Unfortunately, UW-Whitewater had to make the decision to cancel all Winterim and Spring study abroad programs. If you have any questions, you can stop in our office McCutchan 204 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still want to study abroad? Below, check out some international virtual programs our providers are offering!
Our first ever Virtual Global Experiences Fair is now available on Canvas. If you do not see it listed as one of your courses (try scrolling down), you should be able to access it directly with this link: https://uwwtw.instructure.com/enroll/YYXBXC
Plan ahead for life after COVID! The Office of Global Experiences is hosting our Fall Study Abroad Fair on Canvas, all day October 1st. Learn about the types of programs we offer, how you can afford to go abroad, and how to keep on your graduation schedule. Check it out!
Due to the global pandemic, UWW is not sponsoring any Summer 2020 study abroad programs. Decisions will be made soon regarding Fall 2020 programs, and students are advised to prepare both for study abroad and for staying home and deferring their program.
It’s tough to put into words what the Patagonia experience has meant to me, but here’s an attempt to do so anyway. This blog includes journal entries, digital photos, 35mm film photos, phone photos, a 40 minute movie and some self-reflection. Enjoy.
Watch the movie below:
Happy New Year! Writing this from a plane that’s going from Miami to Santiago (the capital of Chile). I’m stoked to be traveling again, I need a shift in perspective & a reminder to be more mindful again.
Another day of travel today. I slept on/off on the flight. We arrive in Santiago where it seems quite arid. Bags are checked and we have a few hours in the airport in Santiago before heading off to Balmaceda where the adventure begins. Completely refreshing to be in the mountains again. My sense of time is still kind of whacked out from the flying. At the airport in Balmaceda we met our guides Cristian, Pancho, and Christian’s brother (also named Cristian- a little bit confusing). After loading up the trucks we head off. The drive showcases already how majestic this place is. We pass layers of mountains and head through some small towns. Eventually arriving at the house where we’ll stay our first couple of nights, I’m immediately floored. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever experienced. Greeted by a backyard view of the towering Andes mountains and a Patagonia blue lake, I snap some photos and make my way over to three friendly dogs. It just doesn’t seem real, like a place I could stay at forever.
Inside the house I get my first taste at a new obsession, the regional drink called Mate (Mah-te). The comradery around drinking the Mate is something special that’s difficult to explain. That’s my favorite part. It becomes a daily occurrence for our group on the trip. The drink itself is an herb that’s similar to tea. Except it’s very bitter. The server pours the water in the cup, someone takes a few drinks through a bombia (it’s like a metal straw), and passes it back to the server who refills the cup for the next person.
After dinner, we enjoyed an evening walk. It’s lovely and freeing. The sun doesn’t set here until around 10:30 pm. The night ends with some discussion about packing our bags for the trek and lots of laughter.
Woken up today by a glorious ray of sun. I’m sleeping on the couch and I look out the window to see the sun shining on the mountainside. It all still seems like a dream. Soon the chatter of folks beginning to cook gets me out of bed. The day begins with a nice cup of coffee. A wonderful breakfast follows, breakfast might be my favorite meal of the day. Or maybe it’s just that I love mornings, a fresh start, that’s what this entire trip feels like to me.
Anyways, afterwards we head out for a quick day hike down to the lake. The hike starts with a little fence jumping and bushwhacking before going up to some mountainous views and heading down to the lake. An old boat and a few shacks greet us down by the lake. This scene coupled with layers of towering mountains sure makes for a nice aesthetic. A group of us choose to soar off the dock into the water. Glacial water isn’t a joke, the water is so cold that it’s difficult to breath. Rejuvenating. At this point I realize I’d like to snag some photos of everyone jumping in the water. After a quick run back to the shore across the rocks in only my underwear and hiking boots, this is a reality. Afterwards, it’s time to head back and complete our 8 mile hike. The way back is all uphill, my legs feel great. The air is fresh and it’s been too long since I’ve had a proper hike. This day gives me a taste of what I’m in for with the rest of the trip.
Upon returning to the house, I’m able to sit outside, pet some dogs, take in the view some more, and have a few, but notably meaningful conversations. These range from veganism, land usage, sustainable tourism, and governmental land protection/destruction. After eating more high quality food & drinking high quality juice. Next up we learn about how to properly back for our first trek.
I have time to go over some photos before making dinner and enjoying a feast. After dinner we all head up the hill for what turns out to be a spiritual experience. It’s just tough to put words to these things. I sit there and watch the sun light up the clouds and the sky while thinking. This is a healing place.
“He who rushes in Patagonia loses more time”
Wake up with the sun and the commotion in the kitchen this morning. It’s a morning of quality breakfast and packing for the first trek. Next up, we head out to the van for a 7 hour ride to Lago Verde. No doubt this was the most beautiful drive of my life, I didn’t want it to end. We pass through Coyhaique and many smaller towns. We bump reggae spanish music and I’m in my happy place. On the way we take a pit stop at a (causal for Patagonia) mammoth waterfall where I can get some crazy scaled photos.
On the road we stop at a small seaside town called Puyuhuapi. There’s a plethora of quaint small houses. Lots of people are outside on the streets playing and laughing. It’s a sunny summer day in southern Chile. We spend some time on a small beach and I admire how clear and blue the water is along with how fresh and different the air feels. Before dinner we scope out a trail up through some farmland complete with cows, bulls, and chickens that leads up to another breathtaking view of the fairytale-esk landscape of mountains, the sea, streams. On the way back we pick handfuls of berries to enjoy.
Before driving a few hours back to Lago Verde, we have a nice dinner at a tiny seafood joint near the water. It’s fairly late in the evening when we get to base camp and begin setting things up. We have a minimalistic tent it’s easy to setup and takedown, this is important when you’re living out of backpack and on the move everyday.
After getting our bearings straight at basecamp it’s time for a second dinner. At this point it’s late, 11:00pm. Sheesh, this meal is good. It’s a hearty soup with breads, salads, vegetables, and drinks. We all feast and laugh until it’s time for bed. Looking forward to getting on the trail tomorrow.
“Patagonia is a healing place”
Today begins with roosters squawking as the sun rises. After stumbling out of the tent we get some coffee brewing and some carmel flat breads cooking. Before we head out on the trek there’s some time to walk around the town of Lago Verde and make our way to a few lookout points. The mountains are just a gorgeous as always and this all still feels like a dream. Upon returning to base camp and building out my backpack I can’t help but feel an overwhelming mixture of excitement and gratitude just from being exactly where I am.
