Friday, January 30, 2009

A Crisis of Character

I have been waiting to fall in love with Buenos Aires. In the past when I travel to new and exotic locations, I’m overwhelmed with excitement. Every time I got to a new city I thought: yes, this is a city I would want to live in! This place is perfect! This place is amazing! And, normally if I had the chance to be there for an extended period of time, the excitement would wear down a bit.

However, for Buenos Aires, this hasn’t happened for me. I was shocked during the days leading up to my trip that I wasn’t more excited. I didn’t bother doing much research or looking for jobs…I figured that once I’d arrive, then everything would be different and I would catch that buzz of energy from being in a new place.

Well, the first day I was overwhelmed by the city. The size, the noise, the crowds, everything was so much so fast! My initial culture shock did wane after a day or two, but I never fell in love.

Each day I made a plan to visit somewhere new – normally the daytime variety of activities like coffee, museums, parks, walks, etc. And, each day I found something special to appreciate about Buenos Aires. Each day I learned something new. And, each day had its good and bad points.

But, where was the love?

Sometimes I felt so grateful that it was nighttime and I could sleep and not have to worry about being in the city. I’ve actually spent more time trying to connect with people from home via email and chatting than I expected. Most of my thoughts, when I’m not sightseeing, are about how much I miss home.

The whole time I’ve been here I’ve felt this sort of resistance to being here, even temporarily. One day earlier this week I was taking a walk through the San Telmo neighborhood and while I was sitting in the park I thought: what if I just go home? Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with excitement and agitation. Yes, what if? I could do so many things I was putting off before my trip due to my trip. Things like settling down with Robert, getting kittens, getting a dog, getting a gym membership! These things, from the grand to the mundane filled me with the thrill I had been waiting for Buenos Aires to fill me with.

Then I got startled.

I was more excited to go home than to stay? That couldn’t be…I’m a traveler. Sure, I expected to miss home, but I made arrangements so home will still be there when I’m ready. I thought, maybe Buenos Aires wasn’t that great, so what about the plan to backpack through other parts of South America? All it took was maybe 30 minutes of flipping through the guidebook to feel totally miserable. I was completely disinterested in seeing some of the things that have filled my imagination for years! What???? Who am I?

I got online and luckily found some folks to chat with and hopefully come to a better understanding of my current quandary. How can I, a traveler, want to go home after only a week? How can I, a traveler, not want to explore the beauty of South America? How can I, a traveler, be more interesting in training kittens in Kirkland than seeing the Andes??????????

Well, it took a lot of processing, even still, but I’m learning a bit about myself. What I used to be, I’m not, anymore. At least not totally. While a few years ago, Africa inspired me to see other more exotic locations and a TESL certificate along with my BA gave me the opportunity to work abroad as a teacher, now my interests have changed. I feel a longing for a home and all that it means – a family of pets, my good and trusted friends nearby, frequent visits with family, and Robert.

And then I started to think that maybe the best part of traveling was not so much the places I went, but the people I went with. Would Europe have been the same without Stephanie and Justin? Would Africa have been the same without Juliana? It’s true that traveling alone presents a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, but I was confounded that the people I wanted around me most were my old people.

So, I’ve decided to cut my trip short. This was a hard decision to come to, but I know it’s the right one. I still plan to make the most of my trip here in Argentina – exploring, reflecting, writing—but I also plan to go home in early March. Before I go home, Robert is also planning to visit for a few weeks so he can see what Buenos Aires is all about.

Another thing I’ve learned from this experience is how difficult it is to know what you want and what will make you happy. Happiness can be complicated!


  1. Hey Cassie
    Soy liz Carosspokane. Just some advice, though you are not asking for it so it no doubt it will be annoying. If you go home, great, but even while you are there perhaps it can be of some use. Having been an exchange student(living with a family, working in various orgs in the new country etc...really living) 4 times, and multiple trips abroad to visit said familia en Paraguay....Traveling and living abroad are two very different things as you have realized. But hang in there! It does get better. Eventually you hit your groove, or you don't and you go home but you are still richer for having spent the time in a new place. The other piece of advice I have is that when you are homesick the worst thing you can do is talk to home or try to re-create home. Sometimes you just have to tough it out and go a couple weeks without any contact with home. Which is scary, but eventually it forces you to make friends/family/jobs/support groups etc in your new local.
    At any rate good luck until the end of March, and please do visit the waterfalls!
    Ciao (we say that in Paraguay but I am not sure if other places use that as well outside of Italy and Paraguay) y suerte,

  2. Robbie smells like poo.