Last week I went back to Valle Elikura, the location where we engaged in a home stay about a month ago with my study abroad program.
I went back this time because of two main reasons. My research project is an analysis on the experience with community-based tourism in the area. I gave some interviews when I was there with the group but as my research developed and I had a better grasp of the topic in question, I naturally developed questions that were more analytical. Ready with my informed consent forms, I walked down to the bus station as if I was walking to my deathbed, to buy tickets for the overnight nine-hour bus ride to Cañete. My journey would not end there; from Cañete I needed to take another hour-long bus ride to Valle Elikura.
Nevertheless I arrived in Valle Elikura early Sunday morning. Silvia was my host mother when we traveled with my group and I had called her prior to my coming to ask if I could rent the cabin again. She cheerfully agreed and told me she would also provide all three meals. Silvia had left the house early to come meet me at the location where the bus form Cañete dropped me off.
I arrived at the cabin fourteen hours after I left my home in Santiago.
I took the rest of Sunday to rest. Valle de Elicura is an incredibly peaceful place. My room in Santiago faces a very busy street so I was more than happy to trade in the noise of 8 am traffic for the chirping of birds.
I began Monday by starting my work right away. As I greeted familiar faces in Valle de Elicura I felt more and more comfortable every time I spoke with someone I had previously met. This is when I suddenly and pleasantly realized that coming back to visit a place for the second time is an entirely new experience. I enjoyed going back to the river where I ran by on my first visit. After some exploring I found a beautiful meadow. As I lay in the grass, tranquil, away from noise, distractions and other people, I could not help but feel as though I was inside my own conscience. I allowed myself to bathe in this beautiful solitude.
I stayed in Valle de Elicura until Wednesday. I ate all of my meals with Silvia, Lautaro, and Kata (Silvia’s husband and granddaughter). I enjoyed staying with Silvia’s family the first time, but this was even better. It is precisely what I referred to in the above paragraph. I went to visit the people I had interviewed a month ago. The feeling of familiarity, of “Hey! It’s nice to be here again. Nice to see you, how is everything?” is something that feels incredibly warm for me.
Many people have a thirst for constant travel; to hike through as many beautiful mountains as possible, to visit vibrant cities, to jump around countries and see different cultures.
I imagined I would have the same mentality during my study abroad semester in Latin America.
I can assert with confidence that I belong to the other group. I found that I subscribe to the spend- a- lot- of- time- in- a- few- places philosophy of travel.