First, let’s ditch all the stereotypical crap that you get when you tell your friends and family that you’re running off to Colombia. It it an AMAZING country.
When flying over the countryside on the way into Bogotá at 7am, I was greeted by the most beautiful sunrise. As we began our descent, I could make out through picturesque clouds, carefully sectioned of pieces of luscious green land. The clouds casting large shadows over the land with breaks filled with sunlight.
It was breathtaking. A much needed view to get my energy level back up after a 5 hour layover in Panama City. I was fortunate enough to make a friend, a fellow Los Angeles resident, who kindly woke me up just in time to get on board for the short 1 hour flight into Bogotá. To say I had been planning this trip for months wouldn’t quite be the truth…
When I was around 10 years old, unbeknownst to my parents, I attempted to run away to South America with solely a backpack full of snacks, a few clothes, and a map that I had recently gotten in the latest issue of National Geographic. I was rallying my friend and neighbor, also around the same age, to walk down via a path I marked on this large and colorful map. My biggest concern (and only apparent challenge on this trip) was how we were going to get across the Panama Canal.
I figure it was only fate, now that I am 25 years old, that I happened to book a flight that landed me not far from the biggest obstacle on what was to be my greatest adventure as a child.
Upon following up with said childhood friend about a month ago, we reminisced about this ridiculous plan of mine. He also brought up the fact that I had also tried to convince him that we could swim to China if we could just make it up to Alaska...I guess I’ve always been a bit adventurous.
Once on the ground, the first thing I noticed, was how tiny everything was! Let me just say, this is completely relative. I myself am just shy of 6' tall, so being surrounded by people that averaged about 5'8"ish, with cars to match, was a bit of a surprise. (It only took smacking my head a few times, getting into the taxis, before I adjusted.)
I asked what was a stereotypical question from foreigners, “where are the lanes??” as we sped down the narrow highways and rapidly weaved in and out of traffic.
After this car ride through Bogotá to the house I was to call home for the next 12 days, there was barely enough time to catch a quick nap before getting ready to head out into the Colombian nightlife.
First stop was an art gallery/hostel near one of the most popular blocks for going out on the town, the 85. After meeting up with a few friends, we headed to what was, on any other night, one of the biggest gay clubs in Bogotá, Theatron. Klang Karussell was performing at this packed venue that night, one of my recent favorites.
The energy was high and the whiskey and Red Bulls were endless…or at least seemingly so. The crowd danced and sang along while passing around bottles of liquor amongst their respective groups of friends. Here, no one ordered just a drink, they ordered entire bottles to carry around and at a fraction of what you would pay here in the States.
Not gonna lie…whether it was the lack of sleep, my inability to stomach whiskey, or the contentment with the moment, I stopped drinking around 11pm (after a few shots of the ever popular Aguadiente, a liquor tasting of black licorice that went down way too smooth for anyones good).
That didn’t stop me from keeping up until the early morning (must’ve been the Red Bull). We danced until 4am and then called it a successful night, while most continued on until the sun came up.
The next evening was spent hitting the bar/club scene at the 85. Lots of cerveza and Aguadiente before ending up at a club blaring popular local songs and open until the late hours of the night. More dancing the night away and picking up the lyrics to popular music. “Bésame la boca, así así…”
What made this weekend so great was the opportunity I had to be hanging out with a group of locals. It was a different experience to get to jump right into what they do as young people in this large city. In addition to being a great way to not have to rely on my terrible Spanish to try and find cool things to do here. Great people, great music, and great dancing.
On Sunday, I went to one of the most successful businesses in Bogotá, a restaurant chain founded by a metalwork artist, Andrés Jaramillo. This restaurant, the original located just outside Bogotá in a town called Chia, is a MUST for anyone visiting. It was a trip, the establishment full of beautiful art, performers and activities for kids.
I was lucky enough to find some vegan friendly options in their extensive menu that was beautifully designed. Everything I ate was to die for…muy delicioso! Littering the lawn with art, were painted cow statues and metal hanging hearts around places for people to eat, drink and party. In the center of the restaurant there were performers putting on shows and interacting with guests, while in the back area there was everything from face painting to a rock climbing wall for kids and families to enjoy.
The whole experience made for a great Sunday afternoon in good company, and I got to taste some of the vibrant culture to be found in the surrounding area.
On Monday…I was able to get in a little bit of work before heading out on a cross country motorcycle ride to the beautiful town of Guatavita.
Through rain clouds, the sun danced across the lake outside of the little town. After an hour long adventure out of Bogotá through the rain and various landscapes, it was a great place to soak up the scenery. There is so much deeply rooted history in the places here, little things like how this lake was where gold sacrifices were made in the legend of El Dorado.
One of the things I plan on doing to mark my travels, it to get a tattoo in each country I visit.
With so much beautiful art and culture to be found, I had to add to my own canvas while in Bogotá. Tuesday I ventured back over to the 85 to a recommended tattoo artist at DZG Tattoo Parlor. Pablo did amazing work on a compass piece inspired by travel.
Thanks to a recommendation from a good friend, I’m most likely going to add the coordinates to each tattoo I get from what city I get the tattoo in. This tattoo is a tribute to the start of my world travels and the adventures to come. It becomes hard to keep souvenirs of your travels when you’re living out of a backpack. My skin will have to do…
After spending 6 days in Bogotá, I was able to quickly book a flight out Wednesday night to Cartagena. Avianca is the big airline in Colombia and they were awesome enough to switch me to an earlier flight than the one I had originally booked online. I also booked an Airbnb in the heart of the historical city, something I highly recommend due to the plaza night life and ease of access to sight seeing, museums and shops.
We only had 24hrs in the city, but it was enough to get a good taste and make me want to plan another trip. The streets and architecture reminded me a lot of being back in Barcelona, Spain, with people gathering in the plazas to sing and dance throughout the evening. After watching a soccer match at a pub on Thursday night, we ventured out to watch the scene near where we were staying.
Laughter, music, singing and lots of drinking…
Flying back to Bogotá the next morning was a little rough, but the rest of the day was spent recovering and working. Although it would have been nice to stay a little longer in Cartagena, I know I’ll be back in the near future.
Having a chill weekend before leaving was a great way to get out and see a bit more of Bogotá and just do a little normal life. Going out to eat with friends and exploring internet cafe’s to work from in a new city makes for a great way to wander streets and stumble upon good food.
My last day in Bogotá I was taken to the Museo de Botero. Botero being one of the most well known and highest paid Colombian artists, the museum was a mixture of his own paintings and sculptures, but also pieces from his private collection that included works from Dali, Picasso, Miro and many many more.
The people in Colombia that I have been lucky enough to meet are really really good people and I was so grateful to be welcomed into their homes and families. This trip was a great chance to take a look into another world that is so different from the past year and a half I’ve spent in Los Angeles. For me, it put into perspective the wild and crazy opportunities that we have here when it comes to career, business and entrepreneurship.
But it also made me think a lot about the cost of having the freedom to chase my dreams and have all the resources in L.A.…there are some very important things in life that get sacrificed to live there…
I’m back for a minute, but the adventure is only just beginning.