The most precious thing

First of all a disclaimer. This is being written in Mendoza, after a four course lunch with paired wines where I have had to consume most of the wines (one of the small perks of having your drivers license stolen and technically not being able to drive).

Now, to the chase. A lot of friends and family ask me how we are doing, what we are up to etc. But one of our dearest colleagues asked me the killer question. “What is the most precious thing you’ve learnt so far?”. Boom. 

So, Claudia Woah-Shea this is for you (as Andy always refers to you as). 

The most precious thing i have learned is that planning is not the be all and end all. For those of you who know me, you know that I like boxes, and organisation, and lists and bullet points. For those of you who know Andy you are probably thinking “how has she not killed him yet?”  

Ain’t gonna lie to you. It’s been close. Like the time he suggested a 35k detour down a horrible gravel road to get to Villa Traful. But then that ended up being one of the nicest locations on our trip. Or the time he suggested a winery lunch. Which brought us at the most award winning winery in Mendoza. 

The most precious thing I’ve learned is that I need a broad directional plan. I don’t to have a detailed military expedition outlining every stop for the next 10days. Because the fun stuff, the stuff that take centre stage in my short list of favourite things we’ve done so far were not on any detailed plan. 

To paraphrase one of the most famous Greek poems, it’s about the journey not the destination. And to be more precise 

“As you set out to Ithaka, 

Hope the voyage is a long none, 

Full of adventure full of discovery.” 

…and further down… 

” And if you find her poor, Ithaka will not have fooled you. 

Wise as you have become, so full of experience, 

You will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean” 

Full poem here 

Salgado, Tompkins and life

Yes my friends. This is an existentialist post which one would usually expect from Andy. But here I am wanting to talk about the lives of Sebastiano Salgado and Douglas Thompkins. And soap.

About a year ago now, Andy and I went to see “the salt of the earth“. A movie which was highly recommended to me by my Dad and Deppy who are keen cinema goers. The movie by Wim Wenders, a favourite, chronicles the life of Salgado the illustrious Brazilian photographer who after a couple of years of working as an economist for Breton Woods institutions picked up his camera to tell stories about people and nature. His photos are mesmerising, mostly shot in black and white. His work focused on the impact of industrialisation on people as well as nature before he turned to document the Rwanda genocide. In the film he talks at length about the impact that those trips to Africa had on him and his disappointment in the human race. So much so that he gave up photography to return to his native village only to find it deserted; the deforestation of the Amazon had destroyed the local economy. Undeterred, he and his wife set up Instituto Terra, a foundation focused at replanting the rainforest with local species he and his wife are growing.

Now on to Douglas Tompkins; Founder and CEO of North Face who died last year. A keen environmentalist and conversationalist, Douglas bought 3,000sq km (yes… kilometres) of temperate rainforest in Northern Patagonia and set up Parque Pumalin in an effort to preserve the forrest. It is one of the largest private parks in the world, home to the now active Volcano Chaiten, a glacier and a 4,000 old forest. The Parque is open to the public with a handful of camping sites and marked walks. It’s unbelievably well looked after, you can tell that immense thought and care has gone into setting up and managing the site; it’s a Disneyland for outdoorsy people.

When planning the trip we enquired about working in Salgado’s forest. Unfortunately they don’t welcome unskilled volunteer labour. We have however spent the last couple of days in Parque Pumalin.

Which brings me on to soap. And the question of what am I doing to make the slightest positive mark in the world. Because selling soap (what I’ve been mostly doing for the last couple of years) is not really making a difference in the grande scheme of things…

If you haven’t seen it, do check out “the salt of the earth”. And have a look at the Pumalin website.

Adjusting to life on the road

When we decided to travel around South America for 6 months many were surprised that I’d signed up to camping for most it. How does the girl with the pristine Notting Hill flat and the sizeable shoe and bags collection adjust to nomadic life?

The answer is “relatively easily”. It’s not the shoe collection or the outfits that I miss (though a pair of thermal leggings would be nice). The things that, two weeks in, I am adjusting with are a lot more subtle and complicated.

An alternative working title to this post could be “the princess diaries”. I am well aware that these posts might come across as moaning – it’s a great privilege to be able to take the time off and I don’t take it for granted. But I would not be doing this experience or this blog justice if I pretended everything is rosy; besides that’s what Instagram is for :). 

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