My South American journey has come to an end. I arrived back in Canada on Wednesday evening, after missed connections and travelling back to LAX and then to Toronto. My son and his friend excitedly picked me up at the airport (to applause! – that was fun haha).
I had an amazing time in Chile, and can recommend to everyone to take some time to explore the entire country. From Santiago north to Arica, there is so much to see and discover. I have made a list of my highlights of my trip.
Santiago was the first stop, and was a typical big city with some interesting barrios, delicious food and amazing scenery.
- The Andes – the incredible mountains looking over the city. Absolutely stunning to see from all parts of the city.
- Cerro San Cristobal – the hike up to the top of the hill was breathtaking. The statute was so amazing to see up close, and the entire trip to go up to the top was great exercise. The ride down on the funicular was slightly terrifying for me, but was fun.
- Barrio Bellavista – the area at the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal is teeming with funky bars, restaurants, shops and graffiti filled buildings.
Valparaiso/Vina del Mar
Second stop was Valparaiso. The funkiest city I experienced in Chile. It was cool, eclectic and had an edge to it. I would travel back to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.
- Graffiti – almost every other building had street art or graffiti filling it. Incredible art to see. Every turn found more art to view. Stunning!
- The beaches – Vina del Mar had the most pristine beaches, the incredible first views of the Pacific Ocean and the walks along the beach.
- The food – so many different varieties of food to try, the aromas, the taste. It was delicious to wander the streets and try new foods.
This pretty little town set between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean was breathtaking. The sunsets over the ocean, viewed from my terrace at the hostel, was my evening ritual. I couldn’t get enough of walking through the streets and seeing the sites.
- The festival square – I arrived on a Sunday morning and wandered down to the main square, where a festival was taking place. The music, the food, the crowds of people – it was a feast for the eyes and nose!
- The views – most impressive views of the ocean.
- The calmness – I was impressed with how calm the city was. Everyone walking around seemed so relaxed and happy – I would be happy living there too.
The “pearl of the north”. Antofagasta is a city that offers so much – it is on the edge of the Atacama desert, so it is a dry city. Not much rain falls here, but it is fascinating. It prepared me for the dryness of the desert.
- The sea life – sea lions, pelicans – but sadly no penguins. The fish. It was very cool to see the sea lions and pelicans.
- Seafood – the seafood of the Pacific is the best I have ever had. Antofagasta has many restaurants to sample so many different fish dishes.
- The wharf – I spent most of my days wandering down to the wharf, to watch the fishing boats, to eat fresh fish, to people watch. Antofagasta was a very pleasant surprise!
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro – the driest desert on earth. It was dry, dusty, I felt like I was in the old west – the adobe buildings, the stray dogs – it had such an interesting feel to it. I discovered a lot about myself here, and overcame fears I have had in my life.
- Valle de la Luna – the Moon Valley. The most incredible part of my entire trip to Chile. Sounds a bit corny but it truly was life-changing for me.
- Pukara de Quitor – a visitor’s area about 30 minute walk from San Pedro. Walking across a river, climbing to the second rest stop, and looking out over the valley. Worth the sunburn I got!
- The Milky Way – I was lucky to have been in a hostel that I had another terrace to sit out on. And we were far enough away from the town’s lights that I could look up in the sky and see millions of stars and the milky way. Incredible!!
Surf City!! My last stop and I picked a great place to end my trip. I spent almost every day on the beach. Such a relaxing way to end this amazing trip.
- Playa Chinchorro – my beach of choice. A 10 minute walk from my hostel. A 5 km beach with white sand, warm waters, body boarders, and surfers. Lots of fun to watch!!
- 21 Mayo Av – the pedestrian street in Arica – restaurants, little shops, street vendors, buskers (rapping in Spanish is always interesting to hear!) – something for everyone!
- San Marcos Cathedral – the Cathedral that was designed by Gustav Eiffel – such a unique cathedral to see.
I am now back in Canada for a couple of years – but I will still continue to take small trips while I am here. For now, I am going to get back to being a Canadian and taking in all things Canadian. I will enjoy being back with my family and friends.
I read a lot of blogs. My favourite are the travel blogs. I recently read a blog that talked about “quitting your job and traveling” and was slightly surprised at the negative comments the blog received. Comments like, you have to be an upper middle class person to be able to do. Or, if I had a relative leave me a big inheritance then I too could do that. So much negative thinking!!
But what really struck me was the one comment that was made about how these blogs glamourize the idea – that the only blogs people are interested in are the ones that talk about the glamour of travel and not working. I hope to prove that wrong.
Traveling is not cheap- but it doesn’t have to be expensive either. I am NOT one of these people who inherited money, or am an upper middle class resident who can afford to be traveling and seeing everything that I am. I am neither of these people. I was (and still am) a very hard working person, who worked long long hours in order to save up enough to move to Europe, take a course to be a TEFL teacher, and set up home in Prague. I was lucky to have found some great roommates along the way that helped with the expenses. But I did it all – with absolutely NO credit cards. I saved in Canada before I left. When I started teaching in Prague, I worked every single day – Sunday to Saturday – for at least the first six to seven months. There were cancellations that enabled me to have a day off here and there –but it was hard work. I finally managed to get a good working schedule going that I was able to take some weekends off.
