The Atlas

Con mucho amor de Medellin

Greetings from beautiful Colombia!

For those of you who have watched too many episodes of Narcos: Put the remote down!

It's now been a month since I got to Medellin. As I expected, I absolutely love the city. The people are hospitable, the climate is fantastic, the city is dog-friendly, clean and easy to navigate via the Metro (supplemented by taxis and Ubers when needed), business and infrastructure are remarkably strong, and while there are some American/European brands here, Colombians are still distinctly their own and global, watered-down monoculture has not taken root here.

Perhaps the thing I may love the most is that Paisanos (people from Medellin) have a distinct pride in having rebuilt their city, post-Pablo Escobar. It includes a sense of optimism and progress, control over their own destiny, and a basic pride in how far their city has come since reclaiming it after his death. (Which is why, if you come, please don't do any of the Pablo Escobar tours you can find online. Very disrespectful.)

My Spanish is getting a much more consistent workout than it did in Mexico, and my office (which, ironically and totally by accident, is where Astound used to office when they first opened up in Medellin) is enough of a trek that I get in a decent number of steps just by going there (while also getting me out of my apartment and helping me explore other parts of the city). Everything about my immediate neighborhood is completely walkable, which I absolutely love, and I am constantly delighted at how lively street life is here on any random evening -- though, the incredible volume of barbershops is an eternal amusement.

I'm living in a not-too-expat-heavy neighborhood near the stadium (Estadio/Laureles), which -- aside from it's other plentiful advantages (including a bright, cheap, fully furnished, 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment in a nice residential neighborhood and a fantastic view of the mountains covered by lights at night) -- is also nice and flat with a huge outdoor sports complex, so I've been able to return to my running regimen to prepare for a 5K in California at Thanksgiving. (No car accidents allowed this time!) But living someplace where the sun is up long before 6:00 a.m. and it's never hot & humid, or cold & miserable has made morning runs an unexpected joy.

Ironically, the one thing about Colombia that I'm not totally in love with is actually the food. Colombian food is good, but very meat-and-potatoes-centric, and since I eat almost none of either, I find myself cooking at home a lot. There is also a stunning aversion to spice; I had to find a bottle of Tabasco at a large grocery store to carry around with me, and fresh herbs are so limited that you have to buy them when you spot them, because you never know when you'll find them again. However, that has an upside, too, because I've lost about 4 inches since leaving Mexico in early-August -- and most of that has been since I got here.

On the other hand, as the second most biodiverse country on the planet (after Brazil), the selection of fruit here is incredible -- most of which has no comparable version at home, so I can't even try to explain them to anyone who hasn't experienced it first hand.

And the beer is good and so cheap it's almost a crime not to enjoy it.

I would actually love to stay in Medellin for a while. I'm exploring my visa options, but unless I suddenly find myself with a surprise bundle of cash to invest here, most of my options (school, business, marriage, etc.) would require some extra special creativity. So, we'll see how that goes. For now, I'm here until the weekend before Thanksgiving, at least.

The expat community here is actually pretty big. There is a definite bifurcation, though: retirees and college-aged backpackers. Middle aged professionals are here, but a little harder to find. But I'm mingling enough to keep an eye out because everyone swears there really are a decent number of us here.

I'm super excited to host my parents for a visit in a couple of weeks. They are coming down for Conchita's birthday, and I can't wait to see them and show them around. (Dad's been sticking to his diet and workout routine, since his pacemaker surgery, and assures me he is ready to walk around Medellin when he gets here!)

I'll be in Miami the beginning of November for a class I've been dying to take for years, and then back again in late-November before heading to California to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Somewhere in and around there, I suspect I'll be swinging through Austin. It's time to start packing up my remaining stuff there, and getting it moved somewhere more accessible (probably Miami).

And finally, I'm super excited that business is going really well. My newly branded website launched last week, and both my one-on-one coaching practice (women over 40 at a crossroads) and my corporate work (organizational change for managers and management teams) are getting really exciting (part of the reason for the class in Miami).

Once again, I'm finding myself insanely grateful for the unexpected roller coaster that started last year that finally got me on my long-coveted expat path. And, even more, I'm so excited that so many of my friends encouraged Medellin. Just like the other cities I instantly fell in love with (Istanbul, Chiang Mai, Hoi An, Singapore, etc.), I walk around on a daily basis just overwhelmed with how much there is to appreciate about the city.

I hope that your autumn is getting off to a great start, and that whatever adventure you're on is just as much fun as you were hoping for!

Alora's Signature