Colombia: take 2 (the meltdown diaries)

It’s taken us a while to get around to writing this blog post.  Not because we haven’t had the time, but more because it’s taken some time to really give a place to our feelings about our second trip to Colombia.

We’d decided to go back to Colombia months ago as we hadn’t spent much time there the first time around and wanted to explore it a bit more.  Especially Medellin, for which we’d felt a spark when we visited with Jo & Kim.  We stayed in Medellin for 5 weeks, incorporating a few smaller trips in the middle and finished with 6 days to explore more of Bogota.

In the end the experience wasn’t really what we were expecting.  Hence the point about ‘finding a place for our feelings’.

A combination of things left us feeling a quite low during the 1 ½ months we spent in Colombia.  Missing our friends and family back home.  Missing Amsterdam.  Even missing work, for crying out loud (although that was a bit of a stretch)!  We felt a bit claustrophobic – particularly in Medellin, which as a city I think we struggled with sometimes as it’s not really the place where you can easily spend day after day walking and exploring (albeit a beautiful city, it’s very spread out with concentrations of activity in certain places, and also very hilly!)  We felt without purpose, now that we’d taken a break from the more hectic travel schedule, and given how tricky it ended up being trying to get some volunteer work.  Even taking full time Spanish classes didn’t really help to alleviate this.  All of this ultimately led us to be a bit reclusive (spending a lot of time in our accommodation) and, for the first time, to really start to question what we were doing; almost to the point of us feeling guilty about being on this trip and considering canceling the rest of our plans and going home.  At some point these feelings kind of became a bit of a vicious circle; the more we felt this way, the more reclusive we became, the harder it was to get energized or enthusiastic about things and the more we seemed to feel guilty, question everything and doubt ourselves.  It’s fair to say we had a bit of a mini-meltdown (verging on pity party) going on for a while.

We realize how ridiculous this must sound to most people.  ‘Poor Carl & Jeroen feeling down and homesick after a 12 month, once in a lifetime trip.’  And to be honest, looking back we’d be inclined to agree (somewhat).  It is kind of ridiculous.  Although, it’s also probably not that strange that at some point we might have such a period.  Ultimately, it just kind of caught us off guard and we struggled to pull ourselves out of it for quite a while.

With hindsight (and a few ‘pull yourself together’ talks from Carl’s bestie, Jo) there are definitely a few things we learned from that period.  Most importantly – accept whatever feelings you are having and move on from them – don’t let them consume your time and risk ruining it.  After all, when we look back on it, our second trip to Colombia was actually a great experience!

We met some wonderful people who took us into their lives and treated us like we were part of the family, from the folks we met at the Spanish school to the guys we met on some of our nights out.  Carlos & Jose were particularly special; two of the nicest, sweetest people we have met on our travels!  They really made us feel at home in Medellin; taking us to great restaurants, bars, parties with their friends and even getting us involved in some of their game nights at home.  Without them we wouldn’t have had half as good a time.

Friends and nightlife (click picture to enlarge)

We got to experience the culture of two of Colombia’s major cities in way more depth than we had before when we only stayed for 2-3 days.  Medellin, which really came alive at night – with it’s great restaurants, cool cultural centers, pretty decent underground techno and one of the best queer gay scenes we’ve encountered in Latin America.  Bogota, which we loved most during the day – wandering the streets of the Chapinero and Candelaria neighbourhoods, taking in the abundance of street art and visiting loads of the different museums and galleries in the city.

Medellin and Bogota (click picture to enlarge)

Finally, we got to visit some more of the beautiful smaller towns (Santa Fe de Antioquia and Guatape again) around Medellin to experience the more relaxed, laid back side of Colombian life.  As a side-note, we also learned that it is not the best idea to drive in Colombia, unless you have a death wish!

Antioquia and Guatape (click picture to enlarge)

Our final thought on it.  Some sort of meltdown was always bound to happen at some point.  Some would probably predict that it was only gonna be Carl that had the episode as opposed to both of us, but this trip is often full of surprises.  Looking back on it, we’re glad it happened in Colombia; a place where we had great people around us, where we could feel at home and where we didn’t need to be busy doing things all the time – giving us some space to work through what we were feeling and figure out what to do next.  As for what’s next – more on that to come…

Until next time.

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Travel stats

  • Countries visited: 14
  • Cities visited: 74
  • Distance travelled: 46.993 km 
  • Modes of transport:
    • Plane (20),
    • Night-bus (14),
    • Day bus (36),
    • Boat (10),
    • 4×4 (1),
    • Trekking (2),
    • Taxi (8),
    • Road trip (16)

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