By Gretchen Richter de Medeiros
Planning the trip was a multi-disciplinary exercise. We had a giant write-and-wipe world map in the hallway where we sketched out itinerary options. We swapped travel stories with friends, watched travel-adventure videos, and read blogs written by other RTW families (we're not the only ones!) Once we had nailed our South America calendar and itinerary, we started having brunch and mimosa decision-making-sessions with Heather and her mom, Terrie Holmes. It was during one of these Sunday events that Heather found our Chilean home-away-from-home in a small coastal town near Valparaiso on VRBO.com.
We stayed at "Casa de Verano" for two weeks. A super-simple cottage with a DIY vibe, it was exactly what we needed after 5 weeks on the road. With three bedrooms and plenty of shelving, we were all able to unpack and spread out. When you've been living out of a backpack, it's quite nice to hang things up, fold things tidily, stow away the luggage, and let your travel-soap-dish dry out.
We deliberately planned very little sightseeing, opting instead to just "live" for a while. The kitchen was basic but well-stocked, so we shopped at the local grocery store and fruit/veggie market and cooked almost all of our meals. We baked brownies and apple cake and, on a particularly chilly day, ate chili in Chile. ;) We did make a few day trips to wineries in the , our favorites were the organics at Emiliana and bubbly at Vina Mar.
The kids played in the backyard pool despite the fact that it was still a bit cold in mid-spring. Rodrigo and I walked almost daily throughout the town, and we all liked to hike down to the beach, especially during the fabulous pink and purple sunsets. It was too rocky, cold and turbulent to swim, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the sand, birds, and rocky outcrops.
Surprisingly, we had an excellent internet connection, which was awesome for road-schooling. Bella is enrolled in an online program through the Snoqualmie school district. With Heather by her side, they managed to get quite a bit ahead in her three first-semester classes, Algebra II, Health and PE. (Yeah, I know, PE online sounds like getting your driver's license by correspondence. She's making activity goals, logging her food and exercise, and doing quizzes. It actually does make sense.) Similarly, Marco and Heather worked through 2 math units. Rodrigo edited videos, and everyone wrote blog posts.
Looking back, everyone remembers Las Cruces as just the right amount of down time in just the right kind of house doing just the right kind of "nothing". Chillin' in Chile gave all of us time to recharge our batteries and was also beneficial to our budget (so far, Chile's the country with the lowest per-day expenses). Before we left Seattle, we knew we wanted to avoid the whirlwind 10-days/5-cities type of itineraries, but Las Cruces helped us realize that we truly do need multi-week stays in small towns. We're definitely keeping that in mind as we're planning the next six months on the road.