Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Book Review: The Road Less Traveled
January 31, 2011, 2:42 am
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , ,

Travelers are always seeking a road less traveled. Sometimes you travel to embrace new challenges.  Other times you travel to escape current ones. Either way, the act of journeying to another place lends itself to finding truth. It takes you away from your day-to-day routine, and forces you to ask yourself hard questions.

I recently read The Road Less Traveled by psychiatrist and M.D.M. Scott Peck. The book is broken up into four main parts: discipline, love, personal growth and religion, and grace. Regarding personal spiritual growth, Peck shares some pretty incredible insights about how to achieve it. His main premise is that pain and suffering in life should be welcomed because you cannot achieve spiritual growth without it.  They go hand in hand. “We must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and indeed even welcome it in the service of the search for truth. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs,” he states. Sometimes you may resist the truth because it’s not what you expected or were hoping for, but achieving balanced mental health is seeking and recognizing that it is, in fact, truth nonetheless.

He also says, “If your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering I advise you not to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution. You cannot achieve them without suffering. Then why desire to evolve at all, you may ask. If you ask this question, perhaps you do not know enough joy.” I think the average traveler can relate to this point in some form or another.

But perhaps my biggest takeway from the book was related to love. In a philosophy I’ve gathered for myself, I’ve realized that love is not the dependency of “needing” someone or something. Love is wanting someone to flourish as an individual so much that you are willing to do anything within your power to aid them in their person growth and development, no matter the cost. Even at the cost of your own happiness.

Talk about a selfless love. From living and volunteering here in Chile, it’s something I’m aware of everyday.



“The More You Know the Less You Understand”
August 1, 2010, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said,  “The more you know the less you understand.” It’s sort of a beautiful yet annoying paradigm.

This philosophy has never rung more true in my life than over the last week. I am on vacation from volunteering in Santiago right now, traveling through Peru and Bolivia. Lesson of the week: the more you see the more you realize you haven’t seen.

I have truly developed a new passion for traveling and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer, for better or worse. Originally the trip was going to consist of one destination, the infamous Machu Picchu. But I was going to be so close to the Uyuni Salt Flats, and to not stop would be a travesty. (Of course I wanted to get the oh so coveted pictures of the vast salt desert with the distorted depth perception.)  Then one traveler recommended a couple of beautiful cities on the way to Machu Picchu that are a “must see,” Arequipa and Cusco in Peru. Another traveler recommended a stop in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, on our way to Uyuni. Of course, there was a multitude of other suggestions but we had to be realistic with our time and money constraints.

Traveling to developing countries doesn’t come without sacrifices to your health, your pocket book and your well-being, but it is most definitely worth it. So far I have had bed bugs in Santiago, elevation sickness in Peru, and food poisoning in Bolivia. That alone sounds like enough to make someone run like Forrest Gump in the opposite direction to the conveniences and pleasantries of home in America. But it’s not. And let’s not forget the pleasure of drying your clothes after they’ve been washed, or a consistently hot shower. Or indoor heating. Or the convenience of putting your dirty toilet paper directly into the toilet. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy these things, but it is still not enough to deter me from wanting more: the joy of helping people less fortunate than yourself, the rush of skiing in the Andes, the accomplishment of climbing Machu Picchu, and a view from the top that is more than enough.

It looks like my time in Chile, Peru and Bolivia is only the beginning of new discoveries.

“Let Yourself Be Defined By Your Actions”
July 30, 2010, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

Cajón del Maipo, Chile: no internet access, no phone service, no distractions of city life.  Every class of VE Global volunteers gets to go on a weekend jornada, or day trip, to this quaint little ranch in the mountainside outside the city that is rented out by an adorable and generous  hippie couple who live there.

The purpose of the jornada is for the whole group to have a chance to come together to reflect and refocus on the mission behind what we are trying to accomplish at VE. It was very easy for me to become side-tracked amidst the excitement of travel, meeting new people and places, and the fact that Santiago is one big non-stop party.

We began the weekend with loads of silly team building activities and mushy talks that really set the stage for the entire weekend. We broke into small groups and discussed the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty and the endless cycles that exist within the economic classes.  The disparity between the classes here in Santiago is immense. With 18.2% of the population under the poverty line, the top 10% of the population here consumes 41.7% of resources while the bottom 10% consumes only 1.6%. The statistics are alarmingly drastic, and probably are in the country where you reside as well.

Photo of Cajón del Maipo from Flickr user Naturaleza

One of the aims of VE is to seek to improve awareness  and in turn, improve the situation for those in need. When you view poverty from an outside perspective, many times it is easy to mistake the effects of poverty for the causes, and the cycle continues. I believe a difficult cycle exists within the upper classes as well.  People who grow up with money become accustomed to having and doing certain things that are no longer recognized as privileged, but normal. My heart breaks when I think about the privileges I have been handed and taken for granted. Most of those being privileges that the children at Anakena, the school where I teach, would never imagine possible. I am not from the view that everyone should feel ashamed and guilty for taking advantage of opportunities in life. However, I do think it is our responsibility to be aware of what truly is privilege and what is necessity. Fortunately and unfortunately, those of us who have never experienced what poverty feels like will never be able to fully empathize with those who endure the oppression that poverty brings with it. We are left to strive for awareness and compassion.