After being in Europe for over a year, I finally managed to save enough money to actually go somewhere for a long weekend – London England. And again – my entire trip was done with no credit. All cash. I followed that with trips to Berlin, Paris, back to Canada for five weeks, and then moved to China. Was it easy? No! Was it worth it? Absolutely. Every single minute of teaching so many days was worth it because of what I was able to manage to do.
Traveling is not always glamorous. As I sit in my room here in Chile, writing this blog, I think about the hours of teaching I have done since getting here (when WiFi cooperates). I get up most mornings between 5:30 and 6, teach for about 4 hours and am done at 10am. And then I can start my touristy stuff. And I am okay with it. Because I know that if I didn’t have the students that I do, I would NOT be able to be out here traveling through South America.
There are days that I would love to just shut off my phone, get up and just go – not worrying about the students and the work. But I know that I need to do it because that’s part of my life.
I love my job, I love that I can teach from abroad, and I love traveling. So long as I am able to do this, I will do this. I have gone through a lot and will continue to go through more – life is a learning journey after all. But I KNOW that if I can do this, then anyone can. You simply need to have the drive.
So for those people with the negative comments about not being able to do this without an inheritance or a lot of savings – you are right – you won’t ever be able to do it. Because that is what YOU have told yourself.
An extraverted protagonist. Sounds interesting right?? I recently did a personality test and my results show that I am an extraverted protagonist. A diplomat People’s Master. It all sounds very confusing. It was something a close friend thought I would find interesting. And I did!!
It showed me results that definitely resonated with me. All but one section definitely is my personality. And it also showed me some ways to strengthen my weaknesses. Things I will definitely start to do!
So why am I writing about this here? Really, who cares about someone else’s results of a personality test?
I am not writing about this to share my results. No. I am writing about how personality traits can make us stronger or weaker as we grow older and explore our self-worth.
When I was younger, I was very shy. I did well in school but kept to myself a lot. As I went through many struggles in my adult life, my self-esteem grew stronger, I became more assertive and my personality changed. I became the person I am today – in my eyes, I am a strong, self-assured woman who can do anything she wants and be a success at whatever comes my way.
Traveling has changed me. Seeing different cultures and dealing with situations I never would have had to in Canada have made me humble.
We take for granted so many things in life. So many of us want material things (and I am not saying anything against that – it’s just not for me), but living in northern China has made me aware of so many struggles these people have on a daily basis that are beyond their control. Living in the conditions they do have made them stronger than any other culture I have seen so far.
While my complaints of China are many, the strength and perseverance of these people is truly admirable.
So like the title says, whatever you are be a good one. If you are a neighbour, be a good one. A mother, a daughter, a teacher, whatever it is you are – strive to be a good one. The people here in Changchun have shown me that, despite the conditions they live in, they take it in stride and they are the best they can be. Their personalities shine through. I will take away from this chapter in my life the strength I have seen of the Chinese people. And I am now, and forever will be, a better person because of it.
Life is a journey, and that journey is not always sunshine and roses. There are daily struggles we all deal with, no matter where we are.
Laughter ~ despite having bad days, whenever you hear the sound of a child’s laugh, your day can be brightened in an instant. Miscommunication because of language barriers are a common thing when traveling and living abroad, and that’s why I always walk through the park near my home so that I can hear a child’s laugh to cheer me up.
Love with all your heart. It doesn’t matter if it’s not given back. The more love you spread, the better the world becomes. There was an English Festival at the school this week, and there is one young boy in Grade 2 who always holds my hand and hugs me whenever he sees me. He came into the room I was in, and sat beside me. He held my hand, and looked at me and said I love you Louisa. I love this job just for those moments. I know my life is better because of these kids.
Every day, we need to smile, even if we don’t feel like it. It makes us feel better and makes the person receiving it feel better. Not every day is perfect as a TEFL teacher living abroad, but its infinitely better than sitting at a desk for years.
Laugh, love and smile ~ life is too short not to remember these three simple words!
My life has been anything but easy. I have experienced challenges with every turn in the road of this life. It has only been recently that I have chosen to embrace every challenge and conquer it.
Czech Republic was one of my biggest and most challenging roads to take. Leaving my family, my comfortable job and a steady pay cheque was the scariest thing I have ever done. With a strong desire to succeed and to show everyone, especially myself, that I could do this, I put my nose to the grindstone, worked hard, worked long hours teaching, and succeeded. With the willpower and determination I knew was needed, I gave it all my all and was rewarded with amazing students and great new friends.
While moving to China can be seen as a huge move, and it was, because of the experience I already had moving away from my family, the transition was much easier to cope with.
If you have a strong desire to see the world, if you are willing to sacrifice the comfort of the known, if you want to be challenged, then you can have this life too. You just need to reach out and grab it.