We all try to minimize the regrets we have in life, but what do you do when an experience, a relationship, a decision doesn’t meet your expectations? That’s fodder for regret, right? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our recent trip to Argentina. I don’t know if I could say I regret the trip, but I can definitely say it did not meet my expectations. It’s not that the trip was an entire disappointment—who can be disappointed by horseback riding across the pampas with no sound but the horses’ trotting hooves and my own thoughts, which grew quieter and quieter as we rode until we were practically meditating on horseback? Who could regret our daylong hike on a sparsely populated trail to Cerro Catedral, where we marveled at the almost unearthly beauty of Patagonia? And yet, I do regret.
We initially chose South America because we wanted an international trip that was affordable and adventurous. We had long settled on Peru, but after our initial research felt our excitement wane, and noticed that we were drawn to Patagonia. True Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Torres Del Paine Patagonia, was out of our reach financially and besides, we were traveling in the wrong season for it. But Argentina sounded wonderful, and I’d always wanted to wander the streets of Buenos Aires. We found an insane deal on a luxury cabin on a lagoon in the Lake District, and that sealed it for us: we were going to Argentina. But then the flights were, oh, almost $1000 more than we first expected. And then there was an unforeseen reciprocity fee (like a travel visa) and the pricey food (which was not nearly as good as we’d imagined!), and before we knew it, we’d spent as much on our Argentina trip as we would have to some of my other dream destinations like Israel or Greece.
And, as I wrote about elsewhere, the trip to Argentina didn’t deliver in the same way as all my other trips. Maybe that’s because I’m older, maybe it’s because I’m married now, maybe it’s because it was South America, or because we were on our own in Argentina, whereas with all my other trips I’ve been with a local friend or with an organized group.
I’m not sure why it was so different, but I’m realizing that travel always transforms you in one way or another. I didn’t leave Argentina dying to go back. I did leave, however, with a broader cultural understanding than before, which is one of my favorite parts of travel—seeing how people from different cultures live their lives. I left with memories of beauty from a corner of the earth I’d never visited and probably never will visit again.
And the true transformation caused by this trip came in an unexpected form. Robert and I were taking a two-week break during a very intense year, where we
were both working hard and long hours (especially on Robert’s part). Settled in our dream cabin, we had a chance to decompress, to connect and to experience new things together. Robert had the time and space to mull over two Colorado job offers and actually accept one from our room by the lagoon. And being alone in Argentina—no local friend (besides our friendly AirBnB host!), no tour group or program—gave us the opportunity to grow stronger as a team as we figured out bus routes and local customs and that crazy Argentine accent. Somehow, for me, that sense of being a strong team translated into a confidence in our upcoming move to Colorado. We could shift the contents of our lives to a new town, a new state, and we could make it, together. Traveling shakes you up as you launch yourself out of your comfort zone, and it stretched some muscles I hadn’t used in a while, the ones that help me be okay with a new routine (or no routine!), making myself extra-extroverted, and making do without the rituals and comforts of my everyday life.
So actually, I don’t regret our trip to Argentina. How could I? Just like every other traveling experience, it offered me something—maybe it wasn’t what I expected, but it was probably closer to what I needed, and a gift all the same.
I think what I’m feeling isn’t regret at all. It’s, well, greed. It’s wanting to have my cake and eat it too—to have my trip to Argentina but also one to Greece, to Israel, to South Africa. The travel bug is a parasite sometimes—it sucks up your money, your thoughts, your contentment. I want to find the place that’s not regretting things past, nor longing for other or future things. The place that’s just thankful, hopeful, and present.
P.S. I recently read that one of the most common regrets people have is not traveling enough…so, even when trips go differently than I planned, at least I won’t have that regret! :p