Other than what I’d heard on the news, most of which was about kidnappings, violence, and the drug trade, I knew very little about Colombia before traveling there from the States. And honestly, because of what I thought I knew, it wasn’t very high on my list as a destination. But when I began to hear stories of its beauty from traveling friends who had gone to Colombia, and recommendations that were specific to digital nomads in Medellin, I decided to go. I’d always wanted to travel to a Spanish-speaking country, and even the U.S. Dept. of State was advising that Colombia was becoming safer, especially in its major cities.
Even with that update, family, travel friends, and the internet warned me about safety before going to Colombia, and part of me wondered if I should travel there at all. But I went anyways. Most of the advice from loved ones and research said to stay in the major cities, but not to go out at night, not to walk alone, or to accept open drinks, never to carry more than I needed, not to use my smartphone in public, never to share a taxi, and just to be safe, use Uber instead, with the windows closed.
There is a saying in Medellin, “no dar papaya”, which means “don’t give opportunity”. This was the best safety advice I got. Colombia was not out to get me. And not a single traveler or expat I met while there had any issues.
After spending two months in Colombia, here’s what I can pass on for advice.
I’d studied Spanish all through middle school, high school, and even specialized in Spanish literature in college. But as well as I could read and write the language, there hadn’t been many opportunities to practice listening and speaking back home in the Midwest. When I finally got to Colombia, I felt like I knew nothing at all. Because I’d decided to do a Workaway at a Spanish school, though, I was able to take a refresher course. But still, unlike so many of the countries I’d visited before, you can’t really get by on just English in most of Colombia — much of the country is not yet catered toward tourism.
Coming from the United States, I knew drug issues were a major part of Colombia’s past. However, having spent the better part of two months in Medellin, I learned that Colombia had been a violent place before Pablo Escobar was even born. Colombia is currently trying to fix many issues that are hurting its people and its reputation, including violence, a failing revolution, drug trafficking, displacement of its people from the countryside to the cities, integration into those cities, and more. The people I met are looking forward to the peaceful Colombia that is currently being created. In fact, their leader was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a deal he developed to move past the era of FARC. On October 2nd, the Colombian people voted against the deal (the vote was almost 50/50). Although most Colombians are in favor of peace, they haven’t agreed on how to get there yet.
Escobar wasn’t always easy to bring up in conversation when I was in Colombia, but he is everywhere, especially around Medellin. You can play paintball on his former property, visit his exotic animal collection, and hike from the prison he built himself (la Catedral) down the path he used to escape from it. However, Colombians are all still dealing with the problems he caused, and that means so much more than recapturing the violent hippos that escape from Hacienda Napoles. Every person who lived there while he was alive has a story of violence or death related to his actions, even those who were children at the time. A Colombian friend told me that because of Escobar, an entire generation of children grew up missing fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, teachers, and neighbors. Another told me a story of walking home from school to find a recent murder victim in front of her building. She said Colombians remember the day Escobar died like Americans remember 9/11. Although the drug trade existed outside of Escobar, narcotics were a huge source of violence in cities. And they haven’t completely disappeared — there are still places in the cities that are best to avoid, at the very least at night. Many of the neighborhoods are on the outskirts of Medellin, like Manrique, 13 de Noviembre, and the surrounding areas.
After what I’ve learned of Colombia’s history since the late 1940s, I would completely understand if the people were unfriendly, untrusting, or pessimistic. In reality, though, I found that Colombians seemed really happy, and they were exceptionally friendly towards me and other tourists. On my first day in Cartagena, I was stopped by a woman on the street who asked what I was looking for. She recommended a restaurant around the corner that turned out to be delicious, and is one of the most highly-rated online. I had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish with people of all ages in restaurants, in parks, walking down the street… It seems that even with such a violent past, Colombia is looking towards the future.
This surprise was such a good one! I have traveled to places with and without potable water in the past, but this made such a huge difference in cooking, bathing, drinking, and planning trips, especially to other parts of the country where the water is not potable.
Having lived near Detroit for most of my life, I’m familiar with violence, fear, and the power of hope and determination in the face of a fallen city. But Colombians remain hopeful and proactive in the face of ongoing issues. Traveling around the city, you’ll notice it’s full of artwork — much of it done by locals, and meant to inspire. Medellin is being redesigned to bring the community together — increasing safety and transportation, providing outdoor exercise equipment, closing certain roads on Sundays in favor of bikers, and building a community.
Of all the places I’ve been to, Colombia is one of few that I’d be happy to call home.
