Where have you just come back from?
Crossing the Andes on horseback. I began a few hours south of Mendoza and made my way to Chile
and back. The terrain was steep, the weather dramatic and inhospitable at times, but the horses
were sure and skilled. Tranquil nights were spent sleeping on sheepskin rugs under the
Southern Cross (although tents were available), grazing on goat meat freshly grilled by a
gaucho, and listening to local folklore around the fire. It was life at its simplest, the perfect way
to unplug for a bit.
You are based in Argentine Patagonia. What’s hot at the moment?
Peninsula Valdes. I recently took my teenagers there and all three of them stayed happy and
engaged the entire time – a minor miracle in family travel. It hasn’t been saturated with
tourism yet. We enjoyed world-class whale watching, scuba diving with sea lions, trekking with
penguins, mountain biking through dunes, cave exploring, and our first attempt at sand boarding. We stayed in the tiny town of
Puerto Piramides in the new Oceano Patagonia, where we watched whales breeching right from
the comfort of our beds.
What should you never travel without?
Humility. My travel philosophy is that when traveling abroad, I am a guest within their culture,
not someone there to aggressively impose my own culture. Meet the locals as equal human
beings, with an open mind and an open heart, and you may be surprised when you realize that
you have more in common than you originally thought. Additionally, when in nature, respect it. If
you find yourself unexpectedly in high winds or heavy snow or pouring down rain, remember
that no one ever guaranteed constant sunny skies with a nice, light breeze. Step back and try to
make the best of every situation instead of complaining about things that are well out of your
control. I always try to remember the advice of my favorite author Tom Robbins, “Weather
ought either be celebrated or ignored”.
Must read before you travel?
The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer by Eric Hansen. He is my favorite travel writer because his
sense of adventure is quirky and completely uninhibited. He sees every twist and turn and
“setback” on the road as a welcome sign beckoning him to random, often unforgettable
adventure. His positive and curious attitude has shaped how I travel more than any other writer.
What’s your favorite PSA property in South America?
It’s a toss-up between The Vines of Mendoza and Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza. Both are a
hedonistic paradise with incredibly warm service managed by hands-on owners, exquisite food,
extensive wine cellars, and stunning views of the Andes. The Vines stands out for having
Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos restaurant on-site (my favorite restaurant in Argentina) and for
having private outdoor bathtubs overlooking a lovely lagoon where frogs and crickets serenade
you to intense relaxation. Cavas, though, has charming and colorful bohemian villas with
access to the rooftop. Staff once set up cushions, pillows and blankets up there for me so I
could comfortably stargaze the night away, compete with abundant chocolate and perfectly
chilled champagne. They’ve had my heart ever since.
What’s the most offbeat experience you’ve had recently?
I ambitiously decided to play Indiana Jones in Bolivia and hit the road on a mission to off-trail
trek to find some dinosaur footprints I’d heard about (they were supposed to be located by some
spectacular purple rocky hills, which was about all of the info I could find at the time). Long story
short, I got randomly picked up on dirt bike by the heir to Bolivia’s largest beer company. He was
training for the Dakar race in the most isolated spot he could find, and him and his crew took
me, in style and with adrenaline-inducing speed, through the mountains to some hidden hot
springs to enjoy a feast and guitar music fireside (and of course an ample amount of Bolivian
Top travel tip?
Drop any expectations that you have about a culture. Be open to experiencing it for what it is,
not for what you thought it would be. Many travelers find themselves in incredible locations and
somehow disappointed, because they set up unrealistic expectations often based on highly
staged and filtered Instagram shots. Whether it be a warm hugs from an Argentine or a fresh
mango gifted to you at an Ecuadorian food market, stay open to small moments that you may not be expecting (and can’t plan for) and have the presence to
enjoy them fully. I find that these unforeseen human connections are what makes a trip the most
memorable for me and gives me a more accurate insight into the local culture.
Travel tune of choice?
If I’m on a long road trip, I’m shamelessly an off-tune but really enthusiastic 80s music karaoke
girl (terrible dance moves and all). If I’m hiking, something calm that won’t distract from the
views, such as Sigur Ros, would be a go-to. And when traveling together, my fiance and I at
some point always end up joyfully belting out “Walking on Sunshine (and it’s time to feel good!”).
Why Plan South America?
The frank honesty you will receive when trip planning. Many travel planners will tell a client
exactly what they want to hear just to close a sale. But everyone on the PSA team collaborates
to make the best trip possible for a client, and if that means being upfront that some distances
are too long to handle in a day, or to expect heavy wind and cold rain a certain time of year, the
client will hear it before making final itinerary decisions. We’re not here to push off a generic
itinerary and a few select properties on every client. We are here to make individual dreams
come true. The best way to go about doing that is being brutally honest about every variable in
the planning stage. We will never make a promise or set an expectation that we know we can’t
keep. The human factor is huge at PSA – an ecstatic client at the end of the trip means so much
more to us than a quick sale.
Where to go when wanting to get away from it all?
Kayaking and trekking in Antarctica. There is something about the purity of the pristine white
and brilliant glacier blue all around that calms the eye immediately. Hearing avalanches tumble
down in the distance, photographing a penguin curiously and naively taunting a leopard seal,
feeling absolutely tiny in comparison to the power and majesty all around puts everything in “day
to day real life” back in perspective. In Antarctica I learned what the word ‘reverence’ means.
Mother Nature is definitely in charge there, and I was more than happy to take a humble back
seat and just be an admiring part of her show.
Where to eat in Patagonia?
For me no restaurant can top a leisurely asado at an estancia, preferably with goat or lamb “a la
cruz” and Malbec flowing, siesta with an incredible mountain view to follow. I’m also a huge fan
of creating romantic picnics in isolated and stunning natural locations.
Where is your next adventure?
I’m heading back to Mendoza. I lived there for a couple of years writing wine guides of the
region and I can’t wait to return to say hello to old friends. Chatting with legendary winemaker
Carmelo Patti, feasting on lamb at Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos, and melting stress away at
the hamman at Entre Cielos are definitely on the list.
Best lazy Latin journey?
Carmelo, Uruguay. It’s a lesser-known wine region just a couple of hours from Buenos Aires. I
recently took my daughter there on a girl vacation to check out the charming boutique hotel
Narbona, and neither of us wanted to leave. We spent long, sunny days by the pool or bicycling
around, filling ourselves with homemade cheese and ice cream made from the local cows, wine
tasting the regional Tannat, and waving to serene old couples in rocking chairs on their patios as
though we had been friends for life. Every evening we went to the river – sunset is
best seen here from a private sailboat. After, we took a few days to surf the nearby coast just
north of Punta del Este.
Favourite Latin American drinks?
In Patagonia, definitely a good homemade elderberry champagne. Picnicking in a secluded spot
the Andes is surreal enough on its own, but add a bottle of elderberry champagne and I
immediately feel like I’m the central character in an enchanted fairytale. Living in Argentina for
the past 9 years, I’ve also become quite the fan of Malbec. Roberto Cipresso (formerly the
talented winemaker behind Achaval-Ferrer) is now whimsically playing around with the grape in
all different climates and terroir and coming up with some of my favorite bottles under his new