Reactions from family and friends about my upcoming trip has been varied, from excitement and envy to fear and worry. The most common response I get though, is "Why Colombia?" It's funny, I never really thought about why myself until other people started asking me. When Jarrod and I went to Italy for a month no one asked Why Italy? I think the difference is that most people have a good idea of what to expect from Italy and most people would like to go themselves, or have already been. Asking "Why Italy?" would be a silly question.
Colombia, on the other hand, isn't on everyone's bucket list for a desired destination. Most people don't know much about it except that it's somewhere south of Mexico and "there are cocaine fields and guerilla's down there!"
To be honest, I didn't know much about Colombia either, but I'm learning that there is far more than just cocaine fields and guerillas. It is a beautiful country with diverse landscape and vibrant culture. Security in Colombia has increased significantly in the last 5-10 years. There are still dangerous places, but overall it is much safer than before.
So my answer to "why Colombia?"
It's really not so much about the place. In deciding on Colombia it had more to do with the fact that Spanish is the official language, and the weather is tolerable in July and August. Working for free to live in a hostel isn't terribly exciting - It's not feel-good humanitarian work and in a country where a bed in a dorm room goes for $5, I'm not exactly getting a screaming deal either. But that's not the point. The purpose of my trip is more about immersing myself in the language and culture, something I did when I was 16 in Spain, and again when I was 21 in Ecuador. It's fun to be a tourist and travel around, but I also yearn to live like a local and be a part of a community in a culture that is not my own. It's a great way to see things through the lens of other people. I would have been just as excited to live in a dusty pueblo in Mexico, but Villa de Leyva, Colombia is what I found. It's not a homestay, which would have been nice, but I will be working with other Colombians and hopefully get the opportunity to feel like it is home for a little while.
Why Colombia? Why not?