countries

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South America | Chile

Patagonia / Hitchhiking Chronicles & Idle Waiting

why waiting doesn’t feel like leisure

   We had driven a rental car from Bariloche in Argentina to Puerto Natales in Chile, watching the Patagonian settlements get thinner the more we neared the end of the world. But, looking at the odometer now called for reconsideration. We were running out of our limited mileage as the land ran out of civilization, yet Ushuaia, the most southern city on earth, our final destination and kind of the final destination of final destinations, was still far. It was time to take these lazy thumbs out of our pockets and hitchhike the last 500 miles.

Of a rugged and fierce beauty are Patagonia's landscapes, unsullied and almost immune to civilization.

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I’ve never really been in the travel business of hitching rides for the challenge, the struggle, the fame or the otherness of it.

I’ve never really been in the travel business of hitching rides for the challenge, the struggle, the fame or the otherness of it. It’s mostly been a spontaneous means of simply getting me from A to B cheaply and when other options were scarce. I enjoy this way of going local, but it comes with restrictions. Meeting people and having a chat is lovely, but when hopping into a stranger’s car conversing becomes somewhat of an obligation; hitchhiking, to me, is the Couchsurfing of transportation modes. Often I prefer an anonymous and solitary bus window with no social obligations attached to it, where I can listen to music and gaze at the landscapes flying by. 

Just why do moments of waiting feel so dull and wasted? Why do we have to “kill” that time? Usually we can’t wait to get a break from our duties, but once leisure time imposes disguised as idleness it becomes an annoyance.

We started the next morning, split up into two neat couples to increase our hitchhiker-attractiveness. Vastly oblivious to the fact that we were trying to bridge some 500 miles of sparsely populated lands on a Sunday, including a border crossing, the words “see you tonight in Ushuaia” were our farewell. Our friends got a head start on us, but trudging behind we snatched the first ride. Our luck was short-lived, however. The ten minute ride with a father and his three kids only took us to the next junction which, by then, was far enough for me – while my companion had stayed in front, I’d been sitting on the bed of the pickup truck, left slightly perplexed by the swastikas on one of the kids' backpacks. These people seemed genuinely nice, but getting out now was fine by me.

Soon, our friends passed us by and we waved at them with excitement. Little did we know that the only thing ahead of us was a three hour wait filled with throwing stones at a signpost. Just why do moments of waiting feel so dull and wasted? Why do we have to “kill” that time? Usually we can’t wait to get a break from our duties, but once leisure time imposes disguised as idleness it becomes an annoyance. It’s not like there wasn’t a stunning landscape to look at, or book to read, or conversation to be had, or train of thought to be traveled. How often do we crave and seek these moments, only to turn them down when they present themselves voluntarily? It's as though we are playing hard to get with leisure time.