“Too Hot To Handle” – The Untold Modeling and Cooking Story

As I sat in the lukewarm swivel chair getting makeup applied for what I believe to be the first time in my life, the owners of the clothing company walked into the previously inviting fluorescent lit room. (In Spanish, unbeknownst to my ability to roughly translate) “Do you think his hair is too long? I don’t think this is going to work, this isn’t what the photos looked like.” “No it’ll be fine,” said the other, “I think the (dirty) outdoorsy look will play really well.” 

For everyone who asked me why I was in Santiago for so long, I have not been entirely forethcoming. While I love Santiago and what not, if it wasn’t for some exciting sexy employment I don’t think I would have stayed so long. Thanks to a connection from fellow handsome man and recently funemployed bud, Colin Twohig, I was picked up by VIP Modeling Agency in Santiago. Devilishly goodlooking Colin had made the acquantiance of this agency a few years ago when he was wandering Chile and connected us via email a while back after I told him I was thinking about coming down here. I have quietly done some casual gigs in the past for outdoor companies including Mountain Hardwear and Mizu so i guess it wasn’t my first rodeo. Pics or it isn’t real… 

Mizu – Always Moving

Necessary shout out to life long friend Zach Alexander for starting it all with MHWand homie for life Carolyn Wegner for being my partner in crime in front of the camera! 

No backpacking trip would be complete without selling your body in some way or another, so I said fuck it and reached out once I got to Santiago. I guess they liked what they saw because I got signed on. Perfect for my current situation, aka hygiene, an outdoor clothing company called Hi Tec picked me up. What happened next was the full D Zoolander, Hanz and even Franz experience! Indoor studios, outdoor adventures, makeup, lights cameras, action, fake snow BOOM. International model life baby! Pow, kabaam, kickin ass and autographing babies. ​I can literally say I have left my mark on Santiago. They will be reminded of me every time they decide to shop at a few specific retail outlets. I will be memorialized, at least until the new seasonal line comes out. Speaking of which I seem to have a knack for winter gear, i.e. lots of clothes. I guess they just can’t handle what’s underneath the multiple layers of goose down. 

Anyway, maybe I’ll share the final product eventually, but for now here’s some behind the scenes. SUPER EXCLUSIVE LOOKS RIGHT HERE

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My agent Fernanda is every models dream. Awake and afraid in the middle of the night? Call Fern. Need directions? Call Fern! Can decide what to make for dinner? Fern! Where’s that other sock? Ferrrnnnnn Existential crisis? Oh hey Fern! What condiment to chose? Ferns got ya. Who’s my favorite agent? Fern is! We were an unstoppable duo and I knew Santiago was where I needed to be. 

I cannot lie, it was pretty friggin fun getting this work. The people in the outdoor industry are great, so you’re not at risk of working with shitty people. I think depending on the brand, you could have a miserable time. People there couldn’t wrap their heads around why I was there. How some dude fresh off the trails ended up in the studio. It was equally strange to me, so I didn’t really have a good answer. Through all of this, I was getting paid, so that’s nice too. Made some true friends and have an open door policy if/when I return. 

Do I feel like I deviated from the purpose of my trip? Not at all. I’m not on a quest to find myself, just trying to have as many awesome and different experiences. Plus I gotta hustle and model life is lucrative. But model life only goes so far and I needed to fill the remaining time chillin in Santiago. So I cooked, and cooked a lot. But before I digress into how dope the empanadas I made were, I want to elaborate on a special someone I mentioned earlier. 

A special and heartfelt shoutout to ma dude Colin Twohig for recently embarking on the first stage of his own world walk about, moving home. Pre first stage was quitting his equally awesome job. While we are friends first and foremost, Colin was also my work wifey. Colin is physically packing, tanning and trimming his bod along with mentally planning and prepping right now for a one way flight to Bali come early July. Colin, a fiery lad not just in personality, but also hair color, is chasing waves out in Bali and Australia before hopefully rendevouzing back in Santiago next year to become … Los Gringos Guapos where we will take Chile by storm as the dynamic Californian modeling duo! The dream is alive as of now. Colin has a taste for adventure and kidney killers and is sure to have an adventure worth following. I wish our trips lined up sooner, but everyone’s got their path. Love you dude and can’t wait to see where you go. 

