How I Quit My Job and Set Off for Patagonia
When Jeff, my husband, and I decided to tell people I was quitting my job to travel–no, trek–around the world, everyone thought we were crazy. That, or going on an eternal vacation free from troubles and taxes. A few people also helpfully suggested that this “gap year” might solve my travel bug once and for all so I could focus on that thing called “adulthood.”
While visions of beaches and cocktails enter most people’s minds when they hear “year abroad,” Jeff and I know better: we plan to trek around the world. This is a bit different than just backpacking: we are carrying enough camping and mountaineering gear to tackle some of the great hikes around the world: Machu Pichu, Monte Fitz Roy, Torres del Paine, the Great Walks in New Zealand, both Everest Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and a cross-country trek of Switzerland to wrap up.
Jeff and I focused on the countries and hikes that most appealed to us while we did research for the trip in our tiny Philadelphia apartment in the cold winter months of 2012. Our list of desired locales stretched much further than our budget, so after the painful culling process, we ended up with a year-long itinerary that we both could agree on.
I was most excited for Patagonia, a nebulous region in the southern-most part of South America comprising pieces of both Chile and Argentina. I had read Bruce Chatwin’s classic In Patagonia, and although I’m probably one of the few people in the world who didn’t enjoy it, In Patagonia did make me want to explore Patagonia for myself, without having to rely on Chatwin as my only guide.
Our list of desired locales stretched much further than our budget, so after the painful culling process, we ended up with a year-long itinerary that we both could agree on.
Our first stop was El Calafate, a town of 600 that serves as the launching point for Patagonian cities in both Argentina and Chile, including El Chalten, Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, and Ushuaia. It also has its own claim to fame as home to Argentina’s largest glacier.
We left El Calafate after a harrowing experience–our bus was turned around on a public highway outside of the city by unionized transportation workers striking–and we arrived in El Chalten ready to see the most famous view in all of Patagonia: Monte Fitz Roy in Argentina’s Parque Nacional de Glaciers.
How I Quit My Job and Set Off for Patagonia.
The Monte Fitz Roy massif is a jagged mountain that pops from the steppe of Patagonia in a bizarre display of grey granite and knife-like fingers jutting into the sky. It is one of the most sought after prizes in all of rock climbing. Adding to its allure is the fact that the only possible way up is to rock climb, which means that there are no noisy tourists at the top! Although we didn’t plan to rock climb Monte Fitz Roy, we’ve heard the views are astounding.
Monte Fitz Roy is hidden from the town of El Chalten, the capital of Argentine trekking, behind a ridge, but once on the trail–during a clear day–the Monte Fitz Roy massif slowly reveals itself as one hikes closer to it. Its fingers become clearer and impossibly larger upon approach.
I realized that far from this being the only year of travel in my life. It is the beginning of new dreams and goals.
Jeff and I set up our camp and hiked around Monte Fitz Roy for three days. Enjoying not only the views but also the feeling of accomplishment that comes from achieving self-sufficiency in the wild. There are multiple hikes in and around Argentina’s Parque Nacional de Glaciers. In a few days, we had witnessed the steppes of Patagonia, the glacial lakes at the bottom of Fitz Roy and the very loud Glacier de Piedras Blancas.
As we left our camp to head back to the town of El Chalten at the end of our trek, I contemplated the amazing scenery for the last time. Looking out onto the steppe landscape of Patagonia, with the menacing Monte Fitz Roy behind, I realized that far from this being the only year of travel in my life. It is the beginning of new dreams and goals. My time in Patagonia is only the start of that journey.
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Have you traveled to Argentina? What were your impressions? We’d love to know if there’s any important information you recommend adding to this list. Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you. Photos by Pixabay and Callie Hammond.