International Living readers know there are beautiful, safe, warm, and welcoming countries on earth where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the U.S. Places where they can live a more relaxed, fun, fulfilling lifestyle without sacrificing a high-quality lifestyle that includes excellent medical care. We’ve been showing them how and where for over four decades.
But the decision on where to live is not always readily subject to logical analysis. Everybody is unique and has different priorities, interests, must-haves, and wishes. For some, the cost of living and the availability of good-quality, affordable healthcare will be their top concerns. But for a growing number of frustrated Black Americans, the biggest issue is race, and how they are treated as a person of color at home and abroad.
If you aren’t sure about where you should go or what to expect when you get there, we’re here to help. We’ve reached out to our network of correspondents and contributors, five of whom share their experiences below.
Looking for advice on specific regions or countries? Select the destination of our choice from our huge archive of country guides.
Karol was one of the first girls I contacted on the largest Colombian dating site on the internet (more on that in a bit).
Her caramel skin, her long black hair, and her bright smile…I had to meet her. Of course, I never thought that I could actually meet her because my Spanish sucked. And my profile pictures sucked even more.
Then she replied…in English.
It was my lucky day because it turned out that English was her major at university. I didn’t know how long I would stay in Medellin, but I knew that I had to meet this Colombian Chica. I thought about staying a week. I ended up staying a month.
I stayed in one of these buildings
She cried when we said goodbye at the Jose Maria Cordova International airport. I cried too. Damn, I miss her. But I’m immensely grateful that she taught me these 19 lessons…
It’s no secret that a lot of women in this country are exceptionally beautiful.
The question is: How can you attract one of these Colombian models?
Well, this is not the Philippines. You can’t just sign up on an online dating site and expect to receive dozens of messages. I only received two messages on Colombian Cupid from girls who contacted me first. But I received dozens of replies from girls once I initiated the conversation.
You need to make the first move. That’s your only chance.
Yes, they flirt with you, but they don’t make the first move…unless you have a girlfriend.
Colombian women prove that the theory that women are more attracted to men who are taken is in fact true. I mean, it’s insane. I walked alone in the streets of Manila and a few girls stared at me. I walked hand in hand with Karol and every second girl stared at me, smiled at me and touched me.
We were in a bar and I was sitting right next to Karol. Heck, I remember holding her hand. That didn’t stop all the sexy Colombian babes to hit on me. That never happened when I was alone or out with a friend.
Did you have the same experience? Let me know in the comments below.
Fuck, I already revealed the name of the Colombian dating site. Now all the excitement is gone.
But did I also tell you that…
It’s true. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that a trip to Medellin without joining ColombianCupid is simply not worth it.
You can find a detailed step-by-step guide about how to meet Colombian girls online in the review I just linked to.
Here are some additional tips:
That’s all you have to do. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get a reply. I had a 67% response rate.
I remember that I almost messed up my first date with Karol.
We chatted on WhatsApp, I told her to meet me at the Centro Commercial Santafé mall, and she agreed. I showered and planned to leave my apartment thirty minutes before the date.
Then I received this text:
“Let’s meet at the mall” I replied.
Holy moly! That was a big mistake. What followed was a rant about how I should be a gentleman, if all German men are like that, and what happens if she gets kidnapped, raped, and beaten to death. I stared at my phone like a fish stares at an idiot in front of an aquarium.
I realized that I had no idea about the Colombian dating culture.
It’s an unwritten rule to pick a girl up at her place because a couple of years ago getting kidnapped, raped, and beaten to death was a realistic outcome.
When I asked Karol how long it took her to get ready, she smiled at me and said “only two hours”.
I’ve never spent more than 20 minutes to get ready and that includes taking a shit.
Don’t expect that the hot Colombian girl you’re dating invests less than two hours. Makeup, hairspray, lingerie, a tight dress, high heels, fake eyelashes and fake boobs (okay, her melons are already a part of her)…this stuff takes time.
She loves every second she spends on becoming more feminine.
Did I force Karol to a boring date in a café?
Okay, I admit it. I did. But if I could turn back the time, I would go horseback riding. I mean, Medellin has mountains, a shitload of mountains. You can find hundreds of legit and not so legit companies that offer horseback riding adventures.
We did it on the second that, which led to the third date, which led to…you know.
Not my type of girl. That’s what they are. The Colombians who can speak English would call them bitches, prostitutes, hookers, freelancers. You get the point.
One of the nastiest stereotypes of Colombian women is that they are all gold diggers. And prepagos are responsible for ruining the reputation of the girls in Medellin and other parts of the country even more.
But how do you find out if the girl you’re dating is a prepago?
