The Bar at the End of the World

 

Green Beer and Israelites

I’m on my third beer, this one is green.

It’s the local specialty; so local in fact that it’s named after the bar I’m sitting in. ‘Dublin,’ the label proudly reads. Made by Beagle, the brand I’ve been drinking since I’ve been here. Dublin is the only place in town where you can find other people this time of night, any day of the week.

It’s my 6th day in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego; a dockside town that is ostensibly the southernmost city in the world (not counting a few spare ports and forts) and the launchpad for an array of Antarctic tours.

It happens to also be achingly beautiful.

I’m hanging out with a Swedish girl from Australia that I met on one of the handful of buses I took to get down this far south and we’re discussing Argentina, the holidays, the relative size of male genitalia from one culture to the next, and all the other things that two bored 20-somethings in an Irish pub at the end of the world will tend to discuss.

The theme of the night, though, is Christmas. In most countries, it would seem, Christmas is celebrated on the night of the 24th, with all the fanfare and festivities taking place that night. In Argentina, the entire family stays up until midnight to have a Christmas feast and open presents at the very beginning of the 25th of December.

I, being from the US, am accustomed to doing things differently, but I’m also horribly outnumbered back at the hostel. Midnight it is!

As we’re having this discussion, a girl that I don’t see approach sits down in the seat across from me and introduces herself.

She’s pretty, and it seems she’s from Israel and is touring the world after having just finished her two-year, state-required stint in the military.

After 10 minutes or so, she heads back over to the other side of the bar, saying she’s going to let her friends know where she went and that she’ll be back. I take the opportunity to ruminate on the irony of the situation: my conversation about Christmas and the varying ways different cultures celebrate it taking place at the end of the world being interrupted by a member of one of the few groups of people that doesn’t celebrate it at all.

Such is life in Ushuaia.

A Day Like Any Other

Holidays and I have an interesting relationship.

On one hand, I enjoy the fanfare and seeing my family and exchanging gifts and having an excuse to take part in corny traditions and everything else that comes with the territory.

On the other, I work so hard to make EVERY day into something worth celebrating that I honestly find myself forgetting about holidays. This habit has gotten even more pronounced since I started traveling, as holidays are different all over the world, with different people celebrating different things for different reasons and in different ways.

When they are all laid out like that, it’s hard not to look at your own ‘special day’ and think, “Well, okay, so what makes this so special? If almost every day is a holiday SOMEWHERE, what’s even the point? It’s not a party if it happens every night!”

I recall writing an anti-Thanksgiving article for the school newspaper back in high school, the premise being that not only is it a holiday laced with uncomfortable historical baggage, but it also contributes to the nation’s growing waistline, encourages consumerism on all levels and forces people to go hang out with their family in an uncomfortably fake setting. Take a deep breath, I said, that’s what artificial sentimentality smells like.

A Day Unlike Any Other

As the years went by, I loosened my tight opinions on the subject of holidays a bit, but I couldn’t shake the back-of-the-mind thoughts that the whole concept was just wrong.

Even after last year’s adventures, when my girlfriend came to Missouri to celebrate Christmas with my family and then having a wild and crazy night of clubbing for New Year, I was pretty sure that I was just falling for the hype.

This last Thanksgiving though, was different.

Picture this: a dozen people, all from different countries, sitting around a great big table in a fancy restaurant in Buenos Aires (hilariously called ‘Kansas’). Expensive versions of traditional US Thanksgiving foods are brought around to the diners, most of whom have never heard of stuffing, several that had rarely, if ever, eaten turkey, and one that had never had broccoli.

But everyone – no matter what country they were from or what they thought (if anything) about the holiday itself – went around the table and shared what they were thankful for. Everyone laughed and told stories and shared memories. Everyone, regardless of the historical reasons for the celebration or price of turkey-laden party napkins selling like hotcakes in the States or my personal hesitancy to embrace something that I’ve always been wary of, hugged and clinked glasses of wine and had a really good time.

I could see why, despite all the philosophical differences I may have with the events, people LOVE holidays.

And this is why I’m looking forward to Christmas, which will be celebrated tonight, the 24th, AND tomorrow; because holidays are what you make of them, and how the media and greeting card companies see it just doesn’t matter.

The only tradition that needs to be adhered to is that you have a good time. Stir in family and friends as appropriate, decorate with delicious foods and unique experiences, and bam, you’ve got yourself a holiday worth celebrating every day of the year.

48 comments

  1. Reading your blog makes me realize and appreciate how much we’ve done during your whole time here, man. It’s been an amazing run, you’ve taught me so much and introduced me to a whole new world. Thanks buddy.

    Here’s to the ladies!

    PS: Swedish from Australia? There’s no chance that she isn’t cute.

  2. Reading your blog makes me realize and appreciate how much we’ve done during your whole time here, man. It’s been an amazing run, you’ve taught me so much and introduced me to a whole new world. Thanks buddy.

    Here’s to the ladies!

    PS: Swedish from Australia? There’s no chance that she isn’t cute.

  3. Reading your blog makes me realize and appreciate how much we’ve done during your whole time here, man. It’s been an amazing run, you’ve taught me so much and introduced me to a whole new world. Thanks buddy.

    Here’s to the ladies!

    PS: Swedish from Australia? There’s no chance that she isn’t cute.

  4. Hey Colin!

    Your holiday experiences are certainly interesting and make me want to move halfway around the world to experience something different than the American cultural norms.

    When we look around at all the holidays, it’s interesting: despite the different methods of celebration, there’s only one constant. That constant is fun. If there’s fun going on, it’s a great holiday. Now if we could only bottle the holiday spirit so we could feel as festive and fun all the other days of the year.

  5. Hey Colin!

    Your holiday experiences are certainly interesting and make me want to move halfway around the world to experience something different than the American cultural norms.

    When we look around at all the holidays, it’s interesting: despite the different methods of celebration, there’s only one constant. That constant is fun. If there’s fun going on, it’s a great holiday. Now if we could only bottle the holiday spirit so we could feel as festive and fun all the other days of the year.

  6. Hey Colin!

    Your holiday experiences are certainly interesting and make me want to move halfway around the world to experience something different than the American cultural norms.

    When we look around at all the holidays, it’s interesting: despite the different methods of celebration, there’s only one constant. That constant is fun. If there’s fun going on, it’s a great holiday. Now if we could only bottle the holiday spirit so we could feel as festive and fun all the other days of the year.

  7. Hey bro, glad to hear you’re enjoying the holidays in a most beautiful and rare place.

    I had just written something similar about my birthday… that people use birthdays as their excuse to party once a year… but if every day is a celebration, who needs birthdays and holidays. But celebrating is always fun.

    Great post (I”m Israeli by the way), and happy holidays-
    Ori

  8. Hey bro, glad to hear you’re enjoying the holidays in a most beautiful and rare place.

    I had just written something similar about my birthday… that people use birthdays as their excuse to party once a year… but if every day is a celebration, who needs birthdays and holidays. But celebrating is always fun.

    Great post (I”m Israeli by the way), and happy holidays-
    Ori

  9. Hey bro, glad to hear you’re enjoying the holidays in a most beautiful and rare place.

    I had just written something similar about my birthday… that people use birthdays as their excuse to party once a year… but if every day is a celebration, who needs birthdays and holidays. But celebrating is always fun.

    Great post (I”m Israeli by the way), and happy holidays-
    Ori

  10. Ah, what a fabulous time! I love that you nailed the whole point of a holiday. If you’re not having the time of your life (or at least a killer awesome time) with people you really care about and love to be around and doing exciting things, eating good food, etc….then is it really a holiday? Or is it a tradition kept for tradition’s sake.

    I had the best holiday last year with your fam (that being said, they aren’t my fam). Here’s to this year being even better wherever we are and whomever we’re with….even at the end of the world :)

  11. Ah, what a fabulous time! I love that you nailed the whole point of a holiday. If you’re not having the time of your life (or at least a killer awesome time) with people you really care about and love to be around and doing exciting things, eating good food, etc….then is it really a holiday? Or is it a tradition kept for tradition’s sake.

    I had the best holiday last year with your fam (that being said, they aren’t my fam). Here’s to this year being even better wherever we are and whomever we’re with….even at the end of the world :)

  12. Ah, what a fabulous time! I love that you nailed the whole point of a holiday. If you’re not having the time of your life (or at least a killer awesome time) with people you really care about and love to be around and doing exciting things, eating good food, etc….then is it really a holiday? Or is it a tradition kept for tradition’s sake.

    I had the best holiday last year with your fam (that being said, they aren’t my fam). Here’s to this year being even better wherever we are and whomever we’re with….even at the end of the world :)

  13. Great story Colin! Spending my entire life in one country, it can be very easy to forget just how different other cultures are when it comes to how and if they celebrate some of our typical holidays.

