Practical Tips and Guidance You Won’t Find Anywhere Else to enjoy the city of Eternal Spring
There are some sad facts floating around the internet these days. Two of these facts caught my eye this week: first, that just one in three Americans does not take all their allowed vacation time each year. I can only assume this applies for other countries as well. On top of that, less than two in three owns a passport! In other words, the likelihood that you’ve been abroad, or even out of the office lately is dipping to dangerous lows.
As a self-proclaimed “enlightened traveler,” I feel it’s my duty and obligation to help you break out of this mold, and start taking all your vacation time, and further, to schedule a vacation to the place they call The City of Eternal Spring.
That’s right, we want you to get on the next plane and fly directly to Medellin. Of course, we have terrific reasons for this and we’ll share them with you in this article. Of course, some of what we’ll be revealing could apply to travel anywhere, but as you should soon see, there are massive benefits to coming to a particular place where you can enjoy all the benefit of world international travel, in a single, beautiful place.
So what’s been the result of my own journey to Medellin over these past dozen years? Well, for starters, it’s made me into a new man. My life has been touched in ways that never could have been imagined, had I accepted the social norms and continued apace in my cubicle world, back in Australia for the next forty years!
The last twelve years here in Medellin has absolutely been a renaissance in education and discovery, in fact, it’s a worldly learning experience I could never have gotten inside a classroom. What follows are the biggest takeaways from all these amazing experiences. These insider tips are my gift to you, a carefully curated list of the very best of what I have gathered, here in Medellin.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Ever hear this: don’t sweat the small stuff? Guess what… it’s ALL small.
Life is much too short to be annoyed all the time. Did you miss the bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATM out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes the unexpected happens no matter how much you’re planned out. But when you’re in Medellin, these things can be magnified, especially at first, when you’re feeling a little lost, and the language can get you frustrated.
Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
Get Up Early
Sunrise is the best time to have the best attractions all to yourself —and you’ll avoid the crowds. It’s also a fantastic time for photos and usually easier to interact with locals. Sketchy areas are less dangerous in the morning too. Honest hardworking people wake up early; touts, scammers, and criminals sleep in. Here in Medellin, there are dozens of amazing parks, all over the city, and while some of them aren’t so nice at night, they’re nearly all accessible in the mornings.
Laugh At Yourself (we already are!)
You will definitely look funny at times, when figuring out things around here. One biggie for me was the transit system. I took the wrong train more than once, and ended up at the opposite end of Medellin. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.
Stash Extra Cash
If you’ve ever been without it, you know: Cash is king even here in Medellin, where the Peso is universally accepted. To cover your ass in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did.
Meet The Locals
Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken by more Colombians than you might think, so if your Spanish language skills aren’t working, look and see if anyone can give you a few sentences in English. This can be fun, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language.
Take Photos Like a Tourist
Dont’ want to look like a tourist? Guess what? You ARE one. Play the role. You’ll never regret the photos you TOOK. They don’t cost anything, they’re easy to share with others, and they don’t take up space in your luggage. We especially enjoy gawking on the free city tour, and up in the colorful favolas you’ll see riding the gondola up the mountainside here. Oh, and once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.
Even When You Can’t, You Can
Nothing is impossible. If you are having trouble going somewhere or doing something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found the best solution or met the right person yet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told what I want isn’t possible, only to prove it wrong later when I don’t listen to the advice and try anyway. Don’t let anything stop you. For instance, there are some of the world’s best hang gliding pros here in Medellin, but it’s tricky without speaking Spanish.
I know more than a couple people who didn’t let that little obstacle prevent them from sailing through the valley.
Smile & Say Hello
You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.
Splurge A Bit if You Can
Scrimping all the time gets old, fast. It’s healthy to go over your budget occasionally. Book a little nicer vacation rental, eat out at a fancy restaurant, or spend a wild night on the town.
Keep Your Mind Open to Possibilities
Try to reserve judgement for the lifestyles of others. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is what traveling is all about: embracing different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. One area Medellin surprised me: fashion. It’s trendy here, but still looks a bit strange, compared to what I was initially used to back home.
Make it a point to volunteer some of your time for worthwhile projects when traveling. Not only is it a very rewarding experience, but you’ll often learn more about the country and its people while also making new friends. Besides that, Paisas will absolutely love you, when you take time to help their city become great.
Don’t Be Shy or Afraid
The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighborhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far. Plus, Medellin is a city which, with a little basic precaution, is almost totally safe.
Eat Local Food
Think you already know what Colombian food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you move about the city, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front, and look for the “one-off” restaurants, of which there are an endless stream here, especially outside the tourist areas.
I can tell you NONE of my best travel experiences happened within the first few days of arriving somewhere. Spend more time in fewer places for maximum enjoyment. Rushing through experiences cheapens them and causes you to miss all the good stuff. Medellin is world famous for having a slower pace. Take the time to feel it, and you’ll be glad you did.
Keep Good Notes
My memory for details sucks. When I first started traveling the world 4 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it.
Break Your Comfort Zone into a Million Tiny Pieces
Challenge yourself to try things that normally give you anxiety. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest things you can find.
The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?
Pack Less Crap
You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first backpack was twice as big as the one I carry now. Just keep in mind, Medellin has some standards for what not to wear, mostly meaning shorts aren’t really done here.
Podcast it While in Transport
This is one of the best things about being on the road. I love to listen to anything by NPR and, well, that’ll take you around the world. If you run out of things to listen to, grab an Audible membership and hear some books. My personal favorite? Keep the earbuds out, and try to talk to the locals, no matter how few words you think you know in Spanish.
Treat Your Temple Well
This can be tricky. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many sweets.
Stay In Contact
Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mom!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important
Every time I come back home people tell me how lucky I am while making excuses why they can’t travel. It’s too expensive. They can’t get off work. Who will feed their dog?
When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared. It’s easy to be scared, and in fact, that’s our natural pre-disposition. So tell yourself it’s OK to feel this way, and then get the hell off the couch and go for it! Seriously, if you need help, why not enlist a friend? Why not find your teammate and, passported up, hit the road as a dynamic duo?
Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do.
You don’t need to sell all your worldly possessions, just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door. Ultimately you’ll want to grab our report below, and plan a seven day week, down here in Medellin, Colombia.
The new car, kitchen remodeling project, and the latest iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. Career breaks are possible. You have friends who would love to watch your pets.
It’s a big, beautiful world out here.