After a life-altering adventure to Antarctica, the choice was easy to take a side trip to Patagonia while I was at the southernmost point of South America. Who would pass up the chance to see two more countries on their way home from the least-visited continent?
But the truth is that this was my first big trip I've taken, and I was doing it by myself.
As an introvert in a cramped city and a thinker at a busy tech company, solitude is something I find myself craving daily—the vast, lonely expanses of Patagonia were calling.
And I had no idea what I was doing.
The months leading up to my trip were filled with me shaking the nerves of getting to the bottom of the world and gathering the supplies needed to succeed there. It didn't help that the number of times I heard, "I wish your boyfriend was going with you," or, "Why do you want to do this solo?" in preparation of my travels had me questioning. Being asked, "You're here by yourself?" during my journey was uninspiring. It's hard to explain to people who won't understand that being by myself is something I'm great at doing—and is something I even welcome. But I wondered whether that time and place in the world was the best opportunity to test my resolve.
If taking myself from San Francisco to Antarctica to Patagonia wasn't enough, my luggage got lost via the Ushuaia airport, and I showed up in El Calafate, Argentina, with nothing but the clothes I was wearing and a book in my bag. The moments of emotional distress and the panic of what to do without my things tried desperately to reinforce the question of why I was there solo.
But as it turned out, the day I waited eagerly for my luggage before busing across Chile ended up being one of my greatest memories of Patagonia.
While I waited impatiently for my bag, I took myself to Glacier National Park for an ice trek.
As a single traveler, I didn't often get pictures with me in them, and I used strangers as props when the moment struck. At one point, I saw a woman standing on her own on top of a rock, and—as it felt fitting—I took a photo of her looking at Perito Moreno. As I was taking the photo, the glacier calved with her looking straight at it, and I switched my camera to video.
I went up to the woman and offered to share my video with her because we both caught a great ice show at an ideal time.
Shayli was also traveling by herself and understood my lost-luggage woes. We ended up chatting together for a few more hours that day, and I truly learned that when traveling solo, one can be on their own and never be alone.