It has been too long since I wrote my previous blog. I wrote about how I wanted to reset my business after the last years of the pandemic. Two years of Covid restrictions wiped out all I had accomplished and worked hard to achieve. During my time away from writing, a tiny house made of glass for glamping was constructed here in Colombia at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. Glamping is an accurate word now, and it is a popular way for many people to spend time away in the country and take a break from the cities they reside in. The idea that I wrote about changing my business’s direction has turned into something bigger than I had imagined, and I am grateful for every second of this new phase in my life.
In my last blog, I wrote that I planned to build this tiny house. It became a goal that I was determined to keep. I focused on building, and I pushed any doubts out of my mind. I knew that I needed to get back into the business of hosting, to have people here enjoying nature, watching the hummingbirds, and looking out to incredible views. I choose to trust the voice inside me that guided me on this new journey.
Losing my business during the Covid 19 years gave me a different perspective on everything I had done before when I had a thriving business. I realized that I enjoyed staying in my Villa during the beginning days of quarantine; I was always in a hurry to get back home when I went out to do errands. Before Covid, I planned adventures for my guests, and I always looked for new tourist activities to share. After the country opened up, I knew my Villa was beautiful with magnificent views, but I hadn’t used that as my focal point as a tourism business. I started to see the value in what I had right in front of me when I received guests again at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I took these observations and created a plan.
First: I took a small loan. A significant decision, as I didn’t want any debt, and I hadn’t had any obligation for many years. My decision to expand when I was unsure if I could make money again was to learn a lesson. Use other people’s money if you can. Second: believe in your judgment, even if it is something you wouldn’t have usually considered after two years of lost time and money. Third: accept what you have done, whether the outcome will be good or bad. It’s our thinking that holds us back more than anything else. There’s no reason to imprison yourself. Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box. Sometimes, we need to listen to that inner voice that guides us.
I opened up Cristal House Glamping on January 1st, 2022. Every weekend since has sold out. I am now getting many week-day bookings also. My new Glamping business has brought more bookings to my Ecolodge, and I am meeting many young professionals from Cali, Colombia. Young people are the life-blood of our world. I never imagined that my idea of entering the Glamping business would be successful right away. I thought it would be the same as when I opened my Ecolodge many years ago—steady growth with slow word-of-mouth recommendations. Instagram and social media expansion has changed the way new business evolves. I am so indebted to the younger generation that visits me. They send me videos I never would know how to produce. They are all video filmmakers these days. They have shown me that using the stories on my Instagram and Facebook reach so many more people than I ever thought possible. Their clever use of photo opportunities brings different ways of presenting a view or an activity to further light. This old dog is learning new tricks! I am also making so many new friends. By writing about this in my blog, I hope to reach and help others who want to bring back their business after the past years they lost. Just look at the young people around you. They can guide you to success!
Now I am building another Glamping house here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. That money I had from my loan brought me more money through my bookings. I am not keeping it in the bank but spending it growing my small business. Again, I am following my inner voice. It is still dawning on me that I am doing more in my 60s as an entrepreneur than I have ever done before. Hopefully, nature will always be a widespread love to many, with amazing views and incredible birds that people love to photograph.
After years of being restricted by the pandemic, people want to be outdoors. I have used it to my advantage. I am grateful and humbled. I am learning to be at peace with my decisions after such a long time of subtle criticism by others that I choose to ignore. I am my support system. It is empowering. I have chosen myself, and it has worked out. You can do it too! Just believe in yourself, filter out unwanted noise from others around you, and listen to the most authentic voice you have—your own.
I have this family of the Venezuelan Turpials that live on my farm and visit my feeding stations. They sing their beautiful songs when they land at the bird feeding tables that hold bananas. I stop whatever I am doing to watch them. Today the mother Turpial was feeding her baby, who is almost as big as she is. I feel a contentment from the sight of the juvenile Turpial reaching for a bite of banana. After many years of struggle, I have found peace, often thinking how lucky I am. Moments like these keep my heart filled with happiness. It seemed I couldn’t quite grasp happiness until recently. I am living a life that I love.
Many years after my daughter was murdered, I lived life with dread as background noise in my thoughts. An uneasiness that I have finally been able to let go of. Fear can take center stage if you let it. Never let angst crush your dreams. Do what others say you can’t do, and you will never allow anyone or anything to derail your goals. Nor will you tolerate negative behavior or let anyone be around you who is thoughtless, demeaning, or rude. Finally, your past is your past. It is gone now, something that has already happened. Leave it behind where it belongs.
Fear can encompass many things in our lives. There are too many reasons we have doubt living inside of us. Perhaps, it will cost too much money to relocate or start a business. Maybe we fear what others might think. We have concerns about doing what we want because we risk losing special people in our lives. We feel guilt about uprooting ourselves from whatever is causing us stress and being free to decide solely on our own needs. We allow others to manipulate us without reason. We are our masters, and no one else is in control. Once we can truly grasp this, then we can sour into a new and delightful world that allows others to join in if they want to. Remember, fear is just a feeling; it is not a fact.
