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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How To Enjoy Your Vacation with Lost Luggage

Hey y’all, I am a first-hand experienced traveler when it comes to lost luggage. It happens! That is the first thing you have to remember when it happens to you for the first time (because if you travel a lot or even occasionally, then it WILL eventually happen to you). The worst experience I had with this was when I was headed to my honeymoon with my wonderful husband.

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We flew out of Nashville on Monday morning, had a layover in Houston, and landed at the Liberia, Costa Rica Airport where we came to the dawning realization that our luggage had been left behind at the Houston airport. With everyone expressing the “Pura Vida” mentality of not sweating the small stuff, we had a difficult time dealing with the broken English of the airport workers. After many tears and mixed Spanish and English discussions (Spanglish, if you will), we realized that our luggage would not arrive to this tiny airport until 3 days later. Cue mental breakdown on my part. There was nothing we could do at that point. So we got on the bus to our resort, got lost in thought for the 1.5 hour bumpy drive over rocks and mud, and arrived to our resort in the middle of nowhere, Costa Rica.

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We tried to explain the situation to the resort staff, but if you have never experienced that no-stress mentality, then it is hard to comprehend how chill to the extreme these people were. They said they would call the airport and ushered us off to our room. When we got into the room, everything hit us. We have no luggage. We are on our honeymoon at a beautiful resort on the beach and have limited clothes. What would we wear to dinner? There was literally forest around us; there were no stores. We had no toothbrushes (sorry honey, don’t think we can kiss). The thoughts kept pouring in. This was the turning point though – time to take action and make this work since we were sitting in a beautiful room with a bed strewn with flower petals.

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We went through our carry on luggage and gathered together the small amount of clothing we had. Oh boy. Since there was a dress code at all the restaurants at our all-inclusive resort, we had to get creative. The first few nights, we had to make do with what we had. I was wearing jeans, a black tank top I had worn under my clothes on the plane, and a necklace I had luckily thrown in my carry on at the last minute.

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Alec was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that he wore on the plane. We found out around this time that they would be attempting to fly our bag to another airport in CR and send it by taxi to the resort 8 hours away. We knew these clothes would be getting unsanitary soon though so we washed our clothes in the 3 inch shallow sink. At this point we had lost all hope of our luggage actually ever arriving.

Tuesday started out lovely when the staff wouldn’t let Alec come into the breakfast area wearing a tank top (mind you, this was one of his 2 tank options). Luckily, they had an overly used polo shirt that paired wonderfully with his blue basketball shorts! Who knows how many people had already worn this spare shirt that they had hanging at the hostess stand. He was really happy about it as you can tell below.

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After that, we broke down and bought cheap, overpriced clothing items at the convenience store of the resort. We also bought sunscreen after already having sunburns from walking down to the beach after literally 1 hour. We had to at least purchase these essentials other than the few goodies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath soap, etc. that the hotel had given us. They even sent us flowers and gift certificate for me to get services at their spa to let us know they felt bad for our situation!

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Such a nice goodie basket and beautiful flowers below from the most helpful and favorite hotel staff member, Fabian (yes, that was his name)!

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We decided to make the most of the beach bum life and live with what we had. Then, the resort staff, who we were pretty sure had forgotten about us other than the goodies and flowers (thank you FABIAN), brought sets of men and women’s waiter and waitress clothes for us to wear to dinner. Alec now had nice khakis and a flamingo waiter shirt (all he needed was a towel over his arm!) and they offered me a very large pencil skirt and wide-sized, white polo. I think he got the better end of the deal. Instead of wearing a huge polo, I used one of my nightgowns and tucked it into the pencil skirt. We were working our make-shift dinner attire and were actually having fun trying to figure out where our next outfit would come from! I can’t even count how many times we said, “this will be really funny later for sure,” and we were right!

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Notice I’m still sporting the original tank from the night before under the nightgown #resourceful

We learned a lot from losing our luggage and actually enjoyed solving the problems that arose as we went through the honeymoon. Since we started out our marriage working through a trial, then it must be a great sign for the future!

After being put on a plane to the San Jose, Costa Rica Airport and then placed in a taxi for 8 hours, our luggage arrived in one piece at our hotel room on Wednesday morning. We were surprised and shocked so see it. We could not have been more thrilled to see this soiled, large, blue duffel bag. From that point forward, it was all smooth sailing into honeymoon bliss.

As we gear up for our trip next week, we intend to be much more prepared with options packed in our carry-on luggage. It is always a good idea to make sure you have the following in your carry-on with you – especially if you are going international:

  • A change of clothes
  • An extra pair of walking shoes
  • Everything you would keep in your purse
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera and charger
  • Magazine/Book
  • Universal adapter plug
  • Essential toiletries
  • Snacks and water (At least an empty water bottle to fill up after security)
  • An extra jacket (depending on location)
  • Anything you would absolutely die if you lost!

For our Icelandic adventure, I think we will be making sure we have enough in our carry ons to get us by if need be. 🙂