Sara and her partner go on a trip to Chile to explore, but the local protests spark compassion, reflection, and so much more.
Follow her adventures on Instagram at @planetwithsara. Check out her blog of travel itineraries and inspiration at planetwithsara.com.
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leah: Welcome to Wander By Proxy, a podcast featuring women’s travel stories that connect them more to themselves and the world around them. I’m Leah Falyn and today we’ll be hearing from Sarah, who went to Chile with her partner to hike Patagonia but found that her trip would entail much more. Here’s Sarah.
Sara: my partner, Ryan and I have been traveling internationally together since 2012 every year, we would say. Typically pick a new country and a new state in the United States to travel to. And so each year it just kind of became part of our routine and we really got to expand our travel significantly when we moved abroad to London for two years and did a lot of travel around Europe and Africa in the middle East.
And so when we returned to the United States in 2018, we wanted to focus more on visiting countries that were North and South of us here in America. So largely focused on South America. So in 2019, we had the chance to back off about three weeks from work and take a trip down to Chile. And the main motivation for choosing chili was to go hiking in Patagonia.
And then a couple of bonus sites that we wanted to check out was exploring around Santiago and then the desert of Tacoma.
So Chile has a lot of income inequality, similar to many parts of the world. And so there are people who are at the upper income that holds a lot of the power and a lot of the money. And then there’s a much larger base I’m kind of at the bottom of the income scale. And so there was already a lot of frustration building at that lower level.
And in October of 2019, the government had announced that there would be a 4 cent increase in the public. Subway fare. And that was really the spark that started a whole bunch of protests. And a lot of people came out to protest around the city and the subways, and,
, it really ignited. And we thought by watching the news that it would be something shorter term.
But it continued pretty extensively through the month of October and into November. And we felt a little helpless because all we could really do was check the news,
, and, and see what was happening. And it was hard to get a read for how it actually felt on the ground, but we did our best to stay really connected, , to what was happening.
So did you guys have to walk everywhere? How did you guys get around? What’d you guys get to see.
So we really per sure,
, To get around by public transportation. When we travel abroad, it really helps us get a sense of what it’s like to live in that country. And we get to know people a little bit better that way, too, because we can strike up conversation and just kind of really integrate more into the local lifestyle.
And so we knew when we went to Chile that we would want to walk around and it would have been nice to take the subway and take more of the public transportation modes. But when we ultimately made the choice to still go to Chile, even though the entire country was largely in this civil unrest, we knew we might have to take more private,
, like taxis or.
Uber operates there, but really unofficially.
, and so we knew we’d have to look more for more options beyond just the typical walking around and subway.
leah: Okay. It’s funny that you say that because when I was in Rome, my first time traveling abroad, I went to Italy and a similar thing happened. There were a ton of protests going on. They shut down the public transit. And, , my friends and I, we had to walk everywhere, so we’d walk hours to get to the Colosseum and to Vatican City, but it was almost kind of more fun that way, because it was a walking tour of the city.
It ended up being a fantastic way to experience the whole city. What was your experience in that way?
Sara: yeah, still, we,
, we had. Stay on top of what the situation was because people were protesting in pockets throughout the city. And, , we wanted to try and stay as safe as possible. So, , there were subway lines that were still running. So we actually did take the subway in some cases, although it felt very empty in general and.
The rest of the time we would walk. And as you mentioned, it would be pretty extensive. Some days we would cover over 10 miles of walking, but it really didn’t help us get to see the city. And then,
, one day we took the subway down into kind of the heart of the city in Santiago, and we try to stay on top of if there were going to be any potential protests, we didn’t really have an indication that there would be that day.
And so we had gone into one of the art muses. And by the time we came out, the protests were really starting to ramp up such that they had shut down the subway. And ultimately we had to walk all the way back to our hotel, which was just fine. But the route back to the hotel was actually through. Groups of protesters and people were coming out,
, in large massive groups.
And the way that the government was handling the protest, there was by using tear gas and,
, when drives through and kind of these big military vehicles. And so it was actually extremely intimidating in that moment, walking through tear gas, walking through. , largely peaceful protesters, but it was still intimidating just because it was a large crowd.
And by the time we got back and kind of out of that,
, central protest area, it took us a little bit of time just to decompress, , because we had never really been in a situation like that before.
leah: I’m sure it did. Did you participate in the protests?
