So, anyone who has been following this blog or spoken to me recently knows that my South America backpacking trip has kind of turned into a Colombia backpacking trip, and my travel blog has kind of turned into one big love letter to Colombia. This was not my original plan. I thought I would be in Peru by now, but when you find something this good you don’t go rushing to leave it. Colombia is absolutely my favorite country that I have ever traveled to. I am 100% smitten. To say that “it’s all about the people” and leave it at that wouldn’t be enough. It is definitely all about the people, but here’s why:
If you’re here, you’re family
I remember being in Mexico and gushing over the way everyone addresses you as “amigo“, even strangers in the most trivial of circumstances. Well, the Colombians take it one step further and jump straight to family. “Hola, Mami“, “Gracias, Papi“. Don’t be surprised if the guy you’re getting coffee from calls you Mommy. That’s just the way it is in Colombia. If you’re here, you’re family. That status comes with all the warmth that you would expect to feel among loved ones. They go out of their way to make you feel at home. Other favorite names include “Corazón”- “my heart” (If there was one word to encompass all of Latin America, I think it would be this) and “Mi Amor” – “My love”.
Todo con gusto
I’m getting a kick out of the fact that before I even say “thank you” for anything here, they tell me “con gusto” or “with pleasure”. Similarly, the phrase “A la orden”- the Colombian way of asking “how can I help you?”- initiates most transactions here. They are extremely polite and yet refreshingly sincere in their good manners. I will use the word genuine a lot when speaking about Colombian people. There’s a difference between acting polite as a formality and acting out of true concern for the person you are dealing with. The latter is the Colombian way. When they say it they mean it; it is their pleasure to help.
I will never forget one dramatic moment on our walking tour of Medellin when, after hearing for hours about the gruesome past of this city, our tour guide invited us to stop and take a look at the Colombians around us. “Wouldn’t you say they are quite happy, positive people that are living here? Despite everything that I am telling you about what they’ve lived through in their city in their lifetime? It’s not because they chose to forget about it or pretend it didn’t happen. It’s because of their determination to move forward.” He encouraged us to take a lesson from the Colombian people in how we can react to the problems that are going on in our respective countries by staying positive and continuing to work towards a better future. Their vision for happiness and peace is becoming a reality and their positivity is paying off as Colombia looks to a brighter future and welcomes more and more tourists, drawn in by the great things that they have heard about these delightful people and their country. We are able to enjoy a pleasant ambiance throughout Colombia despite it’s very troubled past because of their positivity.
Our tour ended at these Botero statues, the “Bird of Peace”. In 1995 a bomb exploded inside this statue during a concert in the plaza. 23 people were killed and many more injured. To this day it still is not known which rebel group planted the bomb, as several such groups claimed responsibility for the attack. Instead of replacing it with a new one, they left the old one up and placed the new one beside it, as a bold reminder of all they have overcome and a positive vision for the future.
So glad to see you!
I’ve spent time in a lot of touristy places in the last year and I’ve had plenty of bad experiences, to the point that I’ve felt grossed out and offended. I totally get how a place can become hardened to tourism. Over the years they get so many unappreciative, rude, and difficult-to-please travelers coming through that they almost have to become numb to put up with it. Maybe they start to resent everyone who comes based on the bad behavior and impression from a percentage of visitors. I sympathize and acknowledge that it could certainly make you bitter, witnessing how mass tourism effects and changes your home. But on the other hand, I’m not those tourists who misbehaved. I came here to see and experience your country and spend my money. You are living off of this industry and quite happy to take my money so, could you please treat me like a human being and not a dollar sign? A few months traveling in places like this and one could begin to feel themselves disillusioned with travel completely. I’ve been there.
Sorry, I went off on a bit of a rant there but, here’s the bottom line: to finally come to a place where every single person is not only nice, but genuinely happy to see you, feels like a miracle to the disillusioned traveler. I’m not sure I have ever been to a country before where people actually thanked me for coming, but it has happens a lot here in Colombia. And no matter how many times I hear it, the value and the sincerity never wear off. I’m happy to return the sentiment right back to them: “Thank you for having me. I love your country!”
That’s not to say that there aren’t a million awesome things to see and do here as well, but it’s the people that really get you and have made me and every other traveler fall in love with Colombia. They are the corazón of this country ❤️❤️❤️