After our blissful 2-week cruise through the Panama Canal to South America, we disembarked in San Antonio, Chile, drove inland to the capital city of Santiago, and happily settled in for 6 weeks of a summer "staycation" in the Southern Hemisphere. The weather was gorgeous, the city fun and easy to navigate, and our apartment was comfortable was great views all around of the Andes mountains.
1. Meeting wonderful people at church and being welcomed right in
2. Cultural Arts - accessible and affordable
3. Productive education filled days
4. Public transportation ease of maneuvering
5. Close proximity to temple
6. Spanish immersion with local church youth camps for kids
7. Moderate summer weather, great mountain views, and no bugs!
8. Planning 2019
9. Anticipating our next adventure to Antarctica!
1. Meeting wonderful people at church and being welcomed right in - We arrived in Chile and immediately checked into our apartment, went grocery shopping, and got unpacked. The following day, Sunday, we took the bus for a 70-minute ride to church to the La Dehesa ward, close to the international school and full of expat families. Right away, we were invited to dinner with a family in the ward, and we started to get to know many of these great families. We developed some super fun friendships, and it didn't take long for the kids, with bus/metro cards in hand, to plan their own pool parties and sleep-overs - even when it took over 2 hours just to get there (multiple transfers, wrong buses, and extra kilometers of walking). It was a fun way to spend our 2nd summer of the year, and are so happy for the new friends we made. We were welcomed and cared for and inspired by the families we got to know.
2 Cultural Arts - accessible and affordable: - Upon arrival, I jumped onto the website of the main theatre in town, and found that the Nutcracker was playing during the Christmas season. Even better, the tickets in the upper balconies were only $5 per person! By the time I was done, I also had inexpensive tickets to another ballet of Prokofiev's Cinderella, and an opera Gala night. All the performances were simply stunning, the best Nutcracker we've ever seen. Further, we discovered a free choir concert series that we attended twice, with gorgeous choir pieces and solos, put on in the wonderful old cathedrals of the city. We loved the vibrant cultural arts scene of the city and took full advantage of the opportunity.
3. Productive education filled days - When we engage in slow-travel, we have the chance for the kids (and parents) to buckle down and work on schooling and personal development. With consistent wifi and the same roof over our heads for many weeks, we developed a schedule to help us tackle our school and projects. Anna dove into her AP Calculus class and college and scholarship application essays. Tyler worked on his high school English and Chemistry classes and did some heavy lifting with planning the next leg of our travels. Megan mastered stop-motion movie-making and wrote some beautiful essays about the book "Island of Blue Dolphins", Jacob tackled advanced geometry theories and followed in Nathan's footsteps in arranging covers of piano pieces. All the kids enjoyed guitar practicing and ukulele strumming, as well as attacking some violin and piano goals (we were lucky enough to find people willing to lend us their instruments). Tera hit her stride with personal development and goal setting just in time for the new year and raised our family scripture study, habit tracking, journaling, and 5am personal productivity window to a new level. Erik began developing a possible next-career as a small-business consultant and coach. All in all, it was a very fulfilling place to unpack and roll up our sleeves.
4. Public transportation ease of maneuvering - With no car in the city, we changed our mindset to be full-time subway and bus travelers. It takes a little longer, no doubt, but the convenience of simply walking out the front gate and walking to the bus stop a block away is hard to overstate. We had a pair of bus cards, and we went everywhere - to the mall, to church, to friends' homes for dinner, to museums and markets. Tera downloaded the local bus app, and I simply used google maps, and we never got lost and always arrived pretty close to the estimated time. We did call an Uber on New Years Eve when the bus hadn't come after 90 minutes of waiting at 2:00am to get home. Plus, our friends generously gave us rides home, on occasion. But largely, we were devoted to the buses, and they served us well.
5. Close proximity to temple - We placed ourselves just a 10 minute walk from the Santiago, Chile temple and we took full advantage. Due to the age adjustment at the beginning of the year, Megan was able to get her temple recommend and attend the temple for the first time in January. Attending the temple regularly has been a large part of our family gap year, and we feel so privileged to be able to enjoy the spirit of these buildings together as a family.
6. Spanish immersion with local church youth camps for kids - We were lucky enough to arrive in Santiago during the season of summer youth camps. Tyler and Anna went to the South American equivalent of "Especially for Youth", all in Spanish for a full 6 days, and had a great time meeting new people and being immersed in the language. Megan got to participate in the church girls' camp, again all in Spanish, and was super-excited to be a part of the young women's program.
7. Moderate summer weather, great mountain views, and no bugs! - What a great place to spend the South American summer (and a great escape from the North American winter!). We basically never closed any of the windows or porch doors, and had a pleasant breeze through the house all day and night. In the final week, temperatures grew quite warm, with no air conditioning in the apartment. But for the most part, we were surrounded by wonderful weather - no rain nor mosquitos or other bothersome bugs of any kind. My kind of place!!
8. Planning 2019 - As 2019 dawned (Happy New Year!), we finally allowed ourselves to think seriously about what this next year will look like for our family. We moved from the Netherlands about 18 months ago, and we've been living out of suitcases and exploring the world ever since, knowing that 2019 would be about transitioning back to a more stable existence. Immediately upon returning to the States in March, our lives will quickly fill up with monumental joys that don't involve any traveling outside of the USA: piano recitals (Nathan), university graduations (Emily and her betrothed Jonathan), bridal showers, wedding and receptions (Emily and Jonathan), mission farewells (Nathan) and college tours and college orientations (Anna). Plus, the younger three are excited to settle in to a community to go to school and jump back into theater. Erik is anxious to jump into something new, career-wise, and Tera is super happy to land back in the States (temporarily?) with a bucket-full of memories and priceless experiences shared together as a family.
9. Anticipating our next adventure to Antarctica! - We are definitely ending our travel year with a HUGE bucket-list check - and we are sooooo excited!! We hop on the Holland America Zaandam ship tomorrow and spend 3-weeks cruising down to the southernmost reaches of South America, past the Chilean fjords and glaciers, through the Magellan strait, around Cape Horn and across the Drake Passage, to ANTARCTICA, crossing off our family's 7th visited continent, then back up to dock in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by way of the Falkland Islands. Whooooo Hoooo!!!!!! :-)
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!