I knew that Karol isn’t a prepago when she smiled at me after I told her that I’m a broke student with less than $1000 in my bank account.
I knew that Carol isn’t a gold digger, but I had to understand that she’s a real Colombian woman. I learned it the hard way in a restaurant in El Poblado.
The waitress gave us the bill. Then I paid for my water. Karol looked at me as if I told her that she’s fat, ugly, and stinks. I looked at Karol with a huge question mark in my face. She was shocked. I was speechless.
Eventually, I paid and she smiled.
Share your experience in the comments below.
Karol doesn’t hate Colombian men, but…
Now I know why she liked me so much, despite the fact that she was way out of my league (her fake boobies were a league in itself). She liked the fact that I was everything that Colombian men are not.
Responsible, caring, reliable…German.
and of course well all have a mustache and a German shepherd
The fact that I’m so good at being German (aka a boring fuck) turns me into the dream guy of millions of single Colombian ladies.
I’m German and yes, I’m organized.
There’s just one thing that my organized mind almost forgot before my flight to Medellin. I was already on one of these hotel booking sites when I realized that booking a hotel is the dumbest thing I could possibly do.
I hopped on Airbnb, looked for apartments in Medellin, and found one that looked like one of these MTV cribs places. And it was twice as cheap as any hotel I looked at.
“Thank you so much. That was the nicest thing you ever said to me.”
She laughed, but I had to hop under the shower anyway.
Don’t get this the wrong way. I had showered in the morning. But she had showered in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
Hot Colombian chicks take hygiene very seriously.
Their asses are twice as big as the asses of Western girls, but they are also twice as clean.
This might be the dumbest tip I’ve ever shared with you…or the most genius thing you can do when you’re in bed with a Colombian girl.
Anyway, here’s what I did twenty minutes before I slept with Karol for the first time:
I went to my laptop and I searched for music we can listen to because music is always good to get a girl in the mood, unless you choose death metal. That’s why I created a playlist. Don’t ask me why, but I included the song Hero from Enrique Iglesias.
I had to laugh when the song came up. She had tears in her eyes.
That’s when I realized that understanding Colombian women is not that difficult: They love romance more than their own life.
Having a naked Colombian woman in your bed is one of the most beautiful and one of the most dangerous things in the world.
It’s beautiful because, well, Colombian women have perfect bodies. Everything that nature messed up was perfected by uncle doctor. But it’s also very dangerous because your reptile brain wants to be inside her…no matter what.
And there’s a 90% chance that she doesn’t take the pill.
When I asked Karol if she takes the pill, she looked at me as if I had asked her if she wants to smoke crack. Keep in mind that she was already naked and ready to rumble.
I could have written it on a billboard across the apartment. I could have translated it into Spanish, sign language, and Klingon. She didn’t get it. She didn’t understand how someone could not want to have children.
She wants children and when I think back to the way she looked at me when I asked her if she takes the pill, she probably wouldn’t have said no to a child with me.
Because you’ll have a hard time finding a girlfriend or mail order bride from Colombia who…
B: Doesn’t want to have a child (with you)
Be careful. Wrap it up. Be safe.
Did I mention that they look perfect?
Did I also tell you the truth about Colombian women and sex?
Nope, that’s what I’m going to do now. And as much as I wish I could tell you that the stereotypes are not true…I can’t.
Sex with Colombian women is phenomenal.
Or let’s say it like this: Sleeping with Karol was phenomenal. I haven’t slept with every one of the 1.000.000 members on Colombian Cupid. But Karol and my girlfriend in Bogota (more about her in a bit) made my bed, my heart, and my world rock.
Maybe I’m just a big pussy with commitment phobia, but I couldn’t sleep the night before I met her family. I guess it was because we were not in a relationship.
She knew it. Her mom didn’t.
But to be honest, I was more afraid of her father. I mean, I didn’t know how I would survive this day if her father found out that we were only friends with benefits.
You do WHAT with my daughter?!
Now that I think about it, I realize that Karol saw me as more than just a friend. You don’t cry at the airport when you say goodbye to a friend.
They are like your mom, just with fake boobs.
Okay, they are only like your mom if you have a nurturing mother who loves to take care of you.. They have such a caring personality. Seriously, dating Colombian women is like dating the hottest moms on earth.
I know, it sounds a bit oedipal and perverted, but that’s how it is.
The behavior of Colombian women is weird.
On the one hand, they take care of you like a loving mother. On the other hand, they mistrust you like the alt-right mistrusts Hillary Clinton because they are used to cheaters and liars. In other words, they are stalkers who hide behind silicon boobs and they are really good at it. That’s a fact.
Do you know the YouTube channel To Catch a Cheater?
Then you know how it’s like to date a Colombian girl.
Since what I have to share with you issoimportant, I'd prefer youclick here and watch this message on videoso you can see my face and hear my voice.
I'm providing this transcript for back up and I encourage you to share this with others.
In California, where most of our campuses are, the state government has outlined four phases of reopening as the pandemic subsides. On Sunday, the California Department of Public Health released 12 pages of restrictions for churches that must be followed in order to open public worship during Phase 2. There are too many restrictions to list them all here, so I'll just say that many are unworkable for all churches, and a few are impossible for large churches. Here's one example: Regardless of how many seats you have, no church service may have more than 100 people in attendance. At Saddleback, that would mean our 20 campuses could serve a total of 2,000 people, but the other 28,000 of you 30,000 typical weekend attenders must stay home. That won't work for us!
While we're all eager to gather again for worship, we've decided, for many important reasons, that Saddleback will be patient and wait for better conditions before resuming our large public gatherings.
I'm writing this to all of you in our church family because I want you to clearly understand our motivation and reasons for being patient in reopening. Here are six big themes I want you to understand:
First, our motivationfor every decision is always LOVE and FAITH, not fear.
Knowing that God is in control, we are not afraid of the pandemic, not afraid of the government, not afraid of failure, or criticism, or anything else! We always act out of love - for God and for the people he created - and also out of faith in God's promises. Four Scriptures have always guided us through one crisis after another:
2 Timothy 1:7, "God has NOT given us a spirit of fear, instead he has given us aspirit of power and love and self-control!"
We are calm, confident, andloving in our leadership.
1 Corinthians 16:14, "Doeverythingout of love!"
We ask "What is best for the people we love and serve?"
Psalm 31:15, "You are my God andmy times are in your hands!"
We trust God's timing is perfect and patiently wait on him.
Romans 8:28, "We know thatin ALL thingsGod works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose."
We look for the good purpose that our good God has in everything.
Second, our Purpose Driven foundation and structure gives us the stability and maturity that makes us impervious to storms. Storms never change God's 5 eternal purposes. In fact, we thrive in storms! We run toward people in pain in order to help them. In our 40-year history, this is our 34th national or international crisis where we've led relief efforts through our PEACE Plan, based on the 5 things Jesus did in his ministry. Over 30,000 of you have volunteered to serve in 197 nations through the PEACE Plan - so when thousands of you were called on to serve in this new crisis of COVID-19, you were ready to step up again! No church mobilizes faster! Our unchanging foundation allows us to be fast, fluid, and flexible with the times.
Third, Saddleback has never been "closed" during these past 11 weeks! On the contrary, we've been doing MORE in our communities than ever before. Our buildings have been closed, but the Church is not a building! We are a living, breathing body. The church is a family, not a fortress! We are a people, not a place! We're an army of servants, not an event of attenders. You've been taught many times that "A crowd is not a church."Church is so much more than a weekend service! The church operates 168 hours a week!
So rather than sit passively through this newest storm, our purpose-driven philosophy has prepared us to instantly mobilize thousands of you for new serving opportunities in our communities, and the results have been amazing!
In just 10 weeks since the lockdown began in California.
Saddleback opened 187 new pop-up food distribution centers while 123 other food pantries in SoCal closed due to COVID-19. We normally feed 2,000 out-of-work families each month through our 3 permanent PEACE Centers. But this last month, we moved into high gear, feeding over 30,000 families representing 120,000 people! We are the go-to relieforganization in Southern California. Five school districts, the County Board of Supervisors, hospitals, businesses, and many other entities have asked us for help.
That's aLOVINGchurch in action!
In 10 weeks, you have personally led 2,800 people to Christ through one-on-one witnessing while you were doing acts of service to people in need! Last weekend I read you a list of ideas you sent to me of 88 creative ways you are sharing your faith with your neighbors. When I read that list to you, I think we were all amazed at the creativity and innovations in personal witnessing that you are using to love your neighbor during this pandemic. After reading that list I thought "Where else are there that many purpose driven contagious witnesses?"
That's a LOVING church in action!
Over 3,000 new small groups have been started during the pandemic and added to our existing network of 6,010 small groups. We now have 9,023 small group Bible studies meeting weekly online, helping people cope with the stress and "dis-ease" created by the disease.
That's a LOVING church in action!
