Ah Patagonia…a magical land at the end of the world. The name itself has always evoked a sense of wonder for me. Magellan believed it to be the home of giants, the Patagones. He was right, but the giants were towers of ice and stone, not a race of men. I realized a dream of mine by visiting Patagonia in January 2013. It was one of the hardest, most rewarding experiences of my life.
Getting down to Buenos Aires took a whole day, and getting to and around Patagonia took several more. I will never forget the 18-hour bus ride down to Ushuaia. Each hike was eight to ten hours on average. The weather in Patagonia is famously unpredictable. We were alternately burned by sun, blasted by wind, and pounded by freezing rain. Unsurprisingly, I caught some nasty cold that lingered for a month and required several courses of antibiotics to finally shake.
Yet despite all of this, I never doubted that the trip was worth it. I saw heart-stopping beauty, yes, but more importantly, I was reminded that it was the journey and not the destination that mattered. When we arrived at the base of the Torres del Paine, the famed peaks were shrouded in mist. When we hiked to the celebrated French Valley, it poured rain. When it came time to hike to Grey Glacier, our wet and dejected group opted out. Aside from the poster above, I have precious few pictures of the crown jewels of Patagonia. A cynic might say that it was all downhill after our picture perfect day at Fitz Roy. And yet, I was content. At the mercy of forces beyond my control, I was reminded that all I could do was my best with what I had. This was humbling…and liberating.
In our modern world, we define progress as a record of achieved goals. In doing so, people often see the goals as progress itself. If the goals are all that matter, then why not take shortcuts? It would be more efficient. In an “ends justify the means” world, records are shattered, stars are born, and fortunes are made. But at what cost? If goals are all that matter, what happens when you fail to achieve them? Is your life meaningless?
Savor the journey, folks. Point A and Point B are the same for all of us. But how you get there is up to you.