Traveling for several months on end has its pluses and minuses. The idea itself is exciting, adventurous, and slightly nerve wracking. After a few weeks of actually doing it, you start to discover the realities of life lived from a backpack in a country that is starting to not look so much like the travel book photos you had previously seen.
A few months into it and you start to wonder how long you will actually last going from city to city to experience landscapes, food and the ultimate monotony of tourism. Several months into it you will be overcome by the desire to stimulate your brain in other ways besides booking bus rides and looking at trip advisor reviews. You will eventually be at the point where I found myself about a month and a half ago… which can only be described as pure over-traveled insanity… working as a quasi slave in the northern reaches of Argentine Patagonia.
El Bolson is a small mountain town full of Argentina’s hippie population. It is also the center of Argentina’s Wwoofing experiences… Which roughly translates into doing random horrible jobs for strangers in return for shelter under wooden boards, plus some food, equating to rice and beans and maté (a tea consumed as though it were crack cocaine).
Jobs included the following :
-cleaning out 800 square feet of the dirtiest most cluttered shed space, piled 6 feet high with boxes of random filthy things that then needed to be categorized and organized.
-weeding a vegetable garden
-moving piles of rocks from one side of the property to another.
-moving 10 tons of branches into piles across the property.
-cleaning out and organizing more hidden sheds
-painting wooden structures with used car oil and gasoline (not recommended)
-digging more ditches
-painting buildings and sheds with even more used car oil and gasoline
-and shoveling tons and tons and tons of sh*t
As you can imagine my experience of doing someone else’s dirty work at the expense of my health for the payment of a bed was slightly less than satisfying . However I must admit that at first it was a bit enjoyable- anything to escape the constant moving nature of travel. I would take pride in the tasks laid in front of me, making sure to do a good job of it and getting it right the first time. Then sometime around the day that I was handed a paint brush and a tin can full of toxic used car oil diluted with gasoline and told to paint the large wooden frame standing over the “organic” garden, I started to look at my situation a bit more realistically. Need I sacrifice health for a bed? Need I wash my hands in gasoline at the end of each day to rid myself of the clinging nature of car oil? Need I be traveling any longer?
The final question was the one that needed answering the most. Indeed it seemed as though I was trying to stretch out my traveling for no other reason and in no other way than by avoiding traveling itself. The time had come to make some final plans and return to the lovely and most wonderful country of our beloved United States of America.
It is time to head back and continue what I started with my leather and wood designs. It is time to change things up and to start a new journey back home.
All photos taken on the property of the Wwoofing situation. In defense to the owners, they were in fact some of the nicest people I have ever met. The Señora leads a yoga practice on a patch of lawn by their hostel every morning, and the Señor happens to be a leatherworker (whose 800 sq. foot workshop I helped clean out).