Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Washington, DC. If I’m not in a foreign country you can usually find me back there trying to spend a bit of time with my mom before heading off to the next location.
What brought you to make the world your home?
I always say I was deprived of travel as a kid. While I’m sure my mom couldn’t afford it, she was also scared of everything. She doesn’t do planes, boats, trains if there’s a bus, or even elevators if there’s an escalator. So I didn’t get on my first plane until I was about 21/22. It started with a trip to Miami with friends. Next was a simple cruise to the Bahamas, and after a few more domestic trips I was in what I knew would be my favorite place on earth, Paris for a friend’s birthday. There was really no point leading up to it. Once I was able to go places I’d just go. Finally I was tired of having to recruit a buddy to come along with me and began traveling solo. There is literally no stopping me at this point. Traveling makes me happier than anything else and while I’m able to do it, I need to see every inch of this globe.
What brought you to Medellin first?
Although Europe is my favorite continent (I’ve yet to visit Africa), I hate the cold. I do not even like being chilly. So heading there late fall didn’t seem appealing to me. I wanted to go somewhere where the sun was actually visible the majority of the day and where I’d be warm. Over the past year, Medellin has popped up on many a travel list, so I guess it was in the back of my mind. It’s the new Chiang Mai for digital nomads. One night while sitting in my room in Brooklyn I was wondering if I really wanted to move to Paris first after I’d just visited a couple weeks prior. I said F-it and booked a flight to Medellin. I’d spend a month there and just a week in Cartagena.
What made you stay?
There was really no option not to stay. With my journey, I plan to spend a minimum of a month in every country I visit…usually in one city with maybe a few day/weekend trips. So unless I get somewhere and am 100% miserable and must leave, I’ll be staying. Especially because you can’t get refunds on accommodations booked for more than 26 nights through Airbnb! LOL
What has been the hardest thing to get used to?
There were a few things that were annoying in both Medellin in Cartagena that I wouldn’t necessarily have to deal with back in the states, or certain parts of the world. The mosquitos or the lack of hot water in Cartagena come to mind, but they weren’t hard. It just was what it was. I bought bug spray and in the case of Cartagena, I got used to cold showers. It’s weird, but the thing I always miss most when traveling is the food back home. That’s usually how I end up at McDonalds in Copenhagen or somewhere else. I just want some fries and maybe a double cheeseburger and I want it to taste like home.
What about your new home do you love most?
I loved Medellin more than Cartagena and if I were going to live in either city, it would in fact be Medellin. However, there were so many people that looked like me in Cartagena that you will never see in the media. I’ve had trouble finding a hard statistic but my only tour guide in Cartagena, Alex Rocha, is Afro-Colombian and mentioned that 40% of the area I stayed in was populated by other Afro Colombians. We even went to a town founded by African slaves that revolted against slavery in Cartagena, and got to chat with the kids and learn more about them. I love how adamant they are about preserving their African culture and even the language! We drove through several Afro Colombian towns and it was just beautiful…a melanin overload.
Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that every future expat in Colombia should know, or wish you had known before coming?
I learned that most people with opinions on whether or not Colombia is safe have never been to Colombia and definitely don’t know anything outside of the show Narcos. Colombians are beautiful, friendly, helpful, and it shouldn’t surprise you that many don’t speak a lick of English. Learn at least a few basic phrases before you go or pick up some super cheap Spanish lessons while there. They come in abundance. I survived without knowing Spanish but can easily see how someone would be frustrated and/or overwhelmed in the same position. Google Translate will be your best friend.
Tell us your top 3 places to visit, things to do, restaurants to eat, whatever, in Medellin?
Because I spent more time in Medellin, I ate a lot more there. It’s very random but you should definitely check out a little restaurant called Full Arabe. The beef shawarma will make you want to slap your granny. It’s so good! For some yummy Colombian ajiaco soup, I recommend Ajiacos y Mondongos. I’m sure you can find it cheaper somewhere else but TRY THIS SOUP. Lastly, when it comes to Cartagena, I usually ate in the walled city, which can be pricey. I roamed around looking for cheap dishes and the first place I stumbled upon was La Casa de Dorotea. I got pescado en zumo de coco, which is just a piece of fish in a coconut sauce. It came with coconut rice (I’m now addicted), plantains, and a salad. The soup and fruit juice served beforehand was an added bonus and it was all just 15,000 COP. I ended up finding another restaurant for half the price but for La Casa to be in the location it is, I doubt you’ll find a cheaper, tastier restaurant in that vicinity selling Colombian food.
What other places have you called home?
Does Paris count? I refer to that gem as home even though I’ve only visited a couple times. Aside from DC, I’ve lived in Pittsburgh while attending undergrad, and up until a few months ago New York City was home for three years. As far as internationally, Colombia was the first place out of the US where I sat up shop for an extended period of time.
If you could bring one item from every country you’ve lived, what would it be?
I never shop for myself when traveling because I actually hate “things.” I have a list of small trinkets I buy for others. However, last year in Portugal I bought the tiniest hand painted (i.e. one-of-a-kind) porcelain jewelry dish. It can pretty much only fit my earring and maybe a couple necklaces. I’d love to bring home little trinkets like that. I actually use it and it livens the decor of a space.
Living abroad can be costly, how have you managed to make a living as an expat?
Airbnb is life! I don’t need an entire modern apartment all to myself and you’d be surprised at how cheap some of these places are, especially during off-peak season. So I didn’t need to match my salary that I had at my 9-5 although surpassing that is my goal. The money I saved covers my lodging and credit card points are taking care of the majority of my flights. I actually make money from blogging and technically being an “Instagram influencer.” I’m working on my blog being my biggest source of income and open to taking side jobs when the time comes, but hopefully that day doesn’t come.