Santiago is just another big city.

by Val Bromann  :::  10-22-2014  :::  Comments (3)

 in Santiago, Chile

“Santiago is just another big city.”

That’s what everyone would tell me when they said they went for just a night or two before moving on or skipped it altogether. “It’s just another big city,” they’d say. “It’s boring,” they’d say.

But I had already decided that Santiago would be where I’d spend my last ten days in Chile, in South America. I was nervous. People made me nervous. Everyone had me thinking that I was making the wrong choice. Maybe I should have decided to spend more time in Valle de Elqui. Maybe I should have decided to go down south. Or cut over to Argentina.

But I stuck with my plan figuring that, if nothing else, I could spend my last week relaxing in bed with Netflix, going on day tours, or working.

When I got to Santiago, with ten days ahead of me I realized that yes, Santiago is just another big city…

 

Santiago is just another big city with markets.

Lots of markets. Markets full of fresh fish and meat and fruits and vegetables. Markets where you could stop at a restaurant for lunch or pick up something to make later, for dinner.

Central Market Fish market in Santiago, Chile

Central Market fish market in Santiago, Chile

Meat market in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where those who have passed are remembered.

Where a wife might leave her husband beer. Where a family might celebrate a child’s birthday, year after year, even if that child only lived a few days.

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

Cemetery in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city that hosts Lollapalooza.

Because we all know cities that host Lollapalooza are awful. Just awful.

 

Santiago is just another big city with a Plaza de Armas.

I don’t remember where I was or who I was with, but someone somewhere on this trip said at some point, “it’s not a city in South America without a Plaza de Armas.” And that is a pretty true statement.

Of course, I’m only guessing here that Santiago has a nice one. Because it was under construction. Along with the cathedral.

Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with really good food.

One of the best things about Chile is that you’re never really that far from the coast. So seafood is everywhere and some of their best dishes revolve around seafood. And while most of the street food consisted of massive hot dogs topped with everything, the sopaipillas, fried pumpkin pastries topped with spicy salsa, are delicious snacks.

Ceviche in Santiago, Chile
Ceviche. Because, ceviche.

Pastel de Jaibas - crab casserole - in Santiago, Chile
Pastel de Jaibas — crab casserole.

Caldillo De Congrio - eel soup in Santiago, Chile
Caldillo De Congrio — eel soup.

Sushi in Santiago, Chile
Sushi. Which I know is not Chilean. But it’s all I’ve been craving lately. And, hello, fresh seafood.

Sopapilla in Santiago, Chile
Sopapilla topped with spicy salsa.

 

Santiago is just another big city where the national drink contains pineapple ice cream.

The Terremoto, so named because of Chile’s tendancy towards earthquakes, is a drink made of a white wine, grenadine, sometimes pisco, and a scoop of pineapple ice-cream. And it will fuck you up. It will fuck you up…

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

Terremotos in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with a lot of street art.

Maybe not as much as nearby Valparaiso. But enough.

Street art in Santiago, Chile

Street art in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city filled with people with pink or purple or blue hair.

Not everyone. But I saw a lot of people with weird hair colors. And people with weird hair colors are awesome, right?

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can visit Paris and London in an afternoon.

At least on streets named after Paris and London…

London Street in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can easily take a wine tour.

There are plenty to choose from. But please note: a wine tour is not fun the day after you’ve had a couple of those terremotos…

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

Concha y Toro wine tour in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can climb to the top of two hills.

There’s Santa Lucía Hill…
Santa Lucía Hill in Santiago, Chile

Santa Lucía Hill in Santiago, Chile

…and San Cristóbal Hill.

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

San Cristóbal Hill in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where people stop you on the street and ask you to take their photo.

I could be all Humans of Santiago. Except my Spanish isn’t good enough to ask people what their saddest moment is.

Humans of Santiago, Chile

Humans of Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where you can go salsa dancing.

And salsa dancing is the best.

 in Santiago, Chile

 in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city where they block of the streets on Sunday mornings.

So cyclists can take over.

Blocked off streets for cyclists in Santiago, Chile

 

Santiago is just another big city with a rich, interesting, sometimes horrifying recent history.

On September 11, 1973, a coup d’état in Santiago left president Salvador Allende Gossens dead (of apparent, and contested, suicide), leading way for Army General Augusto Pinochet to take over. His dictatorship lasted for many years until a plebiscite in 1988, in which citizens could vote “yes” to allowing him another term or “no” for him to be rejected. The “no” vote won with 56% of the vote, and Chile was free to find a new president.

