Life-changing family travel in South America

This family shares their 5 biggest learnings from their life-changing South American adventure…

Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change. There’s no denying that when we broaden our horizons, seek new adventures or challenges, and keep an open mind, our lives are enriched, our minds are stretched and we are transformed.

Travel is life-changing and we are experts at creating unforgettable journeys for wanderlust travellers that seek to change their surroundings, learn something new, reconnect with loved ones and truly find themselves. We encourage you to get out there and explore faraway places, sample the local delicacies, mingle with the locals and learn about the area’s unique cultures, customs and traditions … do all this, and you’ll return home a changed person.

That’s exactly what &Beyond Chief Marketing Officer, Nicole Robinson, and her family did last year. By embarking on an incredible, life-changing holiday to Chile and Argentina together, the Robinsons learned far more than they expected to and the memories they shared will last a lifetime.

Here is their journey in Nicole’s words…

It’s not often that we get the opportunity to escape from all the realities of life and are free to travel to an unknown destination for more than two weeks. Fifteen years ago, my husband Jonathan and I had the privilege of taking a year off to explore North America and Europe and we promised ourselves that once our children were old enough to appreciate it, that we would take them on a similar journey.

We wanted to use travel to open their minds and their perspectives to a world beyond what they know, to educate them further than what they can learn from books and stories, to immerse them in a different culture and learn with all their senses what it means to discover a place and its people.

So with that goal, we embarked as a family (Jess age 12 and Ethan age 8) on a six-week journey through Chile and Argentina. The extended time together as we explored these extraordinary destinations created so many unforgettable experiences, but I have filtered them to highlight the ones which we all agreed were the ones that transformed us the most.

1. Learning that the reward is richer after a struggle

Arriving in Southern Patagonia was like landing on a different planet. From the lower temperatures and wind to the dramatic landscapes that left us speechless. Each bend in the road had us stopping multiple times to satisfy our need to capture the beauty. The destination also provided many ways to experience the views from horse-riding to rock-climbing, from the river and glacier navigations to scenic drives and then, last but not least, trekking.

As an active family, we enjoy hiking, however, when presented with the trail options I am more likely to choose the medium to low effort options, whereas my husband has a different approach and always takes “the road less travelled”. So when he suggested the 20 km (13 miles), full-day climb to Base de las Torres, I initially thought he was crazy. After some careful consideration of the route, some encouragement by the hotel’s guides and a review of the weather forecast for the day, we set out on our adventure.

When discussing our favourite vistas of Chile, the sight of the Towers at the end of our challenging hike was the clear winner. Not because it was more beautiful than all the many other views we stopped for while driving, but because of the memories shared, the barriers are broken through and the fact that it was only available to those who “left the parking lot”.

2. Learning that it is possible to do much with determination

While visiting the Atacama Desert, our guides at Tierra Atacama shared many facts about the Inca trails we passed on our many excursions around the area. The children were fascinated to learn of the network of roads that the Incas constructed through Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and the great distances the messengers had to run with memorised messages and basic sandals and clothing. Ethan mentioned that he would remember the Incas every time he found anything too hard because if they could do that with so little, he should not moan about what he has to do when he has so much to help him.

3. Learning that our way is not the only way

Argentina is a country full of personality with a vibrant culture. An evening at The Argentine Experience gave us a fun and interactive way of understanding the local culture – from making our own empanadas and learning how to order the delicious Argentine beef in Spanish, to discovering the unusual taste of Mate and learning some local expressions and their origins.

I was amazed to see how we as a family adapted to another way of life – afternoon siestas and late dinners, reading and interpreting menus, communicating with helpful locals who could not speak English and watching my children’s minds open up to the fact that there are other ways to ours that are not right or wrong, but merely different. This was a great lesson of tolerance in a world that is progressively becoming more intolerant and closed to people who are not the same as them.

4. Learning the luxury of living with less but experiencing more

Having to pack for a family of four for six weeks with the constraints of luggage limits was an interesting exercise, but through it we realised that having less choice left us lighter and freer to engage with the experiences we shared … and there were many.

Rock-climbing in Torres del Paine, horse-riding through the vines in Santa Cruz, white water rafting and canopy tours in Pucón, fly-fishing in Bariloche, surfing in Pichilemu, cycling through Buenos Aires, swimming in the Puritama hot springs and running down sand dunes in the Atacama … and so much more!


5. Learning to reconnect with each other and unleash imagination

On a walk to the Mirador Cuernos on our first full day in Torres Del Paine National Park, Ethan picked up a stick that resembled a bazooka type weapon. As we walked together he started telling me all the things that this stick could shoot – from tickling monkeys that distract the enemy to thorny roots that could tie them up.

For the first time in a long time I felt what it meant to be truly present as his imagination opened up and I engaged with him over his many ideas and inventions. For him it was a great exercise in seeing what he could create without reference to a device and that being outside and exploring far exceeded what could be experienced in virtual reality. We both remember that two-hour walk as one where real connection happened against one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.

~ Nicole Robinson


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