Adventure, Chile, Featured, Latin America, Reflections
Comments 17

Turning 34 in Quarantine in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The plan sounded quite alright. Upon landing in Chile, I would spend five nights in quarantine in Valparaiso and four on the island – and be let out just before my 34th birthday, to embrace the spectacular beauty and connect with the remote island community of Robinson Crusoe Island.

But plans never work like they’re supposed to, do they?

Our tiny plane from mainland Chile to Robinson Crusoe Island got rescheduled three times. Each time, disappointed and desperate, I retreated to an extended, isolating quarantine in Room 1217 – where the walls felt like they would close in on me and swallow me whole any moment.

Also read: Enroute to One of the World’s Remotest Island

Sunsets in Room 1217 in Valparaiso – just half an hour from where the poet Pablo Nerudo once lived!

When the stars finally aligned, I was surprised to be dropped off at a navy airstrip in the wilderness of Santiago, the capital city of Chile! A tiny six-seater plane waited to carry four of us, along with two pilots, who proudly told us that that plane has been flying since the 1970s, manufactured some 50 years ago. Its scratched windows and broken air conditioning ducts were evidence.

Also read: 6 Months, 6 Countries: Epic Memories from Central America

Landing on Robinson Crusoe Island on the tiny six-seater plane!

I soon learnt that things had been quite lax until a few years ago when a famous Chilean actor died in a plane crash on his way to the island. Safety became of the utmost concern thereafter – and I’m so glad we waited for just the right weather conditions!

At low altitude above the Pacific Ocean, we flew for about two hours, hearts partly in our mouths. Descending past mist-engulfed hills and roaring waters, we landed on a narrow airstrip plucked out of the moon, surrounded by desolate landscapes streaked orange and brown.

Around the small airport jetty where we waited to board the boat to San Juan Bautista – the only inhabited village on the island – hundreds of seals swam and pranced about in the water. The choppy boat ride took us past Jurassic Park-esque scenery, finally depositing us ashore for four days of island quarantine.

Also read: Guanaja: Sshh… A Secret in the Caribbean

Airport jetty to catch the boat to San Juan Bautista.
First glimpse of the only inhabited village on Robinson Crusoe Island – home for a month!

But little did I know what was still in store…

On our fifth morning on the island, we headed out to the small village hospital for our fourth covid test of the trip. For the first time, I saw the only street of our village, the Lenovo technology hub where we’d have access to high speed wifi, and the family-run restaurant from where our food was catered. The air smelt like the ocean; the ocean shone a brilliant blue like the sky.

Our squad of four, who’d shared the disappointment of flight delays and thrill of boarding that tiny plane, bustled with excitement as we awaited the rapid test results. But as the clouds covered the sun and the wind started blowing hard, the room suddenly turned gloomy. The island nurse announced, quite ominously, that one person had tested positive – and as close contacts, the rest of us would have to quarantine for three more nights! An ambulance awaited outside the hospital to ferry us back the few hundred meters – and as news got around, the entire island went into a voluntary lockdown for 24 hours.

As I retreated back to my cozy wooden studio, overlooking the now silvery-blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the sun cast a strange halo on the wind-swept cliffs that rose up from the water. My eyes welled up with tears, as I craved to connect with my partner but had no internet to do so.

Also read: What’s it Like to Travel Solo When You’re in a Relationship

My cabaña in Isla Pacifico Ecolodge (earlier called Mas a Tierra Lodge) on Robinson Crusoe Island.

Not prepared for another 3 nights of isolation, I paced up and down the ten paces of my room, wondering why I’d accepted this assignment in the first place and brought a quarantine birthday upon me. After two years of the pandemic, I felt so far out of my comfort zone and so detached from the road, that I could no longer recollect why I travelled at all. Was the road ever really that magical?

Weepy-eyed, with a deep sense of isolation, I decided to take an afternoon nap – but soon got awakened by someone calling out my name. I wearily opened my door, and was shocked to see a group of islanders and some from our WFH work squad gathered in the garden beyond the terrace. These people I’d never met before had baked me an incredible vegan chocolate cake, carried a guitar, and burst into cumpleaños feliz, happy birthday <3

Also read: How the Pandemic Changed My Perspective on Life

Reflections on turning 34

The truth is that at 34, I’m having a hard time trying to find the 23-year-old me who first began penning this blog. She lived for the road, wouldn’t think twice about saying yes to a journey to the other side of the globe, and never dwelled enough on the future.

There might still be roads left in my shoes, but my feet are weary of where they tread and the trail they leave behind. Some might call it climate anxiety, but I think of it as impact anxiety. I constantly wonder about the impact of my travels – and existence – on this planet I’m lucky to call home… and even enrolled in a course to use scientific tools to be able to calculate it via a Life Cycle Assessment (more on that later).

