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One of the most common questions Chileans love to ask gringos is why we chose to travel to Chile and not Argentina. At first I thought that was a bizarre question because, duh, have they not realized you can trek in the mountains and swim in the ocean on the same goddamn day? But now, after spending more time in Chile, I’m beginning to get it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Argentina is to South America as the United States is to the rest of the world. That is, everyone sort of views them as arrogant assholes, but secretly kind of wishes they were from there. (And yes, I am probably the titular head of U.S. American arrogant assholes for saying that. And yes, I just said “U.S. American.” Whatever.)

But getting back to what is my latest unscientific assumption that a good majority of Chileans are simultaneously resentful and awestruck by Argentina, I think it gets even more specific. That is, when someone in Santiago asks, “Why Chile and not Argentina?” They really mean, “Why Santiago and not Buenos Aires?

No one questions Chile’s breathtaking natural terrain, which is why when I provide my usual answer (see above) to that question most Chileans just press further: “What else?”

“Uh…no sé?”

“Do you like Santiago?”

“Uh…”

Yup. It’s because everybody knows Santiago is kind of a sh*thole. OK, that’s a little harsh, but as far as major cities go, well, Santiago is no Buenos Aires. And actually, trying to compare the two is like trying to compare a greasy hot-dog slathered in mayo to the finest cut of filet mignon. And, sadly, I mean that literally.

At the same time, having just come from Washington, DC, I’d opt for a mayonnaise-laden sausage any day over Ben’s Chile Bowl. I still don’t see the appeal…

But I do see that legitimate typo I just made while spelling the word “chili.” Which can only mean one thing: I’m beginning to have feelings of discontent for Santiago, as well. Clearly, anything I associate with the food at Ben’s Chili Bowl can’t be that great. (Seriously, am I alone here in thinking the chili in that place tastes like overcooked Hormel?)

Greasy meats aside, it’s not that I hate it here. God no. Like I said, at least it’s not DC. But I think I’m just ready to get out of cities altogether and do what I really came here to do — travel.

And while last week I was having major crazy-person anxiety attacks about this, which made me make a series of bad abortion jokes, I finally sucked it up this weekend and figured out where I want to go. And now in place of the nervous twitches, I just feel surges of sheer excitement running up and down my spine. Or maybe that’s the tapeworm I’m pretty sure I ingested because, despite that my carb intake has trebled, I’m somehow not gaining weight. (Sidebar: God bless tapeworms?)

But rest assured, Chileans, I’m not ditching you for Argentina. Your mullets are far too dear for to me now. 🙂

Instead, I’ve decided to head north. First, I’ll explore the Elqui Valley where I’ll get crunk on pisco by day and stargaze at one of the best observatories on the planet at night. Then I’ll head up to San Pedro de Atacama and get lost in the mountains, while getting crunk on pisco. Then after that I’ll go to Iquique, where I’ll probably only learn to pronounce the name of the town correctly just as I’m scheduled to leave…with a bottle of pisco for the road. And finally, at the end of the month, I’ll find my way to Cusco, Peru, where I’ll be HIKING THE MOTHERF*CKING INCA TRAIL and comparing Chilean pisco to Peruvian. And after that? Who knows. Plans are for organized people who aren’t crunk on pisco right now losers.

In other words, cheers to life! And pisco…! (See, Chileans? Argentina doesn’t have that either! You win!)

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