    Its cool that you spend some time talking about what you are thankful for with a bunch of people that don’t even celebrate the holiday. I guess that shows that other people can be just as interested in embracing our traditions, as we as travelers, are to theirs.

    Would love to see some more photos of Ushuaia, sounds like a pretty spectacular place!

    Happy holidays, and enjoy the rest of your time in Argentina!

  14. Great story Colin! Spending my entire life in one country, it can be very easy to forget just how different other cultures are when it comes to how and if they celebrate some of our typical holidays.

    Its cool that you spend some time talking about what you are thankful for with a bunch of people that don’t even celebrate the holiday. I guess that shows that other people can be just as interested in embracing our traditions, as we as travelers, are to theirs.

    Would love to see some more photos of Ushuaia, sounds like a pretty spectacular place!

    Happy holidays, and enjoy the rest of your time in Argentina!

  15. Great story Colin! Spending my entire life in one country, it can be very easy to forget just how different other cultures are when it comes to how and if they celebrate some of our typical holidays.

    Its cool that you spend some time talking about what you are thankful for with a bunch of people that don’t even celebrate the holiday. I guess that shows that other people can be just as interested in embracing our traditions, as we as travelers, are to theirs.

    Would love to see some more photos of Ushuaia, sounds like a pretty spectacular place!

    Happy holidays, and enjoy the rest of your time in Argentina!

  16. i often think the US is so boring about holidays/celebration compared to the rest of the world. there seems to be more culture everywhere else. or maybe it’s just the newness of a different culture that makes it seem so. :)

  17. i often think the US is so boring about holidays/celebration compared to the rest of the world. there seems to be more culture everywhere else. or maybe it’s just the newness of a different culture that makes it seem so. :)

  18. i often think the US is so boring about holidays/celebration compared to the rest of the world. there seems to be more culture everywhere else. or maybe it’s just the newness of a different culture that makes it seem so. :)

  19. “…because holidays are what you make of them, and how the media and greeting card companies see it just doesn’t matter.”

    word.

    nicely done man.

  20. “…because holidays are what you make of them, and how the media and greeting card companies see it just doesn’t matter.”

    word.

    nicely done man.

  21. “…because holidays are what you make of them, and how the media and greeting card companies see it just doesn’t matter.”

    word.

    nicely done man.

  22. That Thanksgiving at Kansas was really special…Glad you were a part of it..hope to catch you in NZ

  23. I’m with Sean, more photos please!

    The consumerism bothers me as well. It seems like there is nothing left that hasn’t been tinted by it. With that being said, it’s all about family I think. I love seeing my family, and it’s a shame that it only really happens on Holidays. Great stuff, Colin.

  24. I’m with Sean, more photos please!

    The consumerism bothers me as well. It seems like there is nothing left that hasn’t been tinted by it. With that being said, it’s all about family I think. I love seeing my family, and it’s a shame that it only really happens on Holidays. Great stuff, Colin.

  25. I’m with Sean, more photos please!

    The consumerism bothers me as well. It seems like there is nothing left that hasn’t been tinted by it. With that being said, it’s all about family I think. I love seeing my family, and it’s a shame that it only really happens on Holidays. Great stuff, Colin.

  26. @Carlos: The feeling is very mutual, buddy. To the ladies! Also: yeah, she’s a cute girl!

    @Brett: I say that we should be catalysts for the everyday-holiday movement. Anywhere you go, whomever you’re with, make sure that you and everyone else is having a good time. How’s that sound?

    @DTravelsRound: Thanks so much!

    @CouchSurfingOri: Yeah, at this point I figure any excuse to celebrate is a good one. It’s Arbor Day! It’s a leap year! It’s Tuesday! It’s nighttime! Salud!

    @Kristin: Yeah, last Christmas was a whole lot of fun (not to mention New Years!), but so long as we’re having a good time with good people it doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where. It’s true, though, that holidays just for the sake of holidays, where people don’t enjoy themselves or get anything out of it except for a huge credit card bill are detrimental and should be ignored. If you don’t like it, change your frame of reference or just don’t celebrate. Easy breezy.