Finally, we start our first trek. The beginning is a lot of uphill and with a good amount of weight on my back, I can totally feel it. It’s that good burn. We cross rocky rivers and once we get on the mountain side I realize I’m scaling some of the steepest trails I’ve done. Around every corner I tell myself it doesn’t get any better than this… and then it does. When we stop for a break we can fill up our water bottles in the glacial streams and eat any of the numerous berries around us.
Around the midpoint of the hike we stop for a view of mountainous layers and I get my first taste of the view of Argentina. Also at this stop, there’s a giant slab of rock with pictographs that our guide Cristian himself discovered. The wind up here is not joke. A little while down the bend we find a covered spot and stop to make some lunch (it’s almost 6:00pm so whatever you want to call this meal). Man the food just tastes better when you’re outdoors all day. It’s rad to just walk and cook and play frisbee. Everyone’s getting along, getting to know each other, and getting more comfortable.
As we get prepared to continue the trek and look for a spot to camp out for the night we’re greeted by an authentic Chilean gaucho who rides up on a horse, ready to guide us up the mountain. After passing through layers of snow-covered mountains lit up by heavenly rays peeking out from behind the clouds, we find a place to call home for the night. It might be the coolest place on earth. Everything good seems to be happening to all of my senses at once. When I find myself in these situations I like to run through all of my five senses individually and really try to experience each one.
Night begins to creep in along with thunderous looking storm clouds. I sit on the edge watching this weather pattern roll in and experience the most intense wind I’ve ever felt. Dinner takes place under a tiny cooking tent and we all huddle up together to stay warm. This is the best feeling – being out there laughing with everyone, enjoying the good food and good company. The sky remains ominous looking as I hit the hay.
Waking up again with the sun. Today I eat breakfast and drink my coffee from the side of a mountain watching the sun catch the peaks in the distance. I gather some wild strawberries to make that granola extra sweet. Shortly after we hit the trail to continue the trek. The back is heavy today, it feels like maybe 25-30 lbs and the incline appears to be almost straight up. I love it. The views are just that much sweeter.
Some sections of the trail today are just buschwaking off trail through trees, rocks, brush, and everything else. It gets tough to walk at some portions but I can use my trekking pole as a gauge. I’m having the time of my life. It seriously feels like this is a movie or something. Is a hot sauce bearing cowboy really guiding me up a mountain in Chile? Yeah.
In the distance we can see murderous looking storm clouds. Somehow they always manage to pass us by without wreaking havoc. We take a break in our trek to snack on some trail mix, dried fruit, and chocolate. We spend some time enjoying each others company, laughing and making jokes. I also notice I can see Lago Verde in the distance, the actual lake nestled within mountain valleys. The water is an indescribable pure blue/green shade.
The group makes our way to a location that might be ideal for setting up camp for the night after some scouting. The plan is to set up camp there, eat a meal, scale the mountain, and return down in time for dinner. Lunch is beautiful. I’m realizing how good it is to spend all day walking, cooking, setting up camp, resting, and talking with good friends. It seems almost primal or something like that, but living so simply is something that we miss the value of. There’s a lot of noise and distractions around us all the time back home that try to convince us that there’s more to be worried about. Something else I’ve been realizing is how close you get with the folks you’re with when you do a backpacking trek like this with them.
Everything seems good to go for the final stretch up. This is the steepest hiking yet and making it to our destination is a dramatic feeling I know I can’t put words to. Rays of sun peak through the clouds and shimmer onto endless layers of mountains in the distance. The freshest air on the planet slaps me in the face in the form of winds so strong they could blow any of us over if we aren’t careful. All of many senses are completely stimulated. This is the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had.
Time doesn’t seem real, but after some amount of it in this transcendental place, our cowboy friend bids us farewell and we head back down to camp. It’s a wild good time sliding down the sloped trail. We arrive back at camp as night falls, I lay down completely exhausted, but completely in the moment. Good conversation, good mate, and good card games to end the night. Be here now.
It’s raining this morning. Seems like the rain finally did catch up with us. Everything stayed dry overnight, even though these tents are simple, they did a great job of keeping us dry so far. Another morning of coffee and fried bread with the best view on the planet. Now it seems like it’s time to pack up our things and prepare for today’s trek. This time it’s down.
I have the camera packed up today due to rain. It blows but at least it makes it easier to climb down. Speaking of the climb down, it’s slick, and it feels more like a slide down at some points. We make a few stops hiding under trees and deciding what routes to take. There’s not a real clear way down at this point, that means we do our fair share of bushwalking and mud sliding.
It’s now downpouring on us the entire way. We make sure to bundle up and book it down the mountain. It takes the rest of the afternoon to make it down, but we do make good time with the speed we’re going at. It gets chilly and even though my gear is waterproof by the end I’m soaked to the core. I love it. It’s an awesome story to remember.
We make it down the mountain and hide out in a chicken coup while we wait for a truck that’s on it’s way to take us and our gear back to base camp. The hot mate drink was very welcomed at this point. We really feel like a family huddled up together with the chickens. The truck ride back to the Lago Verde base camp was brilliant. It’s through extremely rough terrain and mud/water. The truck we took was actually more like half a truck or a skeleton of a truck due to the shape it was in.
Upon arriving back we’re gifted with some good news. We have hostiles for the night! This means that we can dry our soaking wet clothes and bodies. AND we get a shower. It’s an ice cold shower but nonetheless I enjoy it. Drying off by the wood stove and taking off my boots is probably the greatest feeling. The entire group piles into this tiny area and shares some drinks (fresh wine made fresh from the farmer), laughs, and stories.
We have one of the most memorable dinners of the trip tonight. Pancho cooks a pasta with beans and veggies, adding hot sauce for an extra bit of glory. We laugh so hard during dinner, everyone is so happy. The first portion of the trek is complete and we jam to some classic rock tunes along with a muppets version of Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’ve never heard Kermit The Frog imitate Freddie Mercury, it’s a treat I’d recommend. There’s a point at dinner where I’m just watching Pancho serve up some pasta (seems like a random moment) and I realize I’m completely overcome with emotion. I feel so inexplicably at home, like it’s where I’m supposed to be.
Last night I was kept warm by multiple blankets in the chilly hostile. I wake up in the morning and gather my things before Pancho, Franco, Cristobol arrive and we begin cooking breakfast. We get the wood stove going again to warm things up and chill for a bit as it’s pouring rain outside. Breakfast of avocado toast, eggs con cebolla y tomate, yogurt with granola, and some beautiful Park City coffee. We eat outside as the sun come.
We start packing for the next trek and listen to music and talk for a bit. Next up, we head down to the town to meet with a farmer and watch the first step of the carne asada process. Asada is a lamb and eating the lamb is a cultural event in Chile. Afterwards, we head to the market and walk around the town. The group swings by a thrift store and I pick up a Universidade de Santiago hat.
