Why Colombia? Well, I’m not exactly sure really. Recently I stood behind a lady in Bristol Farms (posh corner shop in LA) who was loading her shopping into brightly coloured plastic basket and when I asked her where she bought it, she said, ‘Colombia.’
Seeing as my recent 180 on pursuing career change to become a Life Coach was up in the air, I pondered if my next venture might end up being creative, maybe I would import colourful contraband from Latin America?
Colombia…the road less travelled, a heady mix of mystery, beauty and danger.
Naturally I felt attracted.
I boarded the plane from sunny Cancun and flew into Bogota. Similarly to Mexico City, I was told strictly not to take any cabs because of kidnapping. Thankfully they have Uber and I used this safely.
A friend of a friend warned me against staying in the La Candelaria area because of crime. Too late, my accommodation was booked, I was on my way and Lonely Planet (so it must be a good idea) recommended this area as where many of the historic landmarks are located.
Bogota was cold, grey and rainy for the majority of my stay. There was a distinct lack of tourists and I have never felt more blonde in my life. I forgot that I was wearing a small gold chain, and a lady walked up to me and sweetly told me to cover it up or remove it.
At first I felt edgy and unrelaxed being surrounded by police carrying heavy weapons. But after a couple of days, I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed the museums, galleries, architecture, restaurants and cafes.
Next stop Cartagena, the beautiful historic colonial town on the edge of the Caribbean coast. This is a total contrast to Bogota and touristic capital of Colombia, with a safe reputation and good times to be had. I loved Cartagena, and attributed this largely to great company. I reunited with Nan and Fee whom I met in Mexico. I found them at midnight in Capnera bar just outside the main city walls. They had met a group of highly entertaining Colombian guys in town for a music conference. If there is one thing I noticed about Colombians, they are very loyal to their own music and they love to salsa!
We partied until day light, had a short sleep and all jumped on a bus to a local beach. These were perhaps not the most beautiful beaches I have ever been on, but they were certainly full of some of the funniest and most memorable moments.
It reminds me time and time again that life is all about the people you surround yourself with. It doesn’t really matter where you are (although, sunshine does seem to be a very big determining matter on my mood for me), it is all down to the people you are with.
I sometimes observe the super rich and wonder if the only thing connecting them is the size of their bank accounts and being able to afford to do the same things. I wonder if they have genuine connection as their interaction can look so stilted and boring. Does having a certain lifestyle deaden an essence of your identity and you lose sight of who you truly are?
Sorry, I digress…I think the point I am trying to make, is that I feel enormous gratitude that I can connect with different types of people from all over the planet. This group of Colombian guys were super smart and shared the same sense of humour. We laughed, ALOT. They totally looked after us, and proudly showed us Cartagena. They introduced us to new fruits, shared fresh cardamom seeds as natural refresher on the bus ride, ate delicious ceviche, street food, drank beer, smoked the local herb and partied the Colombian way 😉 There was no sleaziness, no chippiness or discussions of hierarchy based where we were born and it felt good!
After Cartagena, I went to Santa Marta, which gets a bad rap as being a shitty town to pass through, but I happened to find it quite charming. I stayed a couple of nights there, visited a slightly ropey coffee plantation that seemed more of a tourist trap than a working coffee farm and then I went on to Palomino (a beach area) for three nights and back through Tayrona park.
I decided to do a day trip alone to Tayrona which could have ended up being a regretful decision. But putting my trust in Spirit daily that I will be safe and never alone, shows me time and time again that I am supported and my prayers are answered.
It’s about a 45-minute journey on the public bus. I knew I was nearing the place and saw a couple of gringos disembark. I followed them and asked if this was the entrance? They were Spanish, but still finding the communication difficult with Colombians at times. If Spanish speakers can’t communicate with Spanish speakers, I don’t have a hope in hell! For a short time, we thought we were lost, but realised we were not and entered the national park from “Colobozan.” I ended up hiking all the way with them for about 4.5hours. It was an unexpectedly tough hike and at times we were literally rock climbing.
We talked about many things on the journey, travelling, Burning Man, living in LA, living in Barcelona, family life. Frank said that he thought US corporate companies were responsible for the breakdown of family relationships because they moved people to other states to weaken them and make them more dependent on the company they worked for. I have not heard that theory, but it makes sense and it is a theory that has stuck with me.
Frank and Ida talked about living in Barcelona, and how there is no excuse not to see your family once a week because it is a small city. So whilst some might tutt about Spain’s economic situation, I think they have their priorities in good order. The support of the family system is more important than la plata (money!) Long live the siesta I say!
Next stop Medellin. I took the ‘Real City Tour’ An absolute must if you ever find yourself in Medellin. A 4.5-hour FREE tour given by the most charismatic, passionate and bright guy, called Pablo, who I later found out was the company director. He spoke perfect English and informed us on the good, the bad and the ugly about Colombia, the history of Medellin and the infamous Escobar. This is a country still under some pretty horrendous circumstances, but rising after much blood shed and on what feels like the precipice of positive change.
Despite the people being upbeat and friendly, I could energetically feel the grief there. Something I imagine is going to take a couple of generations to transform provided the level of violence continues to decline.
3 nights in Medellin was just not enough, I managed a salsa class at Dancefree and enjoy a couple of nice dinners. Just shy of 3 weeks in Colombia I barely touched the sides of the majestic and varied country that it is.
My memories will largely be the Colombian people that I shared time with and seeing the reaction of the local people in Medellin who were so happy to see foreigners in their country and thanked us for visiting Colombia.
When I heard some stories of how Colombians are treated outside of their country, it made me angry that individuals are vilified because of the reputation of their country and why are so many people (particularly immigration officials and police) so judgemental and ignorant to treat others like that.
Travelling opens your eyes and your heart to other cultures and consistently reminds me, that as a human race we are all connected, we are all one. What appears to be an increasingly xenophobic time we are experiencing, more than ever we need to treat others as we want to be treated and spread love and connection with whomever we meet.