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  • Alison Merrill

Argentina - Patagonia, Buenos Aires, and Changing the Game

Updated: Mar 22


Laguna de Los Tres, El Fitz Roy, Patagonia.

If someone would have asked me at the beginning of Sam and my travels if we were planning on going to South America, my answer would have been no. Sam and I had six months to travel the world and were planning on traveling to Europe, Africa, and Asia. How could we possibly fit in South America? 


With Patagonia, the decision to go changed our entire trip. Sam and I went from visiting three continents to completing an around the world circuit - an idea I never would have imagined when we ventured off six months ago. 


Choosing Our Own Path


Deciding how many countries to visit was a question I struggled with when planning our trip and one I thought about often during our first three months of traveling. I wondered, were we trying to see too much too quickly? Are we going to learn anything if we are speeding around the world? Should we stay in places longer?


Now, I firmly believe there are many types of ways to travel and everyone should plan a trip that serves their own goals, budget, and timeline because there is no one "right way". For Sam and I, our mission of why we were doing this became clearer as we traveled - to explore and see as much of the world as possible because who knows, if and when we would have the opportunity again.  

The view from Laguna de Los Tres. Photo: Alison.

Patagonia - Planting the Seed 


One of the most memorable parts of our trip has was our ten-day hike around Mount Blanc in August. This hike took Sam and me across the alps of France, Switzerland, and Italy. Before this experience, we had never done an overnight hike. Good thing it worked out, otherwise that would have been a long ten-days. 


Sam had strategic plans going into Mount Blanc - he wanted to make me fall in love with hiking. Once he saw I was really enjoying myself, he floated out the idea of hiking Patagonia. At the time, I was not convinced as we still had Africa and Asia to see. Who knew what our budget was going to look like in a couple of months?


Flash forward two months, we had explored South Africa, Kenya, India, Singapore and were planning the next portion of our trip in Malaysia. We looked at our budget and realized we were ahead of schedule (a welcome surprise)! We thought, "how amazing would it be to complete an around the world trip?"There was just one problem, Patagonia was on the other side of the world. So, to make sure we made the most of Asia, we stopped in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, and China before flying across the globe to Argentina. 

Los Glaciares National Park. Photo: Alison.
To get to Argentina was our craziest flight. We flew from Beijing to Dallas (oh, hey America) and then to Buenos Aires.
We stayed in Buenos Aires from November 21st to November 29th and then headed to Patagonia from November 29th through December 8th.

Buenos Aires - The Paris of the South


November 21st - November 29th 


The land of tango, Malbec Wine, Guesapachos (Cowboys), Argentinean steak, and a mixture of Latin American and European Architecture – Buenos Aires is often referred to as “the Paris of the South.” While Patagonia was our primary draw to Argentina, Buenos Aires ended up being equally impressive in its own way. Sam and I were captivated by the friendly people, vibrant places, and decided that if we were to pick any international city to live in, we would pick here.

Tango dancers on the street of La Recoleta. Photo: Alison.

Some of our highlights in Buenos Aires were:


1. Tango Class – That is right! Doing a tango class was the number one thing I wanted to do in Buenos Aires. Luckily, Sam is a good sport (and dancer). We took a class that taught us the fundamentals of tango and learned the culture behind the style.


2. La Boca – This neighborhood is known for its colorful streets, bohemian art, and the Boca Junior Soccer Stadium. We did a walking tour where we learned about the history of the neighborhood.


3. Bike Tour: If you know Sam and me, we do a bike tour in every city we visit! This one took us across Palermo Soho, Plaza Italia, the University of Buenos Aires, and we even got to try some mate (a popular local drink) in Memorial Park.


4. La Recoleta Cemetary – Skeptical? We were too. But, when all of our friends (thank you Kevin and Jordan) recommended this, and TripAdvisor said it was the number one attraction, we decided to go. The graveyard houses tombs to notable people who have been buried.


6. San Telmo Market – Vegan empanadas. Check. Thrifty bookstores. Check. Tango dancing on the streets. Check. A hip market that had everything we could have wanted.

La Recoleta Cemetary. Photo: Sam.
Exploring Buenos Aires. Photo: Sam.
Our tango lesson. Do we look professional?
The colorful streets of La Boca. Photo: Sam.
The best vegan empanadas in the San Telmo market. Photo: Sam.

Patagonia - Not That Easy


November 29th - December 7th


Once we started looking into Patagonia, we were surprised to find that hiking it was not as simple as we thought. For starters, Patagonia is huge and there are sections in Argentina and Chile. To hike all of Patagonia would have cost us over $2,000 extra per person. An experience we would have loved, but nearing the end of our trip, not the kind of money we were ready to spend. Sam did some research (aka asking Jordan and Kevin) and found out that El Chalten (a town that is home to the “Patagonia logo”) had a lot of the best hiking. We also learned that El Calafate which was thirty minutes from the airport was home to the world's third-largest glacier. So, we decided to skip Patagonia on the Chile side and take a pass on Torres Del Paine (this time around) and spent four days in El Chalten and two days in El Calafate. 

