What a crazy two weeks it has been! It seems like only yesterday I was boarding a flight to Iguazú Falls and mere hours since I landed in the city from Patagonia. With my program three weekends ago, I traveled to the Misiones Provence in Argentina to witness the natural wonder of the Iguazú Waterfalls; last week, I spent my Spring Break trekking through El Calafate and El Chaltén in the Santa Cruz Province, commonly referred to as the Patagonia region of Argentina.
From one extreme to the other, I was able to taste the adventure of the Argentine/Brazilian jungle and a mere week later crampon my way across the Perito Moreno glacier. Trekking in El Chaltén felt like a scene out of Lord of the Rings, complete with marshes, formidable looking mountains, and forests filled with gnarled trees. Nowhere else can you go from witnessing tropical waterfalls and in a few hours' flight trek across glaciers and into forests.
Studying here in Argentina, an average bus trip to any destination outside the city averages between four and twenty-four hours. To put the country's size in perspective, if I were to bus from Buenos Aires to Patagonia, it would take the same amount of time busing from Minnesota to the Mexican border. Similarly, to bus from the city to the wineries of Mendoza takes roughly the same amount of time as busing from Tijuana to Tahoe. If I can justify traveling over 10 hours to simply be in wine country in Argentina, then why have I never been to the wineries in Napa Valley, a mere hour and a half away from Berkeley?
While in such awe of the natural beauty of Argentina, I have developed a profound appreciation for attractions stateside. While Iguazú might be the most beautiful place I have ever been to in the world, I am realizing that I should be taking advantage of the mini waterfalls and hikes that are within hours of my school in Berkeley or my home in SoCal.
In California we have a wide variety of national parks ranging from the mountains of Yosemite, the salt flats of Death Valley, and the coastline of Big Sur. Let alone our neighboring states host wonders such as the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake to explore during summer and holidays. So many times I have been caught up in where I want to travel next, be it Southeast Asia, South Africa, the Mediterranean, etc. that I forget what's located in my own backyard.
While studying abroad has been a life-changing experience, I have realized that the adventure I crave in witnessing monumental forces of nature is still accessible to me when I return to the states. Especially for when my bank account flies down into the negative numbers, I need to realize that similar experiences with nature can happen upon my return within the Bay Area. Even hikes to the Big C or Indian Rock give a bit of nature-porn to us students after a hard week hunched over in the library for midterms. I hope to utilize these mini-natural wonders accessible to me when I come home.