AA Gill Rides a Pony and is Pleasantly Surprised

"You should always pack as few preconceptions as possible."

The self-assured travel writer, AA Gill, immersed himself into the cultural pool of Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires and Patagonia. He begins his story before he left England - in fact he begins his story before even deciding to pack his bags. Upon conversation with a publisher, he states the somewhat embarrassing truth behind travel; "our imaginations are still hooked on holidays in history" and the most common tourist destinations as in fact "where the natives have second-language English we can patronize and giggle at." Hopefully this isn't the motivation for travel, but I'm afraid to say upon my own experience with tourists, I see how he can make this statement. And undoubtedly, this analysis makes for a great transition into his own story with the lead up to the possibly offensive but convincingly acceptable agreement that Argentina fits just that description.

With bags in hands, AA Gill takes us into the realm of Argentina. Reading this made me remember that first taxi ride of my own from the airport, through downtown BA, and into Palermo, a creative hipster district near the city. I'd never been to Paris, so the nickname "Paris of South America" didn't mean much to me, but the hustle and bustle of the city did remind me of a big city in the States. AA Gill made the same analysis. He finds the comparison from BA to a European city from the restaurants, the stores, even the sounds and smells, but it wouldn't be AA Gill if he doesn't come to his own witty conclusion about the city: "This, it turns out, is Argentina's little problem. There are Italians who speak Spanish and want to look English."

Two years ago as I walked the streets of Ricoleta I came across a park with colossal trees. The same trees Gill comments on in a surprisingly positive perspective. With travel comes preconceived notations, and these are hard to break when it comes to stereotypes of the people, the language, the food - but trees. No, nature got AA Gill there: "I wouldn't normally mention trees in the city, but BA's are spectacular."

If keeping score, considering the city structure and the marvelous trees, we have AA Gill at nil and Argentina at 2. Not that this is any loss for Gill - it's exactly what he is portraying in this piece of writing. The best travel advice I have ever received was in Argentina from my good friend Gawa. We were chatting back and forth over pollo con papas fritas and escalope con ensalada about the upcoming adventure to Boston when she told me something along the lines of, I try not to make expectations, because then no matter how good it is, you'll be disappointed.

This rings true for most things in life, and AA Gill is showing how negative notations about a destination before having experienced it are just as detrimental.

He writes, "We have more in common with the Argentina that I knew" and continues to elaborate on Britain's building of the railway systems and how they "tried to invade two or three times in a halfhearted, flirty sort of way." He also related the love for polo and the observation of how women respond to men. At first he was drawing sound connections between England and Argentina about polo and how English women move down to Argentina, then comes the criticism of the women not being promiscuous enough. A joke to make comparison between home and travel? Or a prime example of Argentine machismo? He continues with his masculinity to describe the Patagonian landscape as though it were a woman, objectifying the body of the opposing gender.

Regardless of his either playful or pungent personification, he continues on with the the true moral of the story. This time, he is faced with a challenge: horse riding. Gill explains how he has ridden a horse twice and how both times ended horrifically. Yet, matching his desired theme, riding the patagonian pony isn't as bad as he thought it would be. He even managed to explore a bit and go hunting, which apparently goes a lot smoother in Patagonia due to the mass about of game. In fact, he finds himself going against his entire preconceived notation about Argentina and gets so into the culture, he is mistaken for one of their own.

AA Gill successfully delivered his theme: "You should always pack as few preconceptions as possible."

  • Andrew Jenkinson (Banned)
    Andrew Jenkinson 2038 days ago

    Interesting Syd, a very personal and well articulated response. What I still need you to do is to identify the key purpose of the passage and express this in one or two sentences, just so that I can get you working with thesis statements. Do that and then move on to the next segment.

    Mr J

    Sydney Morris 2034 days ago


    In AA Gill's Ride 'em Cowboy, he uses his experience from traveling to Argentina to emphasize the importance of leaving expectations behind when traveling.