Alex in Buenos Aires: American Beauty

    The road back to Buenos Aires. Photo by Alex Freeman / North by Northwestern

    While traveling in any of the Americas, don’t introduce yourself as an American. Argentines take pride in living in South America and consider themselves Americans as well. People from the United States don’t have a monopoly on being American; down here we’re all American. Say you’re from the U.S. or The States. I made that mistake a few times before an annoyed cab driver hammered it into my head.

    And with that thought in mind, I listened to one of my favorite albums with a new ear. While on my 20 hour bus ride back from Iguazu Falls, I turned to my go-to album for road trips: American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. On nearly every road trip I’ve taken in the past 5 years–including the drive from D.C. to Evanston freshman year, a weekend trip to Philadelphia, across the midwest to see Ol’ Faithful and the annual drive to the beach–I try to listen to each track in order at least once.

    Photo by Alex Freeman / North by Northwestern

    However, I’ve always imagined the album as a tribute to the United States of America, and perhaps it was written that way as well. I would gaze out the window of whatever car or bus I was in and see what inspired the Dead to write this album. So on this bus ride back from Iguazu Falls, which in itself was one of the most breathtaking experiences I have ever had, I started Box of Rain and looked out the window.

    Leaving the dense jungle of Iguazu, rolling over the long hills and driving by the red clay dirt left me knowing that my favorite Dead album now means so much more than the land from sea to shining sea. I could look out any window during the morning, evening or day that I was on that bus and see the sun shining, birds singing, no rain falling from a heavy sky. This album, to me, now applies to all of America.

    And I realized that this country is spectacular, in more ways than I can fathom. This brief trip out of Buenos Aires was a break from the traffic, hectic bus schedules and congested sidewalks. Iguazu Falls was a breath of fresh air that I can’t wait to get more of. I want to explore this country: the estancias in the Pampas encircling Buenos Aires, the Andes to the west bordering Chile, Patagonia to the south and everything in between.

    I’ve been in Argentina for less than three weeks, but what a long, strange trip it’s been.

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