At a party 16 years ago (I remember it well), a guy told me about Argentina, a place he’d visited a few times. ‘It’s the best country in the world,’ he said. That sounds good, I thought. ‘We should go sometime,’ I said to Leonie. ‘You’re not ready for Argentina,’ the guy told us, and repeated that it is the best country in the world, as if that was explanation enough.
It was the first time I’d met the guy, and it still was early in the evening, so I didn’t call him all the names that were running through my head. And because I was restraining myself so much, I didn’t think to ask him what he meant.
Leonie and I laughed about it later, and it became a kind of in-joke between us over the years. Whenever somebody mentioned Argentina we’d laugh and say we’re not quite ready for that place yet, and then explain this ridiculous story.
It was a stupid thing for the guy to say. He’d probably be embarrassed if I told him about it now. And I’m pretty sure he won’t even remember saying it. He probably forgot about it within ten minutes. But I’ve thought about that remark many times over the past 16 years, usually accompanied by that same roll call of nasty names I had ready for the guy.
And now, sitting in the plane heading towards Argentina, the story comes back to me again. At first I wondered if he’d think I was ready now, having visited 40+ countries, 30+ more than 16 years ago. And then I wondered how you would judge that, how would anybody, even yourself, be able to tell if you were ready for a country or not. What would the criteria be? It sounded like a good blog post, one of those listicles, like 5 ways to tell if you’re ready for Argentina.
I started to think of what these 5 things might be, mainly aimed at making this guy sound even more ridiculous. That wouldn’t be fair, I then thought. It was so long ago. What’d the point? But maybe there’s a serious way to look at this. Could there really be criteria you should consider before going to a particular country? I don’t mean war zones, I mean regular places, like, well, Argentina, for example.
I couldn’t think of any serious criteria. But maybe if I turned the question around I’d come up with something. What makes me think I’m ready to visit any country?
Hmm. Tricky. I couldn’t come up with much. Nothing convincing, at least. Nothing where I could say, yes, that’s it, now I’m ready. I was looking for things beyond the likes of passport, money and opportunity, more personal development kind of things. What made ME ready?
That’s when it hit me. After all these years, 16 years, I realised that guy was right. I wasn’t ready for Argentina. I’m not ready for any country. And that’s why all this travelling is so much fun. If I had to wait until I was ready, I’d never go anywhere.
So thank you, Mr Party Guy. You taught me a valuable lesson. You arrogant prick.
P.S. When I got to customs, I realised I hadn’t filled in the form. So I wasn’t ready after all.
P.P.S. At the airport, I turned on my phone to check my e-mails, but there was no WiFi. Scandalerious in this day and age. Argentina, you were not ready for me!