So as I was saying, model life isn’t everything. While it pays the bills, I needed some more thrills. So #blessed to have a free spot to stay this whole time in Santiago, one of the best ways I could give back was packing the apartment with fresh smells and a fridge full of delish eats. My days consisted of waking up, breakie, maybe a lil reading of Spanish “The Little Prince,” aka “El Principito,” checking in with Fern dawg, picking what to make for dinner, run or climbing gym, hitting up the massive open produce market called La Vega, then returning home and cooking for a few hours. Throw in ransoms coffee shops, hanging with Chilean, Spanish and Gringo friends midday and midnight, dance parties and that was my life. Empanadas were frequent and flavorful. Soups including Brazilian black bean and season squash. Breads were of the banana variety. Plus much more including the dangerous pisco sour and eggs benny combo – made possible by the sours need for egg whites and the bennys need for yolk. 

I want to elaborate on La Vega because it’s the dopest place in Santiago. A double costco size open air produce market where the people of the country come to sell produce and other goods everyday. They essentially cut out the middle man so everything is super cheap. It’s located right in the heart of town and is filled with tasty eye candy if you’re into food. It’s where you go if you want to stay in touch with the real people of Santiago. 

It was super nice to have the time and space to continue my cooking experience from Argentina. There’s nothing better than having the time to cook a full meal for friends and family. It’s a shame that full time jobs make this near impossible. Maybe I’ll have to put off full time work for a bit longer while I master the kitchen. There’s something magical about cooking, music, and a cup of wine. Also, I really don’t like cutting garlic and brussel sprouts. I can live with onions but it doesn’t mean I love it. Currently day dreaming about opening some hip restaurant in SF serving Argentinian asado, empanadas and a side of whatever the hipsters like most. 

With about 6 weeks spent in Santiago, given a few different days and weeks in other spots like Rapa Nui, I can say I feel like I got to know the city and make a foreign home. I really like it there, so much that a possible move back is seemed all too likely. If not now when I guess. I am moving North where I will hopefully be able to finagle a Visa to Bolivia. 

Peace and Love y’all. 

This One’s For You Goose!

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the friendships in our life. Deep breath, I promise the introspection will only be momentary. The friends who you’ve know your whole life. The silly Frenchman who you became best friends with instantly. The friend who flies down to Chile to adventure together. The friend who is the wisest person you know … 

The friend who is an awesome host and lets you crash at their spot in Santiago. Thanks dude! The friends you probably didn’t ever expect to see again until you are reunited in South America. The friends who text to much in group texts. And of course, the friends who just coincidentally have the same butt tattoo. 

Each brings something unique to the table, that otherwise wouldn’t be there. A quote from Into The Wild frequently pops in my head when traveling solo “Happiness is only real when shared.” Now I’m not getting all soft, but it is often true. 

Ive been a bit preachy on solo adventure, so now let’s reflect on the pros of travel companions. 

  1. When you think of something funny but can’t share it with the people around you, so instead you awkwardly laugh to yourself
  2. Having someone to patiently wait for you while you “try” all the ice cream flavors. You’re welcome Frenchies
  3. Not being alone at 8am in a bus terminal when your bus is cancelled and you haven’t slept 
  4. Scooter buds on a remote island
  5. Singing partners for Ja Rule while cooking
  6. Not having to ask strangers to take touristy photos
  7. Frenchies to make dinner on alternating evenings while the Americans poo poo on their cooking
  8. People who have soap you can borrow
  9. Not feeling as bad when the bunk bed creaks because you know the person below you
  10. Not feeling as bad when you throw a pillow at someone snoring, because you know them
  11. Coffee dates
  12. Drink dates
  13. Dinner dates
  14. Dance partners
  15. Cheaper entry because you’re in a group
  16. Someone to eat late night food with and support poor decisions
  17. Someone who makes poorer decions than you and makes you feel better
  18. Feeling comfortable in silence when speaking is just too much effort
  19. Chess adversaries
  20. Someone to bring you toilet paper in your most vulnerable moments 
  21. In general just having people to share everything awesome that happens everyday