I’d heard the story many times over my days in Santiago. But it wasn’t until I was sitting in the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago’s Human Rights Museum, watching a video of their 1988 national election that it hit me how recent this all was. The political commercials that played on repeat were very much 80s, very much on television, and very much in color. Something about that triggered something in me. Like you’re so used to reading things in text books, seeing all these old photos in black and white. But seeing those commercials made it all seem so recent, just like seeing videos of victims of the dictatorship’s detention centers speak out made it all too real.

 in Santiago, Chile

 in Santiago, Chile

 

If I had arrived in Santiago first I would have probably stuck to my original plan to stay somewhere for three months. Unfortunately, I arrived there last, just ten days before my flight out of South America. It was a place so many people skipped and so many people didn’t like. It was, maybe, just another big city. But it was a city I could see myself in.

I cried walking through a park my last night. Because there are so many places I see myself living. I want to live in Santiago. I want to live in New York. I want to study salsa in Cali. Flamenco in Spain. Tango in Argentina. I want to go back to Chiang Mai. I want to go to Africa, Australia, Japan. I cried because I want to fall in love. I want to get married. But I fear I will never find a man who wants the same things in life that I want. Because I want too many things. Because I want everything. Because I don’t know what I want. I cried because my life is about to take a drastic turn. And while I’m still not sure if it’s what I want. I know it’s what I need. And so, as I left South America I just had to keep reminding myself of my mantra:

I can have it all. Just not all at once. Just not all right now.

 

 


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The Street Art of Valparaiso, Chile

by Val Bromann  :::  10-20-2014  :::  Comment

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Every time I was buzzed into my hostel in Valparaiso, Chile, the woman at the front desk would ask me, “A dónde fuiste?”: “Where did you go?”

“Solo caminar,” I’d say. “Just for a walk.”

Valparaiso is a walking city. Street art covers most of the edifices, every inch of blank space. Around every corner there is some new drawing to see. You can spend hours just walking, observing.

It’s actually illegal to write on the walls in Valparaiso. But homeowners can give permission to artists to paint on their homes, and do so because they would rather have artwork there than a gang symbol. And so the city is one big canvas, one big art gallery, one big showcase.

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

 

 

p.s. If you walk around Valparaiso, you will probably have a dog following you. Like “Lebron” here who followed us all around the city for three hours one day.

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile

 

 

p.p.s. Since Valparaiso is built on cerros (hills) it can get difficult to get around. So, if you get tired you can always take one of the many ascensores, rickety old elevators that go up and down the hills.

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile

Or, you know, you can take a slide…

Street dog in Valparaiso, Chile


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A Moment in Valle de Elqui

by Val Bromann  :::  10-19-2014  :::  Comment

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

 

I was taking the photos above when a man tapped my shoulder and pointed across the plaza. A parade of people were walking by, clapping, singing, followed by three cars decorated in orange balloons. I moved away to be closer and, as they walked by, saw that the first of the cars was carrying a coffin.

A funeral procession was leading its way through Plaza de Armas.

The parade stopped in front of the sculpture I had just been taking photos of. The cars stopped. People gathered around to remove the coffin and set it up.

A man stood in front of the sculpture and gave a speech that resulted in roaring applause. A saxophone player played a song on the outskirts of the crowd.

It was a memorial for the sculptor, George Nobl, A Hungarian man who lived there in Vicuña and had passed away earlier in the week.

I watched, from a short distance, for as long as I could until I had to meet my tour group and move on.

I had decided to take a day tour of Chile’s Valle de Elqui instead of doing it on my own, as I’d originally planned. I was growing tired of figuring out buses, or finding places to stay. This was easier and took me to all the places and more than I’d go to on my own: Vicuña, Pisco Elqui, a pisco plant, a craft beer tasting, a solar-powered restaurant.

If I had gone on my own, I could have stayed and watched the memorial until it was done. But if I had gone on my own I probably wouldn’t have been in Vicuña at that moment anyways.

There was more to the tour, of course, than that moment in the park. And that moment was in no way part of the tour. But, over the years, I probably won’t remember how the pisco tasted. I probably won’t remember whether I chose the turkey or the goat from the solar-powered oven. I won’t remember any of the names of any of the people on that tour. I won’t remember the random stops for random photos. But I will probably remember watching that memorial.

 

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile

Valle de Elqui Day Tour from La Serena, Chile


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La Serena, Chile

by Val Bromann  :::  10-17-2014  :::  Comment

La Serena, Chile

 

By the time I reached La Serena, Chile, I was feeling a little burnt out. In Bolivia I had traveled a little quicker than I like to. I saw a lot of places, amazing places, but no where I could stay for more than a few days. So I moved. A lot.

