Full Immersion into Colombia

Full Immersion into Colombia

In August 2015, never having been to South America, I decided it was time to go, alone. No one seemed to share my enthusiasm and I like traveling solo anyway. I can decide where, when and what I want to eat, do, go, and stay. I booked a flight to Bogotá, Colombia.

What drew me to Colombia? My love of Pre-Colombian art, visions of colonial buildings, churches and monuments, centuries-old houses with tile covered roofs, colorfully costumed women from Cartagena, the history of Simon Bolivar’s struggle to overthrow the Spanish domination, indigenous cultures, and the diverse countryside: the Andes, Caribbean and Amazon.

Anxious friends warned me about this and about that: “Taxi drivers will kidnap you”, drug cartels, “You don’t speak Spanish”, “FARC is hiding behind every streetlamp”. Every possible disaster that could occur was brought to my attention. Very few people said “That sounds like fun. When do you leave?  How long will you stay?” Being the intrepid traveler that I am and knowing I had researched the current situation in Colombia, I felt comfortable about my decision and decided to stay for three months.

We laughed as we tried to use the machines, giggled at my Spanish, and those who were bilingual translated the Spanish jokes for me. By the time the course was over, I had a whole new set of friends bonded across cultures.

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, and has a population of almost nine million. It sits at an altitude of over 8,500 feet. In the United States, only New York City surpasses it in size. It is a very cosmopolitan city: soaring skyscrapers loom over centuries-old cathedrals and original tile-roofed houses. Yet the city maintains a vibrant European feel. I immediately fell in love with the world-class museums; the historic old town where streets built by the Spanish are barely wide enough to accommodate a single car; the small out-of-the way cafés; the tiny plazas tucked into unexpected places.

I was invited by a young American woman or coffee at Arté y Pasión Café in the historic La Candelaria area. It was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. The café is also a training school for baristas. Never one to back down from a new experience, I signed up along with two bilingual Americans to take the two-day course. It was the highlight of my entire trip. The class was mostly comprised of Colombians. We were introduced to every imaginable type of coffee-making device: drip, espresso, syphon machines, Turkish coffee makers, French press plus others I had never seen. It was part lecture, part hands-on experience, and we all stumbled through the course together. We laughed as we tried to use the machines, giggled at my Spanish, and those who were bilingual translated the Spanish jokes for me. By the time the course was over, I had a whole new set of friends from across cultures.

One of the fastest ways to learn about another culture is becoming involved in a local activity. Try a photography class or take a cooking course, whether you speak the language or not.

Colombians are a warm, gracious and lovely people. During my three-month visit I never felt a moment of uneasiness. My new friends took me under their wing, into their homes for meals, on tours of the city and to places I would have never found. This experience taught me that one of the fastest ways to learn about another culture is becoming involved in a local activity. Try a photography class or take a cooking course, whether you speak the language or not. This could be the most fun you have on your trip. You’ll learn something new, meet local people who are incredibly polite, helpful and kind. Along the way, you’ll have a memorable experience.

A smile can go a long, long way. It tells your hosts that you want to greet them on their terms. People appreciate that you have an interest in their country, history and culture, even if you don’t speak the language well. Get involved, you will make new friends, meet new people, find out about the culture and get recommendations for all the best places to eat and things to do. Become engaged in where you are, it is the best part of traveling. Don’t be too shy or intimidated, as you’ll miss a lot. Bon voyage and live your trip to the fullest. You’ll never be sorry for having tried. It’s what you missed that you’ll regret!

About Leigh Schrom

Leigh SchromLeigh Schrom is an eager and intrepid world explorer. A published travel writer, her work has appeared in such online publications as such as Parachute, Travelicious, Pink Pangea, and Travel Post Monthly.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Leigh has traveled throughout the United States covering most of the 50 states, including Alaska. Her world travel experiences include Europe, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America.

Retired from a successful commercial real estate career, she pursues her travel interests through writing and photography. With a background in art history, she focuses on the art, architecture, the customs, and cultures of each place she visits, learning as much as she can.

In January 2016, she visited Bogotá, Colombia and was so enchanted by the city and the people that she decided to make it her base as she explores the rest of South America. She writes for Women Touring South America, is a member of Travel Media, The International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA), and has attended Travel Writers Workshops sponsored by Great Escape Publishing.

A blue-water sailor her whole life, she also enjoys reading about history, different cultures, blues and jazz, architecture, gourmet cooking, live theater, exploring museums, football, baseball and finding out-of-the-way places. Always inquisitive, curious, adventurous and eager to learn, she is the perpetual explorer.

She values intelligence, independence, thoughtfulness, curiosity and integrity.

5 thoughts on “Full Immersion into Colombia

  1. Mary Charlebois, MaryGo
    November 17, 2016
    Reply

    Great story, congratulations on your first ink! –MaryGo

  2. Leigh Schrom
    Leigh Schrom
    November 17, 2016
    Reply

    This photo is not representative of Bogota or Colombia, both of which are quite beautiful.
    So sorry for the impression that this photo gives.

  3. Carlos Tovar Rodriguez
    November 17, 2016
    Reply

    Great article, the only thing is the photo is not a great view of Colombia. I do not like my country looks like that photo.

  4. Nicolas Llanos
    November 17, 2016
    Reply

    I’m Colombian and this picture not represent my country, I’m offended for this. Colombia is much more beautiful and the cities do not look like this. I think this picture offends the Colombian people. The article is very good but I dont know why that picture are on it.

  5. John Irving
    November 16, 2016
    Reply

    Excellent article by Leigh Schrom the travel writer. I’m a little confused by the your selection of a photo for the article. Seems to me you could have made a better selection. Maybe one of the photos offered by the writer?

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