Travelling South America has been one of the most eye opening and interesting things I have ever done, and I have realised it is the way you travel which dictates the experiences you have. We are an Australian couple, who studied and lived in Valparaiso, Chile for a year and a half, and then hitch-hiked, camped and volunteered through Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Perú, Ecuador and Colombia for the next year. One thing which really allowed us to make contact with the culture and people was to learn the language, absolutely vital. Learning a language also shows you a different way to look at expressions, concepts, thoughts and ideas, can make you think about your own language too and why it is the way it is.
While here in South America we have learnt A LOT… about the culture, the history, the food and the people; especially how some people can be absolutely open and kind, while others can be completely and utterly unconscious of the pain their actions have caused. We have had people we met hitch-hiking buy us food, give us money, let us stay in their houses, take us to restaurants, leave us somewhere and pick us up in the morning, among other amazingly kind hearted things. We have also witnessed and experienced acid water being sprayed on us and other innocent people by the government forces. One day particularly will stick with me forever; in Valparaiso, Chile a protest (one of the many) for free education. Some people were dancing and playing musical instruments when all of a sudden, completely unprovoked, a dark green tank like a-war machine comes round the corner and sprays these people with a gas and water that burns your face and body for days after, also preventing you from seeing, guess that’s why it’s called tear gas. Then, behind us we asked some navy personnel if they didn’t want free education for their children and they just laughed, we figured it was a complete and utter lack of consciousness, and they were well too far gone to be reasoned with.
Thanks to us learning the language we were really able to connect with the culture, but even more so by hitch-hiking, Couchsurfing (using Couchsurfing.org) and volunteering in various different environments. Here in South America, we have learnt the meaning of inequality where some people don’t have clean drinking water, but some have mansions and 3 cars. We have now realised how very lucky we are to have been born in Australia, to have the opportunities to learn, to travel, to see our world. We have been lucky enough to see glaciers, deserts, mountains, lakes in mountains, volcanoes… volcanoes exploding, rainforests, amazing beaches, waterfalls, the Amazon, the Amazon River, and many more amazing things. Living and travelling in so many different climates really allows you to see the varied and unique beauty of our world, and makes you appreciate them so much, each for what they are. Allows you to appreciate having a house and routine as well as having all your possessions on your back, passing through unknown places you will never see again, it’s all experience, just different. We have also been blessed to be able to just observe the world go by, not having any real ‘work’ as such to distract us from nature going on around us, watching birds, ants, monkeys, butterflies, the moon and sun just going about their day. This idleness really enables you to start to see yourself in the big picture, the big context of the world and its varied species, the planet, the stars and the sun, the people and the cultures. So if you take anything from this, it is learn a new language, travel, volunteer, study abroad and take notice, pay attention to the world going on around you, stop rushing around and slow down and watch the world go about its days, because it’s going on like that whether you’re watching or not.
With Peace and Love,
Nathan and Olivia