Taking a semester away from school (and drawing for the magazine) pushed me to challenge myself to document through drawing my entire 6 month adventure in Patagonia in a comic journal in which the use of words was highly frowned upon.
Frustrated with the stubborness of my brain to learn spanish in the classroom, and feeling like the time was ripe for an adventure, I set off to Argentina for six months, leaving behind school, technology and my disdain for mullets.
Besides a final attempt at learning Spanish (being hungry and trying to get around is quite the linguistic motivator), one of my other motivations was a feeling of complacency I was having at school. Tufts is great, and full of some of the most interesting and inteligent people I have ever met, but I felt that I was not fully appreciating the opportunities I was being exposed to every day. Perhaps if I left for a while, I would grow to miss Tufts, and realize how lucky I was. It worked, but not as I had envisioned. In planning this trip, I was fearful that I would lose my ability to draw, so I brought along a small sketchbook and my pen. Knowing I would be spending countless nights alone in my tent, unoccupied by facebook or watching TV (it’s a black hole, really), I committed myself to keeping a near daily account of my grand adventure, without the use of words. (there is one page where I break this rule, but that was more of a frustration venting thing, and I couldn’t pass up the joke. It was probably the altitude that made me give in).
On the left is a PDF of the entire comic book. As I realized I forgot a few key things, I made an appendix (also found below) which is referenced by little rectangles with a letter. The comic book is missing the last two weeks (It got a little busy when my sister came down to visit), but I have the notes to complete them.
If you’d like to follow along and the wordless storytelling is a little cryptic (it’s definitely hard to explain some of those odd travel coincidences), here is a brief overview of what I did way down South.
I started by climbing Mt. Aconcagua (22,841) in Argentina, one of the Seven Summits, and the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas, with two of my climbing friends who had plans to study abroad in South America.Afterwards, we went rock climbing before splitting ways, they to school and I to spend some quality time in El Bolson, at the North end of the Patagonian region. There I worked on two organic farms WWOOFing, one tending a small garden and the other working on the construction of an earthen home, built from adobe, grass and hewn trees. I would periodically head to town or go hiking, and generally live the dream. You will see graphic recipes for making jam, banana cookies and mud ovens. I then hitchhiked south over 2000 km. with a fellow traveler in the cab of a Chilean truck driver. Speaking spanish and seeing the incredible Argentinean landscape was far better than language recitation looking out on a muddy quad. We reached Puerto Nateles where I met very friendly Chileans, who worked in Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine, where I completed the circuit hike and learned about the incredible ways yerba mate can help you make friends. Afterwards, I traveled back to El Bolson, where I met my friend Nick, with whom I climbed Aconcagua and his friend Lauren, and we did a technical glacier route on Mt. Tronador. The mountain is famous for having more glaciers (8) than any other mountain in the world. Following our summit, I headed West, into the thick mountains of Chilean Patagonia to volunteer with the nonprofit Patagonia Sur, located in the small towns of Palena and Futleufu. There, I worked with elementary school students building a compost and taught two classes on comics and storytelling to 7th and 8th graders. I spent some time living in an abandoned building and planted trees with Gauchos (cowboys) in a nearby valley. I was sad to leave Patagonia, and it will forever hold a large piece of real estate in my heart. I traveled North to meet my sister, and then we did a tour of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santiago, staying with friends whom I had met along the way.
What impressed me the most from my travels was everyone’s predisposition to share. I think it is embodied in their strong (addicted?) culture of the mate tea. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I go through kilos of it, and love making one when I’m with friends. Its so cool to have something to offer people and to socialize over, not to mention the caffein kick (which isn’t jittery and doesn’t crash) keeps you from being too lazy. The mate culture has stuck withe me in the states, and I hope the changes that I experienced in Patagonia, the “tranquillo” attitude when things fall apart, the excitement about meeting people and hearing their stories, the love I have for those mountains and the want to share what I have with those around me, stay with me for a long, long time.