As soon as my program finished, I traveled for another month. For the first three weeks, I visited Patagonia -- the southern parts of Chile and Argentina. It had been the first time I traveled alone, and after my time in Buenos Aires had come to an end, it was exactly what I needed to recollect my thoughts and center myself. Starting from Santiago, my journey ended in the southernmost city of the world of Ushuaia. It brought me to the beautiful town of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, where I biked 25 kilometers through some of the most breathtaking views of sapphire and emerald toned lakes and snow capped mountains backdrop. I swam in a glacier lake, which was fun but horribly freezing as one could gather. I also trekked on a glacier -- the Perito Moreno glacier to be exact. I made camp in the windiest town I have ever visited -- El Chaltén. If you have seen the logo for the Patagonia outdoors brand, that rugged mountain silhouette found inspiration from Mt. Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks in El Chaltén. Mt. Fitz Roy, the highest of the peaks, would be hidden by clouds and when it did come out, it was stunning. I went next to Torres del Paine National Park, which is the place I most connected with during this journey. The Torres range and Lake Pehoé set the background for the campsite, and weather had been on our side the five days I was there. The last day up to the iconic Torres peaks was the most memorable. It first brought me through a forest that had this perfect symbiosis, and then to the most grueling part -- a 1000 foot ascension in the matter of a kilometer. This meant just direct uphill, and my knee had given out a day ago. The reason I wanted to visit Patagonia though was for the Torres peaks and so despite being in pain, I made it. I immediately collapsed on the ground, leaning against a rock that directly faced the peaks -- this moment brought incomparable peace to me.
I headed then to Ushuaia, where I only had a few hours. I remember the sun shining in those hours, even though the city usually sees only rain. I got my passport stamped to say that I had been in Ushuaia and went to the airport to catch my flight to Buenos Aires -- where I had seven hours from midnight to seven in the morning to gather my luggage from my host mom's and say my final bye to the city (for now). I flew into AEP, the inner city airport, and the runway and where the flight landed was a few miles to the right of Plaza Intendente Alvear, which was a block away from where I lived and which held an overwhelming feeling of comfort for me. The taxi ride to my host mom's went through all the places that held the sweetest memories of the adventures my friends and I had embarked on, and I started to tear up because it was a perfect way of saying this final bye to Buenos Aires.
My next week was in Peru, where my best friend joined me to go to Machu Picchu. We traveled to Lima and Cusco, where we largely explored on our own. When we went to Machu Picchu, it was early morning, or a time where there are a lot of tourists. We went down for an early lunch, and we revisited the site toward the late afternoon where there was barely a soul. In the absence of so many people, the site had this eerie but breathtaking vibe to it. I loved being there, and that too being able to share the moment with a person I hold so close to me. It had been the best ending to my time in South America.
I sadly returned home with a sprained ankle, but the healing period has allowed me time to reflect on studying abroad. Because I had the talk of adjusting back to being in DC in Buenos Aires, I am prepared but I also understand as Robert Frost said, "The best way out is always through." I will experience this readjustment day by day, and through doing that, I will be gentle to myself and reach out to my support system when I do need the help.
Thank you to everyone who has read my posts for following this five month journey of mine! Hope you all have a beautiful new year ahead.