I finished my packing. I had a lump in my throat but I was anxious about my departure. After many years of savings, applications to universities, intensive English classes, I was a few minutes away from leaving for London to do my postgraduate studies. It was always my dream to study in England and at last it was coming true. But this dream gave way to an even bigger one: to see the world, other cultures, visit other countries, meet different people from places that I never knew they existed. Probably this desire is shared by many who have lived most of our lives in the confines of South America.
The fascinating thing about London for me, as a music fan, is the number of concerts and festival that take place over there. I went to the Reading Festival, a three day event of different music style, to the small venues where I saw bands such as Vampire Weekend, Tiffany Page to the one-off reunion concert of Blur in Hyde Park. Every day there were bands playing, several on the same night, every day you miss something! I think in London there are more music venues than there are in the whole of Chile.
The other thing that amazed me was the variety of cultures. I knew that London was a cosmopolitan city but once there I realised it was much more than I thought. In the underground (the tube for Londoners) you can hear many different languages and see people of all cultures, colours and sizes all intermixing. The variety of nationalities has brought with it a great infusion of food. In this regard my favourite meal was the Indian take-away, how I miss them!
It was a one year course, and I had a budget for a year. I had planned in advance a couple of trips within Europe, but being in the centre of the world it was almost impossible not to be tempted to visit other places, there are so many deals! One of the few things that are cheaper in Europe than in South America are the flights and I had to take advantage of that. During my first year in London I went to Barcelona, Madrid, Venice, Rome, Naples, Prague, Berlin, Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris.
I met a good number of people, many of whom were experienced travellers in Europe and around the world. I also met people at the university of many nationalities, they invited me to their countries, opened the doors of their homes, introduced me to their families and their cultures. So I realised that in one year it would be impossible to fulfil all my travel dreams. In my desire to visit more places I decided to stay a bit longer in the United Kingdom, maybe six months or a year.
During the extra time I visited Berlin (second time), Toronto, Dubrovnik in Croatia, Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Fez in Morocco. Finally I stayed two and half years and I still think it was not long enough. There are too many other places I want to visit. I would need years to visit all the countries I want to. I did not go to the Middle East, or India, or South East Asia.
Now I am back in Santiago, Chile, the town where I have lived most of my life. Back to work, to friends, to the affection of my family. But this time with a different view of the world, my country and my people. I appreciate the contact with my family and friends. I feel my experience of living abroad has been useful to me with being a little bit more tolerant, to be honest with myself and with others, to openly say “yes” when it is yes and “no” when it is no. Meanwhile, I am already dreaming about my next destinations.
WRITTEN BY CRISTIÁN ARROYO