People often ask me what I love about travel and the answer, I think, lies in certain memories that stand out more than others. Riding in the back of a pick-up through the Peruvian jungle—a hundred miles from the nearest village—I caught a glimpse of an ancient temple. It wasn't on any map. The mist dissolved before me and there it was—a palace of crumbling stones, laced with creepers. Howler monkeys cried from the treetops.
"Gascony's the real France," Jean-Jacques said. "Everywhere else—it's another country." Jean-Jacques, a local farmer, was leaning from his tractor—behind him, a bright field of sunflowers and the 18th century farmhouse my parents call home. His sun-beaten face squinted down at me. "Gascony is the hidden jewel of France—it's our best kept secret."
There are few places on earth as romantic as Buenos Aires. At night, in the backstreets, couples dance the tango. Old men sit outside the bars, playing the accordion. Sad music that tells of loss, longing, and the complications of love. I'd come to Buenos Aires with two prized possessions: my dog-eared copy of the poems of the blind poet, Jorge Luis Borges, and my folded and torn certificate for teaching English.
A train ticket and a TEFL certificate were all I had when I traveled the 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche. As we rode through the endless flatness of Patagonia—past broken railway sheds and the silhouettes of wind-bent trees on the horizon—I wondered what I was getting into. I had no job. I'd never been this far south. I knew no-one.