Finding the Love in Travel

by Keith Savage · 45 comments


Finding the Love in Travel

The gauchos of northwest Argentina sing their hearts out to Salta. I asked Ana, the guide I’ve met up with on a couple of occasions here in Salta, the meaning of some of the folklórica songs we’d heard. She smiled, turned a bit red, and said, “they sing about their love for Salta, how they’re leaving their hearts behind when they ride away.”

There was no need for embarrassment, I understood exactly what she meant. The process of travel is the great distiller of life. The dislocation of your self from the everyday grind is polarizing. The meaningless elements disappear in the shuffle, perhaps never even considered. But the important parts, the heart, stick in your mind and gain prominence. I remember feeling this way after a six-week trip Sarah and I took in 2006. By the end, we knew we needed to spend more time with family and friends. That’s what was important after being outside of our workaday routines. ESPN and TCM, games and drinks out at the bar, trips to big box stores – all this crap really didn’t matter.

So here I am in the last week of my trip to Argentina. The time abroad traveling solo has been an intense chrysalis. It’s no secret to those I’ve met along the road (and perhaps those I’ve Skyped with) that being apart from Sarah has been difficult for me. Not from incapacitating loneliness – there definitely have been lonely times but CouchSurfing has been a good cure – but because there has been a tangible cap on my enjoyment of the experience.

And this, I’ve found, is the face of love. It is different for everyone – hell, some dictionaries have no less than 30 definitions for the term. For my part, love has been an investment of my self into Sarah. There is a part of me that only feels joy when Sarah and I are experiencing it together. If it is real, how can traveling not cast a floodlight on your missing bits of self?

Late last night I did a 9km round-trip hike to San Lorenzo and back to Sapoland in the cool and misting dark. My pants and fleece were sodden. I listened to David Gray and often sang out loud in the near-deserted reaches of northwest Argentina – dripping water, croaking frogs, and the occasional car speeding past me the only other sounds. I could have been anywhere; I was effectively nowhere. These “blank canvases” provide the best backdrop for introspective thought. Though I am alone on this trip, I am thankful that travel has delivered such a pure and distilled insight. It’s just one more reason to hit the road.

Tomorrow I fly to Buenos Aires. On Friday I fly back to the United States. And while I’m leaving Salta, like those caballeros Ana told me about, I’m returning to my personal Salta. The place where I left my heart.

Listening to: Eluvium


John at BWINo Gravatar December 28, 2010 at 7:51 PM

I have this thing of traveling alone, being in a place where you know no one. traveling alone just don’t make me appreciate how beautiful the world is, it also makes me realize how important my family and friends are. I have been to many places, but as you’ve said, I will still go back to where I left my heart. Home sweet home!

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AndiNo Gravatar December 13, 2010 at 2:07 PM

This was such a gorgeous post. Sarah sounds like an incredible lady!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 14, 2010 at 9:35 AM

She is, Andi. She definitely is.

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joshywashingtonNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Beautifully written and I share your romantic sentiments. I love solo travel but it pains me to leave my wife, it never feels like I am completely there without her. Maybe some Zen meditation could help…

I am gearing up for January solo travels in Argentina, any advice on places to go, what to see, what to avoid?

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Hey Josh – really sounds like the same feeling I have. As for Argentina, what are you trying to accomplish on your solo travels? How long will you be here?

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BessieNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 9:27 AM

So well written, Keith. Some of the best posts come out of heart-felt situations like this. It would be so hard to travel w/o Kyle – I feel for you & I bet you’ll have a great reunion.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 9:35 AM

It will be beautiful. How can you not love travel for making these feelings so bald-faced and apparent?

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EmielNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 6:08 AM

Very nice and honest story Keith. We once left our children home for a 10-day trip to Brazil. We had one of best time ever, but returning home was a bliss as well. Traveling intensifies your feelings by splitting the heart in two: one travels with you and one stays behind.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:41 AM

I like the way you put it: “Travel intensifies your feelings by splitting the heart in two.” Very, very true.

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Zablon MukubaNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 12:15 AM

i hope you really enjoyed Argentina, its always a sad affair when you leave a place you have stayed in for a period of time

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:29 AM

I have enjoyed Argentina! And I have much yet to write about. I find that sometimes appreciation comes with distance.

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daveBNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:11 PM

Hi Keith,
I am cycling to Salta after having spent three months in Bolivia. I am looking for somewhere to stay from between 2 weeks to a month whilst i work online, and i wondered if you could suggest anywhere?
Cheers in advance
dave

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:40 AM

Dave, I rented an apartment for a couple of weeks and I got the hook up through my CouchSurfing hosts that Lauren already directed you to. It’s not always available, but it’s worth looking into. Very nice place.