It’s raining as we embark on the trek to Lago Verde. We’re heading to the lake to camp on the shore. Our hike there is around seven miles. It rains pretty hard for the majority of this hike. Lago Verde is stunning – some of the bluest/greenest water I’ve ever witnessed. Getting to the lake we’re all soaked and pretty cold. A fire is welcomed with open arms. We set up a tarp under a tree to keep us dry.
Eventually the sun comes out exposing a rainbow. It’s gorgeous out for a bit, our clothes are drying on a line, our tents or perched up on the rocky shore, and two wooden boats are docked on the shore. Before the commencement of dinner happens, we walk around skipping rocks and drinking wine. After dinner it’s dumping rain again as we sit around the fire sharing stories as night falls. You realize how much you start to care about these people when you’re out there in it all with them. You can see snow on top of the mountain where we just were a few short days ago. The night ends as we sprint to our tents as the storm rages on.
It’s a dry morning! The sun is shining and it’s warm. Breakfast of that life changing fried bread and coffee. I walk along the pristine rocky beach skipping stones and getting the boats loaded up. I’m really breathing and embracing it all this morning. Today we’re taking a boat ride across the entire lake to our next camping spot. We have one smaller boat and one bigger wooden boat. The boats move at a good pace but it’s a long ride, over an hour. Water splashes up over the sides and I’m pretty wet by the end. But the sun is shining today and being surrounded by mountains from every side makes up for any minor discomforts.
The next campsite on the other side of the lake is farmland next to some horses, goats, sheep, and other miscellaneous farm animals. The group sets up camp here and gets ready to fly fish. Getting ready to fly fish includes setting up our poles and practicing casting. I’ve never fly fished before. We head on into the water and I spend some time on the shore snapping photos of everyone fishing. It’s a relaxing afternoon, I don’t catch anything but a few of the other do.
Now there’s time to roam the space and have a few photos. Dinner tonight is the Asada, I don’t eat animals but this meal is a big deal for everyone else. At night we hang out by the fire for more stories and laughs. A fire with friends is a great medicine, it’s therapeutic. Tonight is a chill night. The stars are beautiful and mind boggling. There’s no light pollution down here and the sheer amount of stars combined with the vividness of the stars is unforgettable. It’s a spiritual experience being down here.
WARM today. It’s very different from the cold last night. Last night was the first night that wore a fleece to bed. Per usual this morning we are gathering our stuff for a trek. It’s a gorgeous day today, I’m ready for a hike. A proper longer hike. It’s awesome and it feels great, there’s so much up and down. We’re in the mountains alongside the lake for the whole time today. I keep thinking about how I want to do a thru-hike of one of the national trails someday. I just love it all, even the burns, aches, and pains. It’s good to be in it and see/feel these things sometimes.
Mid-day we stop for lunch. We hang out a tiny beach shake and cook our food. Before lunch I have good long talk with Cristian about sustainable off the grid living. I start thinking about what sort of lifestyle I’d like to live and how I can do my best to live as mindfully as possible. Lunch concludes with eating apple cores and joking about Peanut Butter and Pancho.
We continue the hike over some incredible swinging bridges and finally into farmland. We all lay down in the grass exhausted from our hike. We enjoy some beers together and take it easy for a while. Afterwards we decide to head down the road to meet up with a man who owns some land in the area and knows Cristian. As we approach this house I can tell it’s one of the coolest houses I’ve ever seen. From afar it looks rusted down, but it’s actually sleek and modern. The house has a deck viewing the lake and mountains. Lots of big windows showcasing gorgeous interior design. And a Buddha statue sitting amongst a stone garden.
It turns out that the man who owns the place is building it out as bed & breakfast space. He wants it to become a park for the public. It does raise some questions about land management and the definition of what a public park even is in the this place, but after talking to him, his heart does seem to be in the right place. The mans wife & daughter are there too. They’re extremely nice and hospitable, they bring us out some coffee/tea. I sit on the deck with a few people from our group and chat with the daughter Alexandria. She’s’ well traveled and speaks four languages. She’s studying international law at university. The conversation gains more depth and we discuss travel, optimal lifestyles, school, language, the region, and more. It’s a beautiful & perfect time. I realize just how happy, blissful, and clear I am feeling.
Upon getting back to El Mirador basecamp outside the village of Lago Verde, we set up camp and head to the supermarket and wander the village at sunset. Sitting on the ground, finishing up dinner I have a surreal conversation with Franco & Meredith. Franco knows little to no English; however, with my broken Spanish we are able to piece together conversations. We talk life, silly stuff and heavy stuff. Franco’s pet pig following him outside during night walks and art breaking down the obstacles that the world creates after childhood. It’s important stuff and a beautiful/memorable time. Franco carves wood sculptures with chainsaws, climbs, and loves the release of uncertainty on backpacking trips. I’m learning that feeling on this trip, how beautiful it can be when you’re brought into each moment.
I get Franco’s contact info so we can stay in touch when I’m back in Wisconsin. He’s such a pure person. As it gets dark we all look up at the stars. This is the best night sky I have ever seen. We can see the Milky Way and the Southern Cross constellation. It’s so wild how many stars there are, an impossible amount.
“Write more. Make & hold on to special connections/people”
The day starts with that beautiful morning coffee and breakfast. We pack up our stuff as the plan is to head to the thermal baths for the day. After, breakfast a sad time comes as its time to send off Franco. He’s taking a truck into a nearby town to catch a bus back to Coyhaique. We hug goodbye, take a photo, and ‘buena viaje”. I’ll stay in contact with him. Next, we take a walk into Lago Verde to pass the time, I really like this quaint little town. I make friends with a big dog and we play around a little bit.
It’s raining and we chill for a while, reflect, and load up the trucks. We pack our bags crazy high & it looks awesome & funny. The ride is a crazy route and I zone out to music. It’s pouring by the time we get to La Junta for the thermal baths. We have a nice lunch under a cozy wooden shelter at our next location where we meet a nice dutch couple traveling the world in a van. That’s the life. After lunch we head down to the thermal baths and spend hours on end down there. It’s still pouring rain but the steamy water and good company make it pretty sweet.
Afterwards we set up tents in the pouring rain, I do so still in my swimsuit, it’s pretty but also pretty fun. It’s a fun night in the cabin with food and drinks and friends and dancing. Conversations with Cristians brother Cristian in broken spanish will always be held close. He doesn’t speak much English but he is so friendly and excited to communicate with us. Rains all night.
