While traveling, you're not only experiencing an adventure; you're also learning about your destination's diversity and global culture. When I decided to give up my apartment and possessions to travel the world and live nomadically, my first destination was Medellín, Colombia.
The city of eternal spring was made famous by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, but don't let that bit of history scare you. Over the years, there has been an enormous educational, cultural, social, and urban transformation in the city. Their impressive range of libraries, parks, museums, and festivals is something to be explored, not to mention the nightlife, fine restaurants, secret bars, and medical tourism.
Not only is art a huge aspect of Colombia's culture, but the people are one of the friendliest groups I've ever met during my travels. Everywhere I went, warm smiles and energetic waves greeted me at the door. Shop owners and waiters were always patient as I tried communicating my orders in Spanish, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly families would welcome me as one of their own.
There were so many things to see in this city, but hiking through The Valley Of The Butterflies is a highlight worth mentioning. Locals said if you swam under the waterfall and made a wish, it would come true.
I did swim under that waterfall, and although it looks small in the photos, that was a powerful beast to tackle. The water was so cold that I instantly froze. My muscles got stiff, and it was hard to move. Still, I was determined to make my wish. I sloshed through the river and couldn't see the giant hole hidden beneath the surface.
You better believe I sank to the bottom like a stone when I walked into it. There was no swimming back for air. The waterfall drowned out all noise above my head, and my brain turned off. I thought I was dead, and that's when my partner pulled me up and walked me back to shore to thaw.
The third image perfectly captures the rescue moment. If you're asking yourself what I wished for, it was probably the desire to survive. I'm glad to report that my wish came true.
Connecting with nature was truly a joy, but the people I encountered along the way made this trip worthwhile.
I met up with a local named Laura for drinks one night, and she invited me to her abuela's farm to see more of her culture and way of life outside the big city. I packed a bag and spent three days with her and her parents in their van. We drove through valleys thick with jungle and across narrow mountain paths with no guard rails.
We stopped through villages and ate their cuisines, then stayed overnight in the town of Jardín so that I could taste the coffee and experience Colombia's vibrant colors.
The following day Laura's father took us to a sugarcane farm. This farm was not open to the public, but the owners kindly invited us in.
They let us taste their sugary treats, showed us the entire process of how they extracted sugar from the cane, and then they let us try our hand at melting the sugar just before the packaging stage.
This room was incredibly hot from the fires, and all the employees seemed eager to take breaks in the fresh air as we stirred. It was a fun learning experience, but it was no easy job. Our arms were sore from mixing the melted sugarcane in that trough, and many animals on the property needed to be shooed away. We gave our thanks, and the owners waved us off.
When we finally arrived at Laura's family farm, I was surprised. The word 'farm' evoked images of pig pens and horse corrals, and considering the working farm we'd just left, I expected to see loose animals on the property and a modest home with shared rooms to sleep in. I was wrong.
This house was an estate, and it was absolute paradise. Her family invited us to swim in their pool which overlooked the city, and it was a view that gave you peace.
Their land was green and lush and dripping with fruit trees. The fountain in their courtyard literally lulled me into the best night's sleep I've ever had, and the only animals on the property were peacocks, parrots, and a puppy named Sombre.
Although my Spanish was minimal, we enjoyed each other's company late into the night. They cooked us dinner, and we breakfasted with hot chocolate instead of coffee. They treated us with love and respect, and I felt welcomed.
When it was time for me to head out, they kissed me goodbye and told me to visit them when we came back. I'm happy to say that I'm still friends with Laura. We met up in Mexico City months after our last meeting and planned to rendezvous in Italy.
Even after all these months of traveling, those three days with Laura and her family is still my favorite to remember.
THINGS TO NOTE
If you're a nomadic writer, Medellín has plenty of co-living and co-working spaces, hundreds of coffee shops with wifi to plug into, and affordable rent and cost of living.
Transportation options are the metro, bus lines, cabs, and uber. I did a lot of walking, as my airbnb was in the center of everything, but I was warned to take cabs back home after the sun went down. While nothing bad happened to me during my visit, I listened to the locals and took an uber home if I was out late.
I'm told petty theft is an issue here, so keep big bills hidden and your phone in your pocket when you're out exploring. I didn't have any problems taking my laptop out in cafes.
Last tip: If you plan to travel to Medellín, make sure you speak Spanish or hire a Spanish teacher from Medellín. I recommend using Italki. There are different varieties of Spanish worldwide, each with slight changes in pronunciation and local slang words, so be sure to hire your teacher from the area you're planning to visit.