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Jeff TiteliusNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Have you ever thought of yourself as a Pulitzer Prize winner? Well my friend, with this beautifully written article and your masterful blend of your thoughts and images, you are on your way! As I read through every word, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with your thought-provoking prose. You are truly gifted!

Thanks for sharing your journey, from physical to spiritual with all of us who are lucky enough to have crossed your path in this life.

God’s speed to you and to your personal Salta!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:25 AM

Jeff, your comments always make me smile. I laughed this time. Pulitzer Prize? No, but thank you for the generous compliment.

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KrisNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 9:08 AM

Love this story and your emotional truth. It captures the essence of sharing the journey so beautifully. As much as solo exploration is important in life, sharing the little things and being able to look back on travel experiences, good and bad, is the true gold if you’re lucky to have the option. Enjoy the thrill of arriving home Keith!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:21 AM

I’ve been following your journey through Argentina. You guys have been taking it slow and enjoying WWOOFing. I imagine it’s been special to travel together in such a way. I agree that sharing an experience is sweeter. As much as it makes solo travel slightly hollow, I think I’m lucky to feel that way.

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ClaireNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 7:58 AM

If I were Sarah, I would be in tears right now. 😉

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:17 AM

I might have been when I wrote it :\

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kubichekNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 7:27 AM

You are a stud.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 8, 2010 at 7:16 AM

Well said 🙂

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AudreyNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:01 AM

Beautiful post. And enjoy your return to your personal Salta and all the experiences you will share together.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:11 AM

Thanks Audrey!

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AnthonyNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 1:22 AM

Nice read man, enjoy your return.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:08 AM

Will do, Anthony. I can promise you that.

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AyngelinaNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 9:37 PM

Beautiful story Keith. As hard as it is to leave I’m sure returning will be wonderful.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:09 AM

Hey Ayngelina, hope everything’s going well with you. Yes, it will be nice to return. That’s not to say going off and traveling doesn’t have its own rewards. I just wanted to highlight this element of travel.

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Jonathan EvansNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Hi Keith,

I’ve enjoyed your Argentina posts, a lot of what you wrote really hit home for me, especially the bit about Santiago del Estero – driving through there is one of the more colourful experiences I’ve had over here ;o)

Anyway, if you find yourself at a loose end during your last few days in Buenos Aires let me know – be good to go for a beer!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:10 AM

Ah, yes, sounds like you witnessed some of the same things that I did. My time in BA is pretty open so I might shoot you an email.

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PhilNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 10:11 AM

“These “blank canvases” provide the best backdrop for introspective thought. Though I am alone on this trip, I am thankful that travel has delivered such a pure and distilled insight. It’s just one more reason to hit the road.

Tomorrow I fly to Buenos Aires. On Friday I fly back to the United States. And while I’m leaving Salta, like those caballeros Ana told me about, I’m returning to my personal Salta. The place where I left my heart.”

Well Said!!! Beautiful.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:07 AM

Thanks Phil.

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Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]No Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 9:23 AM

Cue the girlish swooning! Beautifully written article; I agree. Travel allows for a personal reflection different than anything I’ve ever experienced. Have a safe trip home Keith!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:06 AM

Hi Brenna, from vast altitudes to long-distance overland travel – how can travel not change our perspectives, literally? I always appreciate the different headspace I get into while traveling.

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Lisa E @chickybusNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 9:13 AM

This is really beautifully written…I love how you tied it all together! I think it’s wonderful that you can share travel with someone the way you do and now, missing her shows just how strong your bond must be.

Sounds like it’s been a great trip, but it also sounds like home is going to be amazing, too. Enjoy both Saltas! 🙂

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:05 AM

Thanks Lisa. The story of the caballeros really stuck with me. Salta and Argentina have been transformative for me personally, and I feel that the trip has been a success from the Traveling Savage point of view.

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PennyNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 8:03 AM

I hope your time in Argentina has been amazing, and I hope your reunion with Sarah is even better! Thanks for sharing your travel experiences!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:03 AM

Argentina has been great and I’ve many more posts about Argentine culture upcoming. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Sarah at the Chicago airport on Saturday 🙂

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Brendan van SonNo Gravatar December 6, 2010 at 7:53 AM

Really nice post Keith, as usual, your writing is phenomenal. As a recently single guy, I’m now looking for my Salta.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 7, 2010 at 5:03 AM

Really appreciate that, Brendan. Sorry to hear about the newly-minted single status (or maybe not?). I’m sure you won’t have any problems in that department.

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