travel

3 ARGENTINE DESTINATIONS

Hello my dear readers,

I hope you are all doing well as we approach February 2019! As we always say, time is flying by, and I’ve been doing some reflecting in the past few weeks.

As some of you guys know, I spent my sophomore year of college in South America (specifically, Buenos Aires, Argentina). While it was one of the hardest years of my life, it was also the best year I’ve ever had in terms of travel and growth. There is something about tossing yourself into a foreign place and seeing what happens.

Therefore, I thought it would be fun to do a “Favorite Destinations” post for some places I had the blessing to see while down south. Hopefully this can inspire you guys to travel to South America one day, or if you already have, please comment below and tell me if you agree/disagree with the places I have listed!

Without further ado, let’s get started.

(P.S. I have not included Buenos Aires in this post, because that city deserves a blog post all of its own.)


LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK (Patagonia, Argentina)

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Perito Moreno Glacier (March 2018)

Patagonia, one of the most amazing regions on Planet Earth, covers the southern tip of South America. It is a sparsely populated area due to its rugged terrain, but in my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful places in the globe. While there are so many incredible places in Patagonia, there is one in particular that stands out: Los Glaciares National Park.

Los Glaciares is an incredible landscape where one can personally visit the giant ice cap of the Andean Mountains. The pictures you see are taken from the most famous glacier system in the park, Perito Moreno Glacier, on the fantastic Lago Argentino. To visit the glacier, one must take a comfortable boat ride across the Lago Argentino, and then there is the additional option to hike across the glacier (!!!) as well. Pretty wild stuff, if you ask me.

What made this trip so special was the fact I was with my amazing friends. I really do believe travel is a great way to tighten friendships, since you learn so much about people through shared experience.

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Perito Moreno Glacier (March 2018) // Walking on ice
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Perito Moreno Glacier (March 2018) // One of the only glaciers in the world still growing

IGUAZÚ FALLS, ARGENTINA

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Iguazú Falls, Argentina (October 2017)

If glaciers and deserts are not your eco-zone, how about the jungle? And more particularly, if jungles aren’t your preferred location, how about the most incredible waterfall system in the world? Iguazú is your place.

Hidden in the jungles bordering Argentina and Brazil, Iguazú Falls’ cataracts range from 197 to 269 feet (60 to 82 feet). These dramatic drops are almost unbelievable to witness with human eyes, and to hear the colossal roar of these falls is, well, overpowering.

Iguazú is a a twenty-hour bus journey from Buenos Aires. (By plane is probably a better choice.) While this was a painful journey, it made the reward so much better. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to Iguazú, considering that I was still a little dazed from the bus experience, but sometimes trips are like that. (And sometimes the journey is better than the destination itself.) However, Iguazú did not disappoint.

The hikes throughout the park are scenic and appropriate for people of all ages. Monkeys   will drop down from the emerald trees, while we humans stumble down boardwalks over muddy rivers leading you to the source of your trip. Eventually, you’ll hear the waterfalls, and you’ll think, What is that? 

And when you see the waterfalls, and the iridescent spray floating all around you, it’s a little snapshot of what heaven will be like. Take a fresh gulp of air, and listen to the world around you.

Go to Iguazú someday.

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Iguazú Falls, Argentina (October 2017)

USHUAIA, ARGENTINA

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Hike to Laguna Esmeralda (February 2018) // If you look close enough, you will see me on a rock (pink jacket)

But if you still are craving another slice of South America, there’s still one more recommendation for you, and it’s my personal favorite: Ushuaia.

Some of my readers will recognize Ushuaia because I love to blog about it. Ushuaia holds the title of the southernmost city in the world, and it is absolutely incredible to consider how close it is to Antarctica. With about 50,000 residents, Ushuaia is a touristy town devoted to its guests. Some of the sweetest people live in this small city, and I truly mean that!

Ushuaia is the kind of place where there is endless opportunity (as long as you go in a reasonable season). For example, we spent a day hiking to Laguna Esmeralda, which was an amazing time to experience the region of Tierra del Fuego. The following day, we took a special tour of the Beagle Channel (Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse) and walked with penguins on Martillo Island (a must, if you decide to go!). Another day we went on the Southern Fuegian Railway, which connects Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park. And there is still downtown Ushuaia to explore, which reminds me of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or Branson, Missouri (a town established to cater to entertaining visitors).

