I would normally spend Christmas with my family, stuffing my face, and lounging about on the sofa, so I guess this one was no exception. Almost. I was munching my way through snacks, but not a delicious roast dinner, and I was sitting down, but not sprawled out like I would have liked to have been. Instead I was on a 12-hour bus on my way to Ushuaia, Argentina. I know I can’t complain too much because by this point I was half way through my travels with my boyfriend who had come out to Chile for three weeks.
I reiterate that this is not your normal Christmas. Normally in December I am wrapped up warm, so I don’t freeze to death outside, eating lots of chocolate and getting into the festive mood with all the music, films and decorations. My house here had a measly fake tree with a pathetically small piece of tinsel. To make it worse, my housemates were not impressed by the Christmas films and music being played. I feel like if you were going to become homesick, then this is the time. It’s hard not to when you see your friends and family at home doing all of the things you would normally be doing and you can’t join in. However, this year abroad is not going to come around often, unless like my brother you don’t know what else to do with your life but be a constant student, so make the most of it! It’s not often you can say you were gearing up for Christmas in 30-degree weather and still going to the beach on the weekends.
Most of my friends did go home for Christmas, but there are some that stay, and there are also a lucky few who have their families come out to visit them. Whatever the situation, I’ve learnt that you have to make the best of it and have learnt that being out of your comfort zone is not a negative. It will make you appreciate all the good things in life and will ensure you don’t get too lazy! In all honesty, everything about this year abroad has put me outside of my comfort zone. The insane amount of bureaucracy has made me appreciate how much order and organisation exists in the UK. I have spent time away from home and from the comforts that come with it like the food, the luxuries of a sofa and spaces that you can just relax but this is now the longest amount of time that I have spent away, and as much as I feel like I have settled down here, there are still things that I miss, such as just knowing where I would need to go to get something. Today I needed to get a passport photo done and normally I would go to a post office but here I had no idea where to go. I had to ask a couple people and then depending on the area that you get it done the price can change so much. Eventually I found somewhere but the lack of knowledge, not just in the language but the lack of knowledge of the culture, customs, where to go etc., can sometimes get very difficult and little things that shouldn’t annoy you, do.
However, on a positive note, December is a month of no classes and lots of time for travelling! As much as I have grown to love Chile, I have not grown to love how expensive it is. Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador are amazing countries on a budget. Chile and Argentina – not so much. My boyfriend and I went to Patagonia in the south to do the W trek in Torres del Paine and it was incredible (minus the wind and rain). It was beautiful, but the beauty came at a cost. Do your research. I definitely would recommend to a friend!