Discover more from Unannounced
Buenos Aires chronicles
Navigating the proximity paradox
Last week, I crossed the Andes to spend a few days in Buenos Aires. It was my first time in the Southern Tango City. I wonder why the most reachable places are the ones that generate the slightest interest.1 I could have spent a lifetime telling myself it was too accessible to prioritize visiting it.
Turns out, Buenos Aires was a delightful surprise. It is neither a modern metropolis nor an old-world city. The past and the present share the place, leaving a lively blend of history and contemporary flair in every corner.
As usual, a library had claimed to be a top priority on my list of places to visit. Library “El Ateneo” perfectly embodies the city’s ability to blend the past with the present seamlessly. This book haven underwent an architectural metamorphosis from a theater to a library. It’s impressive. The books, the ambiance, and the people within the place all contributed to a transcendent experience. Being in a bookshop is great, but being in a bookshop and an old theater with frescoes on the ceiling simultaneously is uniquely enchanting.
My mom had to invoke her Jedi-level persuasion skills to pry me away from that bookworm's nirvana.
This year has been like a kaleidoscope of destinations, and because of the cool stamps I’ve gotten on my passport the last couple of months, I didn’t have much expectations from my neighbor country. I had the paradox of accessibility2 regarding Buenos Aires: The more reachable the place, the slimmer my interest.
I don’t know why I had the misconception that near locations equate to a lack of allure, but I’ve seen its effects on my traveling. A few months ago, while visiting the loving family I lived with for a year during my school exchange in Germany; we searched the map for nearby cities that I had not visited during my time there. It was a more complicated task than we thought. Turns out I’ve explored more of Germany’s landscape than Chile’s, the country I’ve lived in all my life.
I will put my effort into correcting that.
Either way, it’s easier to reflect in a foreign land. In Buenos Aires, I got to appreciate how our surroundings shape the way we spend our time and life. The abundance of parks will invite you to invest more time outdoors, pastry shops with windows facing the street will force you to pause for sweet treats, and the shade provided by unpruned trees will allow you to walk down the street the whole morning without the need to escape the humid heat of the Argentinian capital. I’m so used to my surroundings in Santiago that I can walk through them blindfolded.
The change of scenery allows us to see and live our lives with our usual auto-pilot mode turned off and awareness as our compass.
I’ve realized that proximity doesn’t diminish the potential for adventure; it simply demands a closer look. Now that I’m back home, I’ll search for hidden pleasures in my city, neighborhood, and street. The more familiar the place, the more attention I will pay. Sometimes, the greatest treasures are found in our own backyard.
I highlight three things about Buenos Aires that I would like to have in Santiago:
Untrimmed trees generously cast shade along the streets. Where I live in Santiago, the obsession with tidy-looking streets results in trees that appear spindly and somewhat frail.
Showcases displaying sweet delights. In the Chilean capital, you must enter bakeries and pass a vibe-check to see what treats they offer.
More flower stands. If I’m going to have allergies, I might enjoy the vibrant blooms.
What kind of surroundings do you like to spend your time in?
I took these photos during my stay:
I usually prioritize visiting faraway places. This time around, the purpose of my trip was to attend the Taylor Swift concert. Surprisingly, Buenos Aires matched The Eras Tour’s magic.
"Accessibility paradox" or “Proximity paradox” may already be a completely different thing, yet here I am giving it another meaning. Let's just go on with it.