Ride or Walk in the Chilean Snow

Essay Prompt

Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.

(250-650 words)

Sample Essay

"Now shall I walk or shall I ride?

‘Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied."

-The Best Friend, WH Davies

Davies' poem, which I read in a bookstore while rifling through old poetry books, explores the distinct relationship and conflict between two positives: pleasure and joy. My exchange trip to Chile included many positive feelings and experiences, but none of them changed the way I engage with my everyday world as drastically as the joy I discovered on a single, totally unexpected evening on an unnamed road.

It was a Sunday, the 21st day of my month-long trip and the coldest summer break I'd ever experienced, as it was wintertime in the southern hemisphere. On the itinerary was a visit to a natural hot springs located well off the beaten path in the Andes Mountains. As our van began making its way up a snowy path just before dusk, I, like my peers, was completely plugged into my iPod, listening to The Weepies' album for the 20th time and napping after a long day of sightseeing. I glanced at my bathing suit in my small daypack and thought somewhat wistfully of the 98° day in my hometown.

After about an hour-and-a-half, the van slowly sputtered to a stop. My stomach immediately sank when I realized that we had not arrived at the springs, but had actually broken down. After a few moments of consideration, our leader decided that we would walk the remaining mile-and-a-half or so up to the hot springs while the driver made arrangements for a new ride. We teenagers all groaned, none of us enthusiastic about the leader's plan. I myself was equal parts nervous and upset that the plans had not worked out. Reluctantly, I fell into line and began trudging up the road.

It took only a few minutes for the surroundings to sweep me away. The nervousness, the upset all dissipated. Snow fell lightly as one of the most majestic mountain ranges in the world stretched above and below and all around us. I felt like no human had touched what was beneath my feet as the road was completely snowed over. There were no tire tracks, footprints or even lights to guide our path. The alpine vegetation alone was completely striking; I admired several purple flowers winking out from their snowy blankets. I felt deeply immersed in and completely united with the country as I realized that I had experienced a side of Chile that only a privileged few outsiders even glimpsed.

It amazes me to think that, if the plan hadn't gone wrong, I would have missed the most transformative experience of my entire time in Chile. I like schedules, and it usually frustrates me when plans do not reach fruition. But the spontaneous adventure on that unnamed road has encouraged me to respond differently when plans go awry. Instead of just being frustrated, I try to appreciate it as a taste of the unexpected. I also try to enjoy the beauty of the natural world around me every day, rather than simply passing it by on the way to my destination. I really don't even remember noticing the gorgeous magnolia trees in my neighborhood until I returned from that trip. They are not the majestic Andes, and my everyday experience is not the magical wonderland of that Chilean night, but the experience left its mark on me and has made all the difference in the way I approach the world.

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