What a Way to End

Now that I am back from my South American adventure I have been reflecting on the amazing 12 months of travel chock-full of highs (and a few lows). I’ve had the good fortune of seeing plenty of stunning landscapes, meeting amazing people, and visiting dozens of South American cities but I feel incredibly lucky to have ended this part of the trip in Medellin.

Medellin is hands-down, without a doubt my favorite city in South America.

It has people that are as warm as the Chileans, food as good as Lima, a vibrant cultural scene to rival Buenos Aires, and plenty of sunny days, green spaces, and beautiful mountains all around. What more could you want? Before I arrived I wasn’t necessarily planning to stay so long. I was going to travel around some more, explore the mountains, the desert, and the coast, and then fly home from Cartagena.

But for the first time in my life, I cancelled a flight and booked an AirBnb for the month in Medellin. Mom stuck around too, changing her flight itinerary so she could hang out with me here a few more weeks. We did some exploring, took city tours and visited museums, and did the whole touristy thing.

Then we got into a rhythm of going to Spanish classes for a couple of weeks after hitting up one of our favorite cafes for breakfast in the morning. We even got pretty much adopted by our AirBnb hosts and their friends, who have invited us to take part in everything from watching Copa America games to road trips with them. The paisas are an incredibly warm and welcoming proud group of people.

And they have much to be proud of. It is hard to go a day without some reminder of the terror of the past, much of it still very fresh. I met so many people my age who had very different childhoods than I did. I’ve met people who casually recall the shootouts they witnessed, bodies blown to pieces from bombs in their neighborhoods, or the murders of their friends and family members.

Now, instead of invisible borders they have vibrant neighborhoods; a world-class public transport system rather than the world’s highest murder rate. And although it still has its problems, like any place, it is inspiring to see how much positivity can grow out of such dark spaces. It was a truly beautiful experience to see this city and feel this culture, and it is the cherry on top of what has been one hell of an amazing trip.

Right now, I am home for a few months, visiting family and friends and enjoying the summer. (Although, can the heat and humidity of a Virginia summer ever  truly be“enjoyed?”) But I can’t wait to come back.