Villa Migelita Ecolodge is an opportunity that I didn’t fully appreciate, yet now I do. Nature is healing. I have lived in Colombia for many years, never realizing nor appreciating what I have accomplished! Again, because of those dreaded and worrisome thoughts that can plague me. I became an entrepreneur and didn’t understand what I did until recently. I have survived so much; still, I am a business in another country now thriving again. Suddenly, I trust the magic that I live in and feel secure to start something new. This realization came from a slow and steady return to normal after the horrible past year when the world shut down. I didn’t appreciate returning to life as before because I allowed the year of the pandemic to influence my thinking. I invited a friend to visit when I had started to become busy again. She took advantage of me. She used me. She also used my son, and she used my employee. I lost a friend but gained my confidence back along with a determination to succeed more than I already had. I asked her to leave, and I took a much-needed vacation with my son. I enjoyed the holiday and discovered ideas for improving my hotel!
My business has evolved. It is now less of me planning everything for my guests and more of my guests coming to experience the beauty of my nature retreat. Glamping has become a worldwide pastime. I am in the process of beginning this new phase at my Ecolodge. I am going to build a tiny house of glass overlooking the Valle del Cauca. Hopefully, this endeavor will lead to more tiny glamping houses—a new beginning at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I spent many years camping in the summers with my children now my experiences will become part of my plans to improve my business. Never assume that life will continue to be the same way. Life changes every second. We are in control of every moment of our lives. When I started thinking about the tiny house, I would look at pictures on the internet. Slowly, I put a plan in place. I did it all by myself, just like I opened a hotel, and now it will happen.
My joy is that my son living in Colombia since 2019, is learning Spanish and a new culture. He doesn’t have the life of an American here; he has the life of a Colombian. There is no immediate gratification of fast food or a supermarket with everything he might need across the street. We cook at home and use the garden. He knows the difference between cilantro and parsley. He picks lettuce for salads; he refills the bird feeding stations. He enjoys the tame hummingbirds that we hand feed. He is learning the tourist business, the art of being friendly with the guests, and the satisfaction of making friends worldwide. He observes and knows with the eye of a young person. We have many guests from different walks of life, and all have a love of nature in common. When I envision my business in ten years, my son is front and center. He will carry on with what I have started.
My son rescued a Western Emerald hummingbird in August, and it stayed to live at the Villa. Often, it follows me into the living room when the feeders are empty. This tiny hummingbird has become part of the experience of Villa Migelita Ecolodge. He is always the first to drink from a hand feeder, and he delights everyone. I have yet to give him a name. I would love suggestions in the comments below! He is one of the many miracles that have occurred in the years following my daughter’s death. I have found that these phenomenons move me away from uncertainty, gradually and consistently. Grief can be devasting at first, but it can also be a healthy way to move forward and live well. I acknowledge that grief is part of me, a healthy part that reminds me to live each day to the fullest. I live what I love.
Reflecting on the years past happen a lot lately. The months spent in the Villa as Covid ravaged the world brought to the forefront a lot of thoughts about my age. I found myself remembering times in my life that shaped me and the future I made for myself. So much whirled around in my head as life seemed to be running like a freight train speeding towards some final destination of which I could only guess. Years pass by quickly as we get older, and not so much when we are young. When my dog Marley started declining this past year, I felt the pressure of time take root in my mind. He passed away in December and took many years with him. He had been a constant companion through a lot of upheavals.
I am the same age that I thought was old when my parents were alive. I could always call them for anything I needed; advice, money, babysitting, to hear them tell me they were proud of me and my independence. How is it that I now am the one giving advice? How is it that I see so many of my daughter’s friends with families, buying homes, advancing in their jobs, doing what I did at the same age? It became clear to me during the year 2020 that I was now accelerating in a different direction, towards old age. My granddaughter grew into a teenager; while my son was learning to speak Spanish and help me with my hotel. My years on Earth are no longer passing without hurry but like a parachute falling from the sky.
How is it possible I have lived in Colombia for ten years? I look at photos of when I first arrived in this lovely country, and I see glimpses of the changing years in my appearance. I am no longer a skinny redhead filled with the need to appear more youthful than I am. I am similar to a bird in flight, searching for what will be my next landing place. I have learned to navigate my business, my life, and my thoughts without so much emotion. I don’t hold grudges; I eliminate anyone less than worthy of my time. I have concluded it is nice to be independent and fully capable of a good life which I direct completely. I land like a bird in different spots depending on the day and my needs. It is part of living life with a degree of flexibility. We all need to be flexible during this unusual time of the Pandemic. We also need to be patient. I still try to accomplish being patient, which is a struggle I acknowledge about myself.