It’s bright and warm when we wake up today. No more rain but things are still a bit wet. I gather up some things and head to the cabin area for some breakfast and coffee. Next it’s time to play some soccer with a few from the group, practice slack-line, and laugh. We all then load up the trucks and prepare to head off to Puyuhuapi for the sea kayaking section of our trip. On the ride to I talk to Trace about the region, sustainability, music, and many more great things. In Puyuhuapi we get lunch, venture around the town to explore, and get the kayaks packed and ready. Puyuhuapi is a cool beach-side, backpacking town to explore.
After a while we head off for some sea kayaking in the fjords. It’s pretty intense stuff, what a good workout and meditative experience. The sea remains peaceful and choppy. I know that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but do some sea kayaking and you’ll understand it. We kayak a good distance of which I’m not sure exactly how long, maybe 6 or 7 km. It takes up much of the afternoon, sometimes I like to slow down and take in the mystic landscapes that the fjords offer. At one point a sea lion starts following us and jumps out of the water real close.
Upon arriving to the shore we scout out a good place to camp and dock the kayaks. In this area of public land you can camp anywhere on the shore near the sea. We find a gorgeous spot with snow covered mountains in the background, space to set up tents, and a bit of tree coverage nearby. We make some dinner and enjoy it. As the sun sets, it lights up the top of the evergreen trees. I head down to the beach to enjoy the show. Mother nature certainly but on a good show tonight. The saturated setting sun glistened off of tide pools along the beach. It feels like a nostalgic summer night, I don’t even think too much about taking photos. There’s a lot of stuff that I take in with my eyes and my mind. Breathe & release all that’s debilitating.
I thought a lot today about how I can make it back to this place as soon and as often as possible.
I’m noticeably hot when waking up today. The weather is turning warmer. Breakfast is another feast and we do some morning preparation for a longer kayaking trek today. Today I’m in a double kayak with Andrea. We can cruise in this sucker. The crew heads out for a while before docking on a beach cove for lunch. Eventually we can see the glaciers – they’re unreal, powerful and a different kind of beautiful. We also reach a point where we come up close to an island that we can circle and get close real close to the shore. I notice how cool all the layers greens in the water are mixing with the barnacle covered rocks.
After lunch we head back out on the sea en route to our next campsite destination. We have a ways to go and have to completely cross the fjord area. The water gets choppy with the wind and we run into some white capped waves that send us rocking as we cross. It’s pretty great, I love it all. I just love being out there in it all. I really sink into the moment. Like Franco told me, uncertainty can be a beautiful thing. (Besides, before heading out, we were instructed on how to avoid capsizing and what to do in case capsizing does occur.)
Its crazy how often I’m reminded of how sacred this place feels. I have good conversation with Andrea about that as we paddle in synchronicity across the sea. Learning and understanding how important it is to remove yourself emotionally and even physically from all the distractions (often toxic) in certain places that we’re used to. Traveling does that for you. It’s dangerous to get pigeonholed into singular lines of thinking.
Anyways we finally dock our kayaks on a beautiful beach and enjoy some beers. After a few we all dead sprint in the water and it’s absolutely amazing, freezing cold, but fun. Pancho runs in and does some crazy dives with us. Cristian runs in and floats around in his bloated, inflatable wetsuit. A storybook scene and some of the best memories I can think of. We watch dolphins and penguins swim by in the distance.
Now we sit on the beach and talk about sleeping under the stars tonight next to the sea. There’s some warm showers nearby that we use and are very welcomed. I hang out in a little wooden shack on the beach for a while and reflect before helping make dinner. I need to reflect more and write more in general. We have dinner on the beach and its just a stellar time – happy.
After dinner we run up a giant hill right next to a bunch of giant cows chasing the fading light. It’s nice up the hill you can see layers of mountains, the Maca glacier from a far, and more. The fading blue light on the mountains has to be the coolest thing. The orangish/pink tones head over the mountain. You can see the sea, the road, the trees, the houses, and the area that we’re camping. Truely feel on top of the entire world (or maybe at the edge of it.) Either it’s an experience that will forever be etched into my mind. I take only a few photos.
After sunset, we run back down to have a fire on the beach, talk and laugh. Sitting around the fire on the beach this night is really all I could ask for, the stars vibrant stars remind me of my place on this floating space rock. I get ready to sleep under the stars on the beach and can’t seem to put words to describe something special as this.
Chattering on the beach this morning lifts me out of sleep on this crips morning. It’s pretty cold, but watching the sun come up on the beach is pretty sweet and I’m ultra comfortable laying down in my sleeping bag. I head over to the rocks to watch some penguins, dolphins, and sea lions swim by. Afterwards we make/eat some fried bread/eggs on the beach while jamming out to nice music for a sweet morning. We then pack for a day of hiking as the sound of the waves crashing into shore plays in the background.
Off now for Parque Nacional Queulat. It’s a quick drive from the beach in Cristian’s car. We all sing along to some songs on the radio, I love it when Christian sings. When we make it to the park we talk to a ranger and head on our way. Right away we cross this gnarly bridge. It’s only 4 people at a time cross this wooden rope & wire bridge. The bridge bounces as we stroll across and towards the middle the landscape opens up a bit- you can see (and hear) rushing rapids over giant rocks The water is a baby blue color, it’s strange to see, it’s directly from a colossal glacier. Speaking of which, further down the bride, we can see it. A bohemeath mass of ice/snow with water crashing down from the sides. Truly a spectacular natural phenomena.
Our hike leads us through the messy forrest to a glacial lagoon pool. The air begins to change – it’s just something about the purity and freshness of it that words and photos are unable to describe. We chill at the glacial pool for a bit, drinking directly from it. After that we head back to a shelter for some sandwich lunches. As lunch ends we head out for a longer hike to get the best view of the glacier. It’s a 3000m hike with steep elevation. Sweating a lot on this steamy day but no complaints, I’m loving it all out here. This trail is so tight, the mossy green trees and mud reminds me of the photos I’ve seen of the Pacific Northwest. It’s another day of proper hiking. Woo!
We get to the top of the lookout point and it’s just perfect. The view of the glacier is just perfect. It’s powerful, astonishing, and all that stuff. We chill there for a while, take some photos, joke around, and holy cats I’m going to miss Pancho. He’s one of those people who has a super similar personality and energy to me. I also start thinking about how mighty glaciers like this might not be around in the same capacity for many future generations to see. I sure am lucky to be here.
Next, we hike back down, it’s good on the body and the muscles. Oddly enough I’ll miss some of the pain on my body from this trip when I get home. The discomfortant means that I’m living right. Then we drive back to the beach campsite for some chilling. I’m thinking a lot about the differences between life in the US and here. The government is still shut down back at home and I just feel so removed from it all. Long-term I’ll need something that will allow me to travel and ground me.
