Finding myself, outside my comfort zone

There is nothing like a sky full of stars and the solitude of rural Chile to help extinguish life-induced anxiety. The clarity that exists in a foreign, breathtaking region is something that few get to experience, but everyone should.

My venture down into Latin America bloomed from a sort of circumstantial misery. Life as I knew it was filled will stress and uncertainty. Dub it an existential crisis, if you will. I felt that every day I stood on Massachusetts soil, stuck within the walls of a grueling job and plagued by the permanent nausea of a commuter, I was losing pieces of myself. I slowly stopped recognizing this worn-down, shell of a person that took the name, Samantha Clark. Quick fixes helped the day-to-day, like ice cream and therapy. But the biggest push I needed was an adventure.

I traveled with my older brother, which could have gone either way. But he didn’t hate me for losing my passport the day before our flight and didn’t yell at me for being late to the airport. Instead, he met me at Logan with a smile and a sense of adventure. He clearly needed this trip as much as I did. The 13 hours of travel were a lot for both of us, but the free booze, complimentary of Delta, made the journey that much more bearable.

Upon my first step off the plane, I was met with many challenges. I was tested in every way possible, physically, emotionally, and linguistically. However, even strict customs, castellano language barriers, and a heavy pack could deter me. Renting a car in a foreign country is not the easiest feat, but proved to be simple compared to the Chilean driving and traffic. Switching currencies is tough, but still less stressful than remembering not to drink the water. Despite even the largest inconveniences, the country of Chile changed me for the better.

I ate locally, purchased gifts from artisans, spoke the native language, adapted to all the customs, and I was fully welcomed into this remarkable country. I slept for more than 8 hours for the first time in a year. I ate food I could not pronounce.  I saw the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere with no light pollution. I got many flea bites. I sipped on the best Carménère  I will ever have in my life. I accidentally hiked up the downhill bike path of the San Cristóbal Hill. I drove through the rugged terrain and felt so small next to the great Andes Mountains. I stretched my arms out wide and breathed in the salty sea air of the Pacific.

I fell in love over and over again.

I flew thousands of miles outside of my comfort zone. I entered a culture that values communication, family, hard work and fine wine. All the while, I learned things about myself only possible within the narrow, albeit beautiful, walls of Chile. The isolation that exists, fully-immersed in this culture, is magical and transformative. Days stretched long into the night. Our week-long trip felt like a mini lifetime of good food, even better wine, conversation, and exploration. With every bite and sip, every mile down the road, every “mucho gusto” and “buenas días” and every new friend, I fell in love. Over and over again.

As much as it pains me to admit, this trip also would not have been nearly as wonderful without my big brother by my side. I truly am a believer in the words of adventurer,  Christopher McCandless, happiness is only real when shared. It was really easy to be honest with both Drew and myself, under the full night’s sky in Cobquecura, Chile and on the 22nd floor of an apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We experienced this journey alone, but together. Every day I asked him, “how are we ever going to verbally explain this”, or stated, “pictures honestly don’t do this view justice.” But I reveal in the fact there was another human there with me. Someone who saw what I saw, ate what I ate, and lived what I was so lucky to live through. This trip is something no one can ever take away from us. It exists forever and so does its impact.

The name “Chile” is thought to derive from a native word meaning “The land where the earth ends.” Considering Chile’s unique geography, it may indeed be the land where the earth ends, but it is undoubtedly the land where my life began.

Samantha Clark