5 Life Lessons I Learned in Patagonia

  1. Don’t Be in a Hurry

Transportation in Patagonia was an adventure all in its own. One of my most memorable encounters was when a shuttle leaving the park back for Puerto Natales was scheduled to arrive at 9am. But as we soon learned, timing was optional. 9am could be 8:35, 9:05, 9:30, etc. 9am was more of a guideline, if you will. If the shuttle showed up anywhere between 8:30-9:30, it was still considered “on time”.  The thing was, if you missed it, the next shuttle wasn’t until late afternoon.

We waited in the pouring down rain for a good forty-five minutes that morning. The shuttle came in just shy of 9:30 (of course, right?) In my Washingtonian past-life, I know a lot people, myself at the time included, who would have lost their mind by this unpredictability. But the thing was, in the end, it all turned out OK. We got to where we needed to go. We made some new friends at the bus stop we never would have encountered otherwise. And right before we boarded, we spotted a double-rainbow break through the clouds that we surely would’ve missed had it arrived at 9 o’clock.

  1. Everything is Temporary

Patagonia is known for its extreme weather – after all, there is an outdoor clothing company named after it – but before we arrived we didn’t quite know what to expect.

I can tell you this – the weather is no joke. We experienced every bit of those high extremes you hear about, from ridiculously strong winds that nearly knocked us over, to heavy rains and downpours, to moments of sunshine and warmth. But while we never knew what we could expect, we knew every weather condition we came across would never last long. Within a few hours, the weather would always change. Sometimes for the worst, sometimes for the better. So all of those corny sayings you hear about waiting for the storm to pass and to hang in there? I couldn’t agree more. And for all of those moments of sunshine, soak in all the warmth while you can.

  1. Anything Can Happen

The unpredictability of Patagonia wasn’t just limited to the weather. On our way back to town, we pulled over at a small, one-room cabin that served as a rest area.

After everyone had gotten back on the bus, we noticed our bus driver come running out of the cabin behind us with a look of horror on his face, flailing his arms and calling for us to get off. After we got off the bus, we noticed the back section smoking and realized it had caught on fire. The passenger sitting next to us on the bus looked at us with a smile and said, “Welcome to South America.” Within a few minutes, we were on another bus and headed back to town, as if nothing had ever happened. We only dared to think about what we could have ahead of us next.

  1. You Never Know Who’s Going to Show Up

Each night in the refugio, you had no idea who or when someone would be coming in off the trails to share your room in the bunk next to you. But I can say for us, all of our roommates in the refugio turned out to be some of the most genuine and inspiring human beings I have ever met. We were all different, but similar in many ways, namely that we all had the guts and drive to travel to the end of the world to experience Patagonia. So although it was always a surprise as to who we’d get to meet, each and every one  of them always found a way to leave a very special mark on our trip that I’ll hold with me forever.

  1. People are Mostly Good

With all of the chaos and fear in the world today, it’s easy to be skeptical of strangers and weary of others not like us. But in Patagonia out on the trails, it’s a different world where everyone has each other’s backs. If you come across trouble on the trail, someone will be there to help you. A quirky couple gave us advice when the winds started to pick up about how to battle the elements. We were encouraged by a stranger to follow his lead to get through a severe wind tunnel around the bend on an edge of a cliff. And sure, while there were probably a few bad apples up there with us on the trail and out there in the world, the majority of people aren’t as evil as you might think they are.

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