Destination: Buenos Aires.
The plan: stay in the city. That’s it. One goal. One plan. One place.
An excited, yet half asleep girl is strolling through the hallway in the airport while in the background there is a subtle smell of coffee and the metal spoons clinking against the coffee mugs of other awaiting passengers slowly waking up. Gate A30 is calm and quite so early in the morning. She holds her freshly printed out boarding pass strongly in her sweaty palms. With all her strength, courage and braveness she could gather, this 19- year old girl is on her way to her first solo trip, holding on tight to her over packed backpack and overweight suitcase. Her backpack is stuffed full of notes, preparations, tickets, plans, and itinerary’s. Also awaiting her: a trip that didn’t went a single second as it was planned.
Do you remember your first ever solo trip? Do you remember that feeling of being lost and being found at the same time? Of being in control of your life, but at the same time having no idea what you’re doing? That feeling like all the control you have in your life is slipping right out of your hands?
It all started mid-flight. Since I worked as a flight attendant when I was a student, I always make some small talk with the flight attendants. I told them about my plans, where I was staying – I booked 4 (!) accommodations – and basically everything about my trip.
When I got out of the plane, I cancelled all four accommodations and booked a centrally located hostel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Needless to say that my inner planning freak was on the loose. I didn’t plan this.
I arrived in the hostel and started to pack out. I passed my first night quite panicked and stressed after I found out that it was impossible to open my suitcase with my code. My inner planning freak? At this point, she’s in a corner, crying.
Day 2 of my city trip to Buenos Aires. I booked two tours that will keep me occupied the entire day. Full of excitement and positivism, I am waiting at the meeting point. As groups of families and old couple are gathering and some people are approaching me asking me if I am the tour guide, I start to realize that maybe this wasn’t the best idea.
I think it was the moment when the group in front of me departed – I saw the tour guide guiding everybody holding a stick with a flag – and everybody with their headset on following the guide like a horde of sheep, that I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I am like a bird, you cannot keep me in my cage. I have to be free in this world to fly wherever I want to. So I went to the leader of the group, told her I was sick – while everybody could follow our not-awkward conversation because her mic was still on – gave her back the headset, and just ran off. Literally.
We’re Thursday, day 4 of my first solo trip to Argentina, Buenos Aires. The plan? Staying in the city. The reality? I am currently in Uruguay, walking around in an unknown city, without any WiFi or internet or a map, with a friend I made one day ago. My inner planning freak? She’s already had a couple of breakdowns, I’m sure she could handle this one as well.
Saturday, day 6 of this unforgettable adventure at the other end of our dear world. Location: a gas station near the local airport of Buenos Aires. Time: 4 A.M. After an attempt of getting cash at three different ATM’s in sleepy Buenos Aires, I succeeded to get Argentinian pesos for my trip to the airport. Note to self: always get enough cash.
Day 7. I am currently attempting to survive a 6- hour hike at the waterfalls of Iguazu in Northern Argentina. As you see, my plan of staying in the capital has failed uttermost and I almost crossed the border to Brasil, which would be the third South-American country I would visit during this “city”trip. Note to self: know what you want. How’s my inner planning freak, you might wonder? She’s become an old lady, consumed by all the stress, quietly sitting in a corner in my head, drinking whisky and smoking cigarettes in her sofa, totally defeated and given up on her job.
Day 8. I am sitting in the courtyard of my hostel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have never felt so grateful and strong. Grateful for this life and these adventures, strong because I did it. I did it. I finally understood that it is not about the plan, or the schedule, but about the journey. About what is happening in this very moment. Life is not about what is going to happen, but what is happening around you, here and now.
Destination: wherever life takes me to.
The plan: to enjoy the ride.