Patagonia

Getting to Know Patagonia

Of all the intoxicants you can find on the road (including a “national beer” for nearly every country in the world), marijuana deserves a particular mention here, primarily because it’s so popular with travelers. Much of this popularity is due to the fact that marijuana is a relatively harmless diversion (again, provided you don’t get caught with it) that can intensify certain impressions and sensations of travel. The problem with marijuana, however, is that it’s the travel equivalent of watching television: It replaces real sensations with artificially enhanced ones. Because it doesn’t force you to work for a feeling, it creates passive experiences that are only vaguely connected to the rest of your life. “The drug vision remains a sort of dream that cannot be brought over into daily life,” wrote Peter Matthiessen in The Snow Leopard. “Old mists may be banished, that is true, but the alien chemical agent forms another mist, maintaining the separation of the ‘I’ from the true experience of the ‘One.'” Moreover, chemical highs have a way of distracting you from the utterly stoning natural high of travel itself. After all, roasting a bowl might spice up a random afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, but is it really all that necessary along the Sumatran shores of Lake Toba, the mountain basins of Nepal, or the desert plateaus of Patagonia? As Salvador Dali quipped, “I never took drugs because I am drugs.” With this in mind, strive to be drugs as you travel, to patiently embrace the raw, personal sensation of unmediated reality–an experience for more affecting than any intoxicant can promise.

— Rolf Potts

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