Santa Fe de Antioquia is a lovely day trip from Medellín
Jet lag finally cleared, I decided to start writing about my adventures in Colombia. This was my third visit to Colombia. My first visit was in 2014 to see my (then) boyfriend and decide whether Colombia would be a country where I could consider living. It turned out I would have been OK to move there, but I needed to stay in London for my studies. A few months later I visited Colombia again to marry my Colombian man. It was the most amazing experience I could have wished for! The third time, last month, I visited Colombia with my husband for Christmas time, to see his family.
Whereas my husband has a sort of love/hate relationship with his country, I have completely fallen in love with Colombia. I could definitely see myself living there at some point in my life. I could write an endless list of things I love about this country. Simultaneously, any doubts I used to have, (mostly reinforced by people here in Europe) keep getting smaller every time!
Colombian people have welcomed me with open arms
To start with, I love the people in Colombia, even though they often tend to enter my rather big personal space, making me feel slightly awkward 😉 They are so warm and friendly, really trying their best to communicate with me regardless of my very basic knowledge of Spanish. I can only imagine how my experience of the country will improve once I will be better able to communicate with more people, apart from some of David’s family members and higher educated young people. For this reason, learning Spanish is something that’s high on my priority list, and one of my resolutions for 2017!
Colombian nature and fruits are mind-blowing!
Something else I really love about Colombia are the nature and tropical fruits you get everywhere. I can never stop myself from taking pictures of all the varieties of fruits. Every morning in Colombia I totally binge on fruits for breakfast! I love it so much! My favourite is the granadilla, because it’s the one fruit that always especially reminds me of Colombia 🙂
I’m never too sure whether avocado is a fruit or not, but I completely love the avocados in Colombia as well. In Europe I find them quite dry and tasteless in comparison. This is probably due to them being flown in from far away. Whenever I visit Colombia, I try to eat as many avocados in my meals as possible.
Colombia’s nature is so amazing, after three trips I’m sure there is still so much left to discover. It has been on this last trip that I’ve been on a full day hike for the first time, completely loving it in these amazing surroundings. It has inspired me to improve my fitness and get a gym membership. I would like to get fit for hiking mountainous terrains at higher altitudes. Getting active is another one of my New Year’s resolutions!
The music gets me moving right away!
Some years ago, I’ve started taking salsa dance lessons in London, meeting David at a salsa party a few weeks later! Salsa music and dance are therefore particularly special to me and I still love the dancing nowadays. I like to visit Latin parties to dance salsa, bachata and merengue. If you are also interested in salsa, you should know that you don’t need to travel to Latin America to learn to dance. For some reason this is what I used to think… Through the internet, you can find salsa lessons in many European cities. In the US it should be an even bigger thing from what I’ve heard!
A Colombian’s concern about safety
One of my husband’s concerns is still the safety situation of the country. Colombians (including my husband) seem to be very cautious regarding safety in general. It is usually Colombian people warning me against all sorts of dangers, whereas other Europeans I speak to only have very positive stories to tell. Putting myself in the shoes of the Colombian people, I can imagine that having lived through Colombia’s violent past explains this attitude towards safety.
We have once been victim of attempted robbery in Bogotá (close to the gold museum), but luckily, we managed to escape since the robbers didn’t seem to be carrying a weapon. Regardless of this experience, robbery is not a major concern to me and I have felt mostly very safe during our last trip. Most of the time I’m having a blast in this wonderful country! I’ve even heard that nowadays Colombia is considered one of the safer destinations of South America. There are areas of the country where you shouldn’t go, and you need to be careful in bigger cities, but this is the case in a lot of other places too. In general, robbery in Colombia ends only in losing your belongings, and as long as you don’t resist the robbery your life shouldn’t be at risk. Knowing this has greatly calmed my nerves. We had taken out a gadget cover in our travel insurance so we didn’t need to worry about our devices, and this last trip to Colombia has been even more worriless than both previous trips.
One negative personal experience that I’ve had, has been people commenting on my weight. Someone made me feel quite upset and offended by asking me whether I don’t mind my weight! As a European woman, to me it seems not done to touch upon such a personal topic in this blunt way… I was told later on by other Colombians that they didn’t think this was normal either, so I guess it could have been an isolated case.
Personally, I don’t mind my weight to try to be skinny. I just try to live a healthy lifestyle in general and try not to care too much about how I look. On the other hand, many Colombian women seem to take great importance in the way they look, which seems to be the main drive behind their relationship with food and exercise. Although I like to dress well for occasions, I value good intentions and character a lot higher in a person than looks.
Later on I have asked lots of questions about this (to my husband and other Colombians I know) and done more reading and watching documentaries about this, and now I believe that this is a common theme in Colombia. It seems like the general opinion is that as a career minded woman you will get further if you make sure you look your best. Also if a girl wants to get out of poverty, it is generally thought that her looks will get her further than any kind of education she would have access to. So from a young age girls are made to feel that their looks are very important. I guess living in a society with little social mobility shapes people to think this way…
Colombia, I love you anyway!
This issue of social mobility is obviously not something a normal Colombian citizen could change, I’m sure they would want to! I know Colombians to be very positive people and they tend to make the best of the situation they have been given. As a tourist, you can help by supporting locals wherever you can. Buy from markets and small shops instead of large international chains in cities, same goes for restaurants and hotels. And it’s better not to give money to children on the streets, as this keeps them out of school.
To have a good time in Colombia, it is very useful to have some knowledge of the language and use common sense, but this is probably the case wherever you travel within Latin America. Colombia is one of my favourite places to visit and I encourage you to go and experience the beauty that this country has to offer!
Have you ever been to Colombia? What do you love most about it?