    @Sean: Oh yeah, Thanksgiving was great, and I’ve found that sharing as much of yourself as you ask others to share is a great way to keep balanced, healthy relationships with everyone you meet. I started this trip with a bit of American-guilt – that is, I was embarrassed that I had a lot more than many of the people here because of where I was born, that my country pretty much goes to war with whomever we want when we want, and the fact that our international standing has been uber-low for the past 8 years – but once I got past that and started bringing other people into the fold, showing them the good stuff about the US, then I think that not only did they get something from the transaction, but I got a better sense of national identity. I was told before I left LA by a friend that has traveled a whole lot in her life that as soon as I leave the country, I’ll discover my inner-Yankee. And it’s true, and I’m pleased to be able to say that my inner-Yankee also enjoys holidays and customs from all over the world!

    @floreta: I think it’s at least partially the fact that the US is such a young country…we tend to err toward trendy rather than traditional (even while we cling to what little traditions we have, they are still constantly evolving). I think the weighty presence of corporatism plays a role in this, too, because if the ‘traditions’ stay the same, you don’t need new decorations each year, new kinds of gift-giving options, new types of food, etc.

    @Eric: Thank you sir!

    @Jackie: It really was :) Thanks for catalyzing the event! We’ll definitely have to meet up in New Zealand and drive an Airstream around the south island!

    @Nate: Haha, fine fine, I’ll put up a bunch of photos. In case you folks didn’t know, I post photos from my trips at my Flickr page and at my other blog, Hard Is Easy (the latter has video content and such, as well). It’s true, at the end of the day it all comes down to spending time with people you care about, be they family or friends or even just yourself.

  27. @Carlos: The feeling is very mutual, buddy. To the ladies! Also: yeah, she’s a cute girl!

    @Brett: I say that we should be catalysts for the everyday-holiday movement. Anywhere you go, whomever you’re with, make sure that you and everyone else is having a good time. How’s that sound?

    @DTravelsRound: Thanks so much!

    @CouchSurfingOri: Yeah, at this point I figure any excuse to celebrate is a good one. It’s Arbor Day! It’s a leap year! It’s Tuesday! It’s nighttime! Salud!

    @Kristin: Yeah, last Christmas was a whole lot of fun (not to mention New Years!), but so long as we’re having a good time with good people it doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where. It’s true, though, that holidays just for the sake of holidays, where people don’t enjoy themselves or get anything out of it except for a huge credit card bill are detrimental and should be ignored. If you don’t like it, change your frame of reference or just don’t celebrate. Easy breezy.

    @Sean: Oh yeah, Thanksgiving was great, and I’ve found that sharing as much of yourself as you ask others to share is a great way to keep balanced, healthy relationships with everyone you meet. I started this trip with a bit of American-guilt – that is, I was embarrassed that I had a lot more than many of the people here because of where I was born, that my country pretty much goes to war with whomever we want when we want, and the fact that our international standing has been uber-low for the past 8 years – but once I got past that and started bringing other people into the fold, showing them the good stuff about the US, then I think that not only did they get something from the transaction, but I got a better sense of national identity. I was told before I left LA by a friend that has traveled a whole lot in her life that as soon as I leave the country, I’ll discover my inner-Yankee. And it’s true, and I’m pleased to be able to say that my inner-Yankee also enjoys holidays and customs from all over the world!

    @floreta: I think it’s at least partially the fact that the US is such a young country…we tend to err toward trendy rather than traditional (even while we cling to what little traditions we have, they are still constantly evolving). I think the weighty presence of corporatism plays a role in this, too, because if the ‘traditions’ stay the same, you don’t need new decorations each year, new kinds of gift-giving options, new types of food, etc.

    @Eric: Thank you sir!

    @Jackie: It really was :) Thanks for catalyzing the event! We’ll definitely have to meet up in New Zealand and drive an Airstream around the south island!

    @Nate: Haha, fine fine, I’ll put up a bunch of photos. In case you folks didn’t know, I post photos from my trips at my Flickr page and at my other blog, Hard Is Easy (the latter has video content and such, as well). It’s true, at the end of the day it all comes down to spending time with people you care about, be they family or friends or even just yourself.

  28. @Carlos: The feeling is very mutual, buddy. To the ladies! Also: yeah, she’s a cute girl!

    @Brett: I say that we should be catalysts for the everyday-holiday movement. Anywhere you go, whomever you’re with, make sure that you and everyone else is having a good time. How’s that sound?

    @DTravelsRound: Thanks so much!

    @CouchSurfingOri: Yeah, at this point I figure any excuse to celebrate is a good one. It’s Arbor Day! It’s a leap year! It’s Tuesday! It’s nighttime! Salud!

