I finished my classes a few weeks ago (Chile runs on an "inverted" academic year from ours, where classes start in late July after a short "winter" break and thus end earlier for a long "summer" break) and started traveling into northern Chile, most of which is a very large desert scattered with mines (the mineral kind, not the explosive ones). Which I just got back from and am now luxuriating in a feeling of ridiculous cleanliness resultant from having both a shower and machine-washed clean clothes (at the same time! What excess!)
It was two weeks of a fairly fast pace-not quite "vacation" in the traditional sense but definitely something I'd do again...in fact, now I keep thinking I need to come back for longer. I didn't even get out of Chile!
I`m doing most of the classic college-student-travelling things: eating out of a bag of ramen and trail mix, counting anyone I've stayed at the same hostel with two whole nights in a row a close friend, learning that bus drivers can usually find a space for you when the ticket counter thinks there are none and I've even had to count travel time backwards from my current location to figure out what day it is.
I did all of the exploring and stopping while working my way north, so I ended my trip with a 24-hour bus ride from Iquique back to Santiago. Oddly, of all the things-I'm-doing-for-the-first-time I had planned for this trip, this one actually worried me the most (Showing up in strange cities with no plans for food, lodging or travel? No problem. But 24 hours on a bus? What if I get bored? What if the seats are uncomfortable? Are we there yet?). I even almost wimped out and took a flight for the return stretch, but forced myself into doing it with the consolation that if it turned out to be miserable at least I'd know for certain I don't like 24 hour bus rides and avoid them in the future, but I wasn't willing to never know. Of course, it turned out to be fine (Hours 16-20, that stretch where you've been sitting far too long but can't claim "almost there", were less than stellar, but manageable), and I happily arrived in Santiago for the aforementioned glorious shower and a few days of rest before embarking on a similar trip to southern Chile and Patagonia.
Of course, it would be silly to write about study away travel without pictures...