3 Things I Learned From Colombia

medellin colombia

When most people hear about Medellín, Colombia, they immediately think about Pablo Escobar and the infamously violent drug cartels that have shaped the country’s history. But when the California based company Richer-Poorer said they were gathering a bunch of “honest hustlers” (I’ll explain that term in a bit) to go down to Colombia with a travel company called El Camino Travel – of course, I was thrilled to be a part of it.

What set out to be a group of like-minded strangers coming together to meet their Colombian counterparts turned into a trip that left the 13 of us inspired, changed, and forever captivated by the city of Medellín. The following were three lasting impressions this amazing adventure gave me:

Colombia

1. Love Your City

Despite coming out of a time of extreme violence and turbulence brought on by the drug wars, politics, and local militia groups, Medellín is a city filled with the hope of redemption. The people of Medellín reminded me of the importance of having pride in where you’re from.

Everyone we met throughout our trip all had the singular goal of rebuilding the infrastructure and beauty of the city. Architects, designers, makers, community groups, musicians, performers, restaurant owners and everyone we came across all had the very unique sense of patriotism to Colombia. All of their work was directly correlated a much bigger dream to rebuild and restore their city back to what it once was, and push it even further still – onwards to all the great things it is yet to be. Just imagine if we all took such pride in our own cities.

2. Women Are Superheroes

Something I heard very often from the people we met in Colombia was the phrase, “When people ask you about Colombia, tell them…[blank].” It was as though everyone there saw us as the chosen spokespeople of Colombia to the rest of the world. It felt like it was my duty to them to be their voice for Colombia. And so I will.

colombian women

We met Kbala from @casakolacho, who works in the Comuna 13 neighborhood in Medellín – a neighborhood that has specifically undergone a tremendous deal of bloodshed, pain, and suffering throughout the past 50 years. Despite it all, Kbala said to us, “When people ask you about Colombia, tell them we have women who are superheroes.” Wow. What a statement. Working for a magazine that represents women, this was an incredibly moving and profound statement.

The neighborhood of Comuna 13 stands on the backbone of the mothers and women who fight for amity among the locals. These women have been working to restore their communities, stand up for justice in the face of oppression, support their families (many of them alone), and raise their children up to be keepers of the peace. These women are superheroes in the community’s eyes – and rightfully so. They have the power to raise up a new generation in Medellín – and with this generation comes the ability to re-write the story of Colombia.

colombian car street

3. Honest Hustlers

Finally, my trip to Colombia’s central focus was around the theme of an “honest hustle” coined by Richer-Poorer. I will admit that this is a term I had never heard of before and the definition of it continued to change for me throughout the trip. So, what is an “honest hustle?” Let me give it a stab.

When I think of success in our culture, I immediately think of the Bill Gates, hard working, career, money, power, influence type of person. They’re hustling. But then, the definition changed as I met some truly honest hustlers along the way in Medellín. Maybe success is not defined by what you have, but what you have made happen. One man I met in Colombia was hustling to figure out how to feed his daughter that day. If his family was safe and fed, then he was successful. It’s a simpler way to look at it. Medellín as a city has had peace for the last 15 years or so, because the people of the city are finding honest means and are working hard to make it so. To me, the “honest hustle” is waking up wherever you are – working hard and doing honest work, and bringing about change in the life of you and of those around you. That  is success and that  is what the #honesthustle is all about. It’s a refreshing reminder to take a step back and look at why we do what we do.

 To me, the “honest hustle” is waking up wherever you are – working hard and doing honest work, and bringing about change in the life of you and of those around you.

What we take away from our travels is sometimes the most valuable thing about the trip. Beyond the flavors, and the sights, and the culture are the stories behind the people and the places. Which brings me to this question: Where are you traveling to next, and what can you learn from it?

Special thanks to Richer Poorer and El Camino Travel for having Darling along for the ride!

Images via Jennifer Young



Kyle is the Public Relations Coordinator for Darling Magazine who spends all of her free time seeking the next adventure to go on, water to dive into, drinks to sip on, unhealthy food to indulge in, planning her next trip to Greece, and occasionally writing things down.

2 COMMENTS
  • Shannon March 11, 2016

    I just returned from El Camino’s most recent trip to Colombia and you really captured the spirit of the experience. I found myself telling family and friends when I returned that the word “proud” came up so much. You said it beautifully: “The people of Medellín reminded me of the importance of having pride in where you’re from.” Such an inspiring place to visit!

  • Kat Korpi March 1, 2016

    Kyle, this was a great piece! I’m going to Nicaragua with El Camino this year and I’m so excited to have a life changing experience. I love what you said, “To me, the “honest hustle” is waking up wherever you are – working hard and doing honest work, and bringing about change in the life of you and of those around you.” So beautiful. I know I so often get wrapped up in what “success” looks like for me, but really it does all come down to that. Success can happen on so many different levels and it’s never some place in the distance that we arrive at.

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