Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

This is my personal blog and a space that I try to make sense of my wandering life. Depending on the day it could be a helpful resource for the country I'm in, or a self-help guide. We'll just have to see ;)

5 Reasons Patagonia Isn’t What You Thought it Would Be

Patagonia. It’s a place that has been described – albeit correctly – by every cliche and metaphor you can imagine. Just the word stirs restless energy in travelers hearts, and images of the land beg the question of what our world really looked liked before we messed around with it. First used by Ferdinand Magellan, the word itself has mystical roots. Having been derived from the word “patagón” (a mythic race of giants once said to inhabit the area) the word still seems to fit and has as deep of a political history as it does linguistic.

I’ve written and shared photos of the incomparable beauty that surrounds me here, and no matter how hard I try, I always end up sounding like the cliches that made me cringe before. But everyone here has that problem. While I am grateful every day to be here, to see and experience a place that so many never will…I get a little tired of being in Thoreau mode, of having thoughts that seem to echo the lines of “Into the Wild” or something out of Jack Kerouac’s personal diary.

So, I decided to write something a little different. The other side of Patagonia, if you will. Some of the reasons are lighter. They have to do with culture shock more than anything and are good accessory knowledge to throw in with the names of famous parks, glaciers and lakes.

I may not have all the dichos down,
but I’m working on becoming Chilean 😉

1 – The “Spanish” I wouldn’t have put quotations around the word Spanish if I thought I would offend anyone here, but even the Patagonians themselves will tell you they don’t exactly speak Spanish per se. Now, I speak and understand a fair amount of Spanish. A degree in the language along with months of living and traveling in Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic gave me a good idea of the accents and language in general. Or so I thought. 

Besides a distinct accent, the Chileans are famous for their own vocabulary. Your Spanish level 1 “Como estas” doesn’t fly here. To them, it’s “Como’stai-po?.” The word “Cachai” is used incessantly and – ironically – translated roughly to “understand?”…which, of course is even more confusing if you’ve never been to Chile and don’t, in fact, understand the word.

That’s Chilean Spanish. Which is completely different from Patagonian Spanish, which you’ll especially understand if you’re from Kentucky too. We know just how much a country accent varies from a city accent. and that it only gets stronger the far away you are. Well let me tell you something. We are far away and it comes out in the language. It’s all “dichos” here, or sayings and slang. I actually have a book on them, titled “How to Survive the Chilean Jungle” that is 100% chilean-specific sayings and slang. I’ll write a post on the more interesting ones soon. Combine those with indigenous influence and borrowed words and you have yourself one heck of a Spanish-headache. The point is, if you’re considering backpacking Patagonia…you might as well save weight in your pack and ditch the beginner Spanish guide here.

2 – Technology This one really hit home for me when my dad had his accident. I was able to “be in” the hospital room with him, even this far away. You may think that just because it’s remote and wild, that you’ll have an easy time getting unplugged but the fact is that internet is everywhere now. Sure, I’m connected with a cord instead of wireless for the first time since I can remember, and sometimes Skype drops a call but it truly is incredible how far and wide technology has spread. I’m all about being unplugged, but there are local advantages too. Awareness, tourism, and conservation are thriving due in part to the access to internet.  

There are people with brand new Mac computers and internet cafes in even the smallest towns. Sure, it’s probably a lot easier to lose reception and internet access than at home. In my case, I just have to walk out my front door. It can be a culture shock to not have immediate access too, like when I want to ask Fernando what some Chilean word means and he is working out of radio, mail or internet range for a week. But it’s not always unconnected, and for all tech-lovers it’s might be nice to be miles from another person and still be able to post an epic picture on instagram.

Gauchos? – Yes, but also conservationists
and National Park Employees

3 – The People Not everyone here is a gaucho. Ok, so most are…but not everyone. And just because they’re gauchos doesn’t mean they’re wandering alone on horseback, looking for the next supper to skin and roast over a mountain fire (Alright, so it’s not uncommon again…but I’m getting to the point.) It’s not a deserted land as it’s been depicted. Sure, people are few and far between and towns only get more isolated the more “Patagonian” the further South you go, but it’s anything but a place void of human contact. There is a deep, prideful culture that is political, indigenous and steeped in survivalist stories and a deep appreciation for the natural beauty here. There isn’t human contact in the form of skyscrapers or vending machines. They wear berets, ponchos, and sheep-fur pants with a knife strapped to their front, back, and horse. But they are also aware of climate change and the implications of a growing tourist economy, and they probably have a better natural sense of conservation and sustainability than most people using the words right now.