Sara: We did not, we didn’t feel like it was our place because we weren’t really a part of, kind of the broader implications of what were happening. And so we were more observers and we were able to see the protesters and the signs that they were holding. And,
, You know, thankfully we weren’t there when there was much destruction, but we did see the leftover effect of a lot of graffiti and a lot of shops that had been broken.
So there was glass in a lot of places and,
, a lot of signs that had been put out. So we saw a lot of the after effects of it. And we’re able to just really observe and kind of take in what, what the protesters messages were.
leah: what about that experience? Did you bring home with you? Anything.
Sara: Certainly it’s that will stay with me forever. And just hearing, you know, largely in the crowds, there was kind of a. A way that people would honk their horns or a lot of people were wearing whistles and they would whistle a certain cadence of sound. And that will stay with me probably forever, just because it was such an intense moment to be a part of.
And as Ryan and I were reflecting on the situation, we kept thinking, well, what would, what would cause something like that to happen in the United States? Because there are places here where there. It’s certainly large income inequalities. There are other types of Sydney qualities. And so for us, it was more just like, there is a very fine line for what might spark protests like that to happen.
And so we thought, could it be here because there are certainly many different inequalities could constant thing like that to happen.
leah: what kind of opened your eyes after that experience? Just about society and,
, kind of voicing opinions and doing what people think would be right.
Sara: Yeah, I think, you know, something that was really eye opening for me, there was. From where we are in the United States of 4 cent increase does not feel very significant, but being aware of that, there are different purposes and people in different situations that even if something doesn’t feel significant to you personally, or you may not be affected by it, there are many people out there that are affected by different.
, issues and different implications in society. And so being more aware, more compassionate, more understanding of other people and their situations has been something that was very eye opening from our time in Chile and has carried forward to back here in Minneapolis, where we’re learning and reading and trying to figure out ways to get more involved so that we learn and understand more, both, , What’s happening in society at large, but also for our neighbors in particular and what their life experiences are like so that we can be more supportive of them and make sure that there’s not such disparity, that people feel just totally, , like society is against them, because if they do, then you see situations play out like they have here.
leah: What have you been doing to get through social distancing and to keep the adventurous spirit alive?
Sara: Great question. There are certainly many challenges right now in maintaining that adventurous spirit. So,
, what my partner and I have been doing as a lot of day trips and trying to do more active day trips, then we’ll go biking or hiking. , most recently we were up in Kiruna, Minnesota, where we went mountain biking and paddle boarding.
And all of those activities are largely ways is that you can stay away from other people, but still have the sense of adventure. And despite living in Minnesota for the majority of my life, there are so many places that I haven’t, and so planning these day trips,
, and in some cases, an overnight trip, if we’re able to stay somewhere that we feel like has proper cleaning protocol and it enables us to maintain our distance.
Has been a great way for us to maintain that spirit and also check off places that we’ve been meaning to get to, but like most people in the last place that you typically travel is where you’re from. So it’s been a great time to check off those places from our list.
leah: That’s so fun. I love that. And I’ve been trying to kind of do that too. I have a little Minnesota bucket list and I’m checking things off each weekend and it’s, it’s all good. You can really do so.
Sara: I love it. Yes. And sometimes like, you can be really surprised by just the beauty or the excitement of activities here sometimes again, like you just think I want to go on a big adventure. Let me get on an airplane for. 12 plus hours. That’ll take me to the other side of the world, but sometimes you can maintain or emulate that same sense of adventure in your own backyard.
leah: Absolutely. What advice would you give to women who want to adventure? Through as a local.
Sara: I would say research different activities that you’re interested in and where parts of. Your community or state or nearby cities, half those activities, and then go out and have it again. Sure. So I really love biking. I’ve been exploring a ton of new biking trails this smer. That I can just bike to from where we live, but also we’ll, we’ll drive a little ways so that we can explore new bike paths.
So taking something that you’re passionate about and then finding new places to do that I think is a great way for women to get out and explore, especially right now.
leah: Thank you for listening to the 10th episode of Wander By Proxy, you can check out Sarah’s adventures at planetwithsarah.com for travel itineraries and inspiration. Links will be in the show notes. Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe to Wander By Proxy for bi-weekly travel stories.