I would definitely recommend checking it out in the summer months. We went in February, which was a comfortable time to go. (Temperatures in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, a fair amount of sunny days to hike and explore.)

Ushuaia’s the kind of place where you can easily get lost for a few days, a few months, or a few years (at least in the summertime).

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Martillo Island (March 2018) // Yes, I got to walk with penguins!
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Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, Beagle Channel, Argentina (February 2018) 

ARGENTINA.

A country of twenty-three provinces, one autonomous city (Buenos Aires), and over forty million people. While I love to go on and on about places to see, I truly believe that people are far greater than any place you will go. People make the place, just like the place makes the people.

The people you will meet in South America will transform your life. You may not recognize it at the time, but they will. I still reflect on so many Argentines who made an impact on my year abroad. Despite the cultural differences and the language barriers, relationships were solidified.

I encourage all of you guys to travel. Some of you may not be interested in this option, but it is amazing to immerse yourself in new perspectives. Travel is not cheap, but there are new methods every day to better afford these opportunities. And for those of you who are wondering where you should go on your next vacation, maybe consider one of these destinations!

So, there you have it for today: My top three Argentine destinations. I hope you enjoyed this post. ❤

Until next time,

-K.

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Me when my entire blog post deleted itself and I had to rewrite it from scratch

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ON PEOPLE WATCHING

Hello everyone!

It has been a while since I have done a post like this, so I am excited to write on this topic: The value of people watching! Now, before you consider me a weirdo or accuse me of spying on people, I just want to define what people watching means to me (or according to the good old Internet).

People watching or crowd watching is the act of observing people and their interactions, usually without their knowledge. It involves picking up on idiosyncrasies to try to guess at another person’s story.

So, yes, people watching is a little weird at times. You may even get caught when you do it. However, I attribute people watching to four things that are essential to storytelling and the ability to write believable characters.

Let’s dive on in.


1. A QUICK INTRO

In this day and age, we are constantly surrounded by information. Many of us have smartphones that can tell us what we need to know in seconds. Communication has become as simple as clicking a button, and you can see your loved ones who are thousands of miles away. With this comes the pressure of technology. I am absorbed in my phone, and, as stated in previous posts, I can become overwhelmed by the amount of time I spend on my phone or computer.

Occasionally I challenge myself to just sitting down on a park bench with no distractions. After a few moments, I’ll grow bored and restless, wishing I was at home, snuggled in bed, or drinking a nice Diet Coke. But then, when I stifle these nonsense thoughts, a person walks by. Who knows who the person is or where they’re off to…

So it’s up to me to figure out who this person is!

Maybe the person is off to a job interview; maybe the person is going to the hospital, about to receive a life-changing diagnosis. Maybe the person just won the lottery. Then comes the power of imagination, and a writer unleashes his or her talents accordingly.

Watching normal people living their everyday lives is the perfect way to learn about how we all interact.


2.  SOCIAL AWARENESS

There is no doubt that people watching aids in social awareness. Once you start practicing the people watching habit, you’ll start to pick up on subtle things that can explain why people act the way they do.

Social awareness leads to emotional growth, and this is massively important for writers. We must consider ourselves psychologists, in a way: We study our characters, diagnose their flaws, and work to expose them for our readers.

Social awareness then takes on the role of various factors. When we want to develop this emotional intelligence, we have to pay attention to certain things that will help us learn more about the people around us. Here are a few:

  1. Listen to what they say
  2. Repeat what was said
  3. Tone of voice
  4. Body language
  5. Details

So how does this relate to real life situation?

Well, let’s consider an example from my creative writing class. Personally, I am not a fan of the classes I take at my university, but I don’t want to rant in this post. In one class, I felt as if I was learning nothing from the school activity, and so I challenged myself to a little “people watching” exercise, in which I observed my classmates and wondered what they were really thinking.

From what I could observe, I sensed that there was a lot of boredom in the classroom (constant gazes toward the clock, staring into space, etc.) and some attentiveness to the professor (scribbling in books, eye contact, etc.). Maybe I was wrong in my assessment, but even if I was, I found the experiment to make me think about how communication is so important in any environment you’ll find yourself in.


3. VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Verbal and non-verbal communication are both tied to social awareness, but I want to expand on the two a little more. In some past classes, I learned that most communication is non-verbal, and some statistics suggest that only 7% of all human contact is through verbal communication (according to Dr. Albert Mehrabian).

While the numbers could be skewed, it is important to realize that the overwhelming majority of communication is through non-verbal cues, yet we emphasize so much on what we say and how we say it (words and tone). Why is this?

Words cut like a knife, and words melt us when we’re in love or with friends or receive a compliment. Language is integral to the human experience, as we know, and so when we people watch, it benefits our understanding to know what our people are saying. Words are little insights into the mind.

Now, this can be considered eavesdropping, which I am quite guilty of doing. It’s human nature to want to know what people are up to, and the same thing can be attributed to verbal cues.

One time, I was commuting on the Buenos Aires subway system when I stumbled upon a very interesting situation. The subway was cramped, packed with people, and I was sitting across from an interesting couple. Both were obviously well-dressed, educated, young, and… Breaking up, in front of everyone.

The man was whispering to her, trying not to make a scene as he broke her heart on that train. I was shocked, terrified, and wondering if I was imagining the conversation before me. But there was no imagination in this case. And what’s worse? He kissed her on the cheek as tears rolled down her face, said goodbye, and hopped off at the next stop.

My heart ripped down the middle for the poor woman across from me. Everyone on the train pretended not to know what was going on, and no one offered any help to her. I wanted desperately to talk to her, but I was a young American and had to get off at the next stop. I was certain she didn’t want anyone bothering her, because she shut down with her non-verbal signals (more on this to come). The shame that covered her face still haunts me.

In this example, there are a lot of non-verbals to unpack, but the ability to hear what the man was saying and how he was saying it was a crux in my understanding of the situation. Sometimes, when we don’t fully comprehend what’s going on, it’s because we don’t have a full picture. Maybe we catch phrases here and there, but I was held captive by the break-up.

The words only iterated the situation before me, despite all the hints from the non-verbal communication.

When we listen to people around us, we develop a greater understanding of how people operate. We can understand how people use what they say to further highlight what they really want to do. If we’re being honest, sometimes people just don’t catch the non-verbals we send, and words step in, ready to get the job done.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina (September 2017) This was my normal stop on the way to school. It was on one of these trains where I witnessed the infamous “break-up.” 

4. NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

If verbals only compute 7% of communication, that means that non-verbals make up 93%. Let that sink in.

As a writer, I have trained myself to emphasize what I want to write. When characters are talking, I know exactly what they are saying to each other, and dialogue becomes one of the most key elements of the story. For example, why is there such an emphasis on the first time lovers whisper, “I love you,” to each other?

Well, according to our statistic, we should be paying more attention to how people act around us, physically, that is. Are they interested in what we are doing, or are they bored and wish they could be anywhere else? Are the people on the streets broken inside, aching for someone to ask them how their days are going, or are they madly, desperately in love?

While we are not psychics or fortune tellers, we can gain greater understanding when we pay attention to body language.

Let’s head back to my creative writing class experiment for a second. I was watching my classmates (hopefully not in a creepy way) and ruminating on what some of their body language meant. Here are some things I caught onto:

  1. Slumped over the book. (Indicates boredom, tiredness)
  2. Fiddling with fingers or pens. (Can suggest boredom, but studies suggest that fidgeting is something we do when we are paying attention to something)
  3. People staring into space, eyelids drooping. (Boredom, tiredness)
  4. Pens back and forth above lips. (Honestly who knows)
  5. Underlining phrases in book. (Attentiveness to class)
  6. Doodling in book. (Boredom)
  7. Mostly crossed legs. (In a comfortable environment)

We have to consider that our minds pretty much automatically recognize these cues and place them into one big image of the people before us. But when we unravel each little movement, we start to see how our minds are smart enough to figure things out in a span of seconds.

It’s pretty incredible stuff, if you ask me.


5. STORYTELLING ABILITIES

As previously stated, we writers are psychologists, we are doctors, we are researchers. We must know what we want to write, and we have to know how to write it convincingly, or our readers will be disinterested in the story we are so so excited to tell.