Also read: Reflections on Life, Travel and Turning 29

No longer the 23-year-old I used to be. Photo: @adventure_cal

The pandemic, in all its weird and twisted ways, has me convinced that I can no longer just be a messenger – author, travel writer, blogger, Instagrammer, what have you.

To that end, I’ve now begun consulting an international travel company to assess the life cycle impact of their trips, figure out how to minimize their carbon emissions and ecosystem impact, and develop insetting projects to get to carbon neutral (or negative). I’m also contributing to a climate adaptation research project with tourism resilience at its core, and here on Robinson Crusoe over the coming month, I hope to engage with the island community in building a sustainable tourism destination.

A 20-something girl set out to defy societal expectations by travelling solo, living out of two bags as a digital nomad, challenging conventions of marriage and kids, and questioning the deeper purpose of travel. At 34, I feel ready to shed her skin and find new unknowns to tread.

I’ve spent the entire pandemic oscillating between feeling rootless, and feeling ready to restart my digital nomad life. But each time I wonder if the lure of the road is finally fading, it whips out its magic wand and casts its spell on me.

One thing is for sure though: At 34, I’m no longer just a girl who travels.

Never the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.

*Cover photo: @adventure_cal

ALSO READ:

Why Robinson Crusoe Island Might Just be the Most Unique Place on Earth

To Chile, With Love

This entry was posted in: Adventure, Chile, Featured, Latin America, Reflections

by

Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.

17 Comments

  1. Swati Khedekar says

    You and your journey is incredible Shivya. I love the way you share it with us. Thankyou for the same.
    May you be blessed with many more such birthdays to come filled
    in abundance with joy, happiness, good health and money to travel.😊
    With best wishes💐🙏

  2. mjadekanye says

    Happy belated birthday! I have been receiving your posts in my inbox but today is the only time I read everything. You are such an inspiration. Wishing you greater heights and beautiful experiences.

  3. Anupama Chib says

    What a deep post ! I could feel each and every word you have written….I am happy to know that you are working with travel companies to minimize their carbon footprint . I wish I was equipped to do so too. It seems like a satisfying pursuit. I can feel The climate anxiety like no other anxiety , so your thoughts, concerns ,and steps you are taking to walk the talk are deeply appreciated. Wish you a belated joyful peaceful one .

  4. Birthdays like these are special. Traveling becomes more meaningful when you connect with the community. I had a similar experience in Nagaland recently too. Happy Birthday Shivya.

  5. Can definitely see where you’re coming from. I have itchy feet, but also a feeling of guilt that I’ll be contributing even more to climate change when in the past, it never occurred to me.

  6. Aman kumar says

    Amazing.i am very amazed that you have been running this blog since past 12 years.wow what a perseverance.happy birthday

  7. Shivya, I have always admired you, throughout all the years I have followed your adventures and I feel that you are ready for the next chapter in your life where ever it will lead you, your birthday/ age is double of mine and I wish you all the Best.

  8. Biju Purushan says

    Such a motivation you are Shivya. I have a daughter and I would definitely want to tell my daughter about you and your journeys and forget any Societal expectations

  9. Aishwarya says

    Amazing…your journey is inspiring and it feels like you are holding the torch on the dark road, leading all of us future travellers and lighting the road for us to walk.Always enjoying your blogs..love them..and wish you a belated happy birthday.

  10. Nikhil Prakash says

    Happy Birthday Shivya, inspiring blog. Life is all about exchanging values and making a difference. The best I see in you. <3

  11. Ligia says

    Shivya, hello!
    What a joy to read your post and know that soon I will be going through a similar experience.
    I am one of the volunteers chosen to go to Robinson Crusoe and I look forward to meeting you in person! I tried to message you via Twitter, but couldn’t for some reason. So I am learning about your experience through your blog ^^

    If you can/want to, please send me a message via email or social media, it would be really good to connect (:

    I wish you a Happy Birthday, that your years ahead are filled with even more meaningful adventures. Hugs from Brazil

    @LiCip1ano on Twitter and @licipriano_ on Instagram

  12. Belated Happy Birthday to you. Great to you that you celebrate your birthday in the middle of pacific ocean.

  13. I know it’s late but still very happy belated birthday to you. After reading this post I planned my next vacation. Seriously you are giving positive hopes to travel. Smile. It’s the best thing you can wear.

  14. Pingback: Why Robinson Crusoe Island Might Just Be the Most Unique Place on Earth. | The Shooting Star

  15. First time i reader in your blog. Hopefully you saw the border between two oceans, heard its beautifully strange.

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