5/18/16

Never been there, haven't done that



As an aspiring travel writer but unenthusiastic traveler, I'd like to take this opportunity to take the travel out of travel writing once and for all. 

I've always wanted to be a travel writer, but haven't really been keen on all the travel it entails. All that luggage and diarrhea and attempts to communicate with people who can't understand a word you're saying while everyone steals your wallet and tries to sell you underage hookers is all just a little bit annoying. And there's always some hand gesture that you apparently should never do, something that means "Hi!" where you're from but which always means something like "I will rape your mother's donkey" wherever it is you're traveling in. Also, wherever you go, people there hate you. It's true, they do. They hate your smug little trekking shoes and your backpack and your sheepish friendly smile and your pathetic attempt to say "thank you" in their language, and all the money you obviously have so you can just walk around among them going "Wow, that's an amazing blehblehbleh" or "Gee, I never knew that about myehmyehmyeh".

But I'm here to tell you the good news: you need not travel to be a travel writer! You can do just as well as a travel writer by simply jumping to unfounded conclusions on what a place is like. Plus, in case you need to pepper your piece with facts, keep in mind that everybody has been everywhere and written about everything already, so there's an enormous shitpile of information that's mostly churned out as page filler for glamorized advertising floats like Travel + Leisure, and it's all just waiting to be regurgitated into yet another travel article by you, one that still conveys a sense of "wide-eyed adventure" that great travel writing does, but without necessitating all that unsavory adventurous traveling by you beforehand. Anyway, I was heartened by this idea of travel writing without all the travel, so I decided to write my own travel piece on... I don't know, I'll pick... Argentina? Sure, Argentina it is. Now, mind you, I've never been to Argentina, but I think you'll find it's all there in my travel piece on Argentina. Let the adventure begin:

When my plane supposedly flew into Buenos Aires, the first thing that would've struck me was perhaps the majestic ring of snow-capped peaks that may possibly have embraced this city built on what could probably be the Rio Argentino delta. The presumably golden waters of the Argentino flowed through these mountains that I assume are there, standing like an antipodean Olympus towering over the horizon like a race of guardian Gods who... etc. etc. It was these mountains, the Andes (?), that may have lent their name to Buenos Aires, which is, I guess, Spanish for "clean mountain air". Looking down from my airplane window on this fantastic sight that I imagine would've stretched out before me, I was seized by a sense of adventure and longing. I wanted to get out there, to discover this place, these people, their language, and explore every part of what I can only assume there is to explore in Argentina, judging from this atlas I have on my lap as I write this.

And so it began, my Argentinian adventure. But first I had to turn down the TV volume, because I couldn't concentrate with my girlfriend watching Project Runway next to me. She told me that I could fuck off and write somewhere else because she can't very well pick up the TV and go to the bedroom. And so I did! I moved from the couch next to her, picked up my bag of corn Doritos, and I made my way to the bedroom to flop down on the bed, face first, as I stretched a little and then zoned out for about ten minutes staring at the ceiling, before I took a sip of my Sprite and resumed my Argentinian adventure.

Buenos Aires is a city of anywhere between at least probably about 1 million to, I don't know, ten million people? One in so-many people in Argentina live in Buenos Aires, which is also known as "the rooftop of the world", I'm guessing, although that could also be the Himalayas. It's a city where, probably in some way, tradition meets modernity and East meets West somehow, though I'm not really sure how, and I may just be saying that because I'm Turkish and everything I've ever read about Turkey says that, so that shit's ingrained in my brain and I can't help spew it out. Anyway, so many different cultures will have blended for [centuries?] to produce modern day Argentina: the local Indian tribes which may or may not have been called Quataguaras and Pantamaribotoinos, the Spanish Conquistadores (why don't we just call them Spanish Conquestors? that sounds really cool), Colonial Spain, and something about the Pampas where gauchos roam free herding cows with ponchos (just to clarify: the gauchos wear the ponchos, not the cows).

Buenos Aires is a bustling city that lives 24 hours, as most big cities are described as doing in most travel articles and documentaries. There seem like there would be wide boulevards, a big library in which their great national writer Jorge Luis Borges was the director (he was, I read that somewhere), and also Evita, tango, Maradona and football, but not necessarily in that order. Among the most beautiful parts of the city is the El Paramaderoneronito (or something to that effect) district where quaint colorful wooden houses probably offer great photo ops as old people dressed in adorable suits and hats tango on the street and children play football in the background, offering iconic images of Latin American contrast where young and old, modernity and tradition meet (again) in the same photo frames.

