“Hola Sanne, Grant! Como estas? How are you guys doing?” With a big hug I greet my cousin Pamela. Before we left to the breathtaking Patagonia, we had visited my family in Buenos Aires. The decendants of the brother of my grandfather. He had grabbed his bags after the war and traded the Netherlands for Argentina. Like a lot of people of that time he was lured by the great stories of counties far away, countries full of changes, countries full of jobs and money, a new adventure, a new start. A deep sense of respect arises when I think of these people. “Are we still true travelers?” I think to myself. In the past there wasn`t an endless number of travel guides, travel forums, travel blogs. You weren`t able to `google` where to go, how to prepare yourself or what to expect. You just bought a one-way ticket, took some cash and put some clothes in the suitcase. You embrace your family and friends for one last time and off you go. You turn around one last time and wave them goodbye, knowing you may never see them again. You`ve promised to write them but itwill take weeks for you to get into your promised land and then another few weeks just for the letter to arrive. What a joy it must have been to find the money to make a phone call, to finally hear that familiar voice again, to finally speak in your mother tongue once more. For sure, you must have felt lost and lonely.
Now, two generations later, we have tracked down the family in Argentina. The contact had been stagnant for several years, but now through the wonders of modern technology (Facebook), we were connected again.
With a big smile I stroked Pamela’s shoulders. It`s such difficult feeling to describe, it`s like a mini home-coming. The two sausage dogs Pancho (Spanish for hotdog) and Coca (Coca-Cola) greet us at the door. Pancho quickly runs to his dog basket and grabs his tennis ball. Like an Olympic trophy, he puts it in front of our feet as a sign for us to play fetch, a ritual he would repeat for the rest of the night.
Tulio, the boyfriend of Pamela, steps out of the kitchen. He is wearing a flower-patterned apron, completely contradicting his lumberjack-like figure. He greets us with a traditional kiss on the cheek. “Please sit down guys. Make yourself comfortable. I want to hear all about your travels through Patagonia as soon as dinner is ready. Now excuse me as I have a feast to prepare!”
An hour later we raise our glasses and bring out a toast. Tulio and Pamela want to know every detail about our travels.
“Tulio, the tubs of Vaseline were not necessary.” Grant says while he gives Tulio a wink.
Tulio had been deeply concerned about our plans of hitchhiking through Patagonia the last time we had visited them in Buenos Aires. “It`s not your girlfriend you should be worried about, you should be concerned for your own… hmm.. safety.. Better take a tube of Vaseline if you know what I mean?” was the light hearted warning he had given us last time we spoke. Everything had gone well, we had an amazing time and we had returned back to Buenos Aires, safe, sound and with no sore bums. The weekend flew by. Saturday we went to the Zoo, Saturday night was spent eating delicious home-made pizzas with my other cousin Martin and his girlfriend had made us a surprise in baking `tompoezen` a traditional Dutch desert. On the Sunday the whole family gathered together for a lunch that by the end of desserts and coffee, had people unbuttoning their jeans to make way for our buldging stomachs. Before I knew, it was time to say a heart breaking goodbye.
Later that night I crawl onto the couch of the hostel with a strange feeling swelling inside of me. We were put on the top floor and a big tourist group caused an uneasy atmosphere. I decided to create my own little world and put on a movie. For the twentieth time I saw Mr Darcy explaining his eternal love to Kiera Knightley. With this romantic ending to the day I soon fall into sweet dreamland, blissfully unaware of the fact that on this night my lovely roommates would wake me up at 1am, 3am and 8am in the morning. There was a mixture of switching lights on and off, packing their suitcases and of course, talking so loud that I`m sure that the ground floor could have heard the conversation as well. Fueled with anger I turn around on my mattress. This is one of many nights where a lack of sleep has been present. We decided to ask the receptionist if it was possible for us to move to the ground floor where we previously stayed before the weekend with the family. This was luckily not a problem so we returned to the dorm to pack our things. The moment I grab my jeans and start to pack them into my bag, I break down. “Honey, what`s wrong?” Grant asks me. He walks up to me and gives me a big warm hug. “I`m just exhausted. I`m so tired and at the same time angry at myself. People here are living on the street trying to survive day by day and here I am crying about a bag that I need to pack. I`m just an ungrateful piece of shit.” With a firm kick of my backpack I release my anger. “Hey, come on baby, don`t be so mad at yourself. Everybody has an off day once in a while. There`s nothing wrong with that. Come, we have been very busy lately, today we are going to `Netflix and chill`. With a couple of sniffles of my nose I walk behind Grant and head towards the elevator to move to the lower (and more relaxed) ground level.
That day was spent purely on the couch, eating chocolate, drinking mate and watching my new tv series addiction `Orange is the new black`. Every time someone would step into the room I would stress as I didn’t feel like socializing. I didn’t feel like talking. I didn’t feel like the routine Q&A of every traveler discussion.. Where are you from? How long have you been travelling? Where have you been? Where are you going too? Etc etc.. I decided to have an early night thinking the extra sleep might do wonders. Thank god we have the whole dorm for ourselves. No rude roomies waking us up tonight!
The next morning I feel much better. A good nights rest has refreshed my mind. “You look much better today!” Grant says. “We have to hurry now, the boat to Uruguay is leaving soon.” Quickly we pack our stuff and take a taxi to the harbour. There is a group of backpackers sitting in the waiting area. “Hola chicos, are you guys going to Uruguay too?” They nod. “How long have you been traveling for?” One of the girls ask. “It`s been over 17 months today.” I say proudly. “Wow, 17 months, that`s such a long time! Aren`t you homesick? Or tired?” They ask filled with astonishment. I chuckle – “Yes, I have to admit, some of those feelings are starting to pop up now.” I scan through my passport. There are so many empty pages left. I`m excited to discover a new country again and with some Netflix days in between I`m sure I`ll be ready for the journey. When I step on the ferry I look back to the dock, imagining how it must have been in the old days. "Nah not for now, I`m going to send my family a whatsapp as soon as I have Wifi again."
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto