It took me more than a day to go from Quito, Ecuador to Puerto Montt, Chile. I left sunny Ecuador at six in the evening and later changed planes in Lima, Peru. Why am I not staying to see Machu Picchu? Believe me, many have asked and I really don’t have a good answer except I just decided not to now. I’m trying not to cram in too many places on this trip, and the Galapagos and Patagonia were very high on my list. So I’ve decided to skip Peru this go around, but don’t worry—if you know me at all, you know this is not my last trip—not even close.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, jammed into a seat on an Airbus 320 heading to Santiago, Chile. I arrived in Chile at three in the morning the next day. My flight down to Puerto Montt and the Patagonia region wasn’t until seven thirty in the morning. So…after clearing immigration (where you have to pay a $100 reciprocation fee to enter country—we pay this because the U.S. makes Chileans fork over the same amount when entering our nation) and customs I looked for a place to crash.
The airport was modern, clean, and mostly quiet except for night workers who scurried about mopping floors and doing overnight type things like construction work. I found a group of folks dozing in one area near the domestic flight check-in counters. I joined them and laid down across four attached red metal chairs and used my back pack as a pillow. I covered my eyes with the sleeve of my fleece jacket and tried to sleep. Not easy for me—a very light sleeper who has the very bad habit of needing to sleep on her stomach. That’s just not possible in hard metal airport chairs. In between folks getting drinks from a soda machine nearby, and a few errant overhead announcements, I dozed for an hour or two and finally sat up around six-o’clock in the morning to collect my boarding pass and proceed through security towards my gate.
Now, normally sleeping in metal chairs would not be high on my list of fun nights out, but in the world of budget travel, I do feel like your priorities and standards change a bit. Don’t misunderstand me, I haven’t become a ‘real’ backpacker–sleeping on dusty floors and not showering until I can actually smell myself (or getting so used to my own stench that I don’t smell myself anymore). I definitely still set my standards at clean sheets and towels and of course a safe and clean place to sleep.
I was not looking forward to this sleepless night in an airport, but it wasn’t a surprise to me so I just took it in stride—well, ‘zombie-like’ stride. In life, we so often get caught up in minor inconveniences and make them major mostly due to our own overreaction to them. I’ve found that in the world of budget travel when you don’t expect too much, you are rarely let down. In fact, quite the opposite—since my expectations may be lower, I am often pleasantly surprised at my accommodations or my food or even a mode of transport getting me from point A to point B. It certainly allows me to appreciate the small things in life and appreciate the big things even more.