It’s Like Coming Home

Just as a new year was dawning, I got myself on a flight back to Chile. And I was confronted immediately with this weird sensation. For me home has usually meant being with my biological family – and it has always meant Virginia. Home is a place that makes me happy and is where I feel comfortable. I am always sad to leave home and excited to return to it. So as you can imagine, I felt quite a conflict of emotion when I was both leaving home AND coming home at the same time.

Because regardless of the fact that I have not mastered the language and there are plenty of things about life here that baffle and frustrate me, Chile has become home as well. Part of that is because I feel like I have come to intimately know Chile. That relationship only grows as I learn more about Chile’s geography, history, current events, writers, musicians, food, dances… all the culture that makes Chile, well, Chile.

But of course, the largest part of feeling at home is the people. I spent the first few days of my return hanging out with friends in Quilpue, exploring Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. I got to stay in their family’s home and engorge myself on homecooked meals that were entirely too delicious (including finally FINALLY eating pastel de choclo). I spent four days hanging with the fam – and I mean the ENTIRE fam, because its parents and grandparents and kids and nieces and nephews and uncles and aunts all hanging out with each other. I feel so strange not knowing when… or if… I might see them again.

Es asi cuando dejas tu corazon por todos lados. I have travelled many places in my life, and I am fortunate that I have been able to spend solid chunks of time in a few places. Pieces of my heart are scattered around this world. My heart is rooted in Alexandria, but Florence will always have a big piece of it. I definitely left some behind in London. And now Chile has staked its claim. Home is where the heart is, after all. And it feels good to be back.

From Chile to Chilly: Home for the Holidays

Happy New Year everyone! When I set out on my journey last July, I was not sure if I would be coming home for Christmas and New Year’s. But with the magic of airline points, I managed to score round-trip flights to DC from Santiago for $50 – money well-spent to avoid the inconsolable homesickness that inevitably would have been Christmas Day alone in South America.

Being at home was certainly full of its own emotions as well, not the least of which was trying not to vomit as we began to watch our 20th sappy Hallmark movie channel Christmas movie. It is so wonderful seeing all my friends and family again, and I have always loved and will always love DC and Northern Virginia. Fortunately while I was here I was able to squeeze in some nice holiday traditions and go to some of my favorite places. I went to the holiday pop up bar Miracle on Seventh Street, which as become an annual tradition, hit up the local wineries with mom, and ate nachos at Murphy’s. But I about cried when I turned onto King Street in Alexandria and was hit with an overwhelming feeling of “you don’t live here anymore.”

The thought of coming back home is certainly appealing, and I was reminded of everything I take for granted when I am here. There is much about home that I missed while I was away, not the least of which is waffles, dishwashers, dryers, and being able to flush toilet paper. But Alexandria has been around for 250 years – it’ll be here when I decide to come back. The time at home afforded me plenty of opportunity to think about the year that was and prepare for the year ahead.

2018 was a big year for me. I lost my job, became homeless, and had to leave the country. Well, not quite. I am fortunate enough to be in a situation that allows me to live my dreams (and, in a fun fact that seems to surprise everyone, extremely capable of saving money and planning ahead to do so). I may not know exactly where I am headed, but I know I am not there yet. Although I may not have arrived at the finish line, the sense of accomplishment I feel in actually doing something I have thought about for seven years has already been such a great experience. Plus I am having fun and seeing so many new places and things. PLUS I might be able to pull off this whole learning-Spanish thing after all.

In 2019, I have very few firm plans – and I like it that way. The feeling of freedom and opportunity that I have right now is truly remarkable, and something that I have never really felt before. I am having so much fun coming up with ideas of what to do with my nomadic life. My general plan is that I want to spend the first half of the year in South America, traveling to new places and working on improving my Spanish. I would like to spend at least a month at home in the summer, and then the second half of the year should see me in Asia visiting friends in Malaysia and Korea (and finally crossing Southeast Asia off the bucket list).

But who knows?!? Everything could change. I look forward to seeing what it brings – for me and you. Happy New Year!