Searching for my Salta at Christmas

Searching for my Salta at Christmas

Grey Glacier

Last year I found myself wondering what exactly I was doing with my life.  I was, essentially, underachieving on my potential.  I took an underpaying job in travel for the opportunity to explore and hopefully understand the world a little bit better.  But, the truth is, that I left Canada with the thought in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to be back any time soon.  I told everyone of my intentions to travel/work for a year and then return to grad school, work, and friends.  However, I would be lying only to myself if I said that I wasn’t looking for something more.  I even wrote an article last year called “The Journey and the Man” which told of a man unsure of his path, his destiny, and his goals.  The past little while, there has been a battle of those same thoughts and worries.  Those of us who spend exuberant amounts on the road away from family, friends, and general commitments are really only lying to ourselves if we saythat we don’t often worry as to our general purpose in life.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and the words I’ve read have really started to trigger these thoughts that I had been having back to life.  An article written by one of the best travel bloggers out there, Keith Savage, called “Finding the Love in Travel” talked about the caballeros which exist in much of South America, in this case Salta signing songs of home.  I’ve seen it nearly everywhere I’ve traveled in South America, men in Salta, Arequipa, and Patagonia alike sing songs about a magnetism that draws them to their home.  Keith so romantically draws to the point that his wife is his Salta, what he yearns to return for when he is away.  And I think that without realizing, this whole time I’ve been wandering, I too have been searching for my Salta, I just don’t know what my Salta is yet.

I dream of having something hold me with mystical magnetism.  The idea that there could be some emotional force so powerful as to retain my ADHD attention to me is incredible.  I wish I could tell you that I know what my Salta is, but to this day it remains unclear.  Am I looking for a home?  A certain truth?  Love?  I’ve been wandering the world for a long time now in search of something, but have no idea what.  And how do you know where to look, if you don’t know what you’re looking for?  I think that any honest independent nomad will tell you that this is something that we constantly struggle with.

The road, I’m sure you’re thinking, sounds like my Salta.  No matter whether I stay still for one day or one month my

Torres del Paine National Park

feet scratch the floor and beg for feel of open asphalt below them.  But I often wonder if this is myself telling me that what I am looking for is not there, and that it’s time to move on.  Can travel be your Salta?  Can travel really be your begging spirit?

I’ve turned my attention to “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho which I’ve now read about 10 times.  I seem to always turn to the words of this classic book as it seems to assure me of my ways.  A young Sheppard, in the novel, travels the world in search of a treasure, his personal destiny.  He continues to pursue this personal destiny without knowing what treasure awaits him ahead, only that one exists.  He leaves behind love, stability, and what he knows best on his path.  All the while he pursues his destiny.

Around Christmas time it is easy to begin wondering if pursuing your personal destiny is selfish and vain, especially if one really has no idea as to what his personal destiny may be.

As Family and friends gather at home, I wander alone in search of my Salta.  But there is no real way of explaining to them why I go at it in this way.  With each new destination I reach, each new hand I shake or check I kiss, and every smile I share with a friendly stranger makes it harder and harder to leave, I know that I must.  My destiny is not here, it’s out there waiting for me to discover it.  As Paulo Coelho says, “it’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”  It is that dream that continues to drive me.  It is that dream that continues to push me in my personal search of my Salta.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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9 Comments

  1. If the road was your “Salta,” would you still be asking this question? After all, you’re on the road now. I feel like what you’re looking for is one of those things that you can’t look for, you just realize it’s what you need when you leave it. Keep journeying.

    I appreciate the shout-out and I’m glad that post resonated with you.

    P.S. Sarah is my wife, not my girlfriend :)

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    • oooopppppsssss on the wife thing… haha I’ll change that! And I know you’re right… it’s just always good to get these things said out loud!

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  2. Great post! I really understand what you’re saying here. As traveler who’s been an ex-pat twice, I know what it’s like to be in search of one’s “Salta.”

    My quest has revolved around seeking and visiting places where there’s a real sense of community, which I find lacking in N. America. It’s also been about getting more into the moment via the thrill I get from the challenges of traveling. So in a way, the travel high itself has been some sort of Salta. Of course, those moments pass and the quest continues…

    In any case, happy holidays and good luck with finding your “Salta” in 2011…hope it happens (or continues to happen) for you!

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  3. Great post, I’m going through that finding yourself, what to do with one’s self right now after my rtw and it’s hard! Thanks for the insight into your thoughts.

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  4. I’m beginning to see an emerging theme here: the most important and spiritually rewarding experiences are not the one you thought you were looking for. Congratulations on this recognition. I just recently encountered (stumbled on, you might say) your unfolding story and it continues to be very riveting. Keep us posted!

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  5. A very poignant and honest post. I’m a big believer in fate, and that when you’re consciously looking for something you won’t find it. But when IT finds YOU, you will know it, feel it. Until then, I think you just have to go with your gut, and do what makes you happy.
    I left my job in Canada to move back overseas, telling people it was a temporary thing for a year, until I figured out what I really wanted to do. That year has turned into a lifetime, as I met my husband and we are making our home here. Growing up, I certainly never thought that I would travel halfway around the world to meet the man of my dreams, but it happened.
    For what it’s worth, I say keep traveling, learning, experiencing. What you are looking for will find you. :)

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  6. You’re doing the “heavy lifting” now. Choosing to be curious and to pursue your passion is the toughest part. Only good can come from that.

    Keep being a seeker. Wishing you a mind blowing 2011!

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  7. I enjoyed your post, good luck. I think we all struggle with the same issues. Recently, I’ve been realizing, so much of what I have been traipsing the world looking for, has been with me along. The question, would I do things differently? So my news years resolution is to not be set in my ways. Wow…your post has got me feeling very philosophical

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  8. What a wonderful post! And I agree with what Keith says, that’s pretty much what my response was going to be. Enjoy the ride to Salta. Could be long, could be short, don’t worry about that and just enjoy! :)

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