Why we went back to Mendoza, Argentina

As many of you know, a little over a year ago, the Pan-American leg of our around the world adventure came to an end. After spending years driving through 17 countries in Latin America, we decided (with a heavy heart) to sell our Sprinter and regroup back in the States. The idea was to spend at least one year traveling North America in a new rig, which turned out to be our beloved 2003 Bounder retrofitted with full solar power!

This all came about for three main reasons:

1) Our Sprinter conversion didn’t scale well with our growing family–Soleil literally outgrew the carseat we’d bolted to the ground, and there was no way to put in another chair for her without a major remodel

2) We missed family and friends

3) We needed to put some face time in at Outdoorplay

One year later, we were ready to spread our nomadic wings again, which meant the question we love most came back to our lips:

Where should we go

 

After considering many options, we decided to close out our year in Mendoza, Argentina.

Here’s why (in no particular order): 

1) The Breathtaking Beauty of the Andes

The Andes, from beginning to end, are stunning.  But, the last time we were here two years ago, it was a record breaking hot and dry season–the Andes weren’t dressed for the ball, with their snowy white caps and gowns on like they are now. This time we’ve got quite the show going on. 

Soleil with Vines and the Andes

Sol and Dada resting at Ojo de Vino

Daddy and Sol walking at Ojo de Vino

2) The Wine of Mendoza

Mmmmmm. Oh my god, I’d come here for the wine alone. 

Bressia wine and cheese

Our first weekend in town, we went to Bressia, a small family-owned winery that makes an amazing Malbec Monteagrelo and a Cabernet Franc to die for. Soleil in the vines

Soleil walking through the vines

The next weekend, we went to Casa El Enemigo, another small production, family-owned winery that also makes a fantastic Cab Franc. 

Check out our lunch guest. Silly perro. 

Tree at El Enemigo with wine dog

The best part of wine tasting in Mendoza, as apart from Napa Valley (which we love), is how approachable, affordable, and personable the experience is. The wine is on par with California and France, but the valley still has a close-knit, rustic, country-culture that’s as warm and inviting as the Argentine people. Example: Within ten minutes of sitting down at El Enemigo (ironically named), we made friends with the owner/winemaker, Ale Vigil, and Soleil became besties with his daughter, Guiliana. 

Soleil with Maria and Julia, family of winemaker

Soleil with Guiliana and Guiliana’a mama, Maria

3) Argentina’s Culture 

There’s so much I could write here, but sometimes a few snapshots conveys the overall feeling of a culture better. 

Like Cuba, Argentina is full of old cars in different stages of loving disrepair–mostly Citroens, Fiats, and Renaults– super cool models we just don’t see in the States. 

3CV

I think this is an old Ford? Not sure, but check out the bench precariously strapped on top. I can’t imagine that’s legal in Los Angeles. 

Old car

Below is a roadside shrine to Gauchito Gil, a kind of 19th century Argentine Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and was probably executed by provincial authorities. 

Legend has it that before his hanging, Gil pledged to become a miracle worker. Now it seems every ten kilometers there’s a red shrine decorating the highway where people pull-over, leave an offering, and beseech their patron outlaw for help ranging from making a beloved return affection to finding a cure for cancer. 

I love that Gauchito Gil rivals the Virgen Mary for fans. Not to say Argentines are particularly secular or blasphemous, but I definitely think there’s something to be said about the holy gaucho spirit that lives in the heart of every Argentine. 

Click the link to read a post I wrote in Buenos Aires about the Meaning of Life in Argentina , as related by an Argentine fable told to me by a taxi driver called The Gaucho and The American.  

Gaucho Gil

This Gauchito Gil shrine is much larger and more elaborate than most. Clearly it’s for people who dream big like us.

When you’re stuck at a stoplight in Argentina, one of two things will happen. You’ll either 1) be descended upon by a two-man team of window-washers who will clean the crap out of your windows for 15 seconds, or 2) you will bear witness to an amateur juggler throwing, dropping, and occasionally catching objects, sometimes sharp or on fire. Both scenarios are worth the 50 pesos ($3.50) you’ll spend to encourage more of this insanity. Juggler

Even though it’s a total time suck, I appreciate walking to five different stores a day to get my fresh bread, fruits and vegetables, dry goods, wine, milk, etc… It puts me in the way of neighbors, plazas, trees and buildings, so before long, I feel connected to the place. Verduleria 2

Brillat Savin

fotocopias kiosko

If I were ever elected mayor, I would commission artists to paint every inch of public space with scenes as whimsical and colorful as this one. 
Talle de Arte

To be a child in Argentina is to be revered as the most precious specimen of life on the planet. As it should be. 
Kids riding bikes in Maipu

For better or worse, street dogs don’t exist in North America, but they’re one of my favorite parts of Latin America. Sadly, they’re usually underfed, sick, beaten, and subject to poisoning in other countries, but in Argentina, they have their place in society…usually by the parrillas (grill restaurants), scarfing down ojo de bife leftovers. 

This guy honed in on us as soon as we got to town. What could we do but roll with it, right? So we gave him a name, some food, and a blanket to call his own. Do you guys remember, Mango? Well  meet his Argentine counterpart….

Tango! Or, Tanguito, as Soleil says. 

Tango

4) The People

When we arrived to Argentina this time, I immediately took Sol to the little park, or plazita, in front of our place and made friends with another mom with a little girl Sol’s age. Just like that. Easy peasy. I got a new amiga. 

We’ve all heard about how warm Latin Americans are–and they are–but Argentines are next level nice, like there’s no such thing as a stranger, and I’ve been wondering exactly why for a couple years now. Is it something in their culture, history, geography, bloodline? Is it the wine? More reason to drink more. So after much time and more bottles analyzing this phenomenon, I’ve come to the conclusion it has to do with where they put value in life: There is no agenda more important to an Argentine than connecting with another human being. Period. 

People will stop anything they’re doing to talk to you, and because that’s expected, people are reaching out and responding all the time. Imagine that. In fact, they value bonding time so much the entire country shuts down between 1-5pm for siesta so people can go home, eat lunch, hang out–you know, all stuff that is far more important than making money. 

And, of course, more specifically, we came back to Argentina for Ari. Despite the fact that she doesn’t drink wine or mate, Ari is a quintessential Argentine. She balances a straight-forward attitude with an aura of buenas ondas (good vibes). Not only is she Sol’s mejor amiga, she has become a great friend of ours, too.  

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Soleil and Ari

KODAK Digital Still Camera

5) The Rock Climbing 

Here’s Tree going over the ‘moves’ with me. Left side pull, rock onto your right leg, push up and grab the crimper….

Climbing is all about sequencing movement as efficiently as possible. You lead yourself up a rock, doing this delicate dance that combines the centered mind of a yogi, the strategy of a chess master, a warrior’s heart, a firm but kind of always hungry body, and a bull-sized set of balls.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I love this shot because we’re all in it….KODAK Digital Still Camera  
KODAK Digital Still Camera

6) Super Soleil

But, more than any other reason, we came back for Soleil. We want her to continue mastering two languages, Spanish and English, and the only way to ensure her success is to live in Spanish speaking countries at least a few months a year. Add delicious wine, rock climbing, warm people, rich culture, and wild beauty to the mix…

And the answer was obvious, right? 
KODAK Digital Still Camera

Bonus Reason: With the dólar blue exchanging for 15 pesos per U.S dollar, Argentina is a great choice on a tight budget right now. 

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Comments

  1. I so look forward to your stories (blog sounds to blech) of your lives. I vicariously relive my youth through them…Thank you

  2. Wow! So beautiful, we need to get to South America.

  3. Hi Everyone!
    I miss Argentina. Our times there together were so beautiful. I’m glad you went back.
    Tell Soleil that monkey is so excited about his Birthday party (and Stevie’s!) in Mexico City!
    See you all soon. Love Noni

  4. Ah Argentina, so wonderful -ESPECIALLY sharing it with all of YOU! I’m glad you went back. And soon – on to the next adventure! See you soon.

  5. bella !

  6. Qbella!!;)

  7. wooohooo!

  8. I didn’t forget it. Believe me. We’re just trying hard to be vegetarian these days. If you can believe it, no parilla en Argentina! Somos una verguenza 😉

  9. Lorraine Chittock says:

    ARGH! You’re soooooo close! We warned, if I can find some dogsitters I might hop over the border!

  10. amiga!!! gracias por este gran post! estoy muy feliz de que esten en Argentina.. y ser yo una de las razones.. amo a Soleil y nuestra coneccion, es que claro.. ella esta en buenas manos! (ustedes)
    Me gustan mucho tus posts, eres una escritora adaptada a la vida actual, lo que la gente quiere oir y COMO lo quiere oir. continua haciendolo! y es muy bueno ver como nos ven de afuera. cuando nosotros pensamos q es un “error” comparandonos con otros paises y q de otros paises lo valoren aun mas q nosotros mismos!
    TE QUIERO MUCHO AMIGA! GRACIASS

  11. Great post! Makes me miss Mendoza, and you guys!

  12. Noooo!

  13. Martyn Howorth If you were still over here this might have never happened! -TREE

  14. There is no agenda more important then connecting with another human being— I like it. I am going to sit with it a bit.

