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My daughter and I just wrapped up an eight-day adventure in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, the capitals of Argentina and Uruguay, respectively. We had a lovely time. Buenos Aires is an amazing city, one of interesting history and unique contrasts. It feels very European, is quite cosmopolitan, and stands apart from many other places is Latin America (at least the countries I have traveled, which are admittedly only a handful).

Our four full days in Buenos Aires were a ton of fun. We got to see many of the historical sites, enjoyed a walking tour of the northern neighborhoods of Retiro and Recoleta and a bike tour of the central part of the city along with La Boca, an interesting barrio near the old port. This colorful neighborhood is where the bulk of immigrants entering Argentina first lived over a century ago.

But above all the sightseeing we did, history we absorbed, and empanadas we devoured, something else ended up being the best part. And it was not anything I expected.

The gift of friendship

My daughter and I were hanging out at the pool at the Hilton Buenos Aires after our first day exploring Buenos Aires, when we were joined by another family. The three boys jumped right in the water while their parents sat down to enjoy the sinking sun hovering over the Buenos Aires skyline to the west. Within maybe ten minutes, the outgoing kids had engaged us and we were all playing a game together.

Now, my kids and I have met and played with other children on a number of trips now, whether it is in the pool, at a playground, or while visiting some other location. Most encounters are momentary, and we part ways within the hour, never to see them again.

But after about 45 minutes together, things already felt different this time. I could tell the kids were having a lot of fun. Their parents and I also had very cordial conversation, getting to know each other a little bit and swapping stories about why we were visiting Argentina and what we hoped to see and do in Buenos Aires. We’d all be there for a few more days. There was no language barrier, which did help things, as they are from Belfast and we from California.

If the time at the pool wasn’t enough, we all met in the lounge again later that evening (perks of both being Hilton Diamond!). The adults talked well past 8:00, and the kids happily continued playing together. When we said goodnight, the youngest of their sons asked how many more days we would be staying. Underlying the question was actually another: would we be able to get together again? 

The next day our families didn’t see each other, as plans didn’t allow for it. But we did bump into each other at breakfast the following day and again in the pool. It was clear the kids were enjoying each other’s company, and each time their youngest would ask me again when we were leaving. It was sweet.

Spending Sunday together

While we each had separate plans for the bulk of our time in Buenos Aires, our ideas of how to spend Sunday were so similar that we decided to enjoy the San Telmo market as one big group. There were so many stalls with an eclectic variety of goods, ranging from mate cups, to leather goods, to scarves graced with a dozen different portraits of Frida Kahlo.

Together we sampled alfajores, a pair of cookies sandwiching a filling of sickeningly sweet but utterly delicious dulce de leche. Simple, enjoyable moments together that we will forever fondly recall.

a group of kids sitting on a bench

Eventually, we’d run the gamut of everything the San Telmo market had to offer. Putting our heads together, we decided that a visit to El Caminito, a touristy neighborhood in the La Boca barrio, would be a great way to end our visit to Buenos Aires. Since we were a group of seven, we’d need two taxis to make the quick trip there. Minutes later, my daughter, two of their boys, and I were being whisked through the streets of Buenos Aires in the back of a cab.

Hold on, isn’t this a bit too fast?

Belatedly, it dawned on me that a couple I hardly know just entrusted me with two of their three children. I didn’t even have their cell number. I couldn’t (yet) spell their names. If we got separated or we were in an accident, what would I do? How would I contact them? The oddity of not knowing any of them a mere four days prior to now being trusted with their kids was not lost on me.

Yet in another sense it seemed utterly reasonable. I would have had no qualms letting my daughter ride with them. I know that might sound crazy, but if something had happened to me while in Buenos Aires and I had to be hospitalized, they would have been the first people I would have attempted to contact to take care of my daughter.

 A bittersweet goodbye

We honestly couldn’t have had a better day. By the time we reached Uruguay, we were already missing the brief time we’d spent together. My daughter has already told me that the time spent with their family was the best part of the trip. It is funny to set off to have a special father-daughter trip, something which was still successful, only to have the companionship of other kids turn out to be her favorite thing.

It is so odd to make friends so rapidly, only to have to say goodbye just as fast. I’ve not truly experienced this until this trip. We’ve met some enjoyable people over the years, but none with whom we really connected so quickly.

But there are benefits of living in our modern world. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers before parting. Time will tell whether we stay in touch for the long haul, but I have every intention of doing so. We went to visit South America but came home with Irish friends. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you ever made new friends while traveling? Are there people around the world with whom you now stay in touch after meeting during one brief, enjoyable period? 

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