Above: tango or flamenco or something

Football has a big place in Argentina, which boasts Maradona who won the World Cup, and also Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona. But the big football rivalry is between two of Buenos Aires's biggest teams: Los Blancos and Los Negros, or whatever, teams that are the opposite of each other, basically, because they hate each other and their supporters always fight, and something here about football not just being a game but a way of life and a rite of passage and tribalism, and you know, that kind of stuff.

Buenos Aires has cafes, restaurants, bistros, shops, hotels, hospitals, stadiums, police stations, fire stations, grocery stores, supermarkets, street lamps, roads, lakes (probably), parks, roads, bridges, sewage pipes, it's a city that has practically everything cities have. And the food is amazing. Mostly meat, as I found out when I once went to an Argentinian restaurant at a nearby shopping mall. There are quirky postmodern type places that don't just serve food but also probably have tango or something, or do some kind of cool mime show while you eat blindfolded with your hands, making it the latest in culinary experiences, or what have you. There are probably also quirky cafes where cool people sip coffee and can also listen to slam poetry or can buy paintings off the wall and they must have wi-fi too (on a side note: everything's in Spanish there).

After seeing all the sights in Buenos Aires, including the National Museum (or Museo Nacional), the parliament or presidential palace which are usually pretty buildings, a cathedral, because there's got to be a cathedral, and some famous tall monuments and statues dedicated to great Argentinians like Evita or Maradona, or Evita's husband (something Allende?), or whoever founded the country, like Martino Jose Vascopulpos Capanegro Villa De La Jorges, who probably fought some kind of war of independence against the Spanish (and then basically created a creole Spanish government that was probably just as oppressive, racist and oligarchic as the one preceding it, but which could at least now keep all the taxes for itself instead of handing it all over to some Spanish king).

Left: Diego Maradona

Anyway, after seeing all those sights, I went to Patagonia, a land of wide wind-swept plains and rolling hills full of gauchos roaming around and herding cattle, living a life of freedom on those wide desolate expanses where I daydreamed in the car which I imagined I was driving southward to the end of the world. And to add something mildly sensational here: "to the south of me was Antarctica!" Um... I somehow met some gauchos and joined them around a campfire where I wore a poncho and ate sausages and beans and they sang gaucho songs on their guitars and I rode one of their horses as the sun set, and then when I left we were friends for life, and would I ever see them again? and isn't the universe so big? and aren't we so small? and where does the time go? and is there even "time"? etc., superficially profound blathering inserted here that conveys all those sentiments. Moving on!

My finger took me to the southernmost tip of Argentina on the atlas: Tierra Del Fuego! Here I was at the southernmost tip of the Americas, you couldn't get more south, this was as south as south goes for south America. Below me, once again, Antarctica! Crazy, huh!? Also, penguins, probably.

Moving back up north a bit, I took a boat or a plane and went to the Falkland Islands, known by a different name in Argentina, Los Islos Falklandos or something like that. They are British, which would explain the giant "U.K." written all over them.

Oh, the Andes, I see, are not really around Buenos Aires, but way to the west by Chile. So scrap that first paragraph of this article, or at least the bits about mountains. Also the river isn't Rio Argentino but Rio Plata. My bad, I should really take the time to look at the atlas more when I'm writing these travel pieces!

And so my journey was at an end. I went through a quaint village where the locals made special local handicrafts and they sang and danced in their own weird way and they had their own stories, myths and legends, like people in villages do. I left feeling a bond with them all, and I would've taken photos of some old people in traditional dress and happy cute little children, and I would've eaten their food (more meat? or maybe beans? seems like villagers would eat beans, right?).

Ok, this time my journey really would be at an end, because eating a whole bag of corn Doritos just gave me stomach cramps, and also Breaking Bad is on TV, and I don't want to miss that. So to end it all, I imagine I would've got on a plane at Buenos Aires Airport, and as I looked back on this magical land of wide plains, mountains, sea, people, sky, clouds, buildings, and sun, I couldn't help but think something like "I'll definitely come back" and "aren't people all really just the same everywhere" and "we're all brothers and sisters on mother earth", etc.

By the way, the women were FUCKING HOT according to Google's "Argentinian women" search results.

Attila Pelit is not a writer or editor for any publication whatsoever, and he has no significant travel experience to speak of either, which makes him not much of an authority on anything, especially not Argentina. His articles have appeared in Nowhere, Not Here and Try Again, and he's a regular contributor to Nothing. He currently resides in Istanbul, Turkey, and quite frankly he doesn't even know much about that place, though he can bullshit his way through somehow.