I have made a number of mistakes in the past four months, and it’s not as if I’ve brushed each one off as a learning experience. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re speaking a new language, in a country you’ve never been to before, travelling alone for the first time, or even when you’re doing something you’ve done millions of times before. But at the time, when you realize that your plan didn’t go the way it was supposed to, it sucks and it’s scary. I’ve cussed myself out and probably been more angry and frustrated than I ever have in the states.
On my most recent trip, I took a seven-hour bus south of Viña to Cobquecura and arrived at five thirty in the morning. The sun wouldn’t rise for three and a half more hours, and I had nowhere to stay and one pair of clothes and a towel. I berated myself out for being so arrogant to think I could just go wherever I want with just my one sweatshirt. Every single reason that the trip was a bad idea circulated through my head. I went through the number of places I would rather be, first being back on the bus where it was at least sheltered from the wind, then Viña in the room of the Lorca Cruz Family which has become my home over the last four months, then San Diego where I have a nice mattress with sheets and it’s never colder than sixty, then of course my original home.
The next bus to Viña would arrive that afternoon and I planned to be on it; bailing on the trip that I hadn’t properly prepared for. However, it turns out I did survive the next three hours. It also turns out that I found myself staying two more days in Cobquecura, and met great people and not so great people who never would have passed through my life had I allowed myself to take the next bus to Viña, or had I decided to stay in the warmth of San Diego for the spring semester and knock out more credits en route to graduation.
Something I realized shortly after arriving in Chile is that studying abroad isn’t much of an adventure in the classic sense. I’ve made some really stupid mistakes and come out of them unscathed. As life threatening as a couple hours in the cold may seem at the time, there really are worse things in the world. But that discomfort I felt was very real, and it’s why I won’t ever regret coming to Chile, or making the unprepared trip to Cobquecura.
Even though travel may slow down your career, or deviate from the straight line from elementary school to early retirement, I would argue that it’s worth it. It may not be such a wild thing to do anymore, but it’s still an experience and you can make it as scary as you want. The Chile I’ve described was lived through the eyes of Nate Sweasey. I had my own goals and expectations coming here. I was nervous for my own reasons. I read travel articles like this one hoping to make Chile a little bit less of a scary unknown. You might be able to relate to a few of my experiences, but you won’t know until you make yourself nervous for your own reasons, and see for yourself what you can handle.
Nate Sweasey is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Vina del Mar, Chile. He is currently a Junior at University of San Diego.