“And that’s why I have to go back to so many places there to find myself and constantly examine myself with no witness but the moon and then whistle with joy, ambling over rocks and clods of earth, with no task but to live, with no family but the road.” - Pablo Neruda
If you do it right, traveling is more than just introducing your eyes to new sights or your feet to new streets. Through the friends you gain and the cultures you encounter, you come in contact with lifestyles, people, and landscapes you could never have even imagined existed. You begin to gain somewhat of a sense of understanding for this intricately complex world. I truly do not believe that there will ever be any living human being who has the capacity to fully understand this world, but I do believe that we can gain some inkling of understanding, and in my opinion, if we don’t at least try to understand what we can, we’re fools. We have to get on “the road” of which Pablo speaks. Venturing into the unknown is an experience that alters a person. It takes the malleable aspects of one’s persona and molds them into their strongest and most unique forms. The process of exploring the world is a process of exploring one’s self.
One of history’s greatest poets, Chile’s own Pablo Neruda, greatly embraced travel as a means of discovering one’s personal identity, and whether it was just a place he would stop occasionally while exploring “the road”, the exotic coastal town of Valparaíso housed one of his three Chilean homes. The first trip that my fellow IES Abroad classmates and I took with IES Abroad was a day trip to the Pacific coast to spend the day in the two sister cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture and myriad murals that decorate nearly every visible wall in the city, Valparaíso is a city that radiates charm and pride. Our first stop of the day was the illustrious home of Mr. Neruda situated near the top of one of the city’s tallest hills. Built in a very unconventional style and not possessing any sort of symmetry, the house kind of reminded me of a Latin American version of the Weasley’s house from Harry Potter. Inside, nearly every room was adorned with trinkets and artifacts that the poet had collected throughout his many adventures across the globe. Whether it was archaic China or a map of South America imported from Paris, each individual object served to add its own unique personality to the overall charisma of the home. Nearly every floor of the elaborate house had an epic view of the city, revealing the hundreds of petite homes painted in all the colors of the rainbow. Looking out the windows and through the unfortunate heavy fog that hung over the city, I was just barely able to catch my first ever glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Following the house of Pablo Neruda, we took a walk towards the town center through the tight city streets, one of our teacher’s from IES Abroad providing facts about the town and pointing out Valparaíso’s famous churches and vibrant murals. Apparently, the windy and steep city streets of Valparaíso remind many of the tourists that visit the city of San Francisco. We eventually made our way to our next destination, a restaurant situated on the side of a hill beside the sea providing its diners with a panoramic view of the bay and the ocean. By now the fog had lifted and we were able to gaze uninhibited at the shimmering expanse of the green sea. As we ate our food and looked out on the Pacific, two stray kittens meandered about the patio begging for scraps of our food. Needless to say, we decided it was best not to feed them. The guacamole salad and steak we were served for lunch was delicious, although I was slightly disappointed when I was brought a burnt and crusty piece of flan for dessert. My friends around me seemed to think it was quite comical that I was the only one who got gypped with the sad piece of flan, while I, on the other hand was not the slightest bit amused. I got over myself, and after leaving the restaurant and meandering about the city a little longer, our group made our way to Viña del Mar.
The neighboring city to Valparaíso, Viña del Mar holds a reputation as Chile’s #1 beach town. The prime choice for a day trip to the ocean for the people of Santiago (about an hour and a half away by car), the beaches were packed to the brim with beachgoers. While we weren’t there for long, my friends and I had the classic “Viña” experience as we walked up and down the promenade behind the beach that housed a seemingly infinite number of stalls where vendors sold their food and wares. While I didn’t buy any of the merchandise, I did purchase a handful of very sugary churros for my friends and me that made up for my lackluster piece of flan.
It was quick trip to the two sister cities, but it was undeniably a satisfying one. It was a day spent doing exactly what I came here to Chile to do; a day spent exploring. Pablo Neruda would have been proud; it was another day spent traversing “the road.”
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<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I’m just your average 20-year old college student trying to “carpe diem” while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I’ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>