After the trek, I spent my last days in Chile in a recuperative mode, resting my feet and knees, catching up on naps, and aside from work, lazily doing nothing much at all. I met with Fernanda for one last time so we could say our goodbyes. As I grow older, I find it’s harder to meet kindred spirits. It’s a special treat to meet one while abroad, particularly one who is local to the place you’re visiting. I look forward to keeping in touch with her.
Usually, I write my final post of every trip after I’ve returned home and I use it as a recap of my visit and a chance to express some appreciation for the country and the experiences I had while there. However, sometimes re-entering my own country is a bit of a harsh experience and that influences my thoughts while I write. Having said that, I’m giving you fair warning: I’m about to get serious. If you like reading this blog because it’s about travel and generally has a light and positive vibe, then you can excuse yourself at this point and no one will be the wiser. However, if you continue, please forgive me if I say something that you don’t agree with. I will try to be delicate.
Every time I go to a new country, I consider whether I could make it my home. This is especially true in recent years when my trips haven’t just been fueled by wanderlust, but also by a desire to take a break from my home country. Why, you may ask? Well, here’s a perfect case in point: today is my first day back in the U.S. and (surprise!) another mass shooting is in the headlines. According to USA Today, it’s our 307th shooting in 311 days. I was in Chile for nine weeks and I bet you can guess how many mass shootings there were while I was there. I’m not going to blindside you by using this blog to share my opinions on our current gun laws (insert collective sigh of relief), but let me just say this: there are things that happen in every country that occur so often that they become a part of the culture, even if people don’t agree with them. In fact, one of the definitions of culture is “the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time.” That said, the reason I need breaks from my country is because many of the things that we’ve normalized—that have become a part of our culture—are, for me, a constant source of fatigue.
And yet, despite all the places I’ve been, I’ve yet to encounter a city that feels more like “home” than the one in which I currently live in the very country that makes me so tired. For me, this has become a source of internal conflict over the last few years. I have no easy answers for this conflict right now, except that I will continue to live in the place that feels most like home and do what is within my power to influence the change I want to see in my culture. I will also continue to take these travel breaks in order to recharge, gain some perspective, and find a sense of equilibrium in the crazy world we live in. Maybe someday these breaks will go back to being more about wanderlust and less about escape. Until that day happens, I’m so grateful there are places like Chile where the people are friendly and welcoming, and where it’s so easy to “plug into” its lifestyle and create a temporary home-away-from-home. I’m also incredibly grateful that I can take these sorts of breaks when so many cannot.
Enough said. From now on, perhaps I need to write my last post before I return to the U.S., and not right after. Thank you for indulging me, as well as for sharing in another wonderful trip.
Until next time…
Coleen I love reading your posts and am very glad for your commentary here— thoughts people don’t often allow themselves to think or don’t know to think.
Welcome home. We’d love to see you at thanksgiving or sometime soon. Things have been quite rough here but I am trying to celebrate what I can! Ajuna is doing really well so that’s my North Star. Love Annd
Thanks Anne! Will definitely see you soon and look forward to it. I can’t wait to see Ajuna!
I really appreciate you speaking honestly about what you see in “American culture”. I think you have a wisdom that comes from your travelling and having experienced other cultures, and your voice is particularly important. I’m so sorry to have missed seeing you when I came to Portland last month. I hope your transition back to America goes as smoothly as possible (given all the ferment that is happening there now…) Love, Pam
Thanks, Pam. These are surely crazy times for the U.S. I am sorry to have missed you while you are in Portland too!