A Year Alone Through Latin America
Author: Kate McCahill
Paperback: 350 pages
Cover Design: Gwen Grafft
About the Book
Spanning four seasons, ten countries, three teaching jobs, and countless buses, Patagonian Road: A Year Alone Through Latin America chronicles Kate McCahill’s solo journey from Guatemala to Argentina. In her struggles with language, romance, culture, service, and homesickness, she personifies a growing culture of women for whom travel is not a path to love but a route to meaningful work, rare inspiration, and profound self-discovery. Following the route Paul Theroux outlined in his 1979 travelogue, The Old Patagonian Express, McCahill transports the reader from a classroom in a rugged Quito barrio to a dingy rented room in an El Salvadorian brothel, and from the storied neighborhoods of Buenos Aires to the heights the Peruvian Andes. A testament to courage, solitude, and the rewards of taking risks, Patagonian Road proves that discovery, clarity, and simplicity remain possible in the 21st century, and that travel holds an enduring capacity to transform.
About the author
Kate McCahill lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she is a member of the English faculty at the Santa Fe Community College. Her writing has been published in Vox, The Millions, and in the Best Travel Writing and Best Women’s Travel Writing anthologies by Travelers’ Tales. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Praise for Patagonian Road
This is poetic writing, spare and deep, that unashamedly plumbs the depths of the solitary heart as it is pried open to learn that “it is in feasting on the unknown that we come to know ourselves.
“With her Lonely Planet guide in one hand and Paul Theroux in the other, Kate McCahill backpacks from Guatemala to Buenos Aires losing love and finding a whirlwind assortment of ex-pats, aid workers, travel junkies, and locals. Patagonian Road is a millennial’s adventure story, roughing it in the age of Skype and cell phones, through a Latin America still in recovery from decades of revolution, American meddling, and authoritarian misrule.”
— Douglas Glover, author and editor of Numero Cinq
“Oh, what a stunning and gorgeous book this is, and one I can’t wait to gift my daughter when she’s ready. The story of a young woman’s year-long trip through the long and winding highways, foot-paths, city streets and dusty back roads of Central and South America, Patagonian Road reminded me of my own journeys and made me pine for the ones I never had. It also expanded my understanding of what the journey is – McCahill’s rich and vivid and complex tapestry of landscape, culture, geography, ecology, and economics, shows us, lyrically and with great tenderness, how the individual is part and parcel of a much larger whole, and how we can’t find ourselves without finding the world outside ourselves. I lived and breathed every place this book touched down and when I turned the last page my heart ached for the journey’s end.”
— Robin MacArthur, author of Half Wild: Stories
“Debut author McCahill measures her yearlong memoir on the Patagonian Road in seasons and countries. We follow her through markets, on buses, in hostels, barrios, brothels, streets, and mountains, as she simultaneously captures the solitude as well as the wonder of the path. McCahill takes a similar route to Paul Theroux’s 1979 travelog The Old Patagonian Express. But where Theroux is confined to the rails – no immersion – McCahill plunges in, body and soul. Although this road has been trodden, the author’s journey and insights, as she explores (and teaches) her way from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, have a presence and immediacy. She struggles candidly with fears, identity, love, vulnerability, homesickness, and road weariness, but is also open to the perspective “the moment” can bring. She considers the reciprocity between traveler and local; the inward exploration of self that travel delivers; the connectedness of our surroundings; and reawakening our senses. VERDICT: This welcome (and timely) call to explore foreign borders as well as our own comfort zones is highly recommended.”
— Library Journal
“Kate McCahill is a blues traveler, singing for citizens of the world who have no public voice. She depicts beauty within despair, allowing us to hear a comforting melody in an unsettling breeze and see the gorgeous colors within a bruise. If a feeling of loneliness pervades her essays, so do feelings of wonder and pleasure. It’s simply impossible not to share her joyful and frequently bewildering sensations of travel.”
— Sascha Feinstein, author of Black Pearls
Elegantly written and beautifully observed, McCahill’s journey takes her across mountains and cities, into the reaches of culture and history, and into the self. Much of this is experienced from the seat of a bus, surrounded by a sea of humanity, both part of and an observer of the passing scene. A love affair is lost, new ways of being are found, and the adventurous McCahill turns herself not just not an intrepid traveler but into a fearless writer. By turns charming, scary, vivid, and reflective – this is a treat for the reader who need not buy a ticket but only open its pages to be transported.
— Miriam Sagan, author of Black Rainbow and Searching for a Mustard Seed: One Young Widow’s Unconventional Story
“McCahill’s debut grants readers a passenger ticket for her yearlong trip through South America on a writing fellowship. She follows the Patagonian Road, traveled and written about 30 years prior by famed author Paul Theroux. McCahill takes Spanish lessons as she travels, observing the customs and qualities of small and large cities in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. The detail of her accounts is impressive. Instant coffee, hotel-room doors, and “noisy birds unseen” are recorded with care. The narrative adopts the arrival-departure rhythm of travel, and each chapter presents a city’s personality. In Antigua, for example, “earthquakes are part of the psyche.” At first, McCahill fears her trip on the Patagonian Road. A year is a long time to be separated from family and from her lover, with whom things become strained. By year’s end, she has struck a different path than Theroux. This is a compelling addition to the growing genre of solo travelogues by women who end their journeys stronger, more self-aware, and more connected to the world.”