Before dinner I head up to the hill spot from yesterday with Jen, Andrea, Ryan, and Meredith. It’s a magical time, truly meditative sitting on the edge of the hill in complete bliss. It’s a cathartic and therapeutic time gazing out over the calm ocean at the layers of volcanoes and mountains. I don’t know how else to describe it but true oneness. This is one of the most spiritual moments of my life.
After that we head down to the beach again for some dinner as the light fades. We pass a giant bull on the side of the hill straight chillin. Dinner is fantastic, fried vegetables and potatoes prepared by Cristian. After dinner we sit around the fire on the beach. It doesn’t get much better than this. I have a riveting conversation with Ryan and Cristian (brother Cristian). The conversation is about everything and anything, all in spanish, ranging from topics of politics, to differing cultures, to our own stories and experiences.
I can feel anxiety fleeing away.
It’s an early morning today to get on the water early. The poor weather is already upon us. It’s raining, windy, and cold. We eat breakfast inside a nearby shelter while discussing the plans for the day. Due to the nasty conditions we have the choice to drive to our next destination; however, all of us choose to bear the elements and go forth with the seakayaking. We pack up the yaks right after breakfast and mentally prepare to head out. I’m in a double kayak with Meredith today. I’ve been too nervous to bring the camera out on the sea kayaking sections, I’ve only took a few shots with my phone. Today all my attention must be on the task at hand.
It’s pretty intense as we start to paddle. Since we aren’t paddling into the waves we’re moving pretty fast but the kayak rocks more and we can’t even really tell what direction we are going and have a hard time steering. Also, it’s pouring rain. Pretty sweet start to the day.
After a long while of paddling around the Puyuhuapi fjords we see some dolphins and sea lions extremely close to the kayaks. Pretty rad. When we see the campsite we decide to go past and explore the Quelet fjords. We make our way up to some little islands and cool green scenery. There’s so much green in this place. Siempre verde.
Afterwards we head into shore. It’s still pouring rain and we load our kayaks up into the truck. Next, we take a real quick ride to our next site, unload our bags and all that. This next place is – sheesh – like a magic jungle of fairy tale tree house yurts on the side of a mountain. It’s a steep and muddy climb but these shelters hold a nice view of the sea. The kitchen area has more space where we can hang out and eat lunch. We play some games and I fiddle around on the guitar before running around to take some photos. I’m still soaking wet but I don’t mind, the little things just don’t seem to bother me anymore. There’s so many stories to be told at this magic place.
I feel like I could spend years photographing everything here. In the afternoon I take some time to finally catch my breath, rest, and reflect some more. Tonight is the best night. We spend the time making tons of pizzas, jamming to some sweet tunes, drinking some sweet drinks, joking, and laughing. After dinner, the dancing, singing, and stomping festivities keeps going. I’m never gonna forget these guys, this is one of the best nights I can ever recall. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever danced so hard, laughed so loud, and howled so long. Around 3 am we stumble on up to bed fall asleep even before hitting the sheets.
Woke up a little later today after a good quality sleep in the tree house. I head down for breakfast in that stellar kitchen space. Now we get everything loaded up for the long drive back to the city of Coyhaique. We find out that there’s a mining group on strike blocking the only road back. This means that the van that was supposed to pick us up is stuck. We go a lot of brainstorming and waiting around to see if it can somehow make its way to us.
In the meantime we eat lunch and determine a plan of taking three seperate cars/trailers to load our stuff. After that’s settled we jump in the cars and drive for a while before reaching the protest. For a backstory, an Australian mining company was mining in this area of Chile, employing virtually a whole town, without proper environmental permits. The Chilean government intervened and removed the company for this. The miners took all of their equipment and blocked the road in means of protesting the government in hopes of being allowed to mine again. Anyways, our group stops and plans to wait out the protest so we can continue on to Coyhaique. The protest intensifies with people burning tires, throwing rocks at police vehicles, and the police throwing tear gas back.
We decide that the protest shows no signs of slowing down and decide to head back to take an alternative, extremely mountainous route. This drive ends up being the most gorgeous drive of my entire life. We scale some mountains and end up in the more arid region of Chile near Argentina. Alas, we finally make it to the city around 9 and check into our hostile.
Now that we’re settled we head on over to Trace/Cristians house nearby. This place is gorgeous. There’s so many books and art and knick knacks. We drink a bit of wine and talk politics as people ship out to dinner one cab at a time. Once we’re all at the restaurant we get our food and drinks and share one last meal. Everyone has beautiful words to share about this special experience. I really don’t know what to say here. I just hope I can bring part of this back with me. After dinner ends we head back to the hostile and then go out to a club with Pancho and Cristobol. I love these folks, we dance the night away once again. Hit the hay around 4 am tonight.
Leaving Chile today. Much love for all these folks. I wake up to eat breakfast with Pancho and Cristian in the hostile before taking a stroll into Coyhaique to explore the city a little more. I pick up some mate and a cup to bring back. It’s a beautiful summer day in the city. We stop by some more shops and outdoor markets, there’s a lot of happy people outside. There’s lots and lots of jokes to be had with Pancho and Cristian. As the trip is winding down and we’re standing outside talking, I see someone walking towards us who looks like a clean shaven Franco. I think it’s just my mind playing tricks on me at first, but as he gets closer I realize that it really is him. I give him a wholesome hug and share a few words. It’s so good to see him. He just happened to be in the city looking for a house.
Next, we head back to the hostile to finish packing and hit the road for the airport. A van eventually comes to take us away. It’s tough to leave these people that we’ve shared so much with and traveled with for so long. Lots of embracing and kind words, saying goodbye is a very genuine moment. It’s tough to put into words, I don’t think I really can. This is a real special place, but what makes a place truly special is the people.
At the airport we wait in line for a bit before flying to Santiago again from Balmaceda. I start working on photos on this first flight. I can tell that the documentation of this trip is going to be something else. Once we get to santiago, we have a fair amount of time to get our bearings straight and to get some food. Boarding the plane to Miami I feel a great mixture of bummed and grateful. This is a long flight and I start to edit photos but I immediately konk out, laptop in still open in my lap.
Waking up on the plane to Miami and it’s already almost landing time. I get some food in me and prepare to head through customs/immigration as we land. The whole process is luckily very easy. At the Miami airport I pick up some coffee and power through some photo editing on the flight home to Chicago. When we land in Chicago we wander around for a while with our gear looking for the correct terminal for our shuttle. Eventually we find it and we’re officially off. More goodbyes are not any easier. You form a real bond with these people when you do this sort of thing.
You can learn a whole lot from an experience like this. It feels like more than you’ve ever learned.
Things I’ll miss about Patagonia:
People, people, people
Magnificent natural beauty
Fresh food for picking
Fresh water for drinking
Fresh air for breathing
Torched muscles from proper hiking and proper kayaking
I’ll get back to this place.
