10. The Magnetic Maggie May

It might be safe to say that Maga was my first friend in Mendoza. She worked at the first hostel I stayed at and was such a delight, I think people would stay there just to be in her presence. She clearly loves what she does…meeting, entertaining, and charming people from all over the world, alway practicing her many languages. When she found out I wanted to learn Spanish, she refused to talk to me in English…until I had at least tried in Spanish first. Unless we were talking about love, haha, then it was all sorts of passionate gushing conversations in whatever words came first.

When I first met her, she was saving to go travel in Europe. She’s Argentinian in blood and Irish in heart and it was a dream for her to go there. When I came back to Mendoza 6 months later to live, she met me with open arms and her addicting smile and laugh….yeah, my first Mendocina friend. I was there a few months later when she made a dream come true and took off for Ireland. This is especially noteworthy because of how difficult it can be for Argentinians to travel due to ongoing issues with their peso and such. So as not to turn this into a political post, let’s just admire that she wanted to do this so badly and worked so hard for it and she did it.

This hostel was my home while I looked for a home and Maga was a delight to have around as a friend. When you see someone with such a glowing personality, it makes you wonder how people experience you. I realize that it is almost impossible to not smile at someone who is smiling at you…with their mouth and their eyes. She is a happy, wild soul and I had to give her a paper crane to thank her for…well, being her. Now go visit her at Punto Urbano hostel in Mendoza, or invite her to visit you! (especially if you live in Europe)

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9. Lucas the Mindful Gaucho

Lucas is a character out of the pages of a dreamy novel that takes place mostly on horse back, in the mountains and always with adventures that are grand in their spontaneity and simplicity. I was born with a dimple when I smile and he was born with a twinkle in his eye; it’s always there. I met this dapper gaucho on an afternoon in the Andes mountains outside of Mendoza, Argentina and had the loveliest of afternoons. Read all about it and check out the photos here. We stayed in touch after that day, meeting for long lunches and lingering glasses of wine, talking about the virtues of a simple and true life. Lucas will say things like, “you can sleep when you’re beneath the ground, be alive now.” He is the most present person I have ever met, so present that I believe he often surprises himself with thoughts and whims that seem to jump into his existence for him to respond to, moment to moment. And he does, bringing you along for the ride if you’re willing. And when I was, he brought me along on the most delightful adventure I’ve ever had while being abroad…involving horse whisperers, sunrise cattle drives, meals cooked over fire, sleeping under stars and buying goat skins in the desert. Story and photos here.

I cannot say enough about Lucas. He is larger than life. He’s nowhere and everywhere. He has nothing and he has everything, and while he is lifting the crinkled metal hood back onto his dilapidated car after tinkering around, he does so with a knitted, white buret on his head and a silk scarf around his neck. He is incredibly generous and a gentleman. He doesn’t like to work and works harder than many people ever will, but he loves what he does so is that really work? He’s an artist. As a teenager, his curiosity took him to the desert to live with the Huarpes people and learn their unique leather craft. He’s a gaucho. He looks like he was born on a horse and has that cowboy swagger that makes girls swoon, but he doesn’t even realize it. He smokes a helluva lot of cigarettes and will probably live to be 200 years old just based on his life views. I’m so grateful to have met Lucas and when he gave me a tiny metal medallion with a Mapuche symbol on it as a gift, I gave him a paper crane to thank him for our time together and who he is.