Why I Was Wrong About Medellin – Guest Post by James Maverick
Digital Nomad Before Digital Nomads
I read Jame’s blog, Maverick Traveler 7 years ago. This wes before you’d find foreigners in El Poblado cafes working on laptops. He was what he calls a location-independent entreprenery, a digital nomad.
His lifestyle seemed to be so unattainable because back then I was struggling to make a couple thousand dollars a month via freelance web work and teaching English in Medellin.
I remember reading a couple of his blog post on Medellin. They weren’t the usual ranting and raving about how awesome the city was and how beautiful the women were. They were the opposite. He wrote about how bland the city was and how hard it was to go out at night and meet people.
I was kind of offended by the posts at first. However, I stepped into his shoes, as a Ukranian/American in Medellin, with no family or close friends here, I realized that, yes, it probably would seem a bit hard to adapt, let alone assimilate.
Recently, James reached out to me about being interviewed on his podcast. Being approached by a successful location-independent entrepreneur, I was thrilled to be interviewed and, of course, said yes. You can check out Episode #49 – Starting A New Life In Medellin here.
I asked James to write about his NEW thoughts on Medellin. He obliged and gave me his take…
Why I was wrong about Medellin
Back in 2011, I spent six months living in Medellin. I spent the first months in the posh neighborhood El Poblado, where most Westerners live before moving to a more middle-class neighborhood of Envigado.
Medellin wasn’t my first experience in Colombia. In 2007, I flew into Bogota from Mexico City. I waiting for my flight in Mexico City’s airport not knowing what to expect. Yes, I was scared.
I had heard tons of stories about how dangerous Colombia is and how I will get kidnapped as soon as I stepped out of the plane. After all, Colombia was a very dangerous country, much more dangerous than its other Latin American neighbors.
All those fears were ended up being completely unfounded. I landed in Bogota, took a taxi to my hostel and ended up having one of the best experiences of my life.
This time around, the city that I really wanted to explore was Medellin. At that time, every blogger and his mom were busy praising the city for its amazing, spring-type weather, it’s low cost of living and its friendly people.
And, while all of it is absolutely true, my initial experiences were markedly different. Frankly, I didn’t think much of the city. I felt the city was grey and monotone. I felt it was rather drab and boring.
While Bogota, with its colder and rainier climate, at least it had the soul of an actual city, a capital with its pulsating hustle and bustle. Cali, which has the destination of being Colombia’s third largest city, felt like a tropical capital of salsa with its humid climate, great food, and relaxed pace.
But Medellin? As hard as I tried, I really couldn’t figure the city out or at least figure out what makes this city “truly special” as repeated ad nauseam by countless bloggers all over the world, many of whom probably didn’t even step their food into this city.
As far as I’m concerned, Medellin wasn’t special and it certainly wasn’t magical. It was just another Latin American city perhaps without the Latin American charm.
Rough, I know.
Over seven years had passed, and lately, I’ve been reflecting on my life in Colombia. I also realized I was wrong about Medellin. I failed to give the city its proper credit.
The first problem was my expectations. I arrived with sky-high expectations, kinda of like the explorer Hernando De Soto in his search for the fountain of youth.
And when reality felt short of my expectations, I naturally became disappointed.
That’s a shame. Because in many ways, Medellin is an excellent city in its own right.
It’s like when all your friends are dating supermodels, and while your girlfriend is awesome in every way, you still feel like you’re being cheated relative to others. Even if you’re with an amazing woman who treats you like gold.
In many ways, this is why I was so disappointed with Medellin. All I did was compare it to other cities, when in fact, I should’ve taken it as is.
And when viewed in this new light, the advantages of and the beauty of Medellin become quickly apparent.
First, there’s the amazing spring-like weather that you get to enjoy the entire year. Name another city with such amazing weather. Cali is too hot. Bogota is too cold. Rio de Janeiro is too muggy most of the year. Buenos Aires gets cold in the winter.
But Medellin is just… perfect.
Second, it’s the fact that it’s super easy to get around. There’s the well-functioning metro that takes you all over the city. Failing that, you have an extensive network of buses and affordable taxis (Uber, too) to get you wherever you need to go.
Third, it’s the people. Yes, they’re friendly. Yes, they love foreigners. Yes, they’re super helpful. They’re all that and more. When I had any issues with anything, all I need to do was to ask someone for help, and pretty much every single person was ready to help at a moment’s notice.
But I think the best part of living in Medellin is the fact that it’s one of the most organized cities in Latin America. Everything works. The people are fair. My guess is that there’s even less corruption in Medellin than in Bogota or Cali, but I don’t have hard data to prove this.
While in Bogota or Cali, I’ve often had taxi drivers rip me off or charge me random “surcharges,” this has never happened in Medellin. In fact, I don’t remember a single time when anyone ripped me off for anything at all.
For a Latin American city, this is one heck of an achievement.
This is why it’s a lot easier and hassle-free to live in Medellin or Bogota than it is to live in both Cali or Bogota. And this is why Medellin is a city that many foreigners immigrate to.
I was wrong about Medellin. And my reasons for feeling that way are the same reasons that make Medellin a truly spectacular city for easy, no-frills living.
Now, if I can only find such a city here in Eastern Europe.
James was born in Ukraine but moved to New York City at a young age.
After ten years pf living and working in Silicon Valley he realized that he didn’t want to do it for the rest of his life.
In 2007 he quit his well-paying job and bought a one-way ticket to Brazil, where he lived for over 2 years.
This began his location-independence and entrepreneurship life.
He has been to 75+ countries and lived in about a dozen of them. Check him out at MaverickTraveler.com.