One of my favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movies is The Beach. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a backpacker in Thailand who discovers a secret beach island society of travelers. There’s a whole load of drama involving drugs, murder, and ethical dilemmas. But overall I like the movie because, as a backpacker, I completely understand that there are certain geographic locations that seem to epitomize that seductive beach. There are certain cities that exude some sort of inexplicable suction. Travelers arrive and, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to leave. It was evident in Prague. Unexpectedly, this force worked its magic in Tbilisi, Georgia. And more than anywhere I’ve seen in quite some time, it is alive and powerful in Medellin, Colombia.
Almost three weeks ago, I left Medellin for Argentina. My emotions surrounding Colombia are quite mixed. As you know, I had lived in Argentina from April to June and my original plan had been to stay in Buenos Aires for an entire year. But as the cold crept in and my neighbors partied from 2am to noon, the idea of temporarily leaving Argentina stuck. I had never thought much of visiting Colombia, but two people quite randomly pitched it to me and it seemed to contain everything I wanted: good weather, Spanish, and a vibrant culture. I figured why not?
An Anti-Social Experiment
Colombia was an interesting 3-month experiment. Unlike my three months in Argentina back in the spring, (or “fall” in South America), in Colombia I actively tried to avoid much of a social life. I had JUST spent three months putting myself “out there” in every social situation possible in Argentina. In Colombia, I just didn’t have the energy. Instead, I threw myself 100% into things that made me happy: my writing, working out, and my Spanish. I decided, since it wasn’t a permanent living situation, there wasn’t much of a point wasting my time making friends. It seems cold, but it was a good lesson for me: when I stop distracting myself with parties, and social situations I’m only semi-interested in, I’m a lot happier.* I think half the time I go out, I just do it so I can tell people I went out and they don’t think I’m weird or unable to make friends. I actually wrote a blog about how happy I was in Medellin. You can read it here.
I always planned to return to Buenos Aires on September 1st. But the closer that date came, the more I wanted to stay in Medellin. September 1st came and went. I booked an extra week in my AirBnB. Then another week. Then another. “Just a week more” somehow turned into another month. I can’t quite explain it, but I was thriving in Medellin and wasn’t ready to let go. That last month proved by far one of the best months in any foreign country.
I actually did make friends in Colombia, and they are part of the reason I wasn’t ready to leave. Near the end, I was speaking Spanish up to 15 hours a day. Life in dollars meant a slightly luxurious standard of living. Colombians are friendly. I liked my roommate. Everyday I wore sundresses and spent my afternoons reading in the hammock on the balcony enjoying the view.
I’m back in Buenos Aires now, and I’m trying to be “present” in Argentina. Too often I don’t appreciate my location because I’m dreaming about another place. My return to Buenos Aires has proved to be one of my roughest transitions in awhile, which is ironic because I already lived here and actually know the language. I wrote a quite negative 2000-word blog post (or rant) about my last few weeks in Buenos Aires, but things are starting to come together now, so I deleted it. I’m settling in. I’m trying to be positive. I’m feeling happy.
I’m not quite sure I’m “done” with Colombia. For reasons I’m not quite comfortable sharing publicly, there is a chance I will return in early 2018. For now, I’m going to enjoy my life and work in Buenos Aires and “think things over” with a bit of distance from Medellin. For me, it’s easier for me to make decisions when removing myself from emotional factors. If need be, I’ll put up another quiz and everyone can vote on “if I should consider more permanently settling in Colombia.” Clearly I’m too indecisive for adulting. Let’s see.
*To all my Argentinian friends I stayed in contact with all summer (or winter for you guys), I clearly don’t mean you. And I appreciate the warm welcome back!