The following post details the Nowhere Men’s journey from March 21 – March 24:
As it turns out, the end of the Panamerican Highway is not the end of the world. The transcontinental pavement-laden path stretches from Alaska, through Canada and the United States, into Mexico, along the spine of Central and Pacific South America to the remote, distinct Chiloe archipelago, which juts out independently from Chile’s mainland. Though it actually strayed from our otherwise intended route to Patagonia, we agreed to follow the faithful international roadway to its near endpoint.
We loaded Velita up on a cargo ship and cruised thirty brisk minutes to Isla Grande de Chiloe. On this day, a foggy grey aura swept across the island, which draped a mystical cloak upon our new setting. In Ancud, the island’s major town in the north, we drove around aimlessly until we arrived at Austral Adventures, a bilingual tour agency that specializes in explorations of Chiloe’s unique culture, cuisine, and sights.
Nicholas, a friendly and information-filled fellow from Santiago, freely shared with us some potential places to check out for a two-day stay in the area. It’s laid back here, he insisted. We assured him we understood this type of lifestyle, having driven throughout the rest of Latin America, which is notorious for running on imprecise clockwork.
So, it was curious that our New York impulses took over upon meeting the agency’s owners, Sandra and Britt. When Sandra heard our backstory, she invited us to bunk up in her breathtaking backyard behind the beach.
Sandra was Peruvian, a former traveler with an open spirit and broad life experience that became immediately evident after just moments talking with her. She had a smile that radiated warm vibes. Britt was equally charismatic. He too had wandered far from his own home, in upstate New York, to the wind-wacked beaches of Chiloe.
She casually told us to come on over to the house if we needed anything and to tell her daughters our story. But wait, what time should we come over? She wasn’t specific! Would it be odd if we just knocked on her back door? How is this supposed to work!?
Dinner in our tent took longer than we’d planned and suddenly it was 10pm. We thought we’d made a mistake by failing to swing by the house to say hello. Instead, we settled heavily like anchors sinking to the sandy depths of the ocean floor. The pasta that we’d championed weighed us down defiantly. That night we’d slept hard, whether we’d planned it or not.
In the morning we rushed over to apologize for our failure to come over to the house. “Don’t worry!” Sandra smiled. “Honestly, I figured we’d get to know each other in the next couple of days. What’s the rush? You’re more than welcome to stick around a few days.”
We’d misread a perceived miscommunication that existed only on our end, believing her offer to meet her family expired at midnight. We’d forgotten things were relaxed and unhurried here in Chiloe. Even though not natives to the island, Sandra certainly had mastered a chilled out and calm demeanor, characteristic of the locals.
In each of our last two nights in Chiloe, Sandra invited us into her home for dinner and conversation with her family. When Sandra or Britt spoke, we listened astutely to their wisdom. Each thought they shared struck us with a profundity that resonated deeply. Travel had granted us so much curiosity and an openness of perspective, but at that time we were still working on how to articulate our thoughts and integrate them into life back home.
Britt professed, “You can’t expect your friends and family to understand your trip, nor will they want to listen to infinite hours of stories from the road. Don’t try to describe how you’ve changed, either. They’ll learn how you’ve grown from the way you carry yourself. It will reveal itself over time.”
Sandra too helped us find peace with the prospect of returning home. “You don’t need physical solitude to find time for yourself. Even in the bustling world of New York, you can always find time to listen to yourself.”
They impressed upon us so much more than just a couple of standout comments, of course. As a pair of ex-travelers, they exemplify how to live life in a sedentary way once the dust of exploring has settled. They set for us a precedent for which to strive and a contentment to admire.
Their three daughters each glowed with an excitement for life and a maturity well beyond their childhood and adolescent years. We were immensely impressed with how grounded they were, taking advantage of and not for granted their upbringing under such unique circumstances.
We tossed around the idea at the time that we’d return to sell our car to them after making it to Ushuaia. In truth, we had little reason to believe this would be possible. We were glad that almost a month later we indeed returned.
We spent our second and final day driving around the island. Down to Castro, where Unesco branded wooden churches stand stoically alongside wooden-stilted buildings jutting out from the water called Palafitos. After a day at a mechanic, we visited a couple that lived in Chepu and runs a unique tourist operation. First Francisco took us on a beguiling boat ride through the sunken forests that rested halfway into the water of swampy inlets. Enriqueta then prepared for us a curanto lunch, the meat medley meal characteristic of Chiloe.
The experience was not without worry or drama. In between these two activities, which we’d intended as a carefree day to learn about this island’s distinctive culture, our car battery died at the end of a beach during what was supposed to be a harmless coffee break. We walked silently the couple kilometers back up the hill to our host’s house to admit our foolishness. They laughed and beckoned us to just sit down, breath, and enjoy our lunch. We did. When it was over, we rescued Velita and carried on back to the mainland. We were only in Chiloe for two days, but it was profound enough to plant a yearning to return at some point, in some way.
We straddle the polar opposite ideologies of speed and slowness, urgency and tranquility, New York City and Latin America. For us, it’s become a fine line. This 3-month trip was planned to be fast-paced and goal-oriented. When we realized there was no need to move at NYC-speed the further away from home we wandered, we tried to adapt to the serene lifestyle around us. Along the way, we’d aimed to acclimate to local cultures, which meant we’d have to shed some stale mindsets of our past life. Each person we meet and conversation we’ve had shifts us further away from our highly-strung city selves and towards the people we want to be. Sandra and Britt were integral to that. They preached following our hearts, doing what feels right, and eventually settling into the life we want to lead. They both confirmed the choices we’ve already made and encouraged us to be mindful moving forward. That’s not to say we believe in burying our past; on the contrary, our personal histories have shaped who we are and led us to where we are today. Someday soon this trip itself will be a memory and we plan on leveraging its lessons as successfully as possible in order to find a life of fulfillment.