My First Earthquake Experience Abroad: How I Felt During a M 6.6 Earthquake in Chile

Updated on January 14th, 2019 at 11:38 pm

Until yesterday I had never experienced an earthquake. However, last night I had my very first earthquake experience, and it was a big one. To give a little background information, here is a news article on the quake, and here is a video of it. Guess what? It registered a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale! It originated in Valparaiso which is a coastal town about a 2 hour drive away from Santiago. I was in Santiago at the time and even though the cities are 118km apart, I still felt it hit extremely strong.

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Watching My Ceiling Light Swing Back & Forth

My First Earthquake Experience Abroad
I don’t have a photo of where I’m staying but this was taken in Santiago as well.

Last night I was on my computer when the house started shaking. I didn’t know if it was going to get stronger or what so I sat under the door frame in between my bedroom and my bathroom and watched the ceiling light sway back and forth. It made me feel dizzy and I was scared that it was going to get bigger and that stuff was going to start crashing to the ground or something. It felt like the earth was shaking for hours but it actually didn’t last very long at all.

My First Earthquake Experience Abroad: Did I Just Pee My Pants?!

When I stood up again I realized my butt was soaked! Thankfully it was not because I peed my pants in fear. What happened is all the water that was in my toilet splashed out! I must not have noticed at first because I was a little preoccupied with the fact that my room was basically twerking. After the quake, (and after changing my pants) I walked up to my host parents’ room and knocked on the door to see if they were okay. When I opened the door, they were both in bed reading as if nothing had happened! They even laughed at me for checking on them since for them, this earthquake was no big deal.

My Chilean host family came downstairs and helped me put towels around the toilet to soak up the water and explained that this earthquake was nothing compared to the one in 2010. For me a 6.6 on the Richter scale sounded pretty significant. I guess Chileans are just used to the earth busting a move once in a while.

Update: For any of you looking to travel somewhere where earthquakes are frequent and you’re a bit worried check the comments section as there are some helpful tips for staying safe during an earthquake. And also remember that probably about 90% of the things we worry about never actually happen.

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About The Author

April Thompson

Updated on January 14th, 2019 at 11:38 pm

April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.


  1. Lee | 16th Aug 17

    Interesting experience. However I would have to disagree with your advice to find a desk or door frama. Both areas are actually very dangerous. Instead finding a solid surface such as a bed or couch and crouching next to it with your arms protecting your head is much safer. Should the roof or walls collapse there is a triangle of safety next to previously mentioned areas. If a roof or wall collapsed while you are under a desk table or door frame the likley hood of being crushed is exponentially higher.

    • April - The Adventures of Impo | 17th Aug 17

      Thanks Lee! That’s super helpful! I never thought about it like that. I’m going to update the article so that my old advice isn’t there and it will point to your advice instead. I guess I always just thought door frames and desks were relatively safe since that’s what I was taught in school.

      • Lee | 17th Aug 17

        Unfortunately alot of schools still teach this out dated information. I wish like crazy I could remember where I learned that triangle rule from but I honestly don’t know where I picked it up at but I assure you the information is accurate. I am a stay at home momma so I enjoy reading about others adventures and definitely want to make sure you stay safe so we can all enjoy living vicariously through your journeys! Have a good one!

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