First Impressions of Colombia

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

The start of my South America experience….

My very first experience with Colombia was my flight. I flew on Avianca and waited for my boarding section, letter “E”, to be called. I stood aside from the larger line with some others also waiting. Finally, they welcomed boarding section E! I stepped into the line, at which point, I was yelled at, aggressively, in Spanish. Not just Spanish, but fast Spanish. Not just fast Spanish, but angry fast Spanish. The kind where I didn’t quite understand what they were saying, but I could feel their bad feelings for me. I felt like a bad gringa. When I told them I didn’t understand, they said, “We’ve been waiting a long time, go wait!” not knowing, of course, that I had waited just as long as they had, I just didn’t lug my over-packed and way too heavy bag to the other side of the line. I stood back, they walked on making brush-off motions, and then a Colombian man and another woman that witnessed this told me to get on the line and not to worry about those jerks! They should realize it’s all the same plane and it’s not leaving till we all get on.

Street mural in the San Antonio area of Cali, Colombia.

Photograph by Heather Markel, copyright 2019

I’ve noticed that nothing is translated from Spanish. Not into English, or any other language. This included my flight. As the skies look troublesome and the plane shakes and the pilot puts on the seatbelt sign and all you understand is something about “turbulence” and “there won’t be any service on the flight” but never get the explanation in English, it’s unnerving. But there are also no translations in museums or tourist attractions. As someone that has traveled the world, this is the first time I’ve ever experienced an airline, or a country, not translating pertinent information into English.

“What’s in a name – the implication of affection”

Nicknames are substituted for names most of the time. Rather than being called “Heather” I have been called “muchacha,” “la gringa,” and “la blancita,” among other things. Others might call friends and family, “mi carina,” “mi amor,” but rarely do I hear a name. Which makes it even harder to remember people’s names! Servants do not get nicknames, they are always addressed by first name. I’m learning that getting a nickname is a sign of affection – if you’re liked, you get a nickname, and you should be happy. 🙂

Colorful buildings in San Antonio, Cali, Colombia.

Photograph by Heather Markel, copyright 2019

Food is yummy. We have a Colombian tortilla, called an Arepa, with many meals. It’s hard to explain but is sort of a cross between a white pancake meets a corn tortilla – even when crisped it doesn’t break apart, you have to tear it like bread. For breakfast it’s yummy with butter or cheese. Pork is amazing no matter how it’s served, and I’ve had it many ways. The salads are full of wonderful vegetables and my favorite are the fruit drinks in water – I’ve had “lulo” (a bit like a small orange but tastes nothing like it and doesn’t exist in America), passion fruit, and mango.

Walking around the colors really grab me. The buildings, the stores, the clothing. Especially in the San Antonio area where beautiful graffiti murals are more common than paint. Talent literally covers every nook and cranny of the streets I pass. I happen to be staying with my friend’s aunt, Yolanda who is an amazingly talented painter, self taught, and having met one of her daughters, it’s definitely a gene that was passed on in the family. Wow.

On the more seedy side, there are “love hotels” next to the discos and bars. (No, I have not been!) Apparently since girls have to be home by 4 or 5am, if they want to be with someone, they go out, they go to the hotel, they go home, and their parents think they were out clubbing with friends. (I suppose that works great until someone gets an STD…) Happily I can say I’ve only seen all this from the outside.

Prices are super reasonable. I took a 10-minute ride from the zoo to the place I’m staying and it cost less than $2. A wonderful dinner of a salad with quinoa, avocado, chicken, and a glass of lulo juice was about $13, which, actually, is on the expensive side. I took 4 of us out for a coffee the other day and all 4 coffees cost a total of $6! All-in-all I’m so glad I’ve come for a visit!

Learn about Heather and what set her on her world journey. She also explains why this life is not just for Millenials, it’s for anyone that wants to create a life around what they love most in life. 

Listen to an episode of the video interview series that will inspire you to follow your heart. Whether you want to travel full time or have another calling, this series is for you.

See the amazing people I’ve been meeting on my travels and the fun stories that go along with the meetings.

Check out my travel photos from around the world to see the world from wherever you are.

If you’ve been thinking that there’s got to be  more to life than work, or, you’ve lost your job, and wonder whether now is the time to do something you’re more excited about, this quiz will help you. Answer a few questions and get a free guide to help you know the areas you need to work on, followed up with inspirational and helpful tips to put your dreams into action.

Traveling the world full-time may sound glamorous and exhilirating. (In many ways, it is!) But, it’s not full-time fun. Before you decide to go, take this quiz to make sure you’re ready, and, if not, find out how to bridge the gaps.

This fun quiz helps you understand what your travel personality is, and how to make sure you indulge it when planning your next trip to maximize your enjoyment!

This one is pure fun – test your transcontinental travel trivia knowledge. Hit the button below if you dare take the quiz and see your score! 

If you enjoyed the first quiz, see how you do on the second one! More fun, more tricks, Click the button below to test your knowledge!

If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!

In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.

Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.

I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.

Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.

At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.

If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.

Africa

Argentina

Brazil

Cambodia

Chile

Costa Rica

France

New Zealand

Peru

Portugal

Scotland

Thailand

Uruguay

Vietnam

 

Want more in-depth information about travel? Trying to figure out how to afford full-time travel (or, doing what you want to do, full-time)? Check out these items!

Looking for a photo or a travel-related item to reconnect with the spirit of travel? Check out this page to see some of my photos and where you can find them as prints and various photo-gifts..

Trying to create a more fulfilling life? Want help with planning out how to make your mark in the world? Check out this page to see how Heather can help you!

12 + 5 =

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Hi, I'm HEATHER.

Sign up to learn how to quit your job to travel the world (or pursue your passion) and why you should if you're over 40!

%d bloggers like this: