An Earth Quaking Experience

Expecting a day of rain on our third day in Chile, we were pleasantly surprised when the skies cleared and the sun broke through. Our destination for the day was Chiloe Island, Chile where we were set to ride a chartered boat out to see the Magellanic and Humboldt penguin colonies and their breeding grounds. This is a fascinating geographic location as it is the only place in the world where 2 species of penguins coexist together in harmony.

Our first step was to take the 45-minute ferry ride over to the island from the Puerto Varas area. On our ride, we saw sea lions, dolphins, and even some penguins poking their heads out of the water! The anticipation to arrive at the penguin colony in only a few short hours was growing. The ride over was a scenic beginning to the already fair-weathered day.

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Once we arrived on the island, we jumped back into the van and headed toward the coast. About 10 minutes into our ride, our guide stopped at the top of a hill for a picturesque photo opportunity. Alec, our family-deemed professional photographer, hopped out to snag a shot of the landscape overlooking the hills and channels of the island. After Alec exited the van, I realized he had left his phone in the vehicle. I jumped out to deliver it to him. Leah and my dad decided to join the photography brigade, and the three of us crossed the road at the same time. As I pulled out my own phone to take a picture, my dad commented, “Why is this bridge moving?” It was then that I looked around to witness the asphalt moving and bending around us. I yelled, “We’re not on a bridge!” Everything suddenly began to feel as if I had walked onto a swinging suspension bridge with no handholds. Like a sudden jerk back to reality, my dad yelled, “EARTHQUAKE”. We spun around to see the van shaking violently off the ground from side to side, while the wheels were jumping back and forth like a buckin’ bronco at a Texas rodeo. My mom, brother, and sister-in-law were still trapped in the van. Concerned that the van could roll down the hill at any minute, we all rushed toward it. By the time we arrived, the earthquake was losing momentum. It lasted about 6 seconds but seemed like forever. Our guide immediately dialed out to check on the status of the quake. He informed us that it was a 7.6 on the Richter Scale with the epicenter less than 80 miles from us. This occurred around the city of Quellon on the exact same island where we were located. After checking that everyone was safe and only a little “shaken up”, we jumped back into the van to continue our route. The vehicle was abuzz with conversation about each of our experiences in the moments during and after the quake. We were also in shock at the realization of our proximity to the earthquake and our chances of having been in the wake of the quake at just the time we stopped for a photo opp!

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This was the picture I took seconds before the earthquake hit

As we continued along, our guide received an unsettling alert on his phone. Since TSUNAMI is the same in Spanish and English, we all knew what was going on by this point. There was a tsunami alert for the entire coast line. All of a sudden, every car driving toward the ocean pulled over to the shoulder and turned around to head in the opposite direction. It was like watching an end times movie where people look like rats scurrying away to safety, and I had an eerie feeling about it. Of course we turned around too and headed to a Chilean family farm we had planned to visit later. The farm was located on the top of a hill around the town of Ancud.  On our commute to higher ground, we saw people walking up the sides of the street with rolling suitcases and everyone evacuating their houses carrying as many items as possible. Until this moment, I had never understood the fear and urgency that accompanies such terrible natural disasters.

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Evacuation

We made it to the farm where we ate a lunch of clams, pork, mussels, potatoes, sausages, and chicken all cooked underneath the ground like a Hawaiian luau.

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We spoke in broken Spanish with the farmer’s daughter, Carol, about the agrarian life they led. Throughout the meal, we constantly heard the tsunami alerts going off on phones like a symphony of terror every time. After many walks around the farm and house, we had worn out our welcome and were feeling restless. 

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Carol!

It was about this time when everyone got word that the tsunami they had warned of never made it to land. There was a sigh of relief and you could feel the tension loosen in the air. We headed toward the ferry port to ride back to the mainland. Even though we were told the tsunami alert was over, we continued to look over our shoulder toward the ocean as we sat on the top deck of the ferry. Thankful for safety, we arrived at the mainland, but I know none of us will soon forget the earthquake and tsunami of Christmas 2016. So travel tip #53, when someone asks you why is the bridge moving…. Always check first to make sure you’re on a bridge.  Happy unpredictable, earth-shaking traveling!

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The Edwards-Vinsant family is safe and sound
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Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

Update!

Alec and I have decided to take on international travel planning. We are doing our very first, all-planned-out, on-our-own, international trip together! We don’t really count traveling to an all-inclusive resort in Costa Rica for our Honeymoon “planning a trip.” I mean sure, it took SOME planning, but let’s be honest, we just had to show up for our plane, meet our bus for the hotel, and it was smooth sailing from there (other than when we lost our luggage, but that’s another story for another blog).

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Anywho, this year, we have decided to do more research and plan out a full international vacation to a drastically different climate. And we went all out.

We are going to ICELAND!

Many people, and even myself, have a perception about Iceland being a barren wasteland filled with ice. But remember Greenland is ice and Iceland is nice. There is a running story in which the original Norse settlers left Norway to colonize Iceland and actually planned to confuse everyone back home on purpose. They hoped those coming from Norway would inhabit Greenland instead of Iceland – they wanted to have this scenic island all to themselves. This kept the Icelandic natives safe in their haven while everyone else assumed they were living in a wasteland. Maybe this story is true and maybe it’s just a tale, but one thing to note is that many people still assume Iceland is an overgrown wilderness of sorts.

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I never imagined this would be a destination we would choose, but after my friend and alteration queen, Rachel Swayne (altermyheart.com), told us all about her awe-inspiring trip, our interest was piqued. She told us all about the natives, caves, black sand beaches, waterfalls, geothermal lagoons, mountains, glaciers, and other experiences we could witness while in Iceland. The land of fire and ice is filled with interesting formations and lush nature that cannot be found anywhere else. It has very open, rugged, and unique landscapes; It is a mystical land from our fantasies.

Once we started looking into it, we realized this getaway could be a reality for us. We researched a lot during our pre-trip planning phase, and after crunching the numbers, we realized we could easily make a budget trip out of this destination. We chose to fly with WOW Airlines for our airfare, which is a budget airline that flies to European destinations including Iceland, obviously. This airline is based out of Iceland so airfare from the eastern seaboard of the United States is VERY affordable. I would definitely check them out if you’re thinking of venturing out on an Icelandic vacation.

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We chose to go with a car rental company called SADcars for our transportation – they are an establishment that maintains 10-year-old vehicles to make rental prices cheaper for budget travelers. For our accommodations, we also chose to go a more affordable route than hotels or resorts. We searched all over and ended up choosing 3 different Airbnbs and a cabin recommended to us by Rachel. Choosing an entire home to rent (versus renting out a private room) on Airbnb is not sketchy by any means and is a great tool for budget travelers – we have stayed at them many times with no issues! We will also be staying in a wooden cabin for a couple of nights outside of the town of Vik in hopes to see the enchanting Northern Lights illuminate the night sky with their green and blue hues. September is the beginning of the Northern Lights season. The nights grow longer and the days grow shorter as Iceland moves into the fall and winter months causing the lights to be more visible in the dark. We hope we’ll spot them while we’re there!

After we secured these 3 main components of travel (airfare,  transportation, and accommodations), the hardest part was over. From there, we worked on our activities, itinerary, and restaurants to make the trip our own. As easy as the second part sounds, it was very time-consuming trying to decide what we wanted to see and what would need to be cut. Sadly, we will not be able to see everything in 8 days. I’m so excited to be able to share our trip with you. We have less than 3 weeks until we arrive there! The past 5 months have been dragging on in anticipation of going.

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Most people have said “you’re so brave” when we tell them we planned our own international vacation without a travel agent, but I think anyone can plan a trip if they set their mind to it. It just takes the courage to make the initial step.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

The adventures, memories, and life you experience when you are outside your comfort zone can be amazing and fulfilling in ways you never would have comprehended. Take it from me, it is SO worth it.

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Giving out gifts to the children of Peru

Just always remember: The fun part about a journey is not knowing how your journey will end up.

Be brave and try something new.

More blogs and photos to come on Iceland and its grandeur in the near future. 🙂