I have lived in Colombia since April of 2011, and I am always asked “Isn’t it dangerous there?” My short answer is a resounding NO! The internet is full of articles about Colombia by people who do not live here, who have no investment in this country, who write an article based on opinions, hearsay, and old news that is no longer relevant. I am writing this blog from my perspective based on living in this enchanting country. I want to put to rest the damaging notoriety that clouds everyone’s opinion of Colombia. Recently, I had someone really want to come to Villa Migelita but changed their mind because a friend of a friend got robbed coming out of a restaurant in a big city. Let us give credence to this, even if it is just word of mouth and not necessarily true. How many cities in the USA have robberies and violent crimes every single day? I can name three prominent cities immediately; New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I have been to these cities as a flight attendant. I have spent many layovers exploring and wandering. Did I ever get robbed? No, but the crime rate in these cities are high for just that, robberies, the crime that is most common in Colombia. Break-ins happen all the time in the USA and so do muggings. Let us not forget the gun related mass murders in the United States and other democratic societies such as France and the recent slaughter of innocent human beings in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, those kind of massacres do not happen in Colombia! France is one of my all time favorite places to visit, and I would never eliminate Paris from my places to visit due to extremists. I love Paris and all it offers in way of culture and captivating landmarks. All democratic countries in the world have crime, it is sad but true. In fact, I bet if you really did research you would find Colombia is on the really low-end of this sort of lawlessness. When I moved here the only thing told to me by family and friends was this: “Do not wear flashy jewelry and to stay away from known unsafe areas.” Colombia is very good about making sure the citizens know these areas, more so than other places I have visited in this world. However, I have frequented some areas deemed unsafe in Colombia and found them completely safe and even met tourists from Europe who are now my friends. As a retired flight attendant who spent many years shopping and exploring in many cities around the world, including Spain, Italy, England, Germany, Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and the USA , the only thing I have ever been told is to carry little and do not be showy! There are spots in every civilized country all over the world that are unsafe, even just around the corner from where I raised my children in Deerfield Beach, Florida. So why the focus on Colombia? Why can’t this beautiful little democracy shake this image? Let’s look at what Colombia does offer and how well their economy is doing. Several articles have been published recently about Colombia being number 8 in the world for retirement. If these esteemed online magazines promote Colombia as a perfect place to retire (believe me it is!) how can it be dangerous? An article by Yahoo Finance in which I was featured can be read here. There is no comparison with other countries when it comes to the natural beauty and nature in Colombia, especially when it comes to birds and butterflies. Colombia has 20 percent of the bird population in the world, making this country one which has the most species per land mass on this entire planet. I have hummingbirds year round at Villa Migelita. The same applies to butterflies, again Colombia has the most species in the world. Colombia is also unique that it offers two coasts the Pacific and the Atlantic, along with the charm of warm inviting people, the rain forest, different climates in different regions, a lot of diversity for such a tiny country. International Living recently put out their list of best places to retire in 2015 and once again Colombia made the list. You can read the article here. This is why the catchy phrase took hold “The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay.” I can honestly say this is what happened to me when I visited for the first time, I decided to stay because of the allure of this beautiful land, still so untouched by man in so many places.
Now the real discussion about dangerous places to live. If you type a search into the internet you will find many articles about the danger of Colombia, most old or not factually correct anymore. Along with that search you will find that the United States is quite dangerous (over 800,000 abductions in the last years) , Mexico which tops many lists of dangerous places to visit just had a horrific crime of students being kidnapped and burned: this article from The Washington Post explains what happened. Next up on many lists is Brazil, especially the tourist town of Rio De Janeiro where crime and poverty are rampant, yet thousands of people visit all the above countries every year without problem, Brazil hosted the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico is another beautiful country with lovely vacation destinations and people enjoy themselves despite the fact that this county has many unsafe areas. India, South Africa notably Cape Town, Venezuela, Malaysia, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel are also mentioned in articles, yet they are popular tourist destinations. How does Colombia compare with these places? Colombia has had some abductions in the last year but they were very few (219 reported to the Colombian ministry in 2014 and none were tourists or citizens from other countries) especially when you compare with other spots that people visit without even checking out the crime statistics. Compare Colombia with Mexico which had 1583 the highest rate since 1997, Brazil with over 6,000 and even The United States of America (which the USA calls abductions) with 800,000 in the last years, Colombia is certainly not a place to be fearful of. In fact in most articles I read including the United States government website, the disclaimer of “The kidnap threat in Colombia has improved significantly in the last 10 years, thanks to peace talks between the government and the rebels” which is the FARC. These continuing negotiations hosted in Cuba with Norway as a participant show the future is indeed looking up for a treaty to be signed soon. The most contentious issue is about land and there has been an agreement on that which calls for economic and social development of rural areas and the provision of land to poor farmers. These talks are producing results and the country is seeing these results with the growth of retirees like myself and tourists who are now flocking to visit. Colombians who had left back in the 1980’s are returning to their homeland. The days of drug cartels terrorizing the population are long gone, and Colombia has become a Mecca for backpackers and adventurers from around the world. The Colombian government has the country under control with their vigilant efforts at safety for all the people who live here through the police and military presence.
If you are one of my many followers from my Facebook page Villa Migelita and really want to come to the land of Paradise, you should without worry. There is no danger in the countryside where I live. Older generation Colombians who still remember the past will say that it is dangerous in the small pueblos outside of the big cities, but the actual truth is most crime occurs in the cities just like anywhere else in the world, and it is random, just like it is everywhere else. Most middle class Colombians spend their weekends unwinding in the country after working the week in the city. My one lane road up to Villa Migelita is crowded on Sundays as everyone returns to the cities for work. That is the truth. A wonderful show to google about the diversity and charm of Colombia is Anthony Bordain in Colombia hosted by CNN. Colombia has landscapes and cultures that are hard to find in countries five times it size. Colombia should be one of the world’s top travel destinations. The climate, the culture, the Amazon, the music, the people, the mountains, the beaches, the incredible beauty is outstanding and unique. The political violence has subsided substantially throughout the majority of the country and savvy travelers have already flocked here from around the world—come before everyone else catches on! Come visit me at Villa Migelita and let me show you the real Colombia…you will come back again and again because you cannot see enough in just one visit.
Please visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/VillaMigelita for my personal journey and video’s of my adventures
For information about visiting my Villa visit my website http://www.villamigelita.com
I am listed on Airbnb as Villa Migelita suites