  15. What route did you take to get to Argentina ?

    • Well, this time we flew. Our Bounder is back in the States. When we drove down in the Sprinter, we came into Argentina through Bolivia. We went through Tilcara and Salta and camped along the ruta 40 before arriving in Mendoza. It was beautiful. We bounced back and forth between Chile a couple of times but spent around 6mo here in Mendoza total, maybe a year+ in Argentina. This time we flew back because…well, you gotta read the post 😉

    • You’re lucky people. How do you do it so often?

      • Well, a huge part of it is the good fortune of having an online business. If we had a brick and mortar store like Tree used to, or a sales job in an office like I used to, then we couldn’t live our lifestyle. Also, we accrue airline miles through our business, so that covers ticket expenses. The other aspect is ‘downsizing.’ We’ve lived in a vehicle for the past 6 years–or in hostels, or short stays in cheap rented apartments. I always negotiate. Either way, we keep our rent down to $600/mo or less if possible, and it used to be less than that when we boondocked in the van a lot. We have one car between the two of us for which we paid 4k. We have one cell phone. We have less clothes and toys and no furniture compared to other households. So you get the drift. We live with less so we can experience more. All in all, we spend less a month than we did when we lived in Venice beach together 6+ years ago, and now we have a child and a far more exciting life. I actually have an article coming out in Mind Body Green on the exact cost savings between Venice and Van-life, so you can see a complete breakdown soon! Big love to you and your beautiful (all grown-up!) babies! xo.

    • Suzy Sherosick-Cizek Well, a huge part of it is the good fortune of having an online business. If we had a brick and mortar store like Tree used to, or a sales job in an office like I used to, then we couldn’t live our lifestyle. Also, we accrue airline miles through our business, so that covers ticket expenses. The other aspect is ‘downsizing.’ We’ve lived in a vehicle for the past 6 years–or in hostels, or short stays in cheap furnished apartments. I always negotiate. Either way, we keep our rent down to $600/mo or less if possible, and it used to be less than that when we boondocked in the van a lot. We have one car between the two of us for which we paid 4k. We have one cell phone. We have less clothes and toys and no furniture compared to other households. So you get the drift. We live with less so we can experience more. All in all, we spend less a month than we did when we lived in Venice beach together 6+ years ago, and now we have a child and a far more exciting life. I actually have an article coming out in Mind Body Green on the exact cost savings between Venice and Van-life, so you can see a complete breakdown soon! Big love to you and your beautiful (all grown-up!) babies! xo.

  16. Awesome!

  17. Yes!!!!

  18. Claudia Acosta says:

    15 pesos per dollar? I’ll have to check it out for myself.

  19. Wow, sounds like you have a really good thing going. Kudos to you! And what a rich and exciting childhood your daughter will have, and all the amazing experiences. So, thank you for getting back to me on that question, I’ve been curious. Keep on with the adventures!
    Suzy

  20. Thanks for your wisdom and example! So much great info and inspiration. Shared your site and following comment on my facebook page WomenRVers. Your welcome to contribute. “As I prepare for life on the road with my husband, this time.(shooting for spring of 2016), these long term nomads are inspiring. This time we will need a fulltime income. I share the desire to be limited by North America. The world is big, and beautiful. Some places are beautiful, inexpensive and fabulous immersion language classes.” Blessings and Love! “

  21. SO glad to hear you two are still at it. Somehow I had forgotten to check in since you returned to the states and sold gave up the sprinter… but had no doubt you’d be one of the few to figure out how to keep the lifestyle going! 😉

    Look forward to actually meeting you in person when our roads/paths finally cross!

    • Hey! Good to hear from you. And congrats on getting your Sprinter. I’m stoked for you guys. I miss our big white van, but perhaps we’ll get another one in our future. We’re looking forward to sharing a campground and a bottle of wine, too. It’s bound to happen, hopefully sooner than later. Happy New Year!

  22. Sabrina says:

    Hola, encontre este blog y me emocionó mucho lo que dices de mi país. hace que uno valore más su lugar.
    Llegaron hasta la Patagonia? Acá van a encontrar más razones para volver. Saludos de un alma nómade!

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