    @Kristin: Yeah, last Christmas was a whole lot of fun (not to mention New Years!), but so long as we’re having a good time with good people it doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where. It’s true, though, that holidays just for the sake of holidays, where people don’t enjoy themselves or get anything out of it except for a huge credit card bill are detrimental and should be ignored. If you don’t like it, change your frame of reference or just don’t celebrate. Easy breezy.

    @Sean: Oh yeah, Thanksgiving was great, and I’ve found that sharing as much of yourself as you ask others to share is a great way to keep balanced, healthy relationships with everyone you meet. I started this trip with a bit of American-guilt – that is, I was embarrassed that I had a lot more than many of the people here because of where I was born, that my country pretty much goes to war with whomever we want when we want, and the fact that our international standing has been uber-low for the past 8 years – but once I got past that and started bringing other people into the fold, showing them the good stuff about the US, then I think that not only did they get something from the transaction, but I got a better sense of national identity. I was told before I left LA by a friend that has traveled a whole lot in her life that as soon as I leave the country, I’ll discover my inner-Yankee. And it’s true, and I’m pleased to be able to say that my inner-Yankee also enjoys holidays and customs from all over the world!

    @floreta: I think it’s at least partially the fact that the US is such a young country…we tend to err toward trendy rather than traditional (even while we cling to what little traditions we have, they are still constantly evolving). I think the weighty presence of corporatism plays a role in this, too, because if the ‘traditions’ stay the same, you don’t need new decorations each year, new kinds of gift-giving options, new types of food, etc.

    @Eric: Thank you sir!

    @Jackie: It really was :) Thanks for catalyzing the event! We’ll definitely have to meet up in New Zealand and drive an Airstream around the south island!

    @Nate: Haha, fine fine, I’ll put up a bunch of photos. In case you folks didn’t know, I post photos from my trips at my Flickr page and at my other blog, Hard Is Easy (the latter has video content and such, as well). It’s true, at the end of the day it all comes down to spending time with people you care about, be they family or friends or even just yourself.

  29. I wanna go to a bar at the end of the world!

    Another great post Colin, always interesting to see how other people celebrate holidays.

    Happy Holidays

  30. I wanna go to a bar at the end of the world!

    Another great post Colin, always interesting to see how other people celebrate holidays.

    Happy Holidays

  31. I wanna go to a bar at the end of the world!

    Another great post Colin, always interesting to see how other people celebrate holidays.

    Happy Holidays

  32. Hey Colin!

    Just dropping by wishing you Compliments of the Season! I’m very sure you’re having a blast over there so take care and Happy New Year!

  33. Hey Colin!

    Just dropping by wishing you Compliments of the Season! I’m very sure you’re having a blast over there so take care and Happy New Year!

  34. Hey Colin!

    Just dropping by wishing you Compliments of the Season! I’m very sure you’re having a blast over there so take care and Happy New Year!

  35. “wild and crazy night of clubbing for New Years”

    yes. yes it was. I’m not even going to attempt to top it with New Years 2010.

    And I can say that all that really matters is that each and every day you spend, whether with your close friends/family/or people you just happen to meet, will be filled with a new joy not unlike the first day of a new year.

  36. “wild and crazy night of clubbing for New Years”

    yes. yes it was. I’m not even going to attempt to top it with New Years 2010.

    And I can say that all that really matters is that each and every day you spend, whether with your close friends/family/or people you just happen to meet, will be filled with a new joy not unlike the first day of a new year.

  37. “wild and crazy night of clubbing for New Years”

    yes. yes it was. I’m not even going to attempt to top it with New Years 2010.

    And I can say that all that really matters is that each and every day you spend, whether with your close friends/family/or people you just happen to meet, will be filled with a new joy not unlike the first day of a new year.

  38. Colin, you just made me so nostalgic for that first Thanksgiving meal! I wish you hadn’t left BsAs but at least I still have your blog when I’m procrastinating and not at all writing my dissertation. For this, I thank you. Un abrazo!

  39. Colin, you just made me so nostalgic for that first Thanksgiving meal! I wish you hadn’t left BsAs but at least I still have your blog when I’m procrastinating and not at all writing my dissertation. For this, I thank you. Un abrazo!

  40. Colin, you just made me so nostalgic for that first Thanksgiving meal! I wish you hadn’t left BsAs but at least I still have your blog when I’m procrastinating and not at all writing my dissertation. For this, I thank you. Un abrazo!

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