Bonus (Film Photos)
Patagonia is the most beautiful place on the planet. I’m not using the word beautiful lightly here. When I say that Patagonia is the most beautiful place on the planet I’m sure everybody thinks of physical beauty, mountains, glaciers, lakes, fjords, etc., – goes without saying- but what I’m really talking about is something else. It’s a visceral mental space as well. Clairvoyance. It’s the reason Cristian is always singing and dancing, why the other Cristian is always so excited to talk to kids and drive them around, it’s why Pancho says those who rush in Patagonia lose more time. Sure the air is cleaner, water is purer, fruits are fresher, and stars are brighter – but it’s the reason why ‘de nalgas’ is so funny, it’s the reason why Franco & I broke the language barrier to discuss that gorgeous release of control when you’re climbing or backpacking and how art breaks down the barriers that world puts in front of us, it’s the reason we were howling at the moon at 3:30am in a rainforest treehouse, it’s the reason why the Mate warms more than our wet bodies when we pass around the cup. It’s the reason why Patagonia is a healing place.
Join us at our annual Global Experiences Fair on Tuesday, September 17th. The fair takes place from 10am-3pm throughout the University Center Mall and will host a wide variety of program options. Make this a first step in receiving a global education!
You MUST attend a workshop this semester if you are studying abroad in Winterim, Spring, or Calendar Year (Spring + Fall) 2020 (unless you already have your classes approved). If you have them pre-approved, please submit a completed TCA to the Office of Global Experiences (McCutchan 204).
NOTE: Business-related study abroad course approval requests should be submitted to the OGE office (McCutchan Hall 204) at least 2-3 business days PRIOR to a course approval workshop date on a separate transfer credit agreement worksheet. This is to ensure that you can obtain course approvals in a timely manner on the day of the workshop. No prior submission for business courses may result in a delay of receiving your course approval(s) when attending a course approval workshop.
The time is precisely 2:00am. I’m awake and ready to catch the bus to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. The temperature is a brisk -7 degrees Fahrenheit in Whitewater, Wisconsin. I walk to the bus wearing simply a sweatshirt (can’t be bothered bringing multiple layers to a country that MAYBE only gets down in the 60s overnight). Remarkably, I don’t feel too bothered by the cold (maybe I’m half asleep or maybe my body’s too numb for feeling). Anyways I catch up on some well needed shut eye on the bus ride, a few Gregory Alan Isakov tunes lull me into a gentle sleep. Pretty standard airport procedures once we arrive… nothing special to note here. Our flight to a layover in Panama City takes an interesting turn as we circle the skies waiting for weather to clear up for a proper landing. In turn, our group ends up running through the airport in order to catch our flight for Costa Rica. Fun times.
A short flight from Panama brings us to the San Jose International Airport in the capital of Costa Rica. We’re greeted by some traditional style dancers and music. Upon bussing from the airport to our first location (just a normal hotel) we’re graced with a gorgeous sunset. Later in the night I experience a small section the city with some good friends. FRESH BEAUTIFUL food & drink. A few things etched in my memory of this place are the extremely hospitable folks & easy-going lifestyle.
Jan. 03. 18.
Let’s talk about breakfast. I love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day and I could eat it ALL OF THE TIME. Every day in Costa Rica the breakfast is incredible. Every single day. Instead of babbling on about it in each day’s section I’ll just mention that now. Along with the freshest juices/fruits I’ve ever had, I indulged in papayas and fried plantains almost every day. Don’t think I’d forget the coffee. Coffee is my absolute favorite drink. And the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life was in Costa Rica. We’ll talk more about that later.
After chowing down we flee over to the capital city of San Jose. In San Jose our first stop is the market. The market is a grand hub of shops and vendors selling food, clothing, and almost any other daily item you can conceive. The pungent aroma of fish swirls through atmosphere and lush green planets fill the maze like halls. It’s an environment unlike any other I’ve experienced, naturally I have to stop, take it in, and take some photos. Not the smartest decision when part of a fast moving group. After a period of circling the market, I find my way down the road towards the national theater where the group is heading.
Upon meeting up with the group we head into the theater, this place has to most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen in my life. We’re talking gorgeous golden designs, ceiling murals, and marble statues. Our next stop is the gold museum where we take in some culture and history. My favorite part is learning about the rich indigenous cultures of the area, etched in my mind are the miniature sculptures that they forged (these things are smaller than pennies). The 2nd floor of the museum contains an abstract art museum which I enjoy massively.
Lunch happens at a stellar blued walled, painting and plant filled restaurant. Mango juice, pasta, fresh vegetables, and no complaints. Surprisingly, the best part of the meal was a conversation with one of our Global Experience coordinators, Dan Colleran. He details his background of photography/fine art and backpacking through Europe, we learn about a plethora of common interests that we have and share some good laughs.
After lunch we all explore the city for a while and make friends with a local bar owner. More laughs and smiles. As dinner time approaches the group buses to a bit of a fancier restaurant in San Jose. The highlight of this dinner for me is trying OCTOPUS for the first time. I’m not talking about something doctored up either, I mean just a plain old octopus, body, legs, tentacles and all. Interesting texture to say the least, also notable is how long it takes one to chew each piece of the octopus. It doesn’t taste awful, but I wouldn’t lock it in as something I’d gravitate towards again either.
It was a good day today. This day is a reminder that building relationships (especially in a new place/culture) will cultivate happiness.
Jan. 04. 18.
5:45am wake up time today & I couldn’t be happier. The more time I’m awake and present in this beautiful place, the better. I’m typically only this happy to be awake at this hour when I know I’m shooting photos of the sunrise. Anyway, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica is the destination for the day. It’s just a 2.5 hour bus ride away from San Jose & I’m wired up on some of that high quality Costa Rican coffee & fresh breakfast. The ride is a breeze as I could stare out at that luscious green landscape patched with mountains, rivers, and waterfalls forever before feeling any effects of boredom. After exiting the city through a tunnel we emerge in the largest rain forest in Costa Rica. Most of the area is covered in fog (so much so I’m floored by the raw talent of the bus driver named Hera). A mid-trip stop to a fresh fruit stand/small market makes the trip even more pleasant. I try out one of the sweetest (and stickiest) exotic fruits I’ve ever had.
Our first destination includes a tour/history lesson of a proper Costa Rica chocolate site, including the “Drink of the Gods”, samples, and some classic iguana, howler monkey, and sloth sightings. A quick bus ride later and we drop our belongings off at the place where we are staying the night. Hidden within the jungle are these little lodges connect by wooden pathways. All submerged within gorgeous animal and plant life. This paradise is the most rad location I’ve stayed at in my life. Little do I know that this standard will be continuously shattered during this trip.