During our weekend retreat, we were given free time for some reflection of our personal and professional goals as well as objectives we hope to achieve within our institutions and with the children. It was so refreshing to take the time to sit alone with nothing but your thoughts, a pen and paper. One of my personal goals in coming to Chile was to consummate my independence as a woman. The first step was getting here alone. The second step is being intentional about tracking the progress of my goals in a tangible way.

I have learned that it really isn’t enough to simply desire to be a certain type of person, you have to live it. Someone recently told me a phrase that really stuck with me. “Let yourself be defined by your actions.” Although a simple theme, the phrase inherently carries with it a deep-rooted, yet fundamental challenge to be the person you want to be.  As I sit here in Chile, journal in hand, I bring this challenge to you. Wherever you are in life, whether you are traveling abroad in China or Latin America or you are settled in a place you call home, allow yourself to be defined by your actions.

“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le! Viva Chile!!”
July 30, 2010, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

If I had one word to describe Chilean fans, it would be dedicated. The students and staff at Colegio Anakena are no exception.

Photo of celebration of World Cup game from Flickr user Kmilo

“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le Viva Chile!” is what I heard walking into Anakena on Friday. As the children arrived, the tias were painting the students faces in Chile’s colors of red, white and blue. They were blowing horns and shouting this famous cry of all Chileans during the World Cup.  All the students and staff at Anakena had gathered to cheer on their team and eat completos for the game against Spain on this Friday. (Completos, in case you don’t know, are a very popular Chilean delicacy. It is simply a hot dog smothered in guacamole, mayo, diced tomato, and ketchup. It is enormously messy and all the kids were wearing their completos by the end of the game after sufficiently playing with them rather than consuming them.)

I’m not sure who was more excited after the game on Friday, the students or the tias. Even after a LOSS, they were brimming with anticipation for the upcoming game versus the famous Brazilians! It was so great to spend some time with them outside of classroom lessons, just having fun. I feel like I am getting to see more of who they are as people. I can tell the kids are feeling more comfortable with me and that is encouraging. I am also beginning to decipher the students specific speech impediments, despite my Spanish language incompetence, which is helpful for both them and me.  As I continue to work on my Spanish, and learn the types of words and sounds the children struggle with, I will be able to help them so much more effectively. I will also be able to develop closer and more real relationships with them. The mere  thought of that brings me so much joy.

A Week of Three “Firsts”
July 9, 2010, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

1.  This week I started working at Colegio Anakena. My first day on the job I was greeted by a sad little girl wearing a puffy down jacket lying on the floor of the classroom, bawling her eyes out. All four of her limbs were spread out, and she had her baggie of crackers still in hand.  She was one of the most adorable four year old girls with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen.  As the tia started the lesson for the day, the crying didn’t subside for one moment as she was so sad to part from her mom. The tia asked me to take the sobbing niña outside to try to calm her down. I held her tightly in my arms, rocking her back and forth while whispering  “Está bien, está bien, ssshhh.” We returned to the classroom after about ten minutes where she gradually quieted down and became comfortable. I will never forget the look she gave me during the tia’s next lesson. Her eyes said, “Thank you for loving me.” From then on she has referred to me as “Tia mia.” Precious.

2.  I experienced my first Chilean World Cup win last Wednesday. They beat Honduras one to nil. I thought people in the States were obnoxious when it came to rooting for their home teams, however, I humbly concede that Chilean celebrations far exceed any celebration of a sporting event I have ever witnessed or heard of in the States. It is not even in the same ball park. The festivities commence the night before the game and increasingly anarchy and chaos ensue, resulting in tear gas, water cannons, flares and mass destruction. I was awoken several times to honking horns, beating drums, yelling and clapping. In my sleepy haze, I thought a high school band decided to hold their practice on my head board. Work and school is either canceled or dismissed temporarily. Immediately following the game, the streets below my apartment filled with crazed fans, pooling in from every bar, house and establishment that housed a television. The crowds swelled so much that the roads had to be closed. Riot police lined the sidewalks to prevent looting and violent mob mentality.  However, the crazed celebrations simply cannot be effectively controlled and violence was sure to ensue. Eventually the riot police resorted to specially equipped vehicles that released tear gas and sprayed 50 meter streams of water.  Loco, right?

3.  What Chileans refer to as hills, I refer to as mountains. This week I ran up my first mountain, Cerro San Cristobal, which stands at 880 meters above sea level. The elevation kicked my butt, coming from an elevation of 240 meters in the planes of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but I’ve never been on  a run with a better view. It is so amazing to look out onto a big beautiful city with the enormous snow covered Andes in the background. Photographs do nothing for something so spectacular.