A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly - Pablo Neruda
When I was initially starting to plan this trip last year (that feels a bit weird to type), I didn't know much about Chile at all and started seeking out recommendations. So many things I read and heard pointed me towards Valparaiso. And now, after my last two weeks on the Chilean coast, I can confirm, every single one of those recommendations was spot on. Most people I met in Valparaiso don't spend anywhere close to two weeks, but I did intentionally to give me some extended time in one place, especially during the holidays, before setting out on a month of traveling around through Patagonia. My plan was for those 2 weeks to be relaxing and calm. While I had tons of fun, relaxing and calm wouldn't be the proper way to describe it. But with weather constantly in the mid-70s and sunny with a slight breeze overlooking the water, it's my type of city. I've found a direct correlation between proximity to water and my mood...I need to keep this in mind when I get back to the real world.
A few highlights from my stay in Valparaiso (at Mitico Hostel):
- I had several days aimlessly wandering the hills discovering the endless varieties of local street art. It's nice to see something more artistic than someone tagging their name with a spray can
- Rumbling, bumbling, and stumbling my way down the sand dunes, followed by getting my first surf lesson. As we were on the bus to the surf spot, I was secretly picturing myself being a natural. I have no idea why, it's not like my athletic prowess and shown itself in any other sport, but I had quiet confidence. Yea I was wrong. Shocker.
- Seeing sea lions compete with seagulls for dinner 20 meters off the beach
- On December 24th, had the privilege to sit through both a Christmas Eve potluck, as well as my first Chanukah dinner celebration. My Israeli friends even made a Hanukkiah out of a toilet paper roll, bottle caps, and candles. Traveler's creativity on display
- 5 days of lounging on the beach, with varying levels of sunburn
- Hanging out with Beto, our mostly-lazy yet effective guard dog
- Seeing the 2nd of Pablo Neruda's Chilean homes, this one high up in the hills overlooking the bay
- Getting more confident with my Spanish with each passing beer
- And the perfect way to end the stay, the massive New Year’s Eve celebration. There were 15 barges filled with fireworks along all the local beaches from Valparaiso to Concon, and through the hostel, we gained access to a 10th floor balcony for one of the best views in the city. After that, the party spills out onto the streets and lasted until sunrise when the military came to clear the streets (last part is strictly hearsay, I didn't quite make it to sunrise).
I met some amazing people through the hostel (seems to be a pattern developing, which makes me happy). But I can already tell how different the second half of my trip will be from my first leg in Buenos Aires. For the most part, the people you meet will be for a few days and then you say your goodbyes. It's not as much about trying to develop friendships as it is meeting new people, having some laughs, sharing stories, exchanging travel advice, and simply enjoying the company. I'm not sure one's better than the other, but there's a vast difference between the hostel/backpacking lifestyle and immersing yourself in one place for a few months.
And I suppose I should quickly reflect on the New Year, as people tend to do this time of year. It seems especially important for me, given the last 6 months I've experienced and figuring out what the future may hold going forward. 2016 was obviously the most unique and possibly the most impactful year of my life from a personal standpoint. I took a blind leap of faith that quitting a good job and leaving a good home was a worthwhile investment of my time and money, and I still expect that by the end of this trip, it will be my most worthwhile investment ever. I've never been a big resolutions guy, but I have a few general goals in mind as I look forward to 2017:
1) Always try to catch myself when I identify something as challenging, uncomfortable, or potentially awkward, and bust through the proverbial wall to see what's on the other side
2) Keep an open mind, and try to avoid saying no as much as possible.
If anyone has a resolution or something they're working to improve and wants someone to help keep them accountable, let me know. I love hearing about how people are trying to develop and happy to help in any way I can.
I hope everyone had a very Feliz Navedad and Año de Nuevo. Pucon summary coming soon.