Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

She’s off to Argentina, again February 15, 2013

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

SHE’S LEAVING ON A JET PLANE and I know when she’ll be back again…

In reality, she’s already gone, already landed in Buenos Aires, albeit two hours and ten minutes late due to an “aircraft change” in Houston. I’ve gathered that information from the United Airlines website with no way of personally confirming her arrival.

But I can surmise my second daughter is on the ground, on her way via shuttle bus and then a taxi to the hostel where she’s booked several nights.

And I will tell you this: I don’t like any of this—her traveling alone with no real concrete itinerary and no immediate way of instantly connecting across the 6,000 miles that separate us.

She has no personal computer, no cell phone, at the moment.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

I should be accustomed to this really, this being her third trip to Argentina. But those first two times she had a home base in Buenos Aires, studying and interning in the capital city.

Back "home" in Faribault, packed and ready to go.

“Home” in Faribault, packed and ready to leave for Argentina.

This time, though, my daughter is vacationing, taking a month away from her job as a Spanish medical interpreter to revisit her beloved South America and the friends she made there. I admire her independence and her fearless spirit. I really do. I have encouraged such qualities in all of my children. But now I am paying the price.

I cannot help myself. I am a mom. Moms worry.

And, if I was not so darned nosy and had not sought out information from my girl, I would have less to concern myself.

But I asked and she told me about the planned lengthy bus ride to Tucuman in northern Argentina. When I questioned the safety of this mode of transportation, she told me about the time her college friend Devon was riding such a bus. Would-be robbers smashed a window, but the bus driver, knowing their intent, sped away.

Then there’s Tucuman, where my girl and her friend, Ivana, were mugged by two guys on a motorcycle, in broad daylight several years ago. Crime has only gotten worse in that city, Ivana says. My daughter won’t be carrying a purse this visit. Just in case, I have copies of her credit and bank cards and her passport.

She’s planning a 16-hour journey on Train to the Clouds, a train that will take her high into the mountains and villages of northwest Argentina. To alleviate my concerns that she will be traveling on some rickety old train, my daughter showed me photos on the train’s website. That reassured me…until she mentioned the medical personnel assigned to each passenger car to deal with health issues related to the high altitude. I suppose that should reassure me. It did not.

And then my eldest had to mention the stray dogs that roam Argentinean streets.

For the next few weeks, I will try to pretend that my daughter is still only 300 miles away in the Midwest. That is my strategy, plus lots of prayer.

My daughter didn't fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

My daughter didn’t fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT of adult kids who love to travel, how do you cope? I could use some tips.

Since writing this post, I received an email and a call from my daughter reporting her safe arrival.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “She’s off to Argentina, again”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    The only experience I have had was the time #2 son spent in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm. I was able to talk with him directly as there were 3 phones on board (cells were not what they are today) dedicated to the fellas/gals for making calls home. Although this gave us a chance to hear his voice the distance was very evident. Prayer is what got me/us through. A Great God Who knows exactly what it means to have a son leave home to venture to a foreign land for a noble purpose. You and she have our prayers……..Blessings and hugs……

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Doreen, for the prayers. Really, this separation from my daughter is nothing when I consider yours from your son and that of all military moms from their children. And when I think to years ago when families relied on letters, well, I cannot imagine that either.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Yay!! Glad you got an email and call to alleviate some of your trepidation! She will be fine –you raised her to be adventurous and caring and all that and she will be fine!!! But regardless—I am praying for her safety, too. Another mother’s prayers can’t hurt!!!

  3. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    I used to teach in A.P. English the poem about how love is not love until you let it go. (I’ll look it up for you). I would tell my students, in A.P. the best-nurtured in the school, that if their parents had raised them right, they were eager to be gone. That it was pure love that made them eager to be gone from home. Both my children took that class. All of them were, of course eager to be gone. I think almost all the students gained an insight from my teaching that. Many students have told me later how they remembered that. (And one other lesson I taught about parenting.)
    My parents always said they expected us to be not a part of the household after we graduated. We could come home and work, at home and at jobs in summers home from college. I only came home after my freshman year. My brother enlisted right after H.S. My sister came home every summer and them was gone. Only years later did I realize the silent sacrifice of love my mother especially was making by preaching that lesson.
    Both of my kids had done that kind of traveling abroad, my son also in America on a motorcycle. Both would tell you how important those trips were for them. My daughter says she is a vastly better pastor for those experiences.

    • Clyde of Mankato Says:

      By the way, she appears to be a bright, confident, self-sufficient (and beautiful) woman.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I totally agree with you, Clyde, and know in my heart that how I’ve raised my children has been the best for them. Not the easiest for me, but the best for them.