I have learned so much from watching people. An infinite amount of stories are possible when you open your mind to the world around you. Just like our world is never stagnant, our created worlds are as diverse and large as we want them to be.

I will be honest with you: People watching has taught me more than any creative writing class. Maybe this suggests the classes I have taken are subpar, but I do believe the best writers are trained to watch and analyze reality before diving into imagination.

Both are integral to write, as we write what we know, but we also write what we want to know of the mystery around us. Nothing should ever be black and white, because there is always a gray area of magic around us. This magic is simply what we cannot understand, since we are only human.

But writers have a God complex. We want to be the gods of our imaginations, and that’s where our storytelling comes into place.

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Córdoba, Argentina (October 2018) The poor Argentines watching dorky me. What would you think if you saw this?

A CHALLENGE.

If you find yourself in a crowded place, pay attention to the people around you. If you find yourself on a park bench, pay attention to the people who cross in front of you. There is value to be found in observation, especially if you’re a writer. And at the very least, consider how all of these aforementioned points are tied together.

People watching is something you can do anywhere. Don’t be a creep if you decide to participate, but it can be a good way to distract yourself from your own situation, and empathize with others.

But people watching is just the cusp. Relationships are where we really learn. Don’t forget to be kind to all you meet, and really begin to pay attention to all the non-verbals.

Until next time,

-K.

travel

ONE WEEK LEFT IN BUENOS AIRES

As most of you know, I’m studying abroad in Argentina. I have been here since September, and it is crazy to think how fast (and, at times, slow) this year has gone. Currently, I’m sitting in an Argentine version of Starbucks called Havanna, working on this blog post. It is funny because I came to this very Havanna with some friends the first weekend here.

Therefore, I want to say that this year has been both one of the easiest and hardest years of my life. How is that possible? Well, I think physically, my body has been through the wringer. From facial mosquito bites covering my entire cheek to a case of acute bronchitis, I’m physically at an all-time low. I’ve learned that constant, non-stop travel can do that to you. However, that being said, this year has created some of my easiest, favorite friendships, the school side of things hasn’t been too challenging, and on the writing front, I’ve been both a maniac and forced with a case of writer’s block.

Therefore, I’m going to write a few things I’m thankful about, because I only have 168 more hours in this country, and then I’ll be shipped back on a plane to LAX…


1. MY HOMESTAY

My Argentine padres are some of the sweetest people on the planet who feed me like a queen and who truly care about my goals, aspirations, and health. One thing about being sick is that I got to stay at home and be with them a little more than usual.

2. MY DAILY SUBTE JOURNEY

What is a subte? It’s the Buenos Aires subway system, and I’m constantly taking a subte to class. I’ve witnessed public break-ups, street artists, musicians, sweet families, and been uncomfortable more times than I can count, but my daily rides on the subte force me to listen to the Spanish around me and become part of the Argentine culture, especially now that my fourth pair of headphones is broken. (That is a story for another day, but not listening to music as I walk to class has actually been beneficial, because I love listening to the people around me.)

3. MY ROACH FAM (don’t ask)

Going abroad really develops some of your wildest friendships. I came to Buenos Aires with my best friend, and I’m leaving with five or six more truly close friends. We’ve gone through so much together, and while I am sad to leave them for a little bit, we’ll be reunited soon… 🙂 Life in Buenos Aires would have been impossible without them, and some of these people will truly be in my life forever.


…BUT IT IS TIME TO GO HOME

I am a weird creature, because I find myself constantly homesick. While I’ve gotten better at it over the past few years, I find myself always missing my hometown (which really means my family and friends back in the South). Therefore, I made a countdown at the beginning of this semester to check off the days until I could fly home, and now that I only have seven more checks on the piece of paper, I’m really at a loss at how time flies.

I will miss Argentina, but I’m not opposed to visiting again. In fact, I think I will be back. However, this year abroad has made me truly appreciate all I have in the States, and I’m ready to go back.

I’m ready for some BK croissants and large Polar Pops. (For those of you who don’t know, I’ve got a true addiction to Diet Coke.) And I’m ready to see my pet guinea pig.

Until next time,

-K.