We first moved to Buenos Aires in August 2010, three months after our first child was born. Tomas had just taken a job with Blizzard Entertainment which was based here, and for him it was a great opportunity to move us closer to his family and return to the city of his birth. For me, I was pretty nervous about starting all over from scratch, especially in a foreign country in which I had only a tentative knowledge of the language – and with a newborn baby to care for with no idea how to navigate this new locale! Needless to say, it was some pretty rough sailing in the first year, and Tomas working long hours in a high-stress job didn’t help – especially after our second child was born.
But we knew the move would be temporary, as the long term plan was always to return to the States at some point. And to be honest, after awhile we started to get used to some of the perks of living here, the most important of which was that we could afford a full-time housekeeper/babysitter! This is something that would be quite a luxury in the US, but here in Argentina a typical middle-class family with small children employs someone full-time.
But the stress of Tomas’s job and the long hours began to take a toll on us and we came to the conclusion together that no amount of money or comforts could make up for the lost family time. That’s why when his company informed him that they’d be closing the Argentina office (and Tomas with it!) we saw it as a blessing in disguise. We had to weigh our options – try to stay and find a new source of income here, or return to the US.
We decided to give it a shot and stay, and put our energy behind a start-up that didn’t end up getting funding. It looked like a return to the US would be the best decision for our family… but the seed of an idea had started to grow. What if we went back, but did it in an unprecedented way… by driving? We could take it slow, as the kids couldn’t handle too much driving in one day… would it even be possible?
We decided to go on a little test-run doing a drive from Buenos Aires to El Calafate in the south (Patagonia) to visit Tomas’s brother. Surprisingly, we came across quite a few other travelers on the way doing exactly what we wanted to do. Most were from Europe, and many were driving some of the coolest converted RV/4-wheel drive vehicles I’ve ever seen. One couple was on their honeymoon and were doing a trip from the southern tip of South America all the way to the north of Canada, and we kept passing them at various points along the way. It was then we realized that we wouldn’t be alone, that we’d be a part of a community of adventure-seekers and travelers, with only one important difference: we were going to do this with two young toddlers!
Without a doubt the long drives are challenging for the kids. After a couple of long driving days to and from Patagonia, we came up with eight hours as the maximum amount of time we could subject the kids to being stuck in the car. But there is one important thing we learned on our test-run to the south: kids are adaptable. As long as they have their basic needs met, they’re along for the ride. But warning: extreme patience is required – when those inevitable tantrums happen, they’re going to happen in the tiny enclosed space of your vehicle!
But even given all the challenges, we absolutely loved the trip. The kids learned so much being outside in nature, seeing real penguins and glaciers, meeting new people and seeing family. We returned from our trip recharged and ready to start planning our journey north!