So I’m here! Made it safe and sound to a city that was once known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world (Mom, keep reading!). Sadly, some of the stigma from those years still remains and I received more than one or two “are you crazy” comments when I told people of my plans to visit this city/country. But I must say, Medellin is making big strides to rebrand itself and I’m glad I gave it a chance. It’s really a lovely city. Still not convinced? Take a look at some of my photos! Do it! And then say you’re sorry!
Ok, so maybe you want to know what it’s like to pack up your life into a 40L backpack and set off on an international adventure. Well, I’ll tell you… Scary, dubious, exciting, inspiring… basically a whole lot of mixed emotions all rolled into one. I think I mostly felt numb from the overload of things you must do/take care of before you drop your life to travel for several months. But when my butt landed in the airplane seat headed for another country, I started wondering why I had to live life trapped inside a crazy person’s body. I thought to myself “I hope you know what you’re getting into because this kind of seems like a dumb idea.” I was nervous to say the least. Luckily my pre-arranged ride was already waiting for me at the airport (I arrived late at night) so I took this as a good sign and soon headed to bed to silence the nervous chatter in my head.
But morning came and I faced my first day in this new city/country. I kept my calm and tried to focus on all the reasons I was excited to be here. First order of business was a quick walk down the street to the Bancolombia to withdraw some Colombian pesos (a very important step as most places here only take cash). As I put my brand new Charles Schwab ATM card into the machine (the one that charges $0 fees for international travel and even reimburses you for whatever the other bank charges you!) I took a deep breath and prayed my card would work. Apparently prayers were not being answered at that time because the stupid ATM refused my card. Multiple times. I tried not to freak out and walked back to my hostel. I called Schwab via Skype and they insisted everything should be working. So I went back to try it again, this time bringing my backup Bank of America card (which charges a crapload of fees when taking money out). No luck with the Schwab card. Visions of buying a ticket back to the US started creeping into my mind. Up next, the BofA card. No luck with it either. I’ll keep it real, I was about 2 steps away from a full-blown panic attack. How in the hell would I get around with no pesos?! Alas after much denial and 3 attempts, I FINALLY got the BofA card to work. But then the realization of how much money I would lose using that card over and over again started to bring me down. Like really down. Like moody, I hate traveling, maybe I should go home, down. As my boyfriend will tell you, I sometimes indulge the worst case scenario a little earlier than most. Anyway, I was seriously depressed and decided to come back and hang out in my hostel for awhile. I made a reservation for a fancy restaurant that was out of my budget and decided it might just be the therapy I needed.
Later that night I did copious amounts of research and learned that it’s a common problem with Bancolombia and that if I tried another bank, my card just might work. Whew, huge sigh of relief. After my nice dinner and the potentially good news, I went to bed feeling a bit better.
In the end things worked out and the research proved true (stupid Bancolombia!). I managed to enjoy my time here complete with a day trip, a 4 hr walking tour and a Colombian bbq. I even managed to make friends with a few of my hostel roommates. Some were not so awesome so I chose not to make friends with them. I even learned I had a fellow gluten-intolerant roommate who’s been traveling the world for 3 years (wtf?!) and had some CRAZY stories to share.
Here are some photos from the walking tour…
And then there was the day trip to Guatape and La Piedra (seriously thought I was going to die walking up the 740 stairs to the top of that rock!)
Hostel living is an interesting experiment and an adjustment for sure. It’s actually not as bad as I feared it would be, but I’m also spending my first stint in a higher end hostel with a 6 bed female dorm and ensuite bathroom. Some people are really friendly and others not so much. There are a lot of people looking to hook up with each other (and with locals) so that stereotype seems true so far. Another stereotype being fulfilled is the American guy who took it upon himself to play a 45 min set several nights in a row out in the courtyard where everyone could hear. I mean everyone as in everyone, as in even the people hanging out in their rooms trying to take a nap with the doors shut. And he was not that good. Like sometimes painful to listen to. And what’s really sad is that you know he thinks he’s great because he’s actually lugging a guitar around from country to country. This, people, is what happens when you’re not honest with your friends. It’s quite interesting just to sit downstairs and watch the interactions. Yesterday I listened to a group of American guys flirt heavily with the receptionist. It’s like re-visiting high school but slightly different. At times it makes me feel old but there is a surprisingly large number of people here who are my age (and even older!).
For my last night, I headed out to a friend of a friend’s family bbq. (Side note: it’s really nice to know people who know people… it makes your time in a new country so much more interesting and gets you one step closer to understanding what life in that city/country is really like.) I had never met these people before my trip and they were so welcoming. The friend and his girlfriend were some of the kindest people I’ve met and his mom even bought me a tube of her favorite sunscreen after a previous lunch where I complained about my sunburn from the walking tour! Seriously SO NICE! They made the bbq gluten-free so I could enjoy everything and his girlfriend spent the night catering to my every need. Fair to say I was a bit spoiled 🙂 It was a fabulous way to end my time here in Medellin (minus the massive stomach cramp that came from overeating… I had no idea when I agreed to a second arepa con chorizo that it was just the appetizer!). I hope to see them again some day…
Now, it’s time to pack up my stuff and head out to Cartagena. While it’s a bit unsettling to be picking up and leaving again so soon, I’m really looking forward to some time on the beach with not much to do other than relax.