Argentina

Europe more your parents’ bucket list?Join Rick Steves, and me, for a podcast about travel in Latin America

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When a travel writer gets an invite to be a podcast guest of perhaps the single most beloved and well-known travel guru in North America – she says yes first and wonders why later. Which was exactly the order of my thought process when one of Rick Steves’ staff wrote to me about “The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan-American Highway.”

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It was thrilling enough that producer Sarah McCormic was reading and enjoying my book – she’s hip, travel-savvy and knows way more about podcasts than I do. But after my steering-wheel-evoking happy dance, I found myself wondering if I’d ever seen a Rick Steves program on Latin America. My memoir retraces a road trip along the length of the Pan-American Highway, from Mexico to the tip of Argentina, not the Autobahn, The Ring of Kerry or La Route Des Grandes Alpes. In other words, why was Rick Steves willing to devote a good chunk of his podcast to my story?

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Was Tulum the connection? The story of my wedding there comes early in the book, and this photo proves Steves has been there at least once.

It turns out he’s cared about Latin America since the 80s – first visiting El Salvador during its Civil War. So maybe he was relating to my parents’ decision to drive through the entire continent in the not-particularly-stable 70s – with me and my little sister in tow. My mom and dad had no clue what they were getting into – but Steves had done enough homework to know what he didn’t know. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he wrote about that first visit:

I feel like an expert on Europe, but in Central America, I’m humbled by my lack of knowledge. Fortunately, my nine-day crash course in political and economic issues came with great teachers and the ultimate classroom. In speaking with so many local experts, it occurred to me that Americans who come here in search of understanding (like me) want things in black-and-white clarity. In reality, it is much more complex. I didn’t come home with the clean answers I sought, but I did return with a sense of optimism, as the societies of Nicaragua and El Salvador move fitfully but steadily forward. You can’t help but fly home from Central America rooting for its beautiful people — and wanting to do more to help them.

And he did. By championing the region for tourism even when audiences in America were more interested in Europe.

I have long recommended, “If you want a meaningful trip to Central America, consider Managua over Mazatlán.”

He had me at beautiful people. I realized Rick Steves travels for the same reason I do and writes from the same place of celebrating what connects us all. By this point in my Steves research, I couldn’t wait to meet him – even if just for a few hours in an NPR studio link. Then I read a journal entry from his return trip to Latin America in 2005, coincidentally only a year after The Drive.

My 1988 visit to Central America was filled with hope. I came again after the defeat of people’s movements in both El Salvador and Nicaragua in 1991. The tide had turned and I wondered how the spirit of the people’s movements — so exuberant just two years before — would fare after the American victories in their domestic struggles. Now, in 2005, after 14 years of neo-liberalism it is clear, there’s only one game in town. Sure, Romero lives…and Jesus lives. And half the world is trying to live too…on $2 a day. As a Christian, I like to see religion function as a liberator rather than an opiate. Perhaps that’s why I am so enamored with liberation theology in Central America.

The troubadours continue, “It’s not easy to see God in the child who cleans the windshields at a San Salvador intersection…but we must.”

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photograph by Gary Geboy

If you tune in to one of the radio stations that will play our conversation over the air on Saturday, you will learn what I did about Rick Steves. That he’s about way more than Europe, that he’s endless fascinating but refreshingly humble, and that he’s an incredible interviewer. So please, subscribe to his podcast and enjoy the conversation. Unless Oprah calls, this is the best thing that ever happened to my book.

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Passing the torch (Feb 28th)

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I love that readers ask me “what happened to YOUR camper?” Here’s the lowdown, the story that didn’t make it into the book. Remember the adorable couple who pitched their tent directly underneath our camper and encouraged us to return to San Junin de los Andes?

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Their families pooled resources and gave it a new home in a beachside campground in Mar de Plata. It would be a weekend getaway from Magali’s med school stress and recording studio for the musically talented Yamil.

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We shipped the still-new Ford F350 back to North America and said goodbye to the much-loved Avion – hoping to inspire another generation of travelers. You, dear readers, have been part of the journey. Thank you y que le vaya bien.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

Buenos Aires (Feb 27th)

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The truth is I never left you. I still dream of Argentina. Especially Buenos Aires. And yes, the song is correct. Every word is true. You will love it. You should go. Even if you never intend to tango.

0227b.jpgWe rented a studio apartment for the month it took to arrange passage back to North America. It was so small I slept in a drawer that trundled out from under a futon. And I would return in a heartbeat.

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I will name my next camper after anyone who gets “The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan-American Highway” published in Spanish. Why? So I can take the book to the most important annual literary event in the Spanish speaking world: the Buenos Aires Book Fair.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here. And you can find a laugh below — Buenos Aires street humor.

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End of the road (Drive day 241: Feb 25th, 2004)

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I want to carve initials into the sign marking the end of the Pan-American – my parents’ initials, not mine. We have finished the journey for them and I am composing the afterword for a book I know will come.

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“I had no idea the end of the world could begin so gently and sweet smelling. The sky and the land relinquish their rigid boundaries and melt into liquid and cloudy horizons. ..

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The colors whisper and blend into soothing half-tones and glows. The breeze stirs clover and salt and mussels and rain into something like a sigh. It is a place where even dreams can rest.”

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

 

Goodbye gun (Drive day 240: Feb 24th, 2004)

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We leave the city and head to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park with the gun still hidden in its secret compartment under the camper’s floorboards. We set up camp and hike past grass covered shell mounds created by the Yamana.

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At the shoreline of the Beagle Channel the skies part in a moment of epiphany. We are at the end of the world and I can start again. I run back to the camper and return with a bottle of Argentinean champagne and the rusty pistol I have dragged through two continents. Gary pops the cork and I fling the gun as hard as I can. A heavy plunk and it is gone, sinking out of sight and out of my life. It might be the champagne, but I feel free, forgiven and new again. The light dips down behind the mountain peaks and closes a chapter I outgrew long ago.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

When in Tierra del Fuego, do as countless tourists do (Drive day 239: Feb 23rd, 2004)

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0223a.jpgThis town precedes every noun with “World’s southernmost…” but it hardly needs the marketing campaign. Ushuaia’s rough-and-tumble, penal colony history alone is fascinating enough. Factor in the title of most-scuttled-ships-to-collect-insurance and a rebellious pattern begins to take shape.  Still, no modern scandal compares to the fate of the Yamana Indians – wiped out by European diseases until only their mask-making heritage remains of this spiritually rich, phenomenally innovative indigenous culture. The whole land-of-fires (Tierra del Fuego) name? Credit the Yamana – surviving the cold by centering tribal life around constantly maintained, beachside fires. At least mankind hasn’t quite destroyed the diverse surviving animal species – they are celebrated in chartered tours by sea we just can’t resist.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

Arriving in Ushuaia (Drive day 238: Feb 22nd, 2004)

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I feel particularly victorious after navigating Route 3 as driver, not passenger – Gary’s hand is still too swollen to grip a steering wheel. I give all credit to Difunta Corea for protecting our Ford since I took over the driving. She is just as popular this far south as she is where her body was discovered in the northwestern desert – down here her roadside shrines seem excessively concerned with thirst but who am I to judge?

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I do not ask Difunta for more luck than I deserve, however.  As you can see from the photograph I did not back into our spot at tonight’s campground; my confidence does not extend to a rearview windowless maneuver overlooking the end of the world.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.