It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.
Taking that one step further, even more important than both the destination and the journey are the people—the local faces that cross your path along the way. Stereotypes and misconceptions exist largely due in part to ignorance. An entire nation or group of people are often generalized or lumped into one big basket of bigotry based upon the view of one or a handful of individuals.
“Don’t go there. It’s dangerous.”
“Don’t go out at night.”
“Oh my God, the drug abuse there is through the roof—are you sure you want to go.”
“I know you love to travel and you’re adventurous…but you’re going where?!? Are you sure it’s really worth it?”
Many times, the objections above and countless others are no more than gross generalizations. The source of these generalizations? Usually people that, in many cases, have never even met an individual from the location in question. As a traveler, I’ve become immune to the barrage of baseless negativity that surround many destinations seen as undesirable. Yes, it is important to travel smart…but that same advice can be attributed to any inner-city in any location.
Before departing for Colombia earlier this year, I had several friends and family voice their concerns. One of the major warnings delivered to me was: “Whatever you do, don’t just take any old yellow cab off the street!” Well, if you’ve followed my journey, then you’re aware taking a cab off the street was something I had to do on my very first day in the country. And, admittedly, it was almost disastrous; however, the result ultimately reinforces my belief about Colombia—and countries all around the world:
Good people exist everywhere!
Not to undermine the sights and sounds discovered during six weeks in Colombia, which were beautiful…the genuine, real person-to-person interactions are what stand out most for me. Uncurated conversations and local faces not found on the pages of guidebooks equaled a raw, irreplicable experience. Although I can’t recreate a complete portrait of every individual encountered during my brief time in Colombia, the following images will hopefully provide the outline for you to paint your own imagine of this beautiful destination.
This exchange happened during my very first week in Colombia. She was working as a hostess at a restaurant and trying her best to get me to come in for dinner. I declined but, surprised by her strong English ability, continued to talk for several minutes before eventually heading home. I told her I had just recently arrived and she invited me to a free art exhibit in Bogota with her and a friend over the weekend. We exchanged information and once the weekend came around I joined them for a cultural day around town.
A young man whose past speaks volumes higher than his soft-spoken nature. At age 13, he left home to join the rebel group FARC, where he stayed for the next 13 years of his life. Now, as he assimilates back into society as a musician he desires to put the violence of his past behind him while instead using his words to fight for peace.
I decided to head up to the top of Monserrate in Bogota on a Sunday. Much to my surprise, seated 3152m above sea level was a small church that was filled beyond capacity. It was truly a beautiful sight to see families, seniors, children, and individuals from seemingly all backgrounds gathered together in worship.
Child labor?!? Nope…just an average weekend day for the men of the house (and the family dog). Locals from a small village near Anapoima gather supplies for their home. A day filled with beer, machetes, wood-chopping and nature.
No trip to Colombia is complete without a trip to a local Tejo bar to partake in this “national sport” of such. As for the restrooms, you won’t get much privacy…evident by the grin on Jonnes’ face once he realized we were snapping a picture capturing him during his moment of relief in the background!
Have you ever been to Colombia? If so, what interesting people did you come across during your journey?