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How I Survived the Villarrica Volcano Hike

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The alarm rang at 3:30 at night. I peeked out of my blanket into the dark dorm room and wondered why I had decided to hike the 2,800-meter high volcano. Just then Alison, my Canadian friend, who was sleeping on the lowest bunk bed opposite me, snoozed the alarm on her iPhone, mumbled something, opened her eyes for a second, and then pulled the blanket over her head again. She was the one who made me signup for the Villarrica Volcano hike, the active volcano that had erupted a year ago.

I shut the alarm and got out of bed. Alison followed me. Though November is a summer month in Chile, Pucon, a city in the lake region, wasn’t that warm, especially at that early hour of the day. After barely washing our faces with the cold water, we walked to the cherry tree in the hostel where ten other hikers were following the directions of the Volcan Villarrica tour guides. We wore a pair of waterproof trousers over our track pants and strapped our rucksack in which we carried the rest of the gear on our backs. Then the twelve of us walked to the minivan that was to drive us to Villarrica 30 kilometers out of town.

I don’t know if I felt secured or alarmed when Alejandro, one of our three tour guides, told us that after the eruption in 2015 the government had mandated that there should be a guide accompanying every four trekkers.

After driving for an hour, we reached the base of Villarrica. Even at that wee hour, the area was flooded with minivans and travelers who wanted to climb the volcano. Until then I didn’t know that climbing volcano Villarrica is the sole reason for some of the tourists to visit Pucon, the city which Lonely Planet refers to as the mecca for adventure sports. And why wouldn’t it be? You can do river rafting, kayaking, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, and so much more in the bustling lake town of Pucon. (as if there weren’t already enough things to do while backpacking South America.)

Recommended Read: My experiential travel guide to Chile

I craned my neck to look up to the summit. The twilight was dissolving away the darkness of the night. A rotund moon watched us from above. From its base, Rucapillán, or the house of the Pillán, (the Mapuche name of Volcano Villarrica) indeed looked like a superpower, an undefeatable giant.

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Learning Spanish in Chile – A Mind-Numbing Experience

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Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chile government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here.

I went to Chile in July 2016 to teach English in a state school. I’m not a trained teacher, but I was volunteering as part of the English Open Doors Program, an initiative of the Chilean government.

All my friends, family, relatives, and acquaintances asked me what made me go to Chile. I told them I didn’t think much. They asked me if I could speak Spanish; I replied I would learn Spanish in Chile.

My family concluded my idea to travel to South America was an immature escape as the journey would leave me all alone and financially unstable. I was sucked into a whirlpool of emotional hurdles stirred by my loved ones who asserted they cared.

I was fired. I had just ended a two-year relationship I believed was my long-lasting love. The Titanic sank. I was going to be twenty-nine soon. Friends were getting married. Babies were being born. I did not know anyone in Chile. I did not speak Spanish.

Before I left, an uneasy feeling lingered in my stomach. Like the one that makes you shuffle through your pockets when you walk out of your home. Later I understood I was scared: of being alone, of unknowns, and of not knowing Spanish.

I did not know that in a couple of months I would learn the foreign language and speak it fluently.

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On What’s Important –  With The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Relearning The Most Important Principles of Life–  With The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, aviator, and a unique philosopher. He served as a pilot in the French army, flew for commercial airline companies and also in leisure. He wrote in the air.

On one of his flights from Paris to Saigon in 1935, Antoine’s plane crashed in Sahara. He was stranded in the desert with his navigator. They were far away from habitation and only had a few fruits and a day’s supply of liquids.

Dehydrated in the arid Sahara, Antoine began to see mirages and hallucinated vividly. On the fourth day in the desert, a Bedouin found them and saved their lives with a native dehydration treatment.

Inspired by his experiences in the Sahara, Antoine published a children’s fable for adults called Le Petit Prince or the Little Prince in 1943. This book is not only one of the most favorite children’s books, but also one of the most popular philosophy books. It is the third most printed book after Bible and Gone With the Wind.

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Let Life Flow Freely – She Knows Her Course Better than You Do.

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Let life happen to you — Rainer Maria Rilke told a Young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus when he expressed his doubts about his poetry to Rainer in a letter.

 

Out of all the golden words that Rainer said, this advice struck me the most when I read the twelve-letter correspondence between him and Franz. Those letters are a brilliant read. But calling them a read would be undermining them.

The art that those twelve letters hold in their hearts thrives with life and hope and advice. That art is like that thunder which roars at night. That art is like lightning which dances across the grey sky. That art is like that twilight which doesn’t know any bounds.

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How to Achieve Your Goals – 12 Principles I’ve Followed Since I’m 15

a woman bent with a text of courage of heart and a heart

How to Achieve GoalsMy 12 Principles

I hail from a small North Indian town that doesn’t offer many educational opportunities beyond high school. When I was 15, my father took me to Kota city in Rajasthan. There I was to study for the entrance examination to the well-known engineering university the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

Settling me in a paying guest house, papa left for home. That was the first time I was so far from my parents.

