Travel Hiccups

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Traveling abroad can be a rewarding experience. When every detail of a journey works out perfectly and it is stress-free, you have memories to last a lifetime. But sometimes the hiccups along the way give us the memories that are stories for a lifetime.

While visiting Buenos Aires, I decided I needed a break from the hustle of a city as large and busy as Buenos Aires. I asked my friend Sebastian if he would be interested in an excursion out of the city and he was. We packed up a change of clothes, threw them in our backpacks and rented a car to head to the quiet life of a beach town in winter. Confidently plugging in the desired destination, we were on our way. San Clemente del Tuyú was just a short three hours and 54 minutes drive according to my smartphone.

At about two to three hours into the journey is where the trouble began. The sun had set and we were on a dark road in the plains of rural Argentina. Suddenly the road became dirt. Asking my friend Sebastian, who is South American, we concluded that this would just be temporary and that in a few minutes the road will be asphalt again. We were wrong and before we knew it, we were stuck in the slipperiest mud I have ever experienced.

Argentina is an enormous country, it is the country with the eighth largest landmass and has a wide variety of landscapes to see and traverse. From the large cities and plains to the glaciers, the mountains and to the sea; it is a beautiful country with hazards a plenty. The nation itself offers a solid infrastructure in comparison to other countries on the South American continent. But according to Open Signal (opensignal.com) a company that keeps track of statistics regarding cellular service around the world;

Argentina has some catching up to do, Among global operators Argentina ranks low in 4G coverage and speed. Compared to its peers in South America, the country fares better but still ranks near the bottom in coverage.

Relying on cellular service is not always a wise idea, as once you leave cities like Cordoba, Buenos Aires or Rosario, services are not consistently available. Check the service maps at Open Signal that are even broken down to coverage areas by provider to see which one best suits your needs where you are going before selecting a local provider.

Also make sure to pack an old fashioned paper map. GPS devices like the ones found in cell phones are a great jumping off point to begin your journey, but don’t trust the directions completely. Make certain to scan the route with a satellite view that is offered by a number of mapping services that are available online. When scanning the route, try to inspect the roads, make certain that they are paved. A day of heavy rain can make the route that your phone chose for you a nightmare.

When moving across an unfamiliar landscape, precautions should be taken to insure that despite whatever hiccups occur, you are prepared to handle them. In the end it is often the mishaps that occur along the way that make the difference between seeing this and that and having a story of an adventure that you can share with your friends and that secure your place and theirs forever in the memories that really made the adventure worth while.

While it should be noted that one shouldn’t seek out trouble and the only way to be prepared for those moments and to survive them is to be prepared for as many obstacles as possible. But the ability to be prepared for every possible scenario is not only unrealistic, it could lead to so much apprehension that you might decide that the trip is not worth the risk.

When we got stuck, initially our first thought was pick up the phone and call the 24-hour assistance number in the paperwork from the auto rental agency. That plan was quickly quelled when we realized that neither of us had cellular service. The GPS indicated that we were 8 miles to the next intersection, we hadn’t seen another car since turning onto the road, so we decided it might be best to grab a few things and start walking.

If something does go wrong, keep your cool, do not panic. If you are traveling with other people, remember there is safety in numbers. That safety can quickly become danger if panic spreads through your community. If other members of your group begin to panic, your confidence can be the one thing that keeps them grounded and assured that things will work out for the better.

Always make sure to have water, about a liter per person should suffice if you are only traveling a distance of a few hundred miles. If the conditions are extreme and space is available double the amount. Even in winter or mild temperatures, your body can dehydrate and stress will often add to the rate at which dehydration occurs.

According Lesley Una-Pierce, Director of The Nutritional Healing Foundation, mental stress can contribute to dehydration because stress causes an increase in heart rate, causes many to urinate more frequently and perspiration is another cause for the body to lose fluids. When the body begins losing fluids is when dehydration begins.

After walking about 3 or 5 miles, (5-8 kilometers) on the horizon we could see some headlights and hear the sounds of people and engines. Now only to get to the headlights before they drive off in the opposite direction if that is their agenda. Fortunately, the party started coming toward us. The first vehicle a large truck full of cattle blew its horn and just powered right past us.

“What a dick!” Sebastian said. I added with a glimmer of hope in my voice, “I hope the next guys are friendly and willing to help”

The second vehicle was two cowboys making their rounds on what was a large ranch that we were driving through. They stopped and offered help and of course we graciously accepted, climbing as quickly as my middle aged body would allow into the back of their four-wheel drive truck.

Not long after we arrived at our disabled vehicle, they had us out of the mud, towing us the rest of the way down the road with several more points along the way that our little compact rental car would have never made it through until we reached pavement again. They removed their ropes and shook our hands and of course in the handshake was a wad of cash that I am certain was expected and leaving without the “gift” would not only have been rude, but I think would have lead to a much different ending to the story.

Within minutes of getting back on the highway, we were already laughing about the incident. I began to think about how this was going to be one of the highlights of my trip to Argentina and that my travel companion who I had just known a couple of weeks was going to forever be my friend who I shared a special experience with.

Once again, remaining calm is the most important thing that you can do for yourself and your travel companions. If you remain calm your stress and the stress of others can be greatly alleviated. Keeping a sense of humor about the situation and knowing that after you get through whatever the hurdle is, your travel will be more rewarding, you will be stronger, wiser and know what you are going through is going to be the highlight of your adventure and make the final outcome so much more enjoyable.

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