I meant to stay just one night in La Serena and use it as a jumping point to explore the Valle de Elqui region of Chile. But I just didn’t feel like getting on more buses. So I stayed in La Serena for three nights. And I took just a day tour to Valle de Elqui so as to not have to think, find buses, find accommodation. And I decided that I would spend my last two and a half weeks in Chile just between Valparaiso and Santiago.

Did I mention how hard it is to find balance while traveling? It’s hard. After La Paz I hardly touched work for a month. I fell behind on my blog. I fell behind on my freelance project. I fell behind in everything.

Sigh. Someday, I will find that balance.

Someday.

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile

La Serena, Chile


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To live will be an awfully big adventure. (On going home…)

by Val Bromann  :::  10-12-2014  :::  Comments (13)

On top of the Hancock Tower in Chicago

Me and some friends on top of Chicago.

 

It’s possible to love two different lives.

So many travelers, travel bloggers especially, love life on the road so much that they could never imagine going home, stopping, “settling down.” And I know plenty of people in my normal life that would never dream of packing everything away to travel for a year or more.

But then there are some of us who live somewhere in between. Who, while at home dream of where we will go next. Dream of our next vacation or career break. Who, while on the road, make copious amounts of wish lists every time West Elm updates their catalog.

Who can’t make up their mind which life they want more because they love each life just as much.

Who just don’t know what they want to do. Which fig they want to choose.

 

My last view of Chicago when I moved away to start my ’round the world trip.

 

I’m going home.

To be honest, I didn’t really have to make the choice. This decision was mostly fueled by my bank account.

My savings account is getting so low that I knew I’d have to face the inevitability of going home sooner than later. Granted, I probably still have more money than most people who set out to travel have to begin with. But, for me, it’s low.

I figured I had until about the end of January to face the inevitable.

In 2011, I earmarked a certain amount of money from my bank account and said, “I am going to travel with this much money and when that is done, I will go home.” And then I went home and changed that number. And then I went home again and changed that number again.

What was once reserved as a “future condo fund” or a “future wedding fund” was now just my travel fund. My life fund.

But, I suppose, there comes a time when you need to stop relying on your bank account and start replenishing it.

And, that time should probably come before you completely run out of money.

People have told me to monetize my blog. To try to get free accommodation, free press trips, free activities. But, while I’m not completely opposed, it’s just not me. I don’t want to be on someone else’s schedule while traveling. I don’t want to write reviews. I don’t want to feel like I’m not writing what I want. (I’ve noticed lately that some blogs I used to love now are just full of sponsored posts and uninspiring content. Something I hope this blog never becomes.) And I really don’t like the idea of selling links or any other bank-handed ways of making money from blogging, that so many others do. That’s not my scene.

I have managed to do some freelance work while traveling. It’s helped, but not enough to sustain me. And, while I’m a good worker, I’m just terrible at finding that work. I’m not a hustler.

And, the truth is, I don’t think I even like working while traveling. I said before that it’s hard to find balance. I don’t like feeling like I have to be tied to my laptop. I don’t like feeling like I need to be in places with good wifi. Any wifi. I don’t like feeling like I can’t be spontaneous. Like I have to stay in places just because I have to do work.

 

Time to dust off my ball gown for work. Oh wait, I’m pretty sure I sold it when I sold half my life to travel…

 

I accepted a job back home in Chicago. A full-time salaried with benefits 9-5 job that will rarely end at 5.

I told them that I could come back at the end of October.

It was a ridiculous request, honestly: “Can you hold this job for over two months?” (This has been in the works for a while now.)

But, for some reason, they said OK, they could make that work.

I took back the job that I quit over three years ago when I decided to travel around the world. The job was open again and I was doing it as an “interim” for four months before I took off for New York and Peru (and Bolivia, and Chile…).

Every day for those four months I thought about staying.

I was torn.

I had never left the job because I hated it. I left, simply, because I wanted to travel the world.

And I enjoyed working again. Surprisingly. Actually, I think I enjoyed it more than I had before. I had a new boss who really understood and valued the web and online marketing, understood what I did, which made doing what I did feel more rewarding. I felt like I wasn’t just working, I was working towards something. And I found myself getting excited over what would happen at the company in the future.

But I wasn’t prepared to stay. Not yet. I had to leave.

I had planned to leave for South America back in March but when the job opened up I came on for a few months to fill in until they found a replacement. I needed the extra money. I needed to pay off my credit card. It was perfect.