After a lunch of staple Costa Rican vegetables, rice and beans, and breads, we’re off for a jungle tour. The jungle tour consists of a multitude of creatures, we’re talking toucans, monkeys, hummingbirds, bats, lizards, frogs, bats, raccoon like animals, and more. A walk over a river on a swinging rope bridge is a highlight for me. I’ve never done anything like that before. The rest of the day includes a few important events. One being locking myself out of my room, luckily my broken Spanish is able to get me out of that one as I find someone who has access to the room. Another being accidentally lounging around in a hammock with a giant frog. I should really check those things before I lay down in them. Finally, I discovered that night that I’m an excellent xylophone player.
Jan. 05. 18.
The sweet sounds of the jungle bring me out of bed at 6:15am this morning as a wave of peace crashes over me. I sit outside and watch the birds be about their way before heading down to breakfast. We embark on a 2.5 hour bus ride to the northern part of Costa Rica for a riverboat wildlife tour. The bus makes one stop on the way so our guide, Eric, can buy us all some of his favorite Costa Rican candy. We love this guy. The wildlife boat tour starts with a bang as we come across various caimans (mini alligators), birds, and iguanas. We stop at the banks of the river to spot a rare orange colored Howler Monkey. Other highlights include spider monkeys and the Jesus Christ Basilisk (lizard that runs on water).
After a lunch of more Costa Rican classics I indulge in some rice pudding which is surprisingly good. Another 2.5 hour drive to our next location: stellar hot springs. I can’t fail to mention the stop on the way for ice cream (coconut my favorite flavor). I note here that I’m beginning to feel more confident speaking to folks in Spanish. After some chilling and swimming in the springs we eat a casual dinner with the Arenal volcano towering in the background.
It’s about time to head to our next destination of bungalow lodges. Seriously, the best way I could describe this one is a bungalow village. We end the night walking around by the pool and happen to stumble across a nice worker named Jorge who shows us around the grounds to where certain creatures hide. He shows us a sloth, a brightly colored tree-frog, and a beautiful butterfly moth. I work on communicating with Jorge in Spanish, it’s a good test. Reflecting at the end of the day I think about how important it is to value people.
Jan. 06. 18.
Favorite day of the trip alert. Man, there’s a lot to unpack regarding this glorious day. I wake up at 6:00am today to ensure myself some time to wander around the space to take photos and video. Still not over the fact that I can see a volcano and mountains right from the window of my room. Wild. The opening destination for today is a sky train. Our actual time in the sky train is only about 10 minutes but it offers unforgettable views. Here’s where things get real interesting. The guide gives us the option to hike back to the entrance or to take the sky train back. We choose to hike- ¡Claro! All said and done this turns out being the best hike of my 20 years of existence. A little while into the trail I notice a sign for a waterfall. We decide to check it out. TOTALLY worth it. My photos will do this better justice than I can. After experiencing the entire debacle in muddy, dumping rain conditions, I understand the true meaning of the term ‘rain forest’. I come out of the jungle drenched to bone but smiling ear to ear. I (and my camera) survive. The rest of my belongings might not ever be dry again.
Upon loading into the bus we hear from panic-ridden guides and advisors that we were meant to be instructed to take the sky train back and not embark on a multiple hour jungle endeavor by ourselves. After filling our bellies with a quick lunch we race over to La Fortuna waterfall, a hallmark of the pristine Costa Rican landscape and one of the tightest things I’ve ever been in the presence of. Words cannot begin to describe the sheer magnitude and scope of this place. Pictures may be my best bet. Swimming under the waterfall was a blissful moment. The water was chilled, but if being from Wisconsin has taught me anything, it’s how to handle the cold. Refreshing. The following walk up hundreds of stairs? Not so refreshing.
At this point I’m simply exhausted, but in the best possible way. And if you thought this joyous day was complete you’d be sorely mistaken. Now we’re on our way to tour a coffee farm. Coffee is one of my favorite things, so as you might guess, I’m unbelievably stoked. Matias, the owner/farmer shows us around his place and details everything that goes into coffee and running/maintaining a successful and credible coffee operation. We learn about the chemicals and other nonsense that goes into cheap corporate coffee and get to down some silky smooth coffee from the farm. I’m more of a dark roast kind of guy.
Dinner happens in downtown La Fortuna at a place that our guide Eric recommends called Lava Lounge. Dogs roam around the space freely. My heart almost bursts talking to the owner as he explains that they take in sick dogs and care for them. One in particular that had gone through chemo that day spends the dinner by my side. His tail finally begins to wag after a while and I think he enjoys my company. I know I enjoy his. Before we leave I spot and take in some live reggae music serenading the space. As this day ends I remind myself to live in the here and now more often. (And to take care of myself by eating whole foods as much as I can).
Jan. 07. 18.
Today we begin the adventure with a 6:00am breakfast featuring a volcano backdrop. A little bit of sloth searching before the 3.5 hour drive to Monteverde. This drive was wild. Insane. Up and down mountains, rock filled roads, and over thin curved bridges. My respect for the bus driver, Hera, grows and grows each day. He’s a serious talent. Outside of the window we see some pretty incredible views of Arenal Volcano & lake which eventually turns into glorious rolling hills. Monteverde & La Fortuna are my two favorite towns that I visited in Costa Rica. Monteverde is called the cloud forest, I think that gives one a solid visual of what it is. We’re lucky enough to take a tour through the forest. The high elevation makes this forest different from the other ones that we’ve checked out so far. The tall green vegetation, waterfall, and vivid multi-colored hummingbirds buzzing around still feels like a paradise.
Now we can slide on over to lunch and discover our rooms at the lodge etched in the sides of the mountain where we will spend the night. After soaking up a fresh view we head on down to the city where we explore arts/crafts stores and returning a loose dog safely to its owner.
It’s about time for sunset, where the lodge provides a view for the grandest sunset one could ever imagine. Impossible to even dream of capturing something like this. I think about it a lot. I make a mental note of how important it is to be totally aware of all five senses during a moment like this.
I don’t know how to follow up an experience like that. But dinner seems like a wise decision. This dinner consists of a remarkably tasty raspberry juice and chatting it up with a guy named Matt from Oakland, California. We talked, travel (his favorite place is Japan), careers, life, and more. As the day winds down I gain some much needed time to rest and reflect.
Jan. 08. 18.
Another day rising early (5:30am) and I’ve never felt better. I never seem to tire of papaya in the morning. Today we head out to the beach. One quick pit-stop for smoothies can’t hurt. I stop and take in the glorious sun for a while, coming to Costa Rica in the midst of a Wisconsin winter helps one appreciate the sun like no other. It had been so long since I’d seen the sun like that. This bus ride makes me appreciate the ability of our driver once again.
