Back That Month Up | Medellín
Empanadas and new perspectives
This month I was reminded of my seemingly always positive city reviews a couple of times by some fellow Kaizens.
You may have noticed that in just about all of my BTMU posts, I generally have mostly good things to say about every city on our itinerary.
This one’s no different.
If it feels like every month I say that our apartments or workspace or City Teams are some of my favs, it’s because, well, they probably have been! I’m not being lazy, I genuinely am surprised with how consistently good we have had it.
Of course, not everyone feels this way.
Maybe I’m just getting lucky and Mama Jen is hooking me up with the best apartments.*
Maybe my “honeymoon phase” is still going strong in Month 11.
Maybe I’ve allowed myself to keep my expectations to a minimum since Day 1 and it has paid off in the form of me being able to appreciate each city, including its challenges, for the unique experience that it is.
I mean, have you seen the places we’ve been this year?
What the heck could I possibly have to complain about!?
You cray if you think I’m going to let something like the occasional busted toilet or a long walk to the workspace tarnish my opinions toward any city.
Now, I’m not one of those people who wakes up early and writes down three things they’re grateful for before they check their phones in the morning, but I do think that my zero-to-minimal expectations strategy has allowed me to be grateful this entire year and it has allowed me to feel positively about each city we’ve lived in.
In my opinion, that is the best way to do Remote Year.
*Mama Jen, you have been crushing it with the apartments btw
I loved January because everyone was always around! The lack of side trips and great workspace meant that you saw pretty much everyone every single day. I don’t know if we’ve ever had this many people consistently work from the workspace since Split.
Living with Matt and Liz again this month lead to a month full of home cooked meals, “Good morning, good sir!” greetings, and so much Rick and Morty. So much Rick and Morty, in fact, that I came home from a track event one day to find my door covered in our favorite Rick and Morty quotes. Yes, we have enough favorites to cover an entire door.
The City Team of Ana and Juan was a huge highlight for me as well. I got to learn about the complicated history of Medellín from their firsthand experiences, which was extremely eye opening.
I was able to spend a lot of time hanging out with those two and Paulina, which for them, meant that they had to put up with my gringo español for four weeks.
A gaggle of Remotes across several different groups rang in the new year with a side trip to Cartagena. Despite a brief scare at the airport that required about a dozen of us to literally sprint through what felt like the largest airport in the entire planet, we made our connecting flight in Bogotá and made it to Cartagena as scheduled.
Cartagena is a seriously awesome town on the Colombian coast with a mix of bougie hotels (which we took advantage of) and one of the most picturesque old towns that we’ve seen since Dubrovnik. I’m fairly certain that this is where all of those girls who take Instagram pictures in front of old, colorful doors go for their new #content.
I’ve already waxed poetically about my love for Medellín, so I’ll save you guys the reading minutes about what made just about everyone fall for this city.
Instead, I’ll let you take a gander at this little viddy I made that sums up the month pretty well.
Guatapé : Medellín :: Sintra : Lisbon :: Ha Long Bay : Hanoi
Meaning, if you’re living in Medellín for a month, you can’t just “not go” or whatever. That would be blasphemous. In fact, it’s even highly encouraged to visit twice like I did!
Guatapé is this ridiculously colorful town just outside Medellín with cafes (shocker), cobblestone streets, live music, and a big ass rock. We’re told that it might even be “the biggest rock in South America,” whatever that means. I feel like we are always told that something we’re doing is “the biggest X in Y,” but I never have the means to fact check such obscure claims, so you just kinda “rock” and roll with it (sorry, that was bad). Regardless of its ranking, this rock is massive, and after 700ish steps you are treated to incredible ‘gram-worthy views of the reservoir on which it resides.
Side note for any Remotes: If Medellín is on your itinerary, make a mental note to get in on the “Do it on a van” track. Easily one of the best ones of the year.
The Narcos Effect
Coming into this month, the only knowledge I had about Medellín came from Season 1 of Narcos — which means I was obviously an expert…
While the show is very entertaining and gives you an idea of the terrible things that were going on in the 80s and 90s in Colombia courtesy of Pablo Escobar, it still didn’t feel “real” when we first got there. I guess that’s a credit to the incredible revamp that Medellín has gone through to make it such a popular place for expats and tourists nowadays.
It’s all too easy to get off the plane with your 10 episodes of context under your belt and be instantly wooed by all of the opportunities to do anything and everything Pablo Escobar.
“Play paintball at Pablo’s old mansion!”
“Party in Pablo’s old penthouse!”
“Take a poo in Pablo’s gold toilet!”
Alright, I may have not actually seen signs for that last one, but I would bet you three empanadas and a manzana Postobon that it probably exists somewhere.
But the thing is, they exist for a reason! Tourists eat this stuff up – myself included to start the month.
As a tourist who doesn’t know any better, on the surface, these things sound awesome — and they are! I actually did go and play paintball at Pablo’s old mansion and, to no one’s surprise, it was really freaking cool.
However, if you take the time to actually speak with locals who were here during the 80s and 90s and hear their stories about what it was like to live through that, you bet your ass that your perspective on these types of things changes.
Suddenly those car bombings that you saw on Narcos feel a lot more real when you talk to someone whose neighbor’s windows were blown out by one.
In Medellín there is a lot of discussion around whether or not all of the Pablo tours are somehow glorifying that shit stain of a person.
For me, once I started having these conversations and visiting the museums and actually learning what happened, I did start to feel more conflicted about supporting them. In fact, I even feel conflicted about writing this much about him at all.
There is something profoundly different when you take the time to learn about the history of a city, especially when its as complicated as Medellín’s. I feel like this is the first time I’ve really gone out of my way to do it this year.
I am by no means sitting here on my high horse of judgment giving side eye to those who do partake in the “Do X at Pablo’s Y” activities. Not even in the slightest. I mean, I did the paintball thing and I went on a Pablo Escobar tour, too.
I simply think that it’s worth taking the time to educate yourself on Medellín’s complex, violent, and shockingly recent history while visiting so that you leave it well informed and with a greater appreciation for all that the city and its people have been through.
Nights In > Nights Out
A funny thing starts happening as you near the end. The cities, as amazing as they are, start to become more of a backdrop for time you spend with the people you have been enjoying this journey with.
This month, instead of spending hours pouring over tabs on tabs of Airbnb and flight options for this weekend’s side trip, time was spent at home sharing a home cooked meal with friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had my fair share of fun with the Medellín bar scene, but more often than not, I opted for nights in over nights out.
Also, it certainly helps when Matt DePaso is your roommate. 👨🍳
After just four weeks, I now see why Medellín is such a hit with the expats. Heck, I could tell after two days.
While it is time to move on to Bogotá, I sure wouldn’t mind coming back and joining them one day…