Expanding Family Through Travel

When Heather moved to Santiago, Chile, she expected new adventures, but she met another expat and her world expanded to three countries!

Heather is more than a traveler; she’s spent extended amounts of time in three countries and formed a deep connection with each. Originally from the U.S., she moved to Santiago, Chile for work, where she met another expat—a charming Spaniard named Miguel.

They got married in Miguel’s native city, Seville, Spain, where her love of Spanish culture blossomed (with help from Miguel’s six siblings) before returning to Santiago. Heather now feels completely at home on three different continents!

Here’s a look at how the three cultures mix, how she and Miguel have melded their traditions:

Heather embraced Flamenco, performing at her wedding and delighting her Spanish in-laws.

Three Countries, Three Connections

Visiting Seville each year, Heather feels a bond through Miguel and his family, especially musically (one brother, Alvaro, is in a rumba band). Each trip, they visit countless family members and appreciate the warm bustling welcome and large dinners—sometimes for 25 people or more—reminding her of Christmas in Connecticut with her big family.

“Seville is a magical place. The culture in the South of Spain is all about enjoying life, sitting outside for a coffee or drink, and celebrating constant holidays!”

While they spend most of the year on the other side of the world, Miguel’s brother organizes family renditions of classic Spanish songs over Zoom, where the two can join in from Chile. The best way to stay connected in a musical family is by collaborating on songs!

Even better than Spanish or Californian reds, Heather says Chilean wine is her favorite.

A Blend of Traditions

In Chile, Heather connects with Spanish culture through weekly flamenco classes, stomping the floor in this traditional Andalusian dance. And Miguel, who plays guitar, practices English songs—serenading her with Cat Stevens.  

They’ve adapted to Chilean culture while living there too. Here are her picks for each country’s best foods:    

Chile: Fresh produce, especially avocados. And red wines.

United States: Desserts! Brownies, cupcakes, and cookies. Also, American breakfasts with bacon and eggs.

Spain: Tapas, especially with ham and Manchego cheese.

This blend of cultures works well for Heather, who’s perfecting her Spanish tortillas and cooks for Chilean friends:

“We’ll host 20 people for Thanksgiving, though Chile’s Novembers can be 90 degrees, so less fun to cook two big turkeys.” 

Of course, they’ve made some cultural compromises. While decorating their Christmas tree, Miguel gets to play Spanish “villancicos” before they switch to Heather’s American carols. 

Homes Away From Home

Chile has become Heather’s home but she often thinks of her “homes away from home”. Here are her favorite parts of each:

Fall in New England is a must-see.

In the U.S., Heather says to visit the Northeast in the fall for the incredible colors. While many people visit New York City, she recommends to not skip the museums and charms of Boston.

Torres del Paine is one of the most breathtaking National Parks.

Chile has an abundance of natural beauty that’s spread across such a large country: The mountain trekking and lakes of Torres del Paine in the south, and the sunsets in the Atacama desert up north.

Moorish arches and intricate stonework can be seen throughout Andalusia.

Heather recommends the Andalusia region of Spain for Flamenco, beautiful beaches, Moorish architecture, and picturesque towns. There’s also Seville’s abundant festivals filled with parades and dancing in the streets

And while getting to know three countries has helped her appreciate the best parts of each—like the work-life balance in Chile, the all-night festivities in Spain, and America’s diversity—there’s a common theme that’s shared too:

“In each place, whether big backyard BBQs in America or Chile, or giant get-togethers in Spain, free time is all about gathering with people you love.”