4 – The Food So, if you’re not a gaucho (Alas, I am not…sigh) you’ll probably be eating more canned and frozen food than wild-caught salmon, trout or the oh-so-famous patagonian lamb. Don’t get me wrong…you’ll eat a LOT of meat. But you’ll also get a real-life lesson on agriculture, growing seasons, and shipping techniques. When you go to the store like I did, and realize there isn’t a single fruit or veggie because the truck couldn’t make it over the icy roads…it really hits you. Food has a lot to do with place, and when you’re that far away, options are limited. And going to the store isn’t a quick jaunt here. For me, it’s nearly an hour on the Carrera Austral, the winding dirt road that connects this part of Chile to the rest of the world. 

Of course, there are some amazing Patagonian plates that define the region too…most involving some starchy veggie, a hunk of fresh meat, and broth. And if you’re traveling the tourist trail, you’ll pretty much be eating their version of barbeque and enjoying fresh, grass-fed, organic lamb off the bone (and that’s not because they’re trying to be fancy fancy…they just know thats the way meat really is when it doesn’t come from a factory or genetically altered livestock). But I’m talking Patagonian food the way the Patagonians do it. Freezers allow access to veggies, and fruit is enjoyed out of a can and doused in condensed milk. Instant coffee is drank twice a day or more. Pasta is popular. So is Chop Suey.

One of the proposed Dams will be built here

5 – The Wilderness I’ll admit…this is a stretch. The wilderness is everything you could ever dream it would be, and more. The animals are distinctly Patagonian, and they are abundant. Every growing thing exudes wilderness that is almost unheard of in most of the world…wilderness that hasn’t been so altered we don’t recognize it anymore. 

So where does my reasoning come in that it isn’t what you expected?

It’s in how much longer it will be able to meet your expectations, and the danger of having these wild ideas of what Patagonian wilderness means. Because as beautiful and true as the imagery used to describe this magical/wild/untamed place is….sometimes it blinds us to the truth. Or worse, we lose ourselves in the descriptions and forget that there is a reason there aren’t many places left like it. Because if we focus too much on what we imagine a place is, it can become something very different when we’re not looking. And then we’ve lost it, forever.

In the case of Chilean Patagonia, it’s the tragedy of Hydroelectric power. Of Dams being built in some of the most powerful, untamed rivers left in the world. Of altering hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat, an influx of foreign industry, and ancient history being submerged underwater unnecessarily. In part, it’s why I’m even here. It’s a huge focal point of Conservacion Patagonia, and the petition to help fight the Dam projects can be found here. But don’t take my word for it, do some research. You probably haven’t heard about it because no one wants to say that our excessiveness may result in the destruction of one of the last truly wild places in the world.


