Leaving Sixty-Nine Behind: Traveling to Country Number Seventy
Argentina beckons. In two weeks I’ll be strolling down the rambling streets of Buenos Aires, visiting the land of gauchos, estancias, and the birthplace of the tango for the first time. Argentina will become my 70th country in the world to visit. I have mixed feelings about this number “70”, partly because 69 seems intriguing to many people (and it’s easy to remember. dirty!), but the nice, even number “70” has a good ring to it, does it not?
I’m partly kidding, here. You see, I’m not one of these “tick a country off a list” people. I don’t have aspirations to visit every country in the world (or join the Traveler’s Century Club), although these are worthy and interesting ambitions. I admire people like Lee Abbamonte and Chris Guillebeau for creating and achieving such lofty goals, but I don’t travel to achieve such accomplishments. I’m a land-loper for more introspective reasons: constantly striving for self-improvement, to better understand the world around me, and to give back where I can. I’m often more focused on returning to a country I’ve already visited to explore it more thoroughly than I am on getting a new shiny stamp in my passport (although passport stamps are pretty cool souvenirs, right?).
I do have a solid two-dozen or so countries on my short-list of high priority-must-get-to places. Some of these countries would actually be repeats for me! For example: New Zealand! I must get back there to finish exploring the northern part of the south island and the entire north island as well.
Argentina has been in my top-ten desirable destinations for quite some time. I actually planned a phantom trip there several years ago. It was intended to be a girl’s trip with some friends from DC. I had a fabulous mock-itinerary going, but it never came to fruition. My mom got sick.
Years later, I’m dusting off old emails and re-planning the journey that was put on hold long ago. I just purchased my flight yesterday…. and get this, it cost about $150 USD and only 60,000 points on American Airlines (which still leaves me with over 100,000 points to use later! Yipee!!) Side note: If you are AT ALL serious about traveling, even once a year, you definitely need to look into getting one or more major U.S. airline credit cards. I have Delta’s American Express (which took me to Johannesburg, South Africa last year on points) and American Airline’s Master Card. My friend Cindy, an expert on traveling with points, blogs about strategies you should use at Points and Travel. Don’t be lazy! If you have a credit card that you use anyway, make the switch! Pay off your balance every month (to avoid interest), and you could be flying for “free” to another continent once a year like me!
I digress….where were we? Oh, estancias, gauchos, and the tango… This trip came about very indirectly. My sisters were already planning their summer vacation to South America, and when my dad told me that he was joining them last week, I thought: “Hmmmm…. I really want to go to Argentina one day. And I would much rather go with my family than alone.” I knew American Airlines flew down there, and I had points to burn. Then- bam! It all happened that quickly.
I do feel
a wee bit very guilty leaving my husband behind as we continue settling in to our new home (yes, we are newly-minted home owners in Nashville, as of June 21st, which you may already know if you follow me on Facebook). And that is an entire new topic up for exploration: settling down versus traveling freely (which I will be weighing in on soon).
You see, I consider myself a travel opportunist. That seems like such a dirty word, packing all of these negative connotations. Nobody likes an opportunist. It seemingly refers to a person who will do anything and plow over anyone to get what they want. That’s not how I see myself. I do place an inordinately high priority on travel, though. If an opportunity peaks it’s little head through the clouds, I pounce on it. I don’t jump; I leap. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but most of them seem to pool around missed travel opportunities.
I literally used to have nightmares about being stuck, while working at certain unfulfilling jobs, and I would dream of slipping back on to the repurposed cruise ship used for Semester at Sea – (which seemingly embedded this wicked travel obsession… wicked in a good way). It often did not matter what I was doing to advance my career, whether it was pursuing a masters degree at a prestigious university or gainful work experience. I always felt like I was spinning my wheels and wasting my time here on Earth- because I wasn’t out there experiencing our planet. My life struggle will always be my innate need to balance my strong desire for a stable home/community and my even more intense- fierce, even- thirst – to explore and experience our beautiful planet with all its wondrous people and cultures….
And I leave you with that thought…..