After this trip, my opinion of South America has completely changed. I fell in love with hospitality, kindness to the strangers who only tried to speak English (so sorry for being so American), and wine. Most importantly, I felt less overwhelmed and more welcomed than any other places I’ve traveled. One of my favorite memories was trying to communicate in Spanish with old/grandpa cab drivers. I was able to pick up a lot of words here and there, but my family and I used all kinds of body language to communicate. In some cases, my dad used the Google Translate app to ask more detailed questions (i.e. where to go for seafood, or best artisan markets in the city, etc).
There was a reason why we picked Chile for our family trip. My brother left for Antarctica around mid-December. His stay at Antarctica was only for three months - as March was getting closer, my dad and I finalized the trip. I had some extra vacation days, so I decided to head down to Argentina a few days early and fly out to Chile later to meet up with my parents.
So I’m going to be honest - I was scared. I’ve only done solo trips to places where I knew I was going to feel safe. South America was never on my list (other than Mendoza, Argentina!!) for travel. I did a bit of research, and I could barely find positive travel experience in South America. Unlike other times, I booked an Airbnb for myself instead of staying at a hostel. (I really needed a break from people in general -_-).
I am so glad that I visited South America. I felt very welcomed by everyone I interacted with - old grandpa cab drivers, locals at metro stations, artisans at the markets, waiters/waitresses who barely spoke English but still helped me to figure out the menu, etc. My heart (and stomach) was full.
Before this trip, I was still struggling inside - dealing with work drama, constantly trying to figure out what my next step should be, and finding a healthy balance in life. I lost interest in everything, and I could barely put myself together everyday. I felt miserable - after his death, I was evaluating my emotions to see what other negative emotions or things I needed to let go. I was being so hard on myself.
I haven’t seen my parents nearly two years, and I almost forgot how much I enjoy spending time with my family. On our last day in Santiago, we went to a Korean restaurant (all of us were craving Korean food). The owner asked how long we were traveling and our stay at Santiago. She mentioned that it was so rare to see a family traveling to a foreign country because not a lot of families would even want to do such a thing, especially when the kids are all grown up. I thought it was a normal thing for a family to travel to different places… but I had to admit - to make it seem like a normal thing, there were a lot of planning and coordinating prior to this trip. My dad even learned a few Spanish and English words, researched for places to visit in Santiago and other places, and more. He was well-prepared - unlike him, I just showed up because I’m more of a spontaneous traveler. Because my dad planned every detail of this trip, every one of us enjoyed our time in Chile. This trip, by far, is the most memorable one. Not knowing the language, we managed to navigate around and had the best time.
I do plan to come back and visit other places in South America. During my short stay in Buenos Aires, I met several travelers who were going to Patagonia or leaving Patagonia. I also met some travelers who visited other places in South America, and all of them had positive experiences. So I’ll be back soon, South America! :)
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Watching the Milkmaid - Amsterdam, 2019
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The New Wing
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