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This entry was posted on October 24, 2012 by in South America 2012.
One of the best parts of "living in Paradise"?...Getting to share it with family ♥ I'm going through wedding pictures and stumbled across this shot from our sunset horseback ride near Santa Teresa. As crazy as it was planning a wedding and a family vacation directly afterwards, it's the moments like this that made it all worth it. Now, less than 4 months's my JOB to ensure families come home with memories like this one. Not a bad gig if I say so myself 🌅
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When life gives you too many beautiful photo opps....make an image slider 🤓 . Pics taken on one of our recent roadtrips. La Paz waterfall is still one of my favorite falls in the country and you don't even have to get out of your car to see it! (Though I recommend that you do). This area is full of strawberry farms so our favorite way of playing tourist is to grab a box from a roadside vendor, snack on the ride down the mountain, stop for photo opps, then throw a few berries to the local -incredibly adorable - pizotes 🤗 (scroll to the end to see their close up!)
At about 7 inches long, this little guy was just a speck of brilliant color in the greens and browns that surrounded him. One of the best parts of exploring national parks is that "scary" animals like this eyelash viper aren't just tolerated, but are celebrated. People kill snakes out of fear, but even venemous ones like this are no threat if we just let them be. I'm extra thankful for Pablo's steady hands and this close up (taken with his phone!). Toucans and monkeys are great, but these vipers are some of my favorite animals to see in the wild. If you look closely you can even see the "eyelashes" this species are famous for 😍
Well, its official. Our year of living and working at @finca_bellavista has come to an end, and for all the lessons learned and incredible experiences had, we couldn't be more excited for our new chapter. We're already seriously missing the staff, volunteers, and pristine wilderness that surrounded us....we even miss our little hut by the river. But life needs to be shaken up sometimes and we're thriving in this time of change. As of this week I'm so excited to say that I've taken a job with a travel company I've followed and admired for years. I'll be planning custom itineraries to some of the best hotels in Costa Rica, and be showing visitors my version of Costa Rica....with all the hidden gems along the way 💓🌿💓 I haven't figured out yet if I'll start a separate IG account for it, but I'm so excited to show off the properties, tours, and experiences that make travelling here so special. In the meantime, if you know anyone wanting a once in a lifetime trip to the land of pura know where to find me 😊 But first, a quote that has been speaking to me this week: . . . "We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.” ― C. JoyBell C.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and attention.”💕 ~ Buddha . On an especially hectic Valentine’s Day, I want to remind everyone that it’s not all about roses and dinners or sappy love movies. Sometimes, it’s not even about our partners. It’s about a deeper love that sets the foundation for all other relationships to flow out of it. Self love, self respect, and living your life in a way that simultaneously sets boundaries and breaks them.... that’s what it’s all about. It’s finding the balance in serving others and serving yourself, in seeking happiness not through someone else but alongside them. It’s about figuring out this miracle called life one day at a time, ending the day with gratitude and holding the people dear to you close. ✨ Happy Valentine’s Day y’all.... I love you and am grateful for your presence in my life🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
Rum-chata for the win 🙌🏻 Miss Ashley Layne and Aaron (@thetroxella) mixed up this magic: homemade horchata on the rocks with a splash of Flor De Caña Nicaraguan rum. I’ll be calling it “Christmas in the Jungle” but you can just call it “delicious.” 😜
It’s been one month and three days since this day and I can’t quite put into words how crazy life has felt since then. Our wedding was the perfect combo of hilarious day-of drama (I might have forgotten Pablo’s ring and only realized it as we were saying vows 😂) and fairy-tale moments (like seeing the perfect altar that Pablo built and the amazing decorations that friends, family and staff put together). I wish we could do it 1000x more, and soak in the simplicity that was the main attraction : good food, beautiful views, good people, and the amazing presence of Mother Nature. There’s so much to say but all I can muster is this: we can’t wait to see what’s next 👊🏻. Here’s to a bright 2018, to living life on our terms, and to growing even more as people, partners, and friends. 💕💕💕
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” - W.B. Yeats 🍍 I’ve walked by our little pineapple patch so many times I can’t count during this past year, but yesterday I discovered that baby pineapples (like the one pictured) bloom with the most beautiful purple flowers. Pineapples can take up to 2 years to produce their fruit and only produce 3 times in their lives, every time getting smaller (but sweeter!). Such an incredible, delicious plant from the tropics 🙌🏻
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Life tip: marry a man who knows how to use a machete 👌🏻 . . Also...we had an earthquake last night but besides the swinging lamps and fruit baskets, no damage and everyone is safe and sound in “paradise” 🙏🏻
5+ years of traveling and exploring Latin America and finally happened. Thanks to an incredibly well-timed Facebook post, and a group of people doing amazing conservation work, Pablo and I had the opportunity to help release not just 1, but 50, baby Olive Ridley sea turtles into the ocean. It’s hard to describe what it’s like: watching them struggle through the sand... get stuck...become exhausted...then move forward again despite what (to them) are mountains and tidal waves... then just as the sun soaked us with the deep gold of sunset, the tide swept them away one by one. Their tiny bodies came to life when they touched water for the first time - it’s such a moment of instinct and pure drive and every single one paddled as hard as possible to avoid being swept backwards.... Not a bad metaphor for life, huh? Anyways... I’ll be posting a blog about the babies soon. In the meantime, we’re sending all of our love and good vibes to these little ones.... we’re hoping that most of them made it through the night and they’ll be on their way to even deeper waters today 💙
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The power of imagination makes us infinite." - John Muir . Exploring the magical treehouse Fila Tortuga at Finca Bellavista. No matter how many I explore, the truth still stands: treehouses bring out the kid in you, they make the impossible seem possible (like a tree floating in the jungle canopy 🙊) and they inspire you to look at the world a little differently. . Comment below if staying in a treehouse in on your #bucketlist!
(Fun fact: zip lines were invented in Costa Rica as a way for biologists to have easier access to the dense forest canopy 🤓). I could get all metaphoric - but let's just say this: flying through the air, above the sun-drenched jungle canopy, surrounded by good people and delicious air.... puts life into perspective. We're just tiny little beings trying to make our way in the world.... and have a little fun while doing it. Pura vida chicos, and I hope you have an amazing day 🙌🏻 (scroll through for more pics of Finca Bellavista's Sky Trail!)
Jungle essentials: camera, boots, smile. Sometimes, when my hundreds of mental to-do lists start to feel heavy... I have to remind myself we live in Paradise. It's in my backyard but I rarely take enough time to explore "beyond the bridge." Hiking alone in the jungle, despite years of my getting to know these kinds of landscapes, is still ✨magical ✨Everything is rain-drenched and thriving....little movements that proceed each step remind me that there is FAR more life surrounding me than what I'm aware of, and of course the trees: beautiful, entangled, and reaching towards the fog (or sun, depending on the hour). I'm back to my to-do lists today, but man what a little fresh air can do for the soul 🙌🏻
Playing jungle book in the Osa Peninsula 🍃✨💕
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