MattNoonan's Travel Journals


What was your most challenging travel experience?

2 week road trip out west with three friends. lived on jerky and trail mix.

  • 28 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Cordoba, Argentina

Chile & Argentina: Surrounded by a Bunch of Friends that I Have Yet to Meet

ramblings concerning a 6 week jaunt through Chile & Argentina. April/May2011

Start Thinking Time, Really: Planting Seeds

Chile Arica, Chile  |  Apr 26, 2011
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 ...the road ahead looks dusty good. 

So, I’m in Chile.  I’m sitting in a bedroom of my couchsurfing host, Hannah’s, house/apartment thing.  She’s originally from New York and thus speaks American and all that jazz.  Also, we’re going to make a kick ass Italian dinner tomorrow with some tasty Chilean red wine and fresh fish.  Winnah!

The first real thought I had upon putting my feet on Chilean dirt—or sand, since I’m in the driest desert on the planet—is that I’m going to have the opportunity to compare and contrast two (and eventually at least three) distinct cultures, as I’m traveling through Chile and Argentina.  Another thing I’m now realizing is that I can also get a really good look at what it is to be traveling and not necessarily labeled as a tourist.  For me, this experience will entail lots of camping and couchsurfing and hopefully only a little bit of staying at hostels and hospedajes.  The way I’m traveling and the places I intend to go are probably going to be a lot less touristy in nature than Cusco—which isn’t necessarily saying much since Cusco is probably one of the more touristy places on planet earth, but it’s going to be different for sure. 

In Tacna, Perú (the last stop before the Chilean border) I was literally the only white person I saw the whole time.  Even there, I could discern the difference between the visiting Chileans who had come for the low prices of…things in Tacna and the Tacneños.  And being here in Arica, Chile, a small, welcoming, desert/surfing/fishing city, I can easily discern the difference between Chileans and the Peruvians to whom I’ve become accustomed.  And again, I haven’t seen a true gringo since I’ve been in Chile, though there are a lot more light skinned people here, but that’s more a result of the peopling of this area than of tourism.  Along similar lines, because there’s no huge world renowned attractions here in northern Chile like there are in the Peruvian Andes, people who come here generally aren’t tourists.

So now I’m seen as a traveler rather than a tourist, maybe.  What does that mean?  So far, through two days--and I suppose this question is the seed I'm referring to in the title of this entry--it’s meant that people acknowledge me as maybe a person with a personality and life experiences rather than as someone who is probably headed to Machu Picchu soon.  This implies real conversation.  So long as I can keep up with the blistering speed of the Chilean vernacular, I might actually make a friend or two, or at least a trustworthy acquaintance.  For instance, a friend of my couchsurfing host owns a bike shop and he let me borrow a bike for the day.  Cool, right?  Also, walking around a beach just south of town, I had a nice chat with a guy who was doing a bit of fishing (he had a line in his hand, and I saw him catch a fish, but he had a bucket full of "locos" or what we might call abalones) down by the surf which crashed onto rocks, forming crazy little tide pools.  He directed me toward a tasty empanaderia.  It was awesome.  I feel like all of this is a sign that I’m no long a dollar sign, but a fleeting presence that might be doing something worth asking about or at least doing something a little different than just going to Machu Picchu.

And thus it begins.  I’ll miss you, Perú, but the road ahead looks dusty good.

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