After arriving at the beach I spend a good while skipping rocks and watching birds. It’s a brown sand beach that’s pretty rocky. Now it’s finally time to jump in the water for a little bit. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean is wild, it’s salty and it feels brilliant. What doesn’t feel so brilliant is getting stung by a jellyfish. I don’t see it at first but after feeling a pin-like sensation across my side, I swat away at it and pain rushes across my hand. The jellyfish attack is confirmed when I exit the water and notice red spots up and down the side of my back. Nevertheless, it’ll be a story. After the ambush I walk around and explore the beach with some friends. Good thing we did, we discover a pristine white sand beach over a hill in the distance. This looks like a stellar spot for sunset later.
Now it’s time for a quick lunch, an intense game of sand volleyball, and another glorious swim. As sunset rolls around it’s clear that my previous suspicions were true. The group heads back to our earlier discovered location and it’s shaping up to be a gem of a sunset. The pastel colors over the water are out of this world, the birds constantly swooping by make me feel overly nostalgic, and the powerful crashing waves are unbelievably calming. It’s nice to take these things in and experience them fully. The rest of the night consists of spending time chatting, laughing, and enjoying the presence of friends underneath the beautiful Costa Rican sky.
Jan. 09. 18.
Up at 6:15am today and in time to eat breakfast with Capuchin monkeys waltzing around the space. Today we spend time at the tropical beach paradise, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Clear blue water, pure white sand, palm trees, and rad rock formations fill the habitat. Before entering the water one of our group leaders (Dan) wards off some pestering raccoons to a great applause. I like to laugh at things like this. The water here is a perfect temperature for comfortable swimming. Laying back as the wave’s crash over me and walking along the beach with the sand in my toes feels all feels too good to be true. We walk around and look at the thousands of hermit crabs in the sand and some monkeys wandering around the beach looking for trouble.
The walk to lunch is an extremely sweaty one, but we find a restaurant with plenty of fans and delectable food. The bus drives the group three hours back to the capital city where our trip began, San Jose. On the ride we see the croc bridge where countless American crocodiles soak up the sun. We also see more stunning mountain views that won’t get old in a million years. By the time we get back it’s pretty late and after dinner at a nearby restaurant (the waiter only speaks Spanish and probably thinks we’re all chumps) we have a chill evening playing cards.
Jan. 10. 18.
First time I slept in this trip – (until 7:30am). These last few days are focused on business. It is a travel study called ‘Doing Business in Costa Rica’, so I suppose there has to be some more of that. Today we visit VMware, a computer software company that offers a pretty sweet work space with open collaboration areas, a business park, snacks, modern design, and a gym. At the end we spoke with executives there and learned more about the company and the future of the industry. After lunch we hear a presentation about Ernst & Young. This one was pretty forgettable, but at the same time I’m not really into that stuff.
There’s some time to rest for a bit before dinner. The group heads down to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant/bar for the rest of the night. This place offers a stellar atmosphere along with solid food and drinks. It’s a low-key spot hidden from the touristy areas and seems like a joint that locals typically inhabit. These are the best places to look out for. We may have lost our way a little bit on the way back but get back to the hotel just fine to end out the night. Take things slow… life goes way too fast.
Jan. 11. 18.
Rooster crows at 7:30am this morning for our final full day in Costa Rica. After breakfast which is (surprise) sensational, the group makes our way to the final business presentation which is Mondelez. They make a boatload of tasty snacks- which they so gracious provided us with. This alone makes for a pretty good presentation if you ask me. So many laughs (like usual) at lunch today. Afterwards I use the sliver of free time we have to take a dip in the pool and edit photos.
Now it’s time to head on the bus for dinner in the mountains. Not kidding, this is a real treat and I’m pretty sure our driver (Hera) saved my life again with these complicated mountain driving maneuvers he pulls off. When dinner ends we’re treated to some gorgeous traditional style dancing and get to soak up the view of the city during the night from the mountaintop. Truly awe-inspiring stuff.
Upon arriving back, I go down to the hotel bar to buy Hera (bus driver) a drink and we have a beautiful conversation for a good while. Hera has a lot to say about his experiences driving and his daughter in medical school, he works all the time to help pay for her. So glad we had the chance to talk.
Afterwards it seems to be time to head out for one last night in the city. We walk down to our favorite place that we’ve visited a few times before called Tito’s bar/restaurant. The owner Miguel- who at this point we’ve gotten to know pretty well is in the hospital tonight having a planned operation. We send him some photos and receive one of him in the hospital bed giving us the thumbs up. The employees hardly speak English but it’s a blast for me speaking to them en español.
Jan. 12. 18.
FINAL DAY. Travel day back to the states. This also marks my final Costa Rican coffee. (Well not really- I’m bringing some home without a doubt). After this we pack our bags and pack the bus to cruise down to the airport. Eric & Hera give out their closing remarks and I hug them both farewell as we enter the airport.
Customs and security is a breeze, at the airport I can work on photo editing. (Puts me back in my happy place). There’s also time at the airport to have another awesome conversation with our coordinator Dan , he’s got so many sensational travel stories that I just love to hear about. We spend awhile gabbing about Southeast Asia and Thailand while he shows me photos of the breathtaking landscapes and sneaky monkeys. Thinking maybe I should work with him next school year if I can at the office. How cool would it be to have the chance to inspire folks to travel & help them do it, all while being able to create content, sounds like a pretty good gig to me. (Spoiler- this is exactly what’s happening now).
The plane ride to Panama for our connecting flight is easy- the Panama City skyline just about knocks my socks clean off. I edit photos and play cards with friends during the layover. The flight back home to Chicago wasn’t too bad either, I edited some and slept some. Seeing the city at night overhead was something else (and we got to see it twice since our first landing didn’t quite go as planned and we had to go up again and come back down). I think about all the lights and all the people living their own separate lives down there. It all just puts things into perspective and is a therapeutic thought process. Customs was a breeze as we touched down at the wee hours of the morning. Stepping outside was intense, the Wisconsin cold hit me like a freight train. (0 degrees Fahrenheit for crying out loud).
I ride the bus back to Whitewater as Bon Iver’s 22 (OVER S∞∞N) creeps out through my headphones. Goodbyes are deflating but I don’t feel bad- it’s that feeling after a monumental experience that you just can’t put into words. It was real.
Things I’ll miss about Costa Rica:
This about wraps things up – so yeah – venture out of your comfort zone, talk to new people, experience new cultures, all that cliché motivational stuff, you really should consider it. Pura vida.