Why Did I Move to Chile?
“¿Y por qué Chile?”
In the two years I’ve lived in its capital city, this is by far the question I’ve been asked most frequently. Unfortunately for the curious Chileans, “¿Por qué no?” tends to be an underwhelming response.
See, the thing is, I really only made the move to Chile because it was the decision that made the most sense at that point in my life. Santiago was interesting enough, sure, but there wasn’t anything that I found particularly exciting or enticing. Now, don’t get me wrong, Santiago has its perks—I wouldn’t have stayed for two years if it didn’t, but I selected it for my temporary home more out of logic than anything else.
In autumn of 2012 I felt like I was in a rut. I realized it had been more than a year since I’d traveled abroad and that was just not okay with me. I’d never been to South America, so one night, blood reinforced with a little “liquid courage,” I bought a ticket to Quito, Ecuador. I planned a one month whirlwind trip, more of a capital city tour than anything else. I figured I would just sample a few Latino countries and if I liked them, I could always go back.
In that month I visited four countries, plus the Galapagos Islands. As I had kind of suspected it would, the trip awakened an insatiable wanderlust within me. A Swiss friend of mine put it best: Travel is like an illness, and the only cure is more travel.
I selected it for my temporary home more out of logic than anything else.
When I was in Santiago, Chile I met an Australian who had been traveling for several months. I’d met travelers like him before and I’d always admired them. It was in Santiago that I asked myself why didn’t I just follow their lead? I had the funds, the brains, and most importantly, the desire. Nick the Australian had unwittingly planted a seed in my mind.
I finished my travels in South America, and when I got home I set out to make my dream to travel a reality. I spent six months working hard to save money, and I researched all the places I might possibly want to go on this round-the-world adventure. In fact, I sold all my possessions and exactly half a year after returning from South America, I began my incredible journey.
About halfway through that year-long trip, I got in touch with a friend I’d made the first time I went to Santiago. I figured I would be back in South America around March, and he invited me to go to the music festival Lollapaloooza with him. Because I had no reason not to go, I made it happen. By this point, though, I knew I would need to figure out a way to continue funding my travels, because I did not want to return to the rut I’d found myself in in the United States.
Teaching English seemed to be the easiest option for me and one that would open the most doors. As luck would have it, a one month TEFL course in Santiago was being offered right around the same time I would be meeting up with my friend.
The only reason I could think of not to move to Chile was that maybe I’d like to live someplace else. But that argument didn’t hold much water.
The TEFL course was an excellent option for me. If you’re interested in teaching English abroad, I highly recommend getting a certification. The one I took was perfect for me because it included six hours of hands on teaching practice and invaluable advice on breaking into the TESOL community, with most of the focus on Santiago. After completing the class, Bridge offered me a job at their institute and I accepted.
The first time I had visited Santiago, Chile I found it vibrant and exciting—enchanting, really. I knew I didn’t want to go back to living in the United States just yet, so the opportunity to get to know Santiago seemed like a great one. I already had some friends in the city, I had a job offer and was already beginning to build a network of private teaching gigs (that’s where the real money is), and it provided me with a chance to improve my Spanish. The only reason I could think of not to move to Chile was that maybe I’d like to live someplace else. But that argument didn’t hold much water. One in the hand is worth two in the bush, after all…
Why Did I Move to Chile?
So, after finishing the course, I moved to Santiago, Chile indefinitely. That was two years ago. As time has worn on, I have gotten to know the city much better. As with most things in life, it’s lost the novel charm it once had, but that’s been replaced with a comfortable sense of familiarity. The friends I’ve made while living here are better than any friends I ever had back in the US.
Overall, living in Santiago hasn’t been earth-shattering (although there are earthquakes!), but it has been good. I’ve made some lifelong friends, I’ve advanced my English teaching career, and I’ve “improved” my Spanish language skills. (I use the term “improve” loosely here because the Chilean dialect is notoriously the worst Spanish tongue.)
I didn’t come to Santiago because I’d heard tales of its amazing architecture or the delicacies only to be found in Chile. I came to Santiago because it was the best thing for me at the time. But I like to think it also holds a sense of nostalgia. It was in this city that I came to realize how much I appreciate traveling and all that comes with it—getting to know the food, the people, the language, the culture!