Estimated reading time: 4 min
“The joke Colombians told was that God had made their land so beautiful, so rich in every natural way, that it was unfair to the rest of the world; He had evened the score by populating it with the most evil race of men.”
― Mark Bowden, Killing Pablo
I love books. I am a book worm, as my friends called me.
For me, travel and reading bring common benefits: they both fight prejudices, tear boundaries down, encourage curiosity, and satisfy the need of new discoveries.
The sarcastic quote above comes from the brilliant pen of Mark Bowden. “Killing Pablo” ( in Spanish: “Matar a Pablo Escobar”), published in 2001, is a must-read: both a thrilling novel and a realistic reportage, it is a book that anyone planning to visit Colombia -or dreaming on it- should get. Start reading it when you board the plane and by the time you’ll land, you will have forgotten all you think you knew about narcos from the TV series.
Up to few years ago, having the Colombian stamp on your passport would have meant you were a fearless traveller, or a complete idiot. Or, probably, both. More than in any place I’ve been, here I felt unsafe, uncomfortable, misunderstood. And angry. Although peace has been signed still the country shows visible scars of civil war, corruption, poverty and drug trafficking. In Cali for example, I had to face reality and admit that do exist places which are not safe after 5 pm and you cannot trust any person you meet on your way. That is so true about Colombia as about life.
By this time you might wonder what did make me fall in love with Colombia.
It was the courage and the perseverance of people. Despite all difficulties, Colombians -especially the youngest Colombians- are striving for getting out the best from their country, and this gives good hope for the future. It will take time, but I bet that for Colombia the best is yet to come.
I saw lot of force in this country; I saw it in young street dancers performing in front of restaurants of Santa Marta, in Zumba instructors organising open lessons on the squares of Cartagena, in the kindness of policemen giving me directions under the rain; I saw it in the eco friendly hotels, in the cafes serving organic food, in those shops selling clothes of local stylists and in the street art transforming the suburbs of Bogotà into a colourful painting.
These people are the real Colombian heroes. For me, they are braver than any army and more powerful than all the drug lords. And their strength will remain in my memories forever.
“Sometimes the fate of an entire nation can hinge on the integrity of one man.”
This other quote from the same Mark Bowden, could be now read from a different perspective: individuality of each and every inhabitant is today an essential contribution to the brand new identity of Colombia, and you can feel the change at any corner you turn and place you stop.
However, I have to be honest: nowadays, it is not still easy to travel around Colombia.
But for this reason, this contradictory country will level up both your manner of traveling and your personality.
Nothing is perfect in Colombia.
The beaches are wild and windy. The sea is often dark and rough. Some district are dangerous and poor, some villages are years back in time. Transport are unreliable, some of them fast enough to scare you and some others slow enough to annoy you. And people could be sometimes far away from being trustworthy.
Colombia is like wind. It can throw sand into your eyes and it can give relief from a muggy summer day. It’s a country of restlessness and turbulences. But then as well is a country of surprises and of the unexpected. Contradictions are part of every day life and past of this complicated country and finding the right words to describe it is hard work. As you cannot lock wind up, so you cannot contain the Colombian soul in one sentence
Anything but perfect, this turbulent country invite you to take a dip into its restless soul, and will pay your efforts back with a no filters portrait of its multi faces character: get ready for finding yourself on wild beaches, sailing along lazy rivers, discovering poor suburbs and hidden graffiti, dancing until the morning comes, get infected by the salsa beats, surviving on unrealistic buses rides and finally wandering on streets where houses seem painted by fairies.. all of this and more is Colombia.
Traveling from South to North of Colombia I appreciated every single part of the journey, even when it was not easy. Even when I ended up dirty and tired. Even when it didn’t lead to where I meant to arrive.
A ticket to Colombia is an invitation to get out of your comfort zone. Give it a chance and you will never regret it.
Planning to visit Colombia and need more informations? Simply curious and wanna discover more about? Get in touch or comment below ? to ask me all about it!