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She went on. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where — ” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ — so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

When you travel long enough, life is stripped almost entirely of the things that make up what most of us consider normalcy. Places: the places you go five days a week, places you go back to every night to eat and sleep, places where you keep things large and small. These are gone. People: friends and family and co-workers and neighbors, the ones you daily remind you who you are. The people stay with you more than the places do, but they are long gone, too. …


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In 1890 a man named Francisco Piria founded a resort town at an auspicious location a hundred kilometers east from Montevideo. The coastline juts out there into the Rio de la Plata, and on either side are long, curving beaches. Just inland is a roundish green hill, Cerro San Antonio, and ten kilometers inland is Cerro Pan de Azucar, a hill that looks like a mountain. Piria was an architect and developer who happened to also be an alchemist. Naturally, the vision for the town that bears his name was to harness “bioenergia” and provide its visitors with spiritual well-being. He laid out a grid plan, built a sturdy promenade above the beach, and a grand old hotel which at one time was the largest on the continent. Until the rise of Punta del Este forty kilometers further up the coast, I think this may have been the beach destination for the fancy people of Argentina and Brazil. …


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My sixteenth day here, just after sunset. The twilight dissipates out over the Rio de la Plata. Most nights I wander a ways along the waterfront to take my evening mate; tonight I am on La Rambla right down from the Contraluz. If you drew a line from the hostel’s front door on Calle Juan D. Jackson straight to the water, I would be sitting at the end of it.

It’s quiet out here tonight, in terms of humans. I’m not sure why, as it’s lovely, that kind of slightly brisk fall evening that brings a quickening of the heart. Maybe it’s just because it’s a Tuesday, and not everyone can be out here every single night like me. Some twenty other people are taking their mate, spread out along this whole section of the promenade; another twenty are drawing continuous loops on the rink in the little park on their rollerskates and rollerblades. Patines de ruedas. There’s something comforting about all these elliptical motions on one side, and currents lapping the sea wall on the other. …


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“trump piñatas are still selling well” by jima is shared under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sometime very early on election day, Riley told me his plans for the Hillary for Nevada Victory Party that night. It was just after six in the morning and the adrenaline and cortisol were already flowing. I was trying to get out of the house and down to the campaign headquarters.

In retrospect, it should have been a red flag, calling it a Victory Party ahead of time, but I didn’t think much of it. Perhaps election night parties are always called something like that; I hadn’t paid close attention before. The party was to be held in the Silver State Pavilion at the Grand Sierra Resort, a giant new-ish casino on the edge of town. Fliers advertised “affordable deli food”; “no host bars” — read: cash — as well as “Giant Screens!” and a generous offering of “Free Wi-Fi!”. Apparently, despite the presumed Victory, the Northern Nevada Democrats weren’t going to lavish their staffers or volunteers with any kind of provisions, let alone luxuries. It was going to be up to us to make this a party. …


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For a year and a half, I had a singular purpose in life. Whether I was momentarily staying or going, working or studying, following paths climbing the Andes or grinding out interminable days riding on buses, I was on my way to Uruguay. For the last week, I have been undertaking a very different mission, one which would seem closely related to the first, but in practice is almost the converse. Staying in Uruguay. At first I was trying to do everything fast. Figure out the city. Get a job. Find a place to live. But Montevideo exists in its own particular universe, and time does not hurry here. Perhaps it has something to do with the Rio de la Plata, which bounds the city to the south. …


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3/27/19

When you have pursued something for long enough, reaching it has a natural way of feeling anticlimactic — even disappointing. This may not have anything to do with the thing you were seeking, but rather the change in your existence necessitated by the end of your quest.

By my count, getting here to Montevideo from Virginia took five hundred and twenty-five transit hours: on buses, busetas, sprinters, combis, colectivos, taxis, moto-taxis, motor and ferry boats, tuk tuks, cars and trucks, both semis and the back of pickups. Across parts of thirteen countries. This Montevideo isn’t a bad place at all; in fact it’s one of the nicer cities I’ve found on my whole journey, but it was not worth all that effort in getting here. Don’t get me wrong: the journey was absolutely worth it, for the life-expanding experience of everything along the way. But all that is done. …


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1

Before eight o’clock this morning at my hostel in Buenos Aires, I had made a pot of tea for my thermos, a couple hard boiled eggs for the day in transit, and packed my bags up ship-shape. I said goodbye to the acquaintances I’d made over three nights there, at least the ones that were awake already. It was morning in a busy hostel and there was no sense of nostalgia, no space for emotion.

My time there was done and I went out to the street to catch a taxi. In the interest of saving money, I had looked into taking a city bus to the port, which wasn’t far away, but every option involved two separate bus routes or walking significant distances on each end, which is not recommended with all my baggages. …


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Buenos Aires 3/23/19

The last hour of the day, sitting at a café table on Calle Chile, the street that separates the barrios of San Telmo and Monserrat. San Telmo is the quirky, fancy, used-to-be-bohemian neighborhood where I’m staying; Monserrat the city center, which gradually shades from residential to urban and federal. Calle Chile is a relatively quiet street, more foot traffic than cars. From looking at it, you wouldn’t know that it separates anything other than one side of the street from the other.

The establishment under whose drooping green awning I am sitting is called Café La Poesía, and as I was wandering around looking for a place to have dinner I came across it several times. The first time I walked by I was initially intrigued, then skeptical. The second time I went in, looked at the menu and thought it had promise. I was disappointed to see that the inside walls weren’t covered with books — in fact none were visible —how could a Poetry Cafe not have books? But it did have that old-fashioned literary feel, and wouldn’t be out of place in North Beach, San Francisco. …


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It always seems like a good idea, an important thing to see these big cities. This is my second night in this busy ciudad of a million and a half people, the second largest in Argentina, that is not without its charms. It is generally well regarded, and it was on my way. When you’re traveling by land, the roads take you to the next city, and in a big country like this, that can be a long distance. This is also the hometown of Pancho Luna, the guy I met in Panama who was in the midst of cycling from Tierra del Fuego to Mexico City, the first friend I made solely in Spanish and something of an angel of my journey. …


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1

I managed to get myself out of the town of Cafayate and the province of Salta this morning. Could have stayed in that town a long time. It is one of those pueblos magicos that so often seem to be found in the desert or mountains, in desert mountains, mountainous deserts. But I have places to go, a journey to complete. Uruguay, which has for so long seemed out of reach, is within striking distance. And I am rapidly running out of money. …

About

Gabriel Goldstein

Writing about my experiences in this strange beautiful heartbreaking world.

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