“Living” in Colombia—Weed, wine and women!

“All journeys begin at home.  That moment when you pull the front door closed behind you is one to relish…like the “glug” sound when you first pour from a bottle of wine.”

I read this line this morning as I was getting ready to write.  It’ s from International Living and Eoin Bassett.  Thank you Eoin it’s perfect to get me rolling. 

When we started our journey in January our goal and dream was to live in three or four places each year.  Traveling is one thing but having the ability to LIVE somewhere foreign is why we are out here. 

Photo Aug 05, 11 58 59 AM (1)

Traveling is so much fun but you always go “home” in a few weeks.  Back to work, back to the comfort zone.  This blog is titled “Our hearts” our idea is to document our travels and truly sink in somewhere and feel like we are home wherever we are in the world. 

The past six weeks we have lived in Medellin, Colombia.  We went to school to continue our study of Spanish.  Going to school five days a week, four hours a day is a routine, a structure of sorts almost like a job.  It gave us a chance to learn not only the language but the culture as well. 

We shop and cook our vegan meals and explore the wines of neighboring Argentina and Chile.  Eating vegan in Colombia is a challenge because the culture is set up around carne, pollo and camerones.  Part of the culture shock for us is; here to eat meat is a sign of wealth and success.  When we say “sin carne” they look at us like we are crazy.


Here is a description of Colombia from a website called InSight Crime.  InSight Crime is a foundation dedicated to the study of the principal threat to national and citizen security in the Americas: organized crime.  You can follow them on Twitter as well.  @inSightCrime

“Colombia has been in a civil war for  over half a century and the rise and fall of drug trafficking empires, Colombia has made huge strides in improving its security situation in recent years. However, it remains beset by guerrilla rebels and criminal networks, and the Colombian underworld is a potent mix of ideological organizations and their remnants and organized crime where the boundaries between war and crime are fluid. These armed groups and criminal networks are involved in an extensive range of activities including drug production and trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion and illegal mining.”  


One of our friends told us that as she grew up everyday was marked with tragedy as a family member, friend or neighbor was killed by gangs either by gunshot or bomb.  Even now she said as celebrations of holidays are marked with fireworks people still cringe, duck and wonder when the fireworks could actually be a car bomb exploding someones life because of a line crossed. 

The bottom line is Medellin and Colombia are still dangerous.  Pablado, where we lived, is relatively safe but outside this little bubble you can find yourself in harms way. Somehow though it does all work for the Colombians who live and work here.  The gangs, cartels and drug lords work together to create a sense of normal in a city that is still recovering from anything but normal. 


If you travel to Medellin you will find beautiful people inside and out.  This modern and thriving city is full of young people going to work, dressed to the nines in high rise buildings with women wearing high heeled shoes attached to legs and bodies that will make your head spin.  Caroline turns to me with her big beautiful eyes and says…”Where does that booty even come from?” 

You could wake up, look out and think you are in Seattle, Vancouver or Denver.  Just  like these fine cities you will have the pleasure to smell the distinct smell of Colombian Marijuana.  No, we didn’t taste it but the smell is distinct bringing back memories of another day.   

Photo Jun 22, 3 16 16 PM
Medellin, Colombia

American and European men travel here for bachelor parties and more.  They are looking for trouble and it’s easy to find.  A driver we talked to speaks of idiot Americans hitting on women who are actually men.  Like Thailand there are a lot of ‘lady boys’ here and they look good.  Don’t be fooled. 

Oh, and yes prostitution is legal here.  Many of the “girls” are beautiful, they are also being “run” and have support from a pimp or gang.  What I mean by support is you may make the call and have a girl come over they, get in to your house and simply wipe a drug on your arm that makes you say yes to everything.  Like I need a drug for that.  Seriously though, they get you to open your safe, hand them your wallet and if you say no they call in the support and you end up beaten, battered, broke and humiliated on the floor of your room if you are lucky.  This was reported to us to have happened in our building which is beautiful and upscale.   We also witnessed seemingly safe “transactions”.  Okay, we witnessed the kiss goodbye at the door in our apartment building. 

Poverty on the outskirts of Medellin is rampant.  Once outside the confines of Pablado the poverty runs deep.  The filth of poverty also opens your eyes as the rivers and streams become clogged with garbage and discarded lives. 

The government has attempted to help the people by providing access from the poverty stricken high valley walls to the city by building gondolas like ski lifts and even a department store style escalator to get people to the city to work.  These improvements and other fantastic urban planning executions are the reason Medellin was named the number one city in the world for urban planning.

Photo Aug 13, 12 04 43 PM

We always try to end with our blog with interaction with people.  The world is filled with beautiful people including here in Medellin.  Last week while on the metro four young people traveling home from school looked at us, mainly Caroline, with big eyes and spoke english to us saying.  “Gringo’s?”  We said, yes?  They proceeded to smile and stare at the tall big headed Gringo’s and as they departed the train said…”Thank you!”  The only words in english they knew.  We waved, and said.  “Gracias!  Hasta Luego!”  At the time some of the only words in Spanish we knew. 


4 thoughts on ““Living” in Colombia—Weed, wine and women!

  1. Jody

    Oh Rick–I just love this blog!!! Today was the first time I discovered it and I already can’t wait for future installments. I’m fascinated by the life you are LIVING–something most of us aren’t doing. I hope to meet Caroline one day and get the opportunity to learn from the two of you. Mother was so happy to see you at the reunion and remarked how happy you looked. Take good care and keep the experiences flowing so that I may be able to continue wallowing in my jealousness (word?) 😘


    1. Hi Jody!! Thank you for the fantastic message. I was bummed to hear you were not coming to California. We will continue this lifestyle as best we can. “Living” in Mexico makes it possible. The earthquake yesterday was brutal. We are okay here but the country is reeling from Devastation. Thank you again for the message. See you soon for sure!!


  2. Hey Rick I would like to know how long you plan on staying in Medellín and if you leased an apartment or rented it on Airbnb. I’m trying to find out the requirements for us foreigners to lease a please in poblado or laureles. Thanks in advanced for your response.


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