View of El Chalten. Photo: Alison.

Our highlights in El Chalten and El Calafate: 


1. Laguna de Los Tres (El Fitz Roy hike) – The Patagonia trail that brings hikers the closest to the iconic mountain. The hike is four hours uphill and the last hour is steep. Despite the difficult trek, we loved this hike so much that we decided to do it twice (two different days). Whoever said “the most beautiful places are the hardest to get to” sure was onto something.


2. Laguna Torre – This hike brought us through the valley of El Fitz Roy. While Laguna de Los Tres had an amazing view to offer in the end, the hike itself was not as beautiful. Here, the entire way was gorgeous. In the end, we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the lake and giant icebergs floating in the water. Also, the whole way was flat. Not a bad hike after going straight uphill for four hours the day before!


3. Loma del Piliegue Tumbado – A more “off the beaten path” trail when compared with the other two. This one offered the most in terms of various climates and nature. In the end, we got a high lookout point of El Fitz Roy.


4. Los Glaciares National Park – Famous for the larger glacier. We spent the day glacier watching and were lucky enough to watch some icebergs fall into the water.

The view at the end of Laguna de Los Tres. Photo: Alison.
The view at the end of Laguna Torre. Photo: Alison.
Laguna de Los Tres. Photo: Alison.
Los Glaciares National Park. The spot where we watched chunks of ice fall into the water. Photo: Alison.
At the end of Loma del Piliegue Tumbado. Photo: Alison.

Highs, Lows, Best Bites, and Lessons Learned


Sam

Highs:


1. Drinking local mate during our bike tour.


2. Our first time arriving at the top of Laguna de Los Tres.


3. Our second time arriving at the top of Laguna de Los Tres.


Lows: The party in our El Chalten hostel that went on all night (we’re getting old).


Best bite: Fig and goat cheese sandwich in Buenos Aires Soho.


Key takeaway: If I had to move to a foreign city, Buenos Aires is my pick.

The famous mate - beloved caffeine-infused drink. Photo: Sam.

Alison

Chillen at the glaciers. Photo - Sam.

Highs:


1. View at the top of Laguna de Los Tres for the second time. Sam and I spent hours at the top sitting right in front of El Fitz Roy.


2. Doing the tango class with Sam. Immediately, when I walked into the dance studio, the teacher said, "You are a dancer, I can tell." Sam was an incredible Tango dancer and we had a fun time. Who knew our best style together would be a serious one?


3. Running into Catherine Jaeger and her husband, Esteban. Catherine is a childhood friend from the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance and is now biking across Argentina with her husband. It was great catching up with her and crazy that we ran into each other at the bottom of the world.


Low:  Snorer in a shared room in El Chalten.


Best Bites: Vegan empanadas – pumpkin, zucchini, and mushroom... yum!


Lesson Learned: I do not have to wait for a plan to be perfect before diving in. As long as I am passionate about the idea and surrounded by good people (or a person), the rest will take care of itself.

Catherine and I ran into each other after Sam and I had just gotten back from a hike. She and her husband, Esteban had just biked into the town!

Learn Via Living


Thank you for reading about our experience in Argentina! Sam and I recently rebranded our website from Alison and Sams Big Adventure to Learn Via Living. We appreciate everyone who participated in the Instagram poll regarding our new title. Sorry, we went with neither of the proposed options (RIP Lifeologists and Bucket List Labs). We are really excited about Learn Via Living because it encompasses what Sam and I are passionate about - learning through experiences and making the most out of life. 


We plan to keep creating content where we live big and synthesize our learnings. So, if you want to stay informed and get a bi-monthly email from us (ok, more like monthly) make sure to subscribe through this link by scrolling to the bottom of the page.


Oh, and if you have subscribed and have not received an email, please let us know! We are still working out some kinks :)

Our first evening in El Chalten. Fun fact - the sun sets at 9:00 pm in the summer.

Big News... We are Engaged!


In case you missed the announcement, we got engaged in Costa Rica! Sam proposed on Christmas. He said it best - “We started as friends at Elon, co-instructed weekly fitness classes, moved to Boston, started dating, fell in love, road-tripped across America, moved in together in San Francisco, and traveled the world.” We both could not be more excited to spend the rest of our lives together. 


A HUGE thank you to our friends and family who have reached out. The WhatsApp phone calls, texts, Instagram videos, Instagram story content, and comments have made us so happy. We are smiling from ear to ear and feel fortunate to have such great family and friends on both coasts in the United States and around the world. 

The most fun times at Laguna Torre.

What’s Next?


We are currently in Costa Rica which is the last country on our world tour. In less than a week, we are heading back to the states. While our travels are almost over and we may have rebranded our website, Alison and Sam’s Big Adventure will continue on into a new and exciting chapter. 


With love,

Alison


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