Why Colombia?

by Ekua on June 17, 2013 in Colombia

Sunset in La Candelaria, Bogota

Sunset in La Candelaria, Bogota on my first evening in Colombia

No one asks you why you want to go to places like Thailand, Peru, or anywhere in Western Europe. Everyone asks you why you want to go to Colombia. Even more so when you specifically come to Colombia rather than combining a visit with a larger trip in South America. Sometimes it’s asked with shock as Colombia’s reputation has yet to catch up with the progress it’s made, other times it’s asked simply out of curiosity.

Aside from the fact that Colombia was one of the more affordable places to fly abroad from San Francisco, these are the things that inspired me to come here:

An attraction to misunderstood places

Often people latch onto ideas about countries in Latin America based solely on stories from specific eras, about specific places, or about a specific group of people and apply their ideas to the whole country even if the issues are only in certain regions or the country has changed dramatically. This is often the case with Colombia and I wanted to explore what the country is now. Culturally and visually, I sensed that it would contain elements of many of my favorite places in Latin America—many of which are also misunderstood—with a unique a atmosphere of its own.

Afro-Colombian culture

I love the vibrant Afro-Latin cultures I’ve encountered in places like Salvador da Bahia and Cuba. Typically, it’s the music that attracts me first, but beyond that, I find cultures that I can relate to where people are far from their African roots but inextricably linked to them. Afro-Colombian culture is not very apparent inland where I have been so far, but I am looking forward to getting to the coast where it is concentrated and I’m hoping to visit an Afro-Colombian community near Cartagena that was originally founded by escaped slaves.

Variation of scenery

Colombia has huge cities, little colonial villages, plenty of agriculture, and nature for days. Within these categories, there are countless subcategories: coffee farms, tropical cities, Andean cities, jungle coastlines, geological desert formations, and the list goes on. I’m not strictly a nature or city girl and I wanted to come to a place where I could get a bit of everything.

A place to be rather than just see

While Colombia has many places to visit, it doesn’t have one well known attraction that people obsess about such as trekking to Machu Picchu or hanging out on a beach in Rio. Not to say that it lacks great places or activities, but they don’t have the same “must-see” air about them and that’s what I wanted. It’s nice to experience being in another place and pick up on local vibes without feeling like you have to rush around and see everything.

Spanish language

Spanish is a language I’ve felt like I should learn for awhile given my passion for Latin America and because I live in part of the United States where it is spoken widely. As I was reading about Colombia, there were many reports that this is good spot to learn Spanish because people speak clearly and hardly anyone speaks English so you can’t fall back on it all the time. I took crash course in Spanish and I am finding that I know a decent amount of words, but I struggle with verbs and to putting together complete sentences. I have a lot of work to do and won’t come close to becoming fluent while I am here, but feel like the combination of getting the basics and being in a place where I can practice is a good start.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Wil @ Where's Wil June 18, 2013 at 2:57 am

I was a little afraid of Colombia before I heard other travelers talk about it. I’m now planning to get there (as part of a larger South American trip) next year (or whenever I end up leaving SEAsia).

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures June 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Agree with you completely! I got the same questions when I told people I was going to Bogota. I LOVE your reasons as to going!!!

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Aurora June 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I have heard such great things about Columbia and I cannot wait to go. My next extended travel adventure will most definitely include a long stay there. And that is great to hear about the Spanish (speed, enunciation, accent, etc.). Enjoy!

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Jennifer June 19, 2013 at 8:14 am

Ive heard alot about columbia of late – it seems as though its attracting more and more tourists!

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Oneika August 1, 2013 at 7:37 am

Great post! I’ve long wanted to travel to Colombia but had the fortune to grow up with people of Colombian descent. I’ve always had a passion for Latin America. I actually interviewed for a teaching job in Cali, Colombia right out of university; when I didn’t get the job, I accepted a post in Mexico. I have a friend teaching in Medellin right now and hope to make it there sooner than later to visit her and see the country at last.

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María August 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

Wowww!!

It’s amazing how people from other countries visit Colombia and end up loving it. I love my country, it has sooo many beautiful things, and no, we’re not drug-dealers, or hookers, and we’re definately much more than coffee.

Y’all invited to visit.

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Jimmy Dau August 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I’ve been learning Spanish in Colombia as well. It’s the least I can do and as frustrating as it can be, I get a buzz when I say something and people understand my Spanglish 🙂

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