Because you LOVE your neighbors and co-workers, you invite them to watch online like no other church. The result of your care for others during COVID-19 is that our attendance has more than DOUBLED in the past 10 weeks! In the first 10 weeks of 2020, we averaged 45,000 at our weekend worship - 30,000 at our campuses and 15,000 watching online. But for the past 10 weeks, we've averaged over 100,000 in online-only attendance because of yourinviting. 3,451 people have come to know Christ through online services!
Understand this: With the 2,800 led to Christ through your one-on-one witnessing during this pandemic and 3,451 accepting Christ though your inviting people to watch online -that's 6,251 new believers brought into our family in just 10 weeks!
That's a LOVING church in action!
We innovated a way to do safe immersion baptisms by appointment while maintaining social distancing. Last night I baptized 48 more new believers, which puts us over 1,000 baptized since the pandemic began!
That's a LOVING church in action!
Almost 36,000 older and vulnerable people sheltered at home have been contacted personally by over 2,000 of you who've volunteered as Care Callers and Care Writersduring this pandemic!
That's a LOVING church in action!
In addition to your faithfulness in weekly online giving, you've given over $1,000,000 for food distributed to out-of-work people.
That's a LOVING church in action!
I could go on and on about your impact during COVID-19 through our 500+ purpose driven ministries that you've created and lead. But I think you understand that nothing has been shut down except our large group worship.
Fourth, our purpose driven discipleship system (CLASS) has created a culture of generosity that gives our church great financial stability and strength.
Through CLASS,Saddleback members become tithers, which means we've never had to resort to emotional appeals or fund-raising gimmicks to support our church. In fact, Saddleback was approved and offered 6 million dollars by the government for staff payroll assistance and WE TURNED IT DOWN. Why? We believe it is OUR responsibility, not the government's, to support our church family even as we give away millions in food to families outside of our church. Government shekels (money) always bring government shackles (control). It's why we've never accepted government money for any PEACE projects.
Your extraordinary generosity not only shows the maturity of your discipleship and your strong loyalty to our fellowship, it allows us to care for those who've lost their jobs, and it allows us to wait patiently for the right time to reopen the "Crowd" services. Honestly, these days I feel sad for churches that haven't taught purpose driven stewardship.
Fifth, we've already decided that our FIRST STEP back to reopening worship services will NOT be to open buildings that only allow 100 people to maintain social distancing, require you to wear a mask, and forbid you to sing since the health department wants you to keep your mouth closed! That's a terrible, depressing atmosphere and environment for worship! It would actually stifle the fellowship and spirit that we all crave. Instead, our first step back will be to move to "CHURCH IN THE HOME," which will use our small group structure of 9,023 groups. We will let you know when we are ready to make that move.
Church in the Home will not only be safer, but it will create a far more loving and welcoming atmosphere for warm fellowship and worship. Also, unbelievers and new believers who have been watching online for weeks will be less fearful of attending a smaller, safer venue. We don't want their first impression of our church family to be a 90% empty and cold building. That's why we are also considering using outdoor services, taking advantage of Southern California weather.
There are only about 5 or 6 other churches the size of Saddleback in America (30,000+), so we're not like 99% of other churches. We assume that public gatherings of our size will be the LAST to open, along with other large venues like the Staples Center, Hollywood Bowl, and Disneyland.
Sixth, there is no doubt that small churches with 50 or so people attending will be able to open sooner than other churches with hundreds or thousands in a service. We DO NOT RESENT THIS! In fact, we will REJOICE that sister churches will be able to open even while we wait for our time! We are NOT in competition with anyone. Besides, other churches don't have all of the advantages that we have for weathering this storm: our structure for small groups, our capabilities for online services, our financial strength to support a staff to keep serving you during this pandemic, our purpose driven values that focus on what happens during the week, and our ongoing ministries to our communities that have reached thousands for Christ in the past 10 weeks.
Some churches are only offer a weekend "Crowd" service, so it is understandable that they are eager to start it again. But our church is structured into SIX different levels of commitment, and our other 5 circles have all been operating just fine, even with the closure of our "Crowd" weekend service.
This is the benefit of building a fully-balanced PD church on Jesus' Great Commandment and Great Commission. It's solid in a storm. Nothing shakes it. We are a full-service church, far more than just a weekend service. If the "Crowd" event gets put on hold for a while, everything else keeps going!
Saddleback is not a perfect church (there are none), but we ARE a healthy church. It's why we've been able to withstand this storm, and even EXPAND in this storm. So be patient! And keep focused on God's 5 purposes in your life!
Have I told you lately that I love you? I love you. I miss you. I'm praying for you. And I am so very, very proud of your maturity, ministry, and mission in the world!