Lessons From Locked Up Abroad: Running From the Law in Argentina

The southern half of the South American continent consists mostly of Argentina, the eighth largest country in the world. The distance from the north to south stretches 3,650 kilometers (2,263 miles) going from jungles to icebergs. Both South America’s highest and lowest points are found in Argentina, and the same goes for the continent’s highest and lowest temperatures. Argentina isn’t a country you’d want to get lost in, and it’s definitely a destination you wouldn’t want to be running from the law without money or a passport.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Lucy Wright. The Englishwoman was arrested for drug smuggling. Rather than risk jail in a foreign land, she fled the authorities without money or passport. She traveled over 1900 kilometers (1187 miles) from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Sao Paulo, Brazil, hitchhiking most the way. She even had to swim across Iguaçu Falls to avoid border security.

Lucy’s incredible feat of endurance and determination was fueled mostly by adrenaline, but she needed a fair amount of luck to help her along her way. Not once did she allow the mounting challenges overwhelm her. As she said, “I could have cried every day but I hadn’t let the self pity kind of wash over me.”

Lucy faced almost insurmountable odds, but she was never paralyzed by fear. She made the decision to run and committed to it. With five countries bordering Argentina, she could have wavered over her exit point. However she focused on Sao Paulo right away. But without money, Lucy was at the mercy of other drivers for transport. At every moment, she risked being caught by the authorities and hauled off to jail.

Argentina’s massive size presented her with many opportunities to cross the border undetected. Lucy thought Iguaçu Falls would make easy crossing point, because she’d blend in with the other tourists. Unfortunately, there was only one bridge to Brazil, and it had an immigration checkpoint. Exhausted but determined, she slid into the river and swam for her freedom.

Lucy never accepted defeat. If she had doubted herself at any point during her trip, she would have increased her chances of failure. If you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of trouble in Argentina and you’re on the run from the authorities without your passport and money, perhaps you can learn a little something from Lucy’s experience, so you can avoid arrest and keep your freedom.

  • When you decide to run, don’t waste time being indecisive. You need to gain as much distance from the authorities as possible, so choose a destination and get moving. Fast.
  • Hitchhiking is a gamble, and to do so in unknown territory can be extra nerve-racking. Don’t feel obliged to hop in a vehicle if you don’t have a good feeling about the vehicle. If the driver looks like the stabby-type, politely decline and/or run away.
  • If you face an unconquerable obstacle, you may need to improvise or take a risk to earn your freedom. Lucy swam Iguaçu not knowing what was in the water, but she didn’t let the fear stall her. Your success is determined by the limitations you’ve placed upon yourself.

Tune in to Locked Up Abroad: Escape From Argentina Wednesday at 10P et/pt


  1. Larichic
    May 17, 2012, 5:14 pm

    Awesome , but wasn’t filmed in Argentina or Brazil, this location is well know for me and is URUGUAY ,Location El Pinar. The river that Lucy swam is not a river is a narrow lake that ends in the near beach.

  2. adrian
    New York
    August 6, 2012, 7:10 pm

    I was fascinated by Lucy’s story, but I don’t feel comfortable with the tone of this post. Lucy isn’t an escaped slave, or an athlete or someone running from sex traffickers – she’s someone who agreed to smuggle drugs for drug dealers. While I think Lucy suffered and was tricked by people she trusted, if those drugs had made it across there would be more suffering, addiction, abuse and possibly death for the dealers and addicts who would be selling and using it. I love this program, and I enjoy it immensely, but I don’t think this post sets the right tone – Tips on what to do if you’re on the run? Who is this intended for?

  3. Sharon
    August 23, 2012, 1:09 am

    Watched the episode last night! Lucy’s experience is stuck in my head right now – Gosh wat an amazingly strong woman. Yes, it was not right to smuggle those drugs but she’s learnt her lesson.. We all make mistakes, dont we.
    Being street smart holds more value than plain intelligence is what this episode has taught me. These episodes not only teaches the adults but also the young to know the right from the wrong and learn from other’s experiences..

  4. ricardo
    buenos aires
    October 12, 2012, 1:08 am

    She made a mistake and most foreigners get caught in Argentina with stuffed suitcases or carrying it inside their bodies.She was very brave and lucky though and deserves the chance to move on now.

  5. omar el rahmani
    January 30, 2014, 6:44 pm

    i see you in my dream lucy you know iam omar from egypt and morocco you should know ilike you and i like your story and idreamed befor see you brogram and idreamed you well arested

  6. Denise
    Los Angeles
    May 17, 2014, 2:56 pm


    I agree 100%. Unlike a lot of the subject individuals on the show, Lucy wasn’t tricked into smuggling–she did it willingly. She was fortunate she even got to spend time out on bail and look how she reacted. I probably would have wanted to run also but this NatGeo post rubs me the wrong way by encouraging/helping CRMINALS evade justice.