Upon arrival to Santiago I was #blessed to have not just any travel companions, but the dopest/illest travel companions possible. Squad name is “So Close,” for so many reasons you’ll have to ask me about another time. The team was as followed:

Manouel 

A man I have already given too damn much praise to. So I will give him no more and only complain about how indecisive the French can be, how crap of a chess player he is and how is cooking is garbage. Unfortunately all of that is untrue, except for the indecision. Obviously when you’re traveling your always pressed for time, so every moment of indecision counts. 

After a week in Buenos Aires together, manouel and I were ripped apart like twins separated at birth for over a month. Fate put us back in loving arms in Santiago after he travelled with fam and I went down to Patagonia. Our day of reunitition when spent in parks of Santiago, under perfect weather conditions for chess. He won. 

The second Frenchie of this Motley Crue is no other than… Mathieu

Mathieu, taking a lengthy work sabbatical to bike South America is clearly the better half of the croissant couple. He hails from Paris and grew up with Manouel. Like most people on the road, he was fed up with his work-life balance and sought a more laissez-faire lifestyle. He is appreciatiave of street art and a great running companion in the hills of Valparaiso. Mathieu arrived in Santiago on a fair tempered Friday afternoon ready for anything. His chess abilities far exceed that of Manouel and I, and he was humble yet unrelenting in demonstrating this. A man with a quick knife in the kitchen and a quicker wit on the street, he was an essential component of So Close. 

The last and pretty much most important member of So Close is the one an only Nicolette

Nicolette, former colleague, lasagna extraordinaire and first and foremost friend, came down to South America on a vacation from the greatest company on the planet, stok. On a two week vacay, she was here for “a good time, not a long time.” She arrived with clear eyes, full hearts and definitely not ready to lose. In reality it was red eyes after a long day of flying, a full single heart and not hearts, but definitely not ready to lose! The main objective of her two weeks was to live the South America life and pack as much adventure into two weeks. My main objective was to make sure she didn’t quit and went back to SF because her bosses would not have forgiven me. My secret objective was to actually convince her to quit and live the dream. Nicolette is the funny bone and liver of So Close, with her incessant upbeat attitude and ability to process whatever challenges we may face. 

Together we became So Close

I meant to just add the group pic, but we’ll leave Ricky Martin impersonator as well. 

Together we set off on a week of ruckus beginning in Santiago. Energy was high on the Friday our two new amigos arrived. After strolls through town to get the foreigners adjusted, we embarked on a weekend of non stop fun. Myself after a month in the wildnerness of Patagonia was equally ready for some city thrills. During the day we roamed the city streets and our evening stomping ground was the notorious Bella Vista. Fortunate to have these friends, because Bella Vista is not for the faint or solo travelers.

The highlights of the evenings was probably the first at Chocolate, a place we might as well be regulars at. If you want to go someplace you are guaranteed to get your dance on, go there. You will be joined by Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias. The highlight of the days in Santiago was definitely our first sat in which we spent 4-5 hours in a 3 block radius. We were self described not feeling very smart that day, and we’re up for any self indulgence. Time was passed with ice cream, art stands, bookstores, waffle sandwiches and slacklining. Probably one of the silliest days in recent memory. 

Our home base in Santiago was Hostel Ventana Sur. A quiet but warm little spot in quaint Barrio Italia. Breakfast was breakfast and beds were beds there. But the atmosphere of the people there made it what it was. A perfect place to cook nightly dinners and hang out with fellow travellers. Damn the dog next door though who has an innate ability to bark 24 hours a day. 

Monday brought the end of the weekend and a bus ride to Valparaiso. Valaparaiso is a artsy hip bohemian little coastal town about an hour west of Santiago. There we spent our days roaming the street art covered roads, talking life and admiring the work. 

