Living vs Travelling

I characterize this past week and a half with a single event last Sunday afternoon; after days of searching through cafes and markets I finally broke down and bought a bag of Starbucks coffee.  I had been trying my best to hold out to find some cool local shop – not necessarily locally sourced, just something a little less gringo – but such a thing turns out to be very hard to find.  The cafes exist, they simply refuse to sell anything different than a three dollar cup of their best guess at Italian espresso.

Up through this point my experience living abroad has been somewhat similar.  I came to Chile with a lot of expectations, not so much concerning the people, culture, customs, etc, but concerning what my experience would be like living here.  Many of these came from my friends who had already spent many months abroad and the stories they brought back, while others I had almost certainly had fabricated on my own.  Whatever the case, months before I left American soil, I had already unknowingly decided exactly how this half year would be.

But that attitude, as I have been discovering, makes for a miserable existence.  Inflexibility has a habit of making insignificant inconsistencies – especially those that are an inevitable of travelling, moving, and living – seem like a big deal.  For example, about two days after moving in with my Chilean family, I realized that they spend large amounts of their free time watching TV in the solitude of their rooms.  That certainly did not fit my plan – I don’t think the amount TV I’ve watched in my life has totaled more than a few hours – and I therefore spent the next few days as a confused and disappointed mess.

So in a way buying that precious bag of coffee last Sunday came with an important realization: immersing oneself in a culture should not come at the expense of living within that culture.  Immersion is definitely the reason why I’m living in Chile – my priority or “plan” so to speak – but that doesn’t mean putting my life on hold.