For two years, I studied. On my first attempt at the entrance examination, I failed. I continued staying in Kota for one more year. The second time I ranked seventy-eight amongst half a million students.

My success didn’t come by chance. I understood the importance of goals even back then. I knew I had to achieve mine.

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Learnings From One–Year of Sincere Writing and Blogging

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I think a lot more.

I read a lot more. I scroll blogs for hours. I highlight words while I read. I note them down. I try to go through them again.

I write a lot more. I ask myself why shall I not write on a Sunday. The world goes on. So I go on describing it.

I broke up with redundant words. I perfect the Whatsapp messages and the emails I send. My scrutinizing eyes don’t even spare the responses of my friends.

When I wake up, I think about writing instead of thinking about going to the toilet. I am burdened by guilt the day I don’t write. The day I write well, I feel liberated.

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Robbed on a Running Bus in Santiago, Chile

indian traveler in chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

I donned my white formal dress, put on my red matte lipstick, lined my eyes with Kajal, brushed my hair and let them fall loose, strapped my G-Shock on my right wrist, checked if I had Chilean pesos, hung my black leather purse on my shoulder, picked up my black Lenovo phone and earphones, launched Google maps, and walked out of the Airbnb to go for my interview at the English teaching center located in downtown Santiago. I had had to visit the center a few times to secure an interview with the English owner of the promising institute.

I took the lift to the ground floor of the building and having exchanged pleasantries with the joyful guard, walked out, and found myself face-to-face with the glowering January sun. I strode through the almost-empty roads towards the closest bus stand which was frequented by the bus that would have directly taken me to the cosmopolitan center of the town.

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Elon Musk – Twelve Things We Should Learn from the Hulk-Like Tycoon

mountaineer image climbing high to show how elon musk work ethic

The prime-time news and the first page headlines of reputed national newspapers and the gossiping internet forums and the geeky silicon valley blogs have bombarded us with Elon Musk. They scrutinized the guy first for his electronic money transfer system (Paypal), then for his electric cars (Tesla), then for his rockets and space stations (SpaceX), and then for solar energy (SolarCity).

But I felt I still knew nothing about the silicon valley tycoon who manufactures rockets and cars in one of the most expensive places on earth aka Silicon Valley. So to know more about the real-life Iron Man, I read his biography – Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance.

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Cracking The Art of Learning with Josh Waitzkin

paper boats to show art of learning (1)

 

The right learning could make you or break you — and the one who understands that stands above all.

Josh Waitzkin — a child prodigy, an international chess master, and a Tai Chi Push Hands world champion wrote a book called The Art of Learning. In this book, he penned down his inner and outer journey to success while listing the various techniques he applied to master chess and martial arts.

I picked up his book — not to learn from a chess master or a martial arts champion — but to learn from someone who has cracked the art of learning.

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Revenge is Fatal

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The Blue Frog and The Honey Bee

Once upon a time, a blue frog lived in a blue pond.

He liked eating flies. Whenever he saw a fly, he would stick out his tongue. The fly would get stuck to frog’s tongue. Then the frog would quickly withdraw his tongue inside and gulp the fly. He then bathed happily in the ink-blue water of the pond.

One day, a honey bee was flying with two house flies near the pond. While the bee settled on a red hibiscus growing near the pond, the flies flew down to the shore of the pond to sit near the cool water. The frog sucked-in both the flies one by one. The honey bee, who was watching the hunting game of the frog from the hibiscus grove, flew to the frog and bit him on his neck.

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What Travel Has Taught Me – About the World and Myself

a park in basavanagudi bangalore as feature image for lessons from traveling article

I’m not here to quote Robert Frost (even though I took the road less traveled) and suggest you to leave everything and travel. Here we want to understand why so many people wander around the world in search of something bigger than themselves.

Why do so many people change their careers and lifestyles to travel? Sometimes even indefinitely?

Do they travel to see new places and eat different food? Or to fill their passports with stamps? Or to be able to say at their deathbed that they have seen the world?

Could be. But it is more than that.

Let me take you through what travel has taught me.

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Why is the Process of Learning More Important Than the Result

a pen sketching showing process of learning

 

When we wake up, how many of us think of what we want to do today? Almost all of us.

How many of us think of improving at what we do or focus on personal growth and development? Not many.

The presentation should be ready at 2. The code should get deployed. The author’s biography should come under every article. Let’s put in a hack. Grammarly shows that this pronoun doesn’t make any sense in the sentence. I don’t understand why but let’s get rid of it. Spaghetti over boiled again. But at least we have dinner.

As Josh Waitzkin, the chess and Tai Chi Push hands world champion, said in his book The Art of Learning, “We focus so much on the outcome that the intrinsic details of the learning process are lost on us.”

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