It’s been nearly 3 weeks and over 3000 km since we set off from Santiago, a period of such intensity that I’ve barely had the energy to reflect, let alone write. Buying a camper in a foreign country and undertaking a months-long road trip was never going to be easy. But just how draining it has been, I can honestly say I underestimated.
But, as difficult as it’s been at times, it’s also been wondrous and filled with moments of hilarity. I can already feel the personal growth and it’s still really just the start of the journey.
Here are just a few of the ways it’s been such a learning and growth curve.
Chilean Spanish, or chileno, is the most difficult in Latin America, which I’ve been reminded of many times. It’s fast, filled with idioms and Chileans often drop final syllables from words. It’s so tricky that even native Spanish speakers from other countries sometimes struggle to understand Chileans. Even after learning the language for over half my life, I can feel the daily mental exertion and challenge. It’s no wonder I’ve been sleeping ridiculously well!
One Chilean told me that if I can handle chileno, then Spanish in other Spanish-speaking countries will be easy in comparison. After nearly a month here and learning new vocabulary out of necessity on a nearly daily basis, I can already tell my Spanish skills have improved significantly.
Years ago, my wallet including drivers license were pickpocketed in London. Living in Europe and making the most of the wealth of public transportation, I never really needed a replacement. So, up until this July, I hadn’t driven a car for about six years. That’s right, up until three months before this epic road trip, I didn’t even have a drivers license.
No, I don’t make things easy for myself.
The summer months stateside were a blur of the DMV test, getting a license again, and driving thousands of miles across seven US states. But all of that was in automatic cars. The camper is, of course, a manual.
And so, in just a few weeks here in Chile, I’ve also picked up the skill of driving manual cars. We rented a car for a few days during our first week, so I could burn the clutch on someone else’s vehicle. And since then, it’s been trial by fire as we’ve made our way south through Chile. The lovely Claire has been an awesome instructor.
Needless to say, driving a 25 year-old, 4 WD camper truck on unfamiliar roads in Chile has been both thrilling and tiring. Yet another reason I sleep so soundly!
Camper life is incredibly liberating and fun, but also comes with its own funny challenges. Where will we park and sleep each night? What will the camper living area look like after a day on hilly, gravel roads? What recipes can you cook with only two burners and very limited sotafe and prep space? – all of these have required creative thinking and adjustment.
Having been flatmates for nearly 18 months in London, Claire and I have spent entire evenings laughing ourselves silly about the contrast in our shared lifestyle in a few short months. Access to potable water and hot showers definitely aren’t considerations we’re used to. But when you get to wake up to views like this, surrounded by only chirping birds, the rest doesn’t really matter.
It’s impossible to properly compare life on the road in Chile with life back in London. There is so much more to share about the wonderful people we’ve met, the incredible natural beauty of this country, and, of course, our camper. We’ve named him ‘Big Mo’, which is a story for another post.