But my mind was in South America, not Chicago. I couldn’t stay. So when it was time to leave for New York in July, I left. Even though they still hadn’t filled the position.

I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice. And, honestly, as I’m sure you can tell, I’ve felt lately like I’m just going through the motions of travel. I go to places, I see things, but I spend a lot of time at my laptop. And I have little desire to socialize.

I’m traveling, but not the way I want to travel. And I can’t seem to get out of that rut.

Yes, there have been times here, over the past few months, when I’ve truly felt alive. Like trekking Colca Canyon. Like hiking through the Amazon Jungle. Like Salar de Uyuni.

And, I realized that the times I felt most into travel were the times where I was away from my computer.

 

Starbucks in Cusco, Peru.

Is spending most of your time behind a laptop really traveling?

 

I’m still not sure if I’m ready to go home.

But, sometimes, it doesn’t really matter what it is you want. It’s what you need. And, quite frankly, I need money.

So when the opportunity arose to go back to a job that I loved and a company that I loved, I said yes. And I am forever grateful that they allowed me these four extra months of travel, to “finish,” to get used to the idea of going back, to mentally prepare.

That’s not to say I’m never going to travel again. I totally negotiated to get extra vacation time. And, I’m sure, someday, in the future, I will be back to traveling full-time.

My biggest fear is that I’ll get too stuck again. That I’ll never leave. It’s valid. I don’t intend to live with my mom and save all my money and leave again in 6 months. First, I wouldn’t do that to the company. Second, I don’t want to live with my mom. And third, I don’t want to live a life in limbo. I dream of decorating an apartment and so that’s what I am going to do.

I know it will be hard to save.

But, I’ve already quit two jobs to travel. So, I think it’s safe to say that, someday, I will be on the road again.

Someday.

But, for now, I am doing what I need to do.

And I’m excited about living in Chicago again, a city I love (in the summer anyways…). And I’m excited for all the things that being “settled” brings.

So I will go home. Get an apartment. Buy one of those couches I’ve been lusting over. Buy a bed. A real bed with as many pillows as I can imagine and clean sheets and enough blankets to keep me warm at night. Take hot showers. Use a towel that doesn’t smell like mold. Wear clean underwear. Flush my toilet paper. Take guitar lessons. Cook in a kitchen that has what I need to cook in it. Eat at all the Chicago restaurants I want. All of them. Watch theatre and improv and opera. Read all the Baby-Sitters Club books. Go to festivals. Do yoga (OK, don’t hold me to that). Enjoy coffee shop mornings. Drink coffee that isn’t Nescafe. Date (hopefully…) Train for the next hot dog eating contest. Watch the entirety of Netflix in one sitting.

And I’m going to have real health insurance (not just a cheap plan with a ridiculous co-pay). So I’m going to do things like ask another three doctors if this lump on my shoulder is anything to worry about. (For the record three have already said no…) And get my hearing checked so I can finally hear what men are whispering to me on bed. (If you have ever whispered anything to me, I didn’t hear it. Who knows what I’ve agreed to…)

It’s another kind of adventure. Really.

 

Val and Christina in Galway, Ireland.

I met Christina at TBEX last year and haven’t seen her since leaving Galway.

Today, I leave Chile, I leave South America, and will fly to Madrid to hang out with my friend Christina.

And then I will spend my last week as a travel blogger like any girl should: at a travel blogging conference. Yes part of the reason I asked them to hold the job until the end of October is that I had a ticket already to TBEX Athens.

Don’t worry though, I only slightly kid about it being my last week as a travel blogger. I never considered myself to be a travel blogger to begin with. I’ll keep blogging and thoroughly intend to be a total domestic goddess blogger. Or, something like that. So expect more posts about tofu salads and finding the perfect couch. I hope you still follow along. I promise to still be the same neurotic girl who has captured whoever is out there reading this. I promise to still take cool photos that will inspire you to see Chicago or make a smoothie or spend a weekend watching Netflix. I promise to still have random sex and tell you about it (hello Tinder!)

So, three years and four months after quitting my job in Chicago to travel the world, I am returning to Chicago to take on the same job. I fly back from Greece on October 27 and start work on the 28th. (What, you didn’t think I’d come back a moment sonner than I needed to, did you?) Yes, I’ve been back before. But never with a sense of permanence. This time, it will be for the long haul.

To live will be an awfully big adventure.

As the last line in the movie Hook goes.

And I think I am ready to live for a while.

 

 


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