My trip to Argentina taught me to stop obsessing about traditional milestones in life

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In the summer of 2023 I was sulking around London, convinced I wasn’t having a “real life”. My job in the entertainment industry might have sounded fun, but I was finding it unfulfilling. On my horizons there was no getting promoted, pregnant, engaged or married. Something needed to change. 

Writing had always been something I enjoyed, but I began to wonder if it could be more? With an equal mix of impulsivity and caution, I decided to quit my job to begin writing. I was lucky enough to have a healthy amount of savings, helped by an inheritance from an uncle who loved to travel the world. In an attempt to get out of a negative headspace I decided to stop thinking about what I didn’t have, and concentrate on what I did have freedom. It was time to book a trip.

A pre-Covid wanderlust for Argentina came to mind. The sheer size of the country, my awful Spanish language skills, and the fact I wanted to feel secure and safe, meant that a group tour was my best option. 

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For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like the odd one out

I scoured the internet, and came across the itinerary for Flash Pack Ultimate Argentina. It was a bit more expensive than other tours, but I was in awe of just how much we would be doing – from glacial hiking to cave dining, white-water rafting and more – and the unique places we’d stay in along the way. I decided to go out earlier, stay for a few days after the holiday ended and write a blog about the whole experience. There were only two spots left on the date that worked for me, and suddenly the idea of missing out made my stomach flip. I booked it.

Introducing yourself to 13 strangers – my go-to Flash Pack adventure crew – is an odd mix of refreshing and repetitive. You are learning loads about a group of new people, but you have to hear yourself giving your own introduction spiel over and over again. I had no idea how to describe myself and so stuck to repeating what I thought were the most important facts – “from London, single, quit my job”. 

What I came to realize over the first couple of days was that, in reality, no-one was analyzing each other’s “life achievements”. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like the odd one out. Back home I was watching friends power ahead with life, whilst it felt like I was stuck on the starting blocks. On the tour, we were all equals. 

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We all came from different backgrounds and were there for different reasons

For some of our group, the trip represented a big bucket list tick. A chunk of annual leave solely dedicated to putting yourself first. For others, it was the chance to try and mend wounds, fresh or scarred. We all came from different backgrounds and were there for different reasons. But we shared an unspoken comfort that we were all there to see beautiful Argentina and have a bit of an adventure together.

As a group, we quickly found our rhythm, and thrived in letting go of all responsibilities. Our incredible Pack Leader, Sol, had curated a flawless itinerary. Each activity, private bus journey, hotel check-in or internal flight melted seamlessly into one another. We joked it felt like a school trip, and those logistics-minded of us could see behind the curtain knowing how much organization was going on whilst we were happily photographing away, or napping on our private air-conditioned bus. 

But that’s the point of doing a Flash Pack tour. You pay for the privilege and the peace, so we dutifully sat back and let ourselves enjoy the experience. Our biggest dilemma was whether to have a glass of Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc.

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I was growing in confidence as I told embarrassing stories to a table full of welcoming strangers

The adventure played out on cue, from our introductory bike ride around Buenos Aires, to marveling at 4,000-year-old cave paintings in El Calafaté, and drinking whiskey with ice picked straight from a glacier. Then onto hiking and kayaking in El Chaltén and, finally, wine-making in Mendoza.

One moment that stands out for me is the drive to El Chaltén. I was lucky enough to have the front seat of the bus and was all set up with podcasts, playlists and books for the long drive. Instead, I just sat and stared at this epic slice of the world for the entire four hours. 

It was comforting to feel so small. The mountains were there before I existed, and they will be here long after I’m gone. My worries seemed like grains of sand now that I was in the presence of something so vast and incredible. It was also when we hopped off that bus that we took my favorite photo of us all together. It was around halfway through the trip, so we were all firm friends already yet we knew we still had so much fun to come.

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It didn’t matter what I should be doing, because I was having the time of my life

Whilst drinking in all these incredible experiences, I began to reassess real life. Why was I putting traditional milestones partners, engagements, weddings or pregnancies on a pedestal? I might not be ticking off traditional achievements but I was having an adventure on the other side of the world with 13 amazing strangers, whom I now count as friends. It didn’t matter what I should be doing, because I was having the time of my life. 

Instead of feeling insecure because I had been ghosted by a bad date, I was growing in confidence as I told embarrassing stories to a table full of welcoming strangers. The way we bonded was so organic. Yes, there were the wow-worthy moments such as having dinner in ancient caves while watching the sunset, or when we finally finished the 30km hike to the foot of Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia. 

Yet the roots of our friendships were also formed in the long passport line at the airport during an internal flight, where we shared stories of luggage disasters, or our worst long-haul flight experiences. 

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Sharing a room with a total stranger can be daunting, but my roomie and I bonded over the playlists we had on as we got ready for dinner. Now we’re friends for life. On our last night, at a beautiful meal at Los Toneles in Mendoza, Sol asked us for one word that summed up our trip. “Adventure” was universally agreed as a good one, as was “healing”.

It wasn’t until I was on the plane home, scrolling through our shared Google Drive of photos and writing my last post for the travel blog I had written, when I realized what my word was: “proof”. The confidence to take this trip, to forge new friendships, to take on physical challenges and see the other side of the world was all the evidence I needed that I am, in fact, already living the life that I want. 

Alice Best is a London-based freelance writer who travelled with Flash Pack to Argentina.

Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveler like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.

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