I am in love.
This week in Bogota has truly unearthed some beautiful awarenesses within me when it comes to social change, cultural understanding, ethical tourism, and my personal viewpoint on life.
There is a lot I want to share, but I am still so IN the experience, I am allowing myself to process and write privately, knowing the shares will come to you when the time is right.
For now, the biggest thing on my mind is this:
Colombia, to me, is a symbol of fierce resiliency, and what living truly is about.
Let’s pause for a moment and recognize that I am a white, American tourist in a country booming with SO many different cultures, indigenous communities, and traditions that I am very much still learning about.
Let’s also mention that the U.S. dollar goes far here…VERY far. This is not the reality of any of the people who live here, or emigrate from poorer countries in South America, like Venezuela for example. Bogota, I’ve learned, is essentially like living in Paris for the locals.
The first few days here I was struck by the culture and its beauty, and the ability for ME to experience abundance here. It’s felt really good to actually afford life here.
But the big takeaway isn’t just that “Yay! I’m a tourist” mood. It’s that after living here for only a few days, I’ve chosen to not overflow my schedule with tourist attractions, and instead chose only a few tourist-y things that are beneficial to my education of this country…
This is what I have for you, as learned by observation and an incredible street art tour of Bogota.
Every single person (mostly Boomers) who decided to offer - some advice - to me before I went to Colombia, having never come here before (btw) warned me of kidnapping, ransom, and rape.
All we hear about in America is Colombia’s corruption (AKA what to fear), usually having no or little idea of America’s involvement in that very corruption for 100s of years (I’ll humbly say, though I assumed, this was me).
It’s not an accident that we don’t hear about all of the amazing aspects of Colombia, or Central and South America in general.
I am far more afraid of the police force and the government here than I am the people. People here aren’t just going around raping people. Seriously.
The Colombian people have been through so much adversity, and continue to try to create change with nearly no avail.
There were protests just a few months ago, after a tax increase left local Colombian’s aware of the sad reality that those creating the rules in the country had absolutely no idea how much it costs to actually live here.
This is the fruit from the same, corrupt, systemic tree that is so similarly mirrored in America, and most countries.
It sounds worse in some ways than America, and yet I feel that after being here, America’s corruption just wears a different costume - more rooted in a disgusting amount of stock in the value of image, how much money we have, mass consumption, and mediated propaganda.
The difference is we pretend like nothing is wrong. We have fancier buildings, fancier phones, and we love to hype up the individual “American dream” rooted in our very roots of stealing and turning a profit for individual “success”, while using "democracy" as cultural click-bait.
Being in Colombia has shown me this mirror in such a powerful way.
It’s also shown me what resilience, modesty, and authenticity looks like.
It looks like Michelin grade restaurants in tiny, casual spaces.
It looks like street art that promotes hope for the future, while providing spaces for social conversation for FREE.
It looks like simple, utilitarian clothing.
It looks like the Paloquemao - a food market that supplies food to everyone, including some of the highest rated restaurants in Bogota, at an affordable price.
It looks like patience with American tourists like me who are doing their best to converse only in Spanish.
All of this adversity, and Colombians do not ignore its existence.
They are not at all obsessed with image, talking about money, or having many things.
It’s simple, because it has to be.
When you are faced with so much violence, colonization, and authoritative control, one has no choice but to rise, and this is why this country is so, beyond underrated. My eyes swell with tears as I write this.
We, as a people, are truly made to feel inadequate in every sense of the word in today’s culture. It’s about how we choose to live our lives. In Colombia, people seem celebrate the simple pleasures as much as they can.
Colombian music and art, gathering squares, street food…all of these aspects of Colombian life, to which Colombians are so very proud of, have reminded me that this is truly living.
In America, we spend so much time prioritizing the superficial things, forgetting how unbelievably incredible life can be.
The simple task of eating that we rush on through during our busy days at our jobs that are killing us…
The beauty of laughing and gathering and dancing, not because we are numbing ourselves out, but because we simply can…
It’s not anyone’s fault - rather, it’s the culture that we are so ingrained in knowing and operating from conditionally.
Who are we as a people beyond the robotic hustle, the rat race, the obsession with reaching some f*cked up version of success?
This is why I believe traveling (consciously, might I add) is a freeway to opening the heart. We are so, so narrow-minded in the states.
This is why I also believe that it is so important to take a look at these things, research other places if we cannot physically travel to them, and be open to other ways of life.
Question. And approach with curiosity.
What is truly stopping you from fully living? And are you willing to look at that in the face, let it sting, and rise with a new understanding of yourself, those far and wide from you, and the ways in which you hold the power to make a difference in the future wellbeing of this world?
We do all have such an important role. Let’s not waste it on the superficial things, rather remember the important things - rather, operate from love, modesty, curiosity, and authenticity.
More Colombia insights to follow…my heart is wide open.
Thank you for reading.