The idea started with a casual conversation in the kitchen. Six friends living in Seattle, who were always ready for an adventure and eager to find the next, exploring the Patagonian wilderness together. None of us really thought it would happen. Like most good ideas, it started as a "someday" and soon transformed into a "why not?"
This wasn't just about hiking Mount Fitz Roy or exploring Torres del Paine National Park. This was about the process and journey of travel. Not the “sit by a pool and eat unlimited buffet” type of travel. We’re talking “sleep in weird places, communicate in new ways, eat seemingly odd foods, wake up to sunrises, get pushed out of our emotional and physical comfort zones, test the boundaries of our friendship” type of travel. We wanted to see the street art of Valparaiso, eat Argentinian asado and explore the streets of Santiago. Each of us had different reasons for going, but we all had something to gain from the journey. So we—Jillian, Lianna and Lindsey, the women of this Patagonia voyage—want to share why we travel.
For Jillian, travel became an opportunity to step outside of her comfort zone.
“When I daydreamed about Patagonia, I pictured the famous Los Torres del Paine, also known as the towers. Trekking to this iconic view was a top priority for me on our adventure. However, the frustrating and beautiful thing about traveling is that plans don’t always go as expected. As we got closer to actually doing this trek, we encountered some less than ideal conditions. Due to weather, health and time, we weren't sure we could do it. I was devastated. Like bite-my-tongue, hold-back-tears devastated. After talking more, we realized if we were going to hike to the towers we needed to do it extremely early and extremely fast. Immediately, two of the crew opted to stay back. As much as I wanted to make my daydream a reality, I didn't feel as equipped or physically able as the rest of those who were up for the challenge. I meekly got up the courage to express how important this was to me and that I was willing to try, realizing that I may not be able to finish it. It was a vulnerable moment and the team rallied around me. They wanted me to have that moment of pure joy finishing the hike. So we went.
It was a mental battle as much as a physical one to keep up with the crew while also fully soaking up the experience. As we came out of the trees from the initial ascent, the sun shone brightly on the elusive towers—a rare treat for that week of weather—and I suddenly gained more strength than I thought possible. Honestly, I was far more emotional on the hike than I imagined, with a few tears, too. They were victorious tears. That first view of the towers and the moments eating lunch right below them stick with me. The support of friends and our determination to push toward an experience together are unforgettable.”
Sometimes travel changes your expectations, like it did for Lianna.
“During some of my most formative years, my mom and I lived in Santiago, Chile. Because of the way custody was worked out, I would come back to the U.S. during school breaks to see my dad and never had the chance to travel the country. After living in the U.S. as an adult, I had always wanted to go back and experience the rest of the country that felt like home to me. I was hoping for a more complete view of Chile and in particular this region, Patagonia, that I already knew to be incredible.
It can be bittersweet to visit places from your childhood. Before you go back, everything is still perfectly preserved in your memory, exactly as you left it. It had been 10 years since I had returned to Santiago and honestly, the first thing I felt was numbness. Was this it? It looked so different. So much had changed that it was even hard to recognize my old neighborhood. We tried to visit my old house but the new owners were not having it and we weren’t invited in. I had been so looking forward to a feeling of familiarity and getting to show some of my best friends this place that I was so fond of. One thing after another was falling through and this expectation of feeling home was just not being met. But maybe that’s better. Santiago hasn’t been home to me in so long, why would I have expected it to feel like that? Just as I had been maturing and changing, so had my city. Eventually the initial numbness began to wear off and I started to be able to see the city for what it had become. I started to appreciate the differences instead of trying to resist them. The more time we spent there, the more things I recognized. Letting go of my expectations helped me to actually see the city and love it as it is now.”
Travel provided Lindsey a much needed perspective for the future and a chance to rediscover pieces from the past.
“Travel is a break from the monotony of life, a shakeup of what is routine. It isn't always easy or comfortable, but I think that’s part of what I crave. Travel shows me I am capable of handling more than what I might choose for myself. When I see what a tiny speck I am against a vast backdrop of mountains and sky or how much culture there is to experience in one country and how many amazing people I could meet in a single area, there's a perspective shift that happens. It's as if the things I am carrying around with me, my questions and struggles, are sifted. What's most important begins to rise to the top. I see the difference between what feels big and what is big. Travel has a way of muting the minutia and amplifying what is meaningful in my life. I came into our trip with some big questions about my future. I’d left a job where I traveled internationally to photograph and write stories about the people I met. It was amazing and demanding. Eventually, I burned out. It had been a year since I’d picked up my camera.
For me, Patagonia was a chance to revisit international travel, writing and photography to see if there was something still there. Even though there were plenty of tired, hungry, unexpected moments, I found so much life in exploring, shooting and traveling with my friends. It was such a relief to find joy in those things again. The things we saw, the time we spent and the experiences we had in Patagonia became a reminder and affirmation for me moving forward. I am brave, capable and creative, and good things lie ahead for me. I have people around me who care about me and will be there for me on the journey.”
Although each of us came away with different lessons, what stood out to all of us was the depth of friendship that became visible when we were out of our comfort zones. When things went wrong, it would have been easy to bicker with one another, isolate and blame. Instead, our ragtag group of friends held one another up and sought new experiences together. Toward the end of the trip we joked, "We still like each other!" But that phrase of relief and joy sums it up well. We could have avoided the inconvenience of travel and the discomfort of needing to rely on one another. Not only would we have missed out on the adventure, culture and experience, we would have also missed out on seeing how much we can support and encourage one another. Whether you’re pushing yourself to new physical limits, letting go of expectations or being reminded of what you love, the wonder of travel is worth pursuing. We hope our stories inspire you to turn your "somedays" into "why nots."
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