How do I even contain this in such a small platform? Where do I start? How do I finish? Colombia was the best thing that ever happened to me, period.
I went there with expectations, ideas of how things would go, worries, pressures from myself, from back home, nervousness, and negative beliefs. And absolutely nothing went to plan.
I planned to live exclusively with Colombians. Nope.
I planned to explore the wonders and natural beauty of Colombia every week with my 4 day weekends. Nope.
I planned to be fluent in Spanish. Nope (I’m not terribly bad).
I planned to be healthy, join a martial arts gym and be a fitter and healthier me. Well, I did join a gym. I did dedicate at least a week or two here and there to this goal. But, still nope.
I planned to save enough money to explore the Americas after my exchange. Definitely nope (Loans and odd jobs will fund me from now on).
There are many things left unsaid, many stones unturned, many lifelong goals unfulfilled but I would not change a second of the last six months, not one moment. I am happy. I cried like a baby, watched others do the same, and Colombia has made me a better person than I ever could have imagined. Someone, who I realise now, has only just begun his journey in this world.
I’ll be honest, I hated the public transport. I hated the offensive smells that plagued the city of Bogota along with the pollution. I hated the average walking speed of the Colombian and the four-person wide groups they traveled in on the sidewalks. I hated the constant rain and bitter cold. I hated the complete lack of milk, the super sugary bread and their absolute refusal to NOT stop deep frying everything. I hated the constant road works and maintenance that seemed to cause more problems than it fixed. I hated the stares I got from being white and 2ft taller than everyone else. I hated my shitty apartment and my even shittier landlord. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot going wrong in the middle of the chaos that is Colombia.
Despite this I fell completely, unabashedly, unintentionally and unconditionally in love with my cold, smelly, dirty, unhealthy city, I’m not afraid to scream to the skies. I’m in love with Bogota! With Colombia!
I am glad nothing went to plan, I am glad there is more to do in Colombia, things I still need to achieve. Because I cannot wait to return again and again, and I will be returning.
I made some of the greatest friends of my life. Many of whom are now scattered across the world and give sincere meaning to the saying “mi casa es tu casa” (My house is yours).
Despite my grievances with Bogota and Colombia at large, I could never stay angry for long and would often find myself smiling or laughing and sincerely enjoying the city and country I called home for the last six months.
Colombia is absolutely beautiful, even the smoggy grey Bogota shines when the sun does the same. Travel twenty minutes out of Bogota in any direction and you will be confronted with rolling hills, mountain tops and the greenest, lushest vegetation and forest South America has to offer, there really is nothing like it.
Travel a bit further and hit Medellin perhaps, rated last year’s most innovative city and nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring; with arguably the most beautiful population on the planet. Or travel north and experience the colonial wonders of Cartagena or the unrivaled beauty of the Caribbean Ocean on Colombia’s San Andres Island. Or perhaps experience Colombia’s own Machu Picchu, Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada.
Colombia has so much to offer and more still I need to discover. But it is the people who I love the most. The average Colombian is eager to help and even more so to prove you’re wrong about any stereotypes of Colombia as a land full of kidnappings, murders and drugs. For all the mistakes in the past, all their paranoia in the present, and all their worries about the future, Colombians are truly beautiful (pretty small too) people.
In Bogota I did things I thought I would never do, I tried things I thought I would never try (not always legal). I fell in love with a city, I fell in love with women and I fell completely in love with my friends who made even the craziest times in Colombia more than bearable.
Colombia completely changed my life. It made the world smaller and gave me the confidence to do what I want in life. It expanded my mind and changed my perspectives. There is no other place like it and I have nothing but thanks for the city that took care of me in the centre of its chaos.
I can not express my gratitude enough for the country and the people who shaped my life over the past six months. I am currently sitting in a hotel in New York, United States, ready to begin my next adventure.
I have closed the most exciting, loving and eye-opening chapter of my life and although I am sad, only my smile shines through. I have learnt to love and lead with my heart and I cannot wait for the rest of my life to unfold.
Love to you all who are reading, all who have been with me so far, and all those I am yet to meet.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
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