In an interesting turn of events, I have found myself living in Bogota, Colombia. This is a stark contrast to what my life plan was. But who needs life plans anyway? I am all about going with the flow… Just taking life one day at a time and seeing where I end up.
I have moved to Colombia for several reasons. The first and foremost being that I want to learn Spanish. It is high time that this gringo becomes fluent in a second language. So here I am living amongst an amazing culture and beautiful people.
I thought it would be interesting to share my first impressions of Colombia based on the interactions that I have had with locals in Bogota over the first 2 weeks that I have been here. In my first 2 weeks, I have met people from all over Colombia as well as Europe and the USA. My first four days were spent couchsurfing at the home of a local guy. He welcomed me at the airport and took me to his home and proceeded to take me to the historic center of the city and tell me a little bit about the history. He shared meals with me and made me feel at home.
It is always a great way to get to know a culture by staying with locals who share your passion for cultural exchange and travel. So here I will share a few of my first impressions.
Colombia has a beautiful landscape:
Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, Bogota is surrounded by picturesque views. A mix of tropical and mountainous forests lay on the fringe of the city. A beautiful lake offers the perfect weekend relaxation at Simon Bolivar Park. Here you will find Colombians taking in the sun and enjoying food, family, and a friendly game of football. Bogota is a green city with parks interspersed throughout the busy streets and skyscrapers.
The locals are friendly and helpful:
My Spanish is not very good at the moment; however, I am here to study and become fluent. The locals are very patient and willing to speak slow to me so that I can understand their Spanish. People are very excited and eager to speak with me and happy that I am trying to speak with them in their native tongue. Here English is not widely spoken so it is necessary to try and speak Spanish and I have found that people will try very hard to understand and make themselves understood even with my broken Spanish. I have been met many locals who introduce me to their friends and family. I have also had the opportunity to speak with some local merchants who are thrilled that tourism in Colombia is on the rise. They are happy to see foreigners coming and enjoying the culture and family atmosphere that is so ingrained in this society.
Bogota is a city filled with history and culture:
Bogota is rich with culture and history. IT has many music festivals, street performers, artists, and musicians. History in Bogota stretches back to Spanish colonization. This city has seen fighting from the War of Independence to the Guerrilla fighting and insurgency by the likes of M-19. This is a resilient city that keeps moving forward despite its past. Plaza de Bolivar offers insight into a brutal history. Here you can see old cathedrals as well as modern government buildings rebuilt. To one side you can also see the extravagant presidential offices and residence. Just a short walk from the plaza you can find the Gold Museum and Botero Museum.
On a budget? Come to Colombia.
Bogota is an economical city. Here you can find entrance fees, public transit, and food prices quite low in comparison to other popular destinations. This is a city easy to navigate by the Transmilenio (bus system), Taxi, Uber, or bike. Walking is also an effective mode of transportation here.
My final thoughts… My first two weeks have been outstanding. I have been welcomed to the country and shown great hospitality. It is well worth the visit. My advice is to not let the historical violence and unrest of Colombia deter you from coming and enjoying this beautiful country. No matter where you travel in the world, there will be some issues… come experience true Latin hospitality and culture in Colombia.