Our hostel in Valparaiso, Casa Volante, was one of the coolest I’ve stayed in thus far. Decked out in the local artsy flavor, it’s located at the base of one of the hills, and just a few blocks from the water. It is deceivingly big with more people staying there than we were able to meet. Only thing missing was a good spice assortment for cooking, but this proved to be kind of and upside as we were forever to be creative with dinner. Hand ground pepper wasssup Massimo Botura! Also the creakiest beds and floors I have ever seen! 

The company of awesome people there per usual made the place what is was. When you travel for long enough you begin to see the same people everywhere you go. There are only a few routes in South American backpackers take, and at this time of the year everyone is heading north. WINTER IS COMING. this hostel featured a healthy number of rad French folks as well. Mathieu and Manouel were in heaven. Nicolette and I were in a French immersion program. So many French in Chile! Not many Americans… but I like that. I didn’t come here to learn English, nor French for that matter, but I know you’re picking up what I’m putting down. After hours, everyone congregates in an outside veranda for socializing till the wee hours. mon-wed are not big going out nights for Valparaiso, but that just means more space on the dance floor. 

We returned to Santiago after a few days of bohemian chillin. At the point we reach the part of the plot where everything goes wrong before a final resolution. The drama before the climax, the crux of the story where the protagonists feel almost certain defeat. 

Nicolette and I had purchased bus tickets to Mendoza after Valaparaiso. This was going to be a main feature of her trip – wine country cruisin and living the good life. So on our supposed last night with the Frenchies, we went out with a bang, assuming this would be the last we would see of each other. Sleep would come on our 10 hour bus ride to Mendoza through the Andes. Well we underestimated the Andes, for when we arrived at the bus terminal 8 am the next morning we were greeted with an unfortunate truth that the pass through the mountains was closed because of storms. The words that fit this situation are “you’ve got to be kidding me,” “no fucking way,” “wtf,” “shut the front door,” “yea right dude,” “holy hell,” “god must have a plan for us,” “why does he hate us?,” “I’m so tired,” “this isn’t happening,” “I would kill for dennys breakfast right now.” So we found wifi and went into the situation room, aka in front of a McDonalds. Try as we might to find a new destination, there was no where to go. Ultimately it was time to cut our loses and head back to the hostel in which we technically still had a few hours until check out. To make matters worse it was rush hour and impossible to get on trains, let alone with giant backpacks. Alas, we persevered and made it back to Ventana Sur just as breakfast was going. As we were going inside, our true fate hit us like a brick wall of puppies and kittens. We should go to Easter Island! Why not?? High off our newfound purpose in this trip, we tried to find flights. Unfortunately our dreams were crushed by $1000 price tags. Ok, fuck it, let’s just get some sleep and figure it out later. 

After a day of mindlessly wandering Barrio Italia with the sillies, it was time for another nap. As I was waking up from the nap and snuggling with good ol Manouel, just happy to see him again, I decided to give the flights another look. To my half awake surprise the price had dropped to below $350. BUY BUY BUY! Pounding on the bathroom door I notified nicolette that our dreams have come true. There was a reason the bus was cancelled. Now I’m not a god fearing man, but this did feel like fate! With a little finagling, Nicolette also found an itinerary that worked for her. She would head over a few days before me and return a few days before. Boom baby! 

We proceeded to enjoy house money now having a few more days with our homies. More of the same. Including going to a house party hosted by the lovely San Franciscan’s Courtney and Eric, where we learned the greatest game ever! You put an alcohol bottle box in the center of a circle of people. Each person has to attempt to pick it up with just their mouth. If you succeed you rip a piece off, if not, ‘al seco’ or ‘bottoms up!’ This continues until there is either no box or no people. Ours turned into an Olympic showdown with one representative from each country. Nicolette (USA), Mathieu (France), and someone name I’m forgetting (Chile). Well call it a tie between the US and Chile. A very good showing by the viajaros considering how outnumbered we were. As long as France didn’t win everyone was happy.​

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​I will leave this off here to focus on Easter Island next time. Friends are just the best aren’t they? Hey, why don’t cha go give a friend a hug or a smooch right now! Snoochies,

Joe