Often Wrong, Never in Doubt.

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 3. Getting oriented, Buenos Aires by Kiana3 Comments

I have a theory. Everyone who goes to NYU is, no matter to what degree, kind of an asshole. We all have that little (or big) slice of aggressive, type A persona that’s kept us kicking in a city of subway rats, near-death cab rides, $15 coffee, and post-snowstorm black puddles of doom for this long. We like to live in certain terms. That place has the best bagels. This is the fastest way to get to Williamsburg. (Obviously the ‘L’.) Somehow all of our individual definitions of “right” are able to coexist, which makes New York a web of very self-assured, passionate people. So what happens when you put pools of NYU assholes in global campuses? In terms of directions and physical orientation, i’ve experienced what I’m going to call my Evolution of Wrongness.

I arrived in Buenos Aires as me as ever, ready to make the city mine. “Oh yeah no need to worry about me. You see, i’ve always had a keen sense of direction.” Another thing about NYU students and New Yorkers inclusively- we possess a fearlessness that entitles us to walk out in front of speeding cabs and through dark alleys alone at night. So, in my first week here, my blind courage led me all over town to all the places I wasn’t trying to go. Permanently closed restaurants, weirdly specific niche stores, the street that’s named really similarly to the street that actually has the bookstore I’m in pursuit of,— you name it. I was and continue to be in an experimental phase of directional skills here. After my first stage in Evolution of Wrongness, I began to realize that perhaps I should put a little more thought into my navigation. I stretched my stubborn mind to consider mapping out a route before leaving the house, traveling with friends, etc. This sentiment is what I’ll call my second phase; forethought. Planning ahead of time helps! Getting to know the streets around my house helps! Even so, no matter how much I plan, there is still a large degree of unpredictability I’m bound to encounter everyday. To my surprise, i’ve found that this degree presents more knowledge about the culture I’m in than any of my strategies do. Park dance recitals and pop-up art gallery openings are the discoveries that have incorporated “wandering” into my daily routine here.

Yesterday, I sat at a roof bar I stumbled upon in the midst of an afternoon of happy wandering. My seat overlooked an intersection breathing with cafe-goers, skateboarders, and dog-walkers. My friend said something I liked: “I have nowhere to be, but I have to be there now.” We were discussing the leisurely pace at which Porteños stroll, and the adjustment it’s been to suppress the need to jump-kick slow people on the sidewalk. I’m learning how to slow down. Maybe this is my third phase, a phase of being lost, and being okay with that. Sometimes it’s unintentional because the street signs are never where I think they’ll be, but sometimes it’s purposeful. Of course there are instances in which I need to be on time, and correct navigation is important, but the way I see it, I know how to get home, I know how to get to class, and I know how to get to the closest sushi restaurant. These are Kiana landmarks. The rest will trickle in in the form of Sunday morning brunch hunts, rainy day refuges, and glorious distractions that’ll all turn into destinations. Today, for example, I came upon a one-day book fair on my way to the National Library (I will be spending many nights there, I miss you Bobst.) My detour occurred spontaneously within the confines of the mapped out and planned.

Essentially, I know the structure of Buenos Aires I need for the time-being, and I’m filling in the rest with what I find when I wander.


  1. Hi Kiana!! It’s funny because as I first read your post, I was like “asshole? That’s not true” and then I kept reading and thought, okay, this is pretty true. I was completely self assured when I first came to Shanghai, as were most of the people around; however, we all quickly learned that our sense of direction was not not as keen as we imagined. I would say that I have also been through your “three stages of evolution.” I thought the way you broke those down was very insightful and made me feel like I was not alone in terms of how I’ve been discovering the city and also my own limitations.

  2. Hi Kiana,

    I can definitely relate to the sense of being very self-assured when traveling to places, and I have found with the proliferation of mapping apps and blogs suggesting what to visit, I have definitely lost some of the ability to explore a city as one might have 50 years ago, or as a child might. Full of excitement, anxiety, fear and a host of other emotions blended together, when one is unable to tell where one is exactly. So, I think your post was a good reminder for me to put my phone down, slow down and look around, before I miss everything there is to see around me.

  3. Hi Kiana!

    Though I can’t relate to you in terms of my ability to navigate myself, I can completely agree with your regarding the beauty (to put it nicely or through rose-tinted glasses) of unpredictability. Though often I hate how directionless I am, I can’t come to say that I don’t appreciate where this supposed “curse” of mine has taken me. Because of it, I’ve found shops that I wouldn’t have even imagined existed, art galleries and graffiti that are hidden away in the city, and even simply cute neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed. Your post has allowed me to further appreciate the little unplanned things, even if they cause me a bit of inconvenience or struggle in the moment.

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