Travel opens a door in learning to deal with difficult situations; which means it isn’t always fun and games (this is difficult for me to admit). Based on representations of my social media, I’m sure it seems that way because yes, much of the time it is enjoyable. But in reality, long term travel is much like normal life in the sense that you have good and bad days, amazing and not-so-amazing experiences, encounter challenges, meet people you connect with and people you cannot stand and unfortunate things will happen that are out of your control. The good thing about travel (at least for me) is that I usually remember the positive aspects of my experience and tend to focus on that when I reminisce: the delicious tapas in Spain, the adorable kids in Nepal, that one macaroon I ate in France, that charming hotel in Cusco, surfing in Nicaragua, etc. This time however, I will most definitely always remember the 3 worst days on the trip so far. Dan and I made it a good 3 months without too much trouble so we knew something was bound to happen soon. Because the memory and wound is fresh, I feel the need to describe and reflect on exactly what happened.
It all started on our last day in El Chaltén, Argentina with a hangover. The night before was fun but nothing too remarkable that would excuse the level of hangover. We (meaning Dan while I sat back and laughed) tried to teach 4 Argentines and a Swiss girl how to play an American card game and needed to explain the whole thing in Spanish after a few bottles of Malbec; disaster. This was not just any hangover, it was a wine hangover. The kind that lasts all day no matter what you eat, drink, or how much you sleep. The kind of hangover that even makes you feel off two days after. The worst part about this hangover is that we were trapped in a tiny, unbreathable hostel room with a shared bathroom. The most unbearable thought regarding this hangover is that it was our last full day in El Chaltén, Argentina and Patagonia and we spent it in our stupid dorm room.
The next day we had a bus ticket headed back to El Calafate in order to catch a bus the day after to Punta Arenas, Chile. Once in El Calafate, we had to pick up our ticket at the bus station for the following day. Everything was going fine until it was our turn to speak with the Turismo Zaahj representative who proceeded to tell us that our reservation was not recorded, even though I booked and paid for it a month in advance. This would have been okay except for the fact that there were no free buses for another 2 days and we already spent money on accommodations in Punta Arenas. Since we couldn’t get on the Wifi, we had to go check into our hostel, pull up the PayPal record that we paid for the bus, and then had to go back to the bus station. It took the staff 2 hours to figure out a solution for us which ended up being: take a bus through a completely different company at 3 a.m. to Rio Gallegos, wait in Rio Gallegos for 6 hours, and then take a 5 hour bus to Punta Arenas. FINE. As long as we can get to Punta Arenas on time and Turismo Zaahj used the money we gave them and paid the new company. Not ideal also because there was no point now in paying for a hostel but it was too late. After some venting, I was able to get past all of this and just be thankful we were getting to Punta Arenas on time.
About 2 hours later, Dan and I went to the grocery store to get some food to make for dinner and our Charles Schwab debit card was rejected. Dan swore that there was enough money on the card and didn’t understand why this would happen. So we didn’t think too much about it, figured they may have just frozen it since we were in a new city, and went back to our hostel to cook dinner. Around 10:30p.m. or so, we finally got around to checking our bank account and it was drained, by some JERK in the Philippines. They took huge sums out of the ATM 4 times that same day and Charles Schwab didn’t catch it and freeze the account. Of course the internet wasn’t working in our hostel so we couldn’t call the bank but were able to get them on a live chat. We tried to get everything figured out until after midnight but we still didn’t have our money back. Schwab assigned us a fraud officer who is supposed to be helping us in 3 business days. I have faith we will get our money back but I feel unhappy and unsettled knowing this selfish person is walking around with our hard earned money and spending it for themselves.
After dealing with the second fiasco of the day, we went to bed and slept for 1.5 hours in our $44 USD a night shared dorm room. We got on the bus at 3 a.m. and when I woke up around 7 a.m. (the time we were supposed to be arriving) we were at a dead stop. There was some kind of protest or strike and they were blocking the highway by laying tires down on the street. They kept us in the bus waiting for an extra two hours and by this time I thought I was going to flip out. Nothing was going our way, why did Argentina or even the universe have it out for us?! Everything that could possibly go wrong pretty much did the past 3 days all starting with a hangover.
At the moment of writing this, I was sitting in the bus terminal waiting for our last and final bus to Punta Arenas. I couldn’t help but be nervous that something else would go wrong. I wanted to go talk to every person that worked here to make sure the bus was coming and there was no problems on the road, like a crazy person. I tend to get really impatient and bent out of shape when things inconvenience me like this or don’t go my way.
What I decided in that moment, is that I need to learn to be okay with the fact that sometimes there are situations that are out of my control. Sometimes, I just need to hunker down and endure the the pain until it is over because at some point, it will be over and a distant memory. Nothing I do will change the situation (besides the hangover part obviously, that was completely in my control) and giving myself anxiety over it just makes it all the more unbearable. I have faith that things will turn around at some point and go our way again. Until then, I wrote, drank a coffee, ate a sandwich and looked for the little things that I could control to bring some light into a bad situation.
Update: Since writing this yesterday, we safely arrived in Punta Arenas and things are looking up! We also just learned this morning that Charles Schwab will be replacing our stolen funds!