      You were/are a wise teacher and parent. Oh, that all kids should have a teacher like you…

  4. Jeremy Jaros Says:

    Fear not! The limited dangers are part of the adventure! I am not a parent, but I am a parents’ son who loves the adventure if travel. I travel as often ad possible. My folks (who you may know, as they both grew up in Vesta) always worry, despite my reassurances. They have a distorted vision of reality which always seems to paint a much darker picture than what actually is. I relish the adventure! I was in the city of Merida, once, where all the locals told me to not go near the south side after dark, for it’s too dangerous! As soon as dark fell, I strode boldly to the south side! Walking the dark desolate streets I began noticing shadows following me. I turned to look, only to find a small group of tiny little Mayan men bringing up my rear. They were poor and curious if I was carrying loads of riches. When my eyes met theirs they stopped in their tracks. I asked if I could help them. They said no and backed away. I saw a small liquor store so I bought a case of beer and sat with them in an abandoned building talking and laughing the night away. They had no guns or knives. Even if they tried to mug me, I wouldn’t have been hurt. In the end I gave each one $20 before I left. That has long been one of my fondest memories of my travels. My point being that danger in travel, especially in the Americas, is not even nearly as vicious or violent as we know it to be here in the U.S. Travelling Europe is more dangerous than anywhere I have ever been in South America! Those Brits love to get drunk and fight! It’s not uncommon to randomly get beat up by 12 drunken rugby players over there! This is not the case in Argentina. Your daughter will be fine, and have many fabulous adventures to tell of when she returns!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I do recognize the Jaros name as one from Vesta, but can’t recall personally knowing any Jaroses. It sounds like you are quite the experienced travelers. That story of the little Mayan men following you is quite endearing. Thanks for reassuring me. I’m sure my daughter will have many fabulous adventures. I just don’t want one of them to be her getting mugged. Again.

  5. Your daughter will have an amazing time. As a parent, I believe it’s important to recognize that bad things can happen to all of us anywhere in the world – here as well as not. It’s an illusion to think we’re any safer from some kind of harm here in the Midwest; it’s simply a different list of things we have to watch out for here versus somewhere else. That said, I also believe that the world is full of wonderful experiences, sights, people that we only get to know of if we are brave enough to get on the plane. Trust that your adult daughter will apply her own experiences to assess situations in the place that she has come to love and that will bring her back to you with fabulous travel tales. Trust that you did a great job preparing her to apply her experience!

  6. Jackie Says:

    I like how you describe your daughter, “independent, fearless spirit” Oh I know how you’re feeling Audrey I can truly say that, as I watched my 18 year old boy go through the gates of the airport to Africa….by himself, on a mission trip (he would later meet up with others). I do feel worse for you though with your sweet one being a girl, and the fact that she likes to repeat her trips. But I can tell that through your concern you are very confident in her, and her abilities. Such a strong, mature young lady you have, and isnt it great that she is able to do these things that she obviously loves to do. I know from having one of these children with the “fearless spirit” they what they want MOST OF ALL is our encouragement and trust that they can do it! I know she’s got that kind of support from you and Randy. Way to go mom & dad you’ve raised an amazing young lady. (please know that I will be praying for her safety)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for your prayers, Jackie. You know how much I appreciate them. So great that your son did that mission work in Africa. I totally understand your feelings as you watched him walk through those airport gates. Miranda also did mission work on one of her trips to Argentina and helped out after Katrina twice. The eldest took a mission trip to Paraguay during her freshman year of college. I had to look on a map to even see where that country was located. Kids now days have so many opportunities to travel and grow and learn.

  7. Carol Allis Says:

    Oh, goodness — they are always our babies, aren’t they? My oldest son just got back from a weeklong business trip to India, and I was anxious the whole time — especially about the plane trip, since it was so long, and I’m terrified of flying. But I kept countering it with focusing on what a wonderful adventure it was for him — something I’ll never do — and he sent emails every day with photos of all the marvelous places he was visiting (outside work, of course), so I could share in the wonder of it. But was still so glad when he was home again ….

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      So glad your boy got safely home from India. It does help that my daughter lived, a year total, in Argentina and knows her way around and is fluent in Spanish. Still…they are always our babies and we still worry no matter their age. I suppose we never stop mothering.

  8. I know it is nervewracking for you, but I so admire her spirit of adventure. That’s certainly the time to explore and be adventurous, when one is young. I wish I had done more of that in my youth. Good for her. I hope she has a wonderful trip and returns safe and sound.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I totally agree that now is the time for her to take these adventures. Such opportunities were not available to me at her age, eons ago.

  9. I like to think that I wouldn’t be worried if I was in your shoes – but I’m sure I’m fooling myself! I don’t worry too much about Colin when he travels…but he’s not my child! I can only imagine how you’re feeling…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, you just wait until your kids start traveling. Yesterday she called with news that her credit card had been flagged for fraud. Seems the credit card company “forgot” that she had already notified them of her travel plans. So I “fixed” that for her without too much difficulty. This evening she leaves for Tucuman, the city where she was mugged during her last visit to Argentina two years ago.

      • OH, man, that would definitely be worrisome – going back to that same city. Colin gets calls about his credit cards, too – annoying that she actually thought ahead to call them but it didn’t work!

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