I just wasn’t so sure how we were going to get there…  Maxi asked the girl at the front desk where it would be easy to get a ride hitchhiking and my stomach started to practice acrobatics.  She told us where to catch the bus out of town, one that would head to an intersection on the highway where lots of trucks would be heading to Cordoba.  The girl talked to us about where we were headed, etc, casually interested and told us about the time she hitchhiked with friends all the way to Uruguay.  My stomach started to calm down a bit but still seemed ready to flip.  We walked to the corner, said goodbye to the friends we’d made and caught the bus.  On the way we ate the honey roasted peanuts and raisins I’d bought before leaving Buenos Aires.  I was eating out of nervousness, and those of you who know me know that it’s not a very classy process.  My hands were covered in sticky-raisin-honey dust-goo as I shoved handfuls of the mixture in my mouth and I think the guys sitting across from me were trying not to gawk, but I didn’t care.  I was about to dance around on a street corner asking some random strangers for a ride in a foreign country, let me eat my peanuts the way I want.

We arrived and situated ourselves on the street corner.  There was a lot of traffic and Maxi confirmed that we’d found a pretty good spot.  Underneath all of my nervousness I could feel the excitement, the sun was shining solidly and the combination made me giddy.  I was way too entertained by the following Fireworks sign.

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We didn’t have to wait under the sun for very long though, as the coolest ride ever pulled over.  I didn’t really think that this sort of thing happened and I expected hitchhiking to be a little miserable—windy tail gates, creepy men, uncomfortable temperatures, etc.  Not a double decker truck carrying 2013 Fiats.  Plus, they were going to take us just outside the capital of Cordoba, a distance of nearly 400 kilometers (250 miles.)  We got the penthouse Fiat, rolled down the windows, plugged in my mp3 player to the brand new surround sound system and commenced jamming out.  We were equipped with leftover peanuts that I didn’t devour in my pre-departure panic and could lay the seats back and nap if we wanted even.  The only real thing missing was an incredible view; the landscape between Rosario and Cordoba is mostly plains.  But there was nothing at all to complain about.

We stopped halfway to drink some coffee and get gas station snacks.  There was also a family riding in one of the Fiats on the bottom level of the truck, apparently friends of the driver, Mariano, who lived in Cordoba capital.  They said it was pretty common to be hitchhiking but that we should always have caution and stick together.  Mariano said the only reason he picked us up was because we were white as marshmallows (clearly not from here) and I was a girl (let’s face it, girls seem less likely to cut your throat.)  I was just elated with my beginner’s luck; if this was what hitch hiking was like then I was sold!  Bury that image of the scratched up, chipped nails, savage Autumn, I was on my way.

Anyways, this post is getting long and I’m being even more long winded than usual so I will post more for you later.  I am only on day 2….this is going to be quite the project.  Love you guys!  Thanks for reading!

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About Autumn Standing

I love words; my name is made up of real words, even. I am studying Global Tourism and Spanish with a minor in Business Administration at Colorado State University but this year I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That's why this blog was born--to keep my beautiful family and friends informed of my whereabouts, thoughts, accomplishments, and mistakes.

Posted on February 28, 2013, in Argentina Part I, Summer Hitchhiking Adventure!, Travel and Study and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dude, I cracked up with that picture of you in the video in front of the wheel of the Fiat. Not your most flattering, Autumn 😛 (you’re still beautiful though, don’t worry) but you just look like you’ve suddenly won a Ferrari and is going through a “ffflagryhmphyne!?” moment. I don’t know what “ffffflagryhmphyne” is supposed to mean but…you know, shocked jibberish, words fail.

  2. Hi ! ive been reading your blogs for hours ! its really good and fun to read. Im an Argentine who lived in the states for some time with also a bunch of relatives who currenty live in ATL.

    Anyways, one little thing about the truck driver comment on him picking you guys up because you were white and looked as foreigners. Reality is, country of birth does not matter here , but skin colour and social status does. He helped you guys because your were white. Thats the way it is here.

    Argentina has a very particular view of race. Not all of us are super white , but yet since we come from european heritage (usually italians, spanish, irish, german and such) if you happen to be not-that-white and look poor, forget it. People will not trust or help you.

    (theres also a whole bunch of people that live here whose heritage is from the countries around us, like peru, paraguay, brazil. Most white middle /upper class people here want nothing to do with them to be honest)

    You did not mention that side of us (ugly or not its the way it is) so i decide to explain it.

    Have a good one !

    E

    ps : do you have a facebook version of this ?

    • Hi Emi,

      Thank you for your comment! I am sorry I have not been on my blog for many months and haven’t gotten the chance to respond to you until now.
      I am back in Argentina now, and I have noticed quite a bit of classism and racism. Not in the same sense that we have in the states, because there is a different history there, but it is a tough reality. I hesitate to comment on the ugly sides of Argentina because I may not have a full understanding of them after my short stay here. You explained it much better than I ever could have.

      I hope you’re doing well and I’m glad you enjoyed my blog! I don’t have a facebook version of this blog, but I am starting a new project here soon so you should look forward to new writing from me soon!

      –Autumn

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