Saying Goodbye to Chile: On Making Decisions, Taking Risks, and Following Your Heart

Flowers in Ancud, Chiloé, Chile
Flowers in Ancud, Chiloé, Chile

I started off 2016 fulfilling a travel dream: visiting the island of Chiloé.  To reach Chiloé, you have to take a ferry from mainland Chile, crossing the canal while watching the volcanoes recede from view.  Fittingly, I made this journey on January 1, starting off the new year right.  Despite the swirling doubts and anxiety I faced at the end of my time in the Valle de Elqui, I went into the new year with an open heart and open mind, filled with excitement for what lay ahead.

Boats from Dalcahue, Chiloé, Chile
Fishing Boats in Dalcahue, Chiloé, Chile

During my last week of backpacking through the Lakes Region of Chile, I explored Chiloé with a lovely travel friend going through her own transition from living in Chile to moving back to France.  I saw penguin colonies, visited small fishing communities and artisanal markets, headed to the national park, and even stayed in one of the famous palafitos, houses on stilts, as seen below. (Of course, this journey will be documented in a future post!)

Afternoon Light and Palafitos in Castro, Chiloé, Chile
Palafitos in the Afternoon Light in Castro, Chiloé, Chile

After a few days on Chiloé, I followed my intuition to squeeze in a visit to Valdivia, where I explored the rivers and old Spanish forts and even tried some artesanal beer.  The best part of this decision was that I randomly met other interesting, inspirational fellow travelers and seekers at the hostel, where we fell easily into conversations that reiterated one theme: follow your intuition, listen to your heart, trust your gut feelings.

Pacific Ocean from Cucao, Chiloé, Chile
Peaceful Moment in Cucao, Chiloé, Chile

Are we noticing a theme here? After a year of listening to others and doing what I could to help meet their needs, I had lost sight of what I was moving towards, what my goals were, and, quite honestly, what I actually wanted to do with my time and even where I wanted to be.  Santiago? Somewhere else in Chile?  Back to the Valle de Elqui?  What about Peru or even Ecuador?

Sunset in Zorritos, Tumbes, Peru
Sunset in Zorritos, Tumbes, Peru

With all this floating around my head, I headed to Lima, Peru for a meditation retreat and to catch up with my dear friends.  Upon arrival, I was startled by how natural it felt to be in Lima, how easy it was to reconnect with my people there, and how much the city felt like home, even though I had never actually lived there.  During the 10 days of meditation, I had plenty of time to think during the off hours, and the answer became clear: embrace your liberty by going back to teaching online and find yourself a home base.

One of my dear friends helped me gain clarity on where to move by suggesting I separate out different aspects of my life: professional, financial, social, emotional, spiritual, familial, and so on.  Where would serve me better in each of these aspects?

Professionally, teaching online gives me opportunities no matter where I find myself, but I want to be somewhere where I can also focus on writing about travel, somewhere I feel inspired to explore, like Peru.  Financially, Chile is much more expensive than Peru and I was only able to save minimally, which I immediately turned around and invested in my travels.  Socially, my support network in Lima is solid and reliable, whereas in Chile I often felt lonely and like an outsider.  Spiritually, I feel a connection to Peru that I never managed to develop with Chile.  And with regards to my family, it is much more affordable and convenient to fly to the US from Lima than from Santiago.  All things considered, the answer was staring me in the face: move to Peru.  Give life in Lima a chance.

Crossing the Bridge in Diaguitas, Valle de Elqui, Chile
Crossing the Bridge in Diaguitas, Valle de Elqui, Chile

For someone from the outside, this answer may have seemed obvious, but I doubted myself.  To be perfectly honest, on the eve of leaving for Peru, I still feel twinges of uncertainty and anxiety.  But the reality is that nothing lasts forever, everything keep changing, and what matters is right now.  And right now, I am spending my last day in Santiago before heading to Lima.

Two weeks ago, I introduced my replacement to the Valle de Elqui, where her energy and motivation shined through and showed me that the program is going to be just fine.  I spent one last weekend saying goodbye to friends there, packing up the last of my things, and closing that chapter of my life.  While it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the mountains that were my home, my last few days reminded me of why my life is not there and why I need to keep moving forward.

Posing in Barrio Bellavista, Santiago
Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

And that brings me to Santiago.  A week ago, I officially finished my job and said my professional goodbyes. And just like that, I am on my own.  Over the past 10 days, I have invested my time and energy into bringing my teaching website up to date with new photos and new offers, and into exploring Santiago’s most famous sites and hidden corners, trying to get the most out of this truly awesome city in a short period of time.  I’ve had fun with photography and started making lists of all the awesome aspects of Chile I want to write about.  This blog may not bring me income, but it brings me joy to share my experiences with the world, and little by little I am getting more feedback showing that I have helped people plan their trips and learn about South America.

Puente de los Candados, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
Puente de los Candados, Santiago, Chile

Tomorrow, I head to the airport with the rest of my belongings and make the official leap into being a freelancer, living where I want to live, and trusting that things are going to work out.  This is where it is important to take things day by day, to break my plans into little steps towards bringing in income or opportunities or both.  It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by the uncertainty – I’m American, we do not like uncertainty! – but all of the decisions I have made over the past few years have brought me to this point, to trusting that it’s all going to be okay.

Over the past few weeks and even months, friends from all different moments of my life have commented that I am brave, that I live an inspirational life, that they are fans of me and my journey.  This is certainly not the easiest or most clear path through life, and I would be lying if I said that I always feel confident about the decisions I have made recently.  But then I remind myself of the biggest lesson of the past year: remain in the present.  And right now, at this moment, things are totally fine, I am comfortable, happy, energetic, and ready to move into the transition.  I certainly can’t predict what’s next, but when can we ever? Why not just wait for it to happen rather than imagining it?  Maybe that’s the biggest decision I’ve made recently, which I repeat time and time again: release expectations and be with what actually is.

And instead of reading about it, studying it, questioning it, I am practicing it.  Today is all I have.  So I better embrace it.  And on that note, I’m heading out into the summer sun to enjoy my last afternoon in Santiago. 🙂

Sunset in Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

Sunset in Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

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