When the road is home.
Suggested gear for a 6-month period on the road in Argentina.
Gear presented in this collection:
Ushuaia, Patagonia 6:15 am.
The moment I slide the van’s door open, I’m struck by a panoramic view of the Beagle Channel, the town of Ushuaia not far to the west. A cool breeze descends from the surrounding peaks and the early morning Patagonian sun slowly brings the landscape to life.
I immediately reach for my padfolio, as ideas bombard my mind. As the sun makes its way past the mountain range, I set up my portable kitchen off the back of the van and prepare a proper breakfast. The spot I chose to park overnight, at Playa Larga, just on the outskirts of Ushuaia, has presented me with a typical Patagonian scenery, something I have grown very fond of and struggle to consider leaving behind.
It is easy to notice why I decided to come to this specific part of Argentina in the first place:
Its natural beauty combined with its secludedness and unpredictability turns everything into a constant trip between surreality and reality, which instigates my creativity and ultimately inspires my work.
Inhaling the morning zephyr, I’m taken back to the cozyness of my room 6 months prior, where it all began. I had only just chosen to follow the digital nomad path and knew that the best way of doing so was by getting away.
But deciding to travel across an ocean and spend half a year driving around the tip of South America was daunting, to say the least. The name Patagonia had always sounded like something far away, almost unreachable.
Growing up in Europe during the 90s, before the arrival of the internet, you didn’t hear much about South America, let alone its southernmost region. This is no tropical setting. Patagonia is a place whose personality is dictated by wilderness and vastness, by peace and quiet.
Perhaps it was this mysteriousness what drew me here in the first place.
The water is calm, there is almost no wind, and I’m only around 7 km away from the Islas de Terra del Fuego – a small archipelago in the center of the Beagle Channel, just before the border with Chile. Considering I have finally reached the end of the road, I decide that the best way to commemorate the successful completion of my journey is to kayak across to the island. I reach for my toiletry bag and grab my first-aid kit – you never know what may happen in Patagonia.
Water? Check. Snacks? Check. VHF radio? Check. Camera? Check. Swiss army knife? Check. Backpack with garments? Check. I’m set to go.
There is a magic in the air that seems to envelop this part of the world. Much like every other time I ventured into the Patagonian nature, I feel a deep connection with myself, as if all this space and wildness allows me to permeate sensations more intensely and consciously.
I inhale that inspiration and throw the kayak in the water, jumping in and finally feeling how frigid the water is. At first, I paddle rather frantically, as if responding to the cold air that infiltrates my organism. But then I remember where I am, how I got here, and all the amazing things I saw along the way.
I dip both hands in the water and splash my face to life, embracing the discomfort of having cold drops sliding down my chest.
After that, I transition into an utterly reflective mode. Throughout the rest of the paddle I dive in and out of daydream, catching glimpses of past moments lived and people met, before coming back to the present moment to admire the beauty of the landscape, to taste the freshness of the air.
Once I finally get to Isla Bridges, the biggest of the islets, I park my kayak by the small jetty where ferries usually dock and set of to explore the area. All the while, I’m surrounded by snow-capped mountains, engulfed by Atlantic waters.
Sea lions lay on the rocks, enjoying the sunlight and giving an even more wild touch to the place.
After a few hours, I notice that the sun has been covered by clouds, the air has gotten much cooler, and the whole place seems to have changed its mood, as if preparing for something.
I gather all the Patagonian knowledge I have gained throughout these past six months and return to my kayak as soon as possible, paddling back to shore and safety. Things out here go from water to wine in a matter of seconds and after a few close calls of almost getting caught up in massive storms, I have learned not to underestimate the clouds.
Just as I step on the beach, the first drops of water start to fall and the breeze picks up. I dry myself with my microfiber towel as soon possible, hop into the van, and drive to Ushuaia in search of shelter, food, and a warm beverage.
By the time I reach the town center the rain has thickened and the wind intensified. It looks like a storm is building up, so I feel much safer to bring my unbreakable umbrella along in order to protect my gear from the rain. I quickly throw my dual currency wallet and phone into my outdoor fanny pack, and run straight to the first cafe I can find.
I sit at the table sipping on a cappuccino, jotting down ideas, and organizing the schedule for the following week – much like I have done every Sunday since this journey started.
That is when it all sinks in and I fully realize that my days in Patagonia, a place that I have learned to call home, are coming to an end. I’m sent back to the day I left Buenos Aires on my new second-hand van, headed to San Carlos de Bariloche and the discovery of a new place and a new me.
Now, after 170 days, over 4000 km driven, countless cities and villages visited, hundreds of people met, numerous hikes and paddles done, several work projects completed successfully, and lots of new ideas bubbling up, I understand that it was the notion that I’m not in control and thus have no idea what may happen what held me back on leaving everything behind – yet it is exactly what makes me want to stay.
Image credits: Giorgio Parravicini (@parradesign), Huib Scholten (@huibscholten), Roi Dimor (@roi_dimor), Tommy Lisbin (@tlisbin).