Yielding to life’s changes doesn’t make me weak. I can differentiate between what is necessary and what is not. I find my day is not complete without coffee and photography in the early morning while enjoying my birds at the feeders. If I have plans, I give myself enough time to enjoy this part of my day. I have found that a sudden thunderstorm here in the Andes Mountains of Colombia is exciting. I know I have to expect lightning striking nearby, and sometimes so much rain I have to use a squeegee to remove water off the balconies. Sometimes, I need to push my Dogo Argentino, Cash off of me too! He is a big baby when he hears lightning and thunder. I need to exercise almost every day. I am feeling the pains of my youth and the dancing and exercise I subjected my body to. Yoga helps me, especially for maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the day.
My mind thinks like my twenty-something self. I might have more years, but I am still youthful in my thinking. I have many younger friends, and I appreciate what they bring to my life. They have given me the ability to see what an extraordinary life I have designed for myself. They deliver laughs; while giving me a lot of great ideas! I improve my business as they offer me new suggestions, including event planning at my beautiful Villa. I have to continue to grow into this uncertain future during the time of the Covid-19. Life might have changed throughout the past year, but I have adapted.
Finally, I continue to improve my Spanish language skills. I am living in Colombia, my first language of English is not my first language here. I have read learning a new language can keep the mind fresh. I think in Spanish as much as I use my native English now. I continue to grow as a person as much as I continue to march onward in years. I don’t want to be that older woman who longs for the “old days.” What fun would that be? I want to be part of the future of this evolving world. I believe that means that I must adapt, grow, and enjoy life as it is now in 2021. I will continue to refuse a stereotypical role of what some deem correct for a woman my age. I will accept growing older as part of the elegance I have strived to achieve my entire adult life. As I have always said, “I want to look and be the best I can be, no matter my age.”
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Colombia. I haven’t had a meal filled with turkey, stuffing, side dishes, and desserts in years. The meal is not what is important to me, the thankfulness of this life I have created and what I have accomplished is what I celebrate. Remembrance of mistakes but also blessings have brought me to the place I am at in my life. This year I am especially grateful to have my son with me here in Colombia. Observing through his eyes and words is the best part of a journey I began 8 years ago. He is engaged in living his best life, enjoying the nature that he barely noticed when he first arrived at Villa Migelita Ecolodge in Colombia. He is immersed in nature, Spanish, learning a new language, and he has his puppy Cash. I am witnessing what I have accomplished through his eyes and his delight in the little things that I have enjoyed since living in Colombia.
It is always valuable to view life, especially your own life, from a different perspective. Having my son here has made me appreciate the little things that make a huge difference in living my best life. I am sure when he first arrived it was overwhelming to be surrounded in another culture. He had to get used to being awoken by birds, the sounds of roosters and cows, my parrot Luci who takes delight in going on the laundry roof and staring at him through his window and squawking. Seeing the street dogs asleep on the road, the chickens running by as we drive down the mountain, cows grazing on the side of the road, and horses used as transportation to the high mountain farms only accessible by horse or walking. I see all I am used to in a new light and remembering my first year in Colombia. I am looking at my life again with that special renewal of the first year I lived here.
This day before Thanksgiving in Colombia is filled with the delight of decorating Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I don’t think my son has seen Christmas decorations for many years. The delight on his face as we decorated all the floors of my Villa makes my heart smile. This is Colombia and a life I live in this country filled with many small blessings that have grown into a huge blessings filled with my accomplishments. My Villa is my peace. I have found a way to overcome the sadness I experience from the death of my daughter.
I am entirely independent now in Colombia and all that I struggled with for years. Speaking Spanish was the number one hindrance. I now speak conversational Spanish without a problem. I still have difficulties with complex terms, maybe I will forever. I am grateful that I speak another language. I realize that all people should know two languages, and young parents should insist that their children learn another language. This is their future, more so than any sport or extracurricular activity! Enroll your child in a class of whatever language you want them to learn. Have them practice talking the language with someone. It will be the most valuable education you can give them. I think this could be a family activity, one that you all can participate in. Learn together, practice together. I started learning Spanish at the age of 53!
Obtain a passport for everyone in your family, travel to different cultures. Admire those who speak two languages around you, even if they are not perfect. No one should ever condemn anyone who is learning your language, it is not an easy task. I am 8 years in Colombia and I still struggle with my accent and verbiage in Spanish. I have never had one person criticize me. I have found that I am given many kudos for learning the Colombian language of Spanish. I am often told they are studying English and it is very hard to do. I always say you must speak the language to learn the language. My son is an example of this. He only speaks English with me, and Spanish with everyone else, so he is learning at a quick pace to speak Spanish.
I am grateful for many things, but I still have sadness and heartbreak about other parts of my life. I am always trying to understand why people are cruel without reason (even with a reason, I try to be kind always), and I always live what I believe. I think every person who follows my blog and my social media sites know this is true. I still suffer from sadness about the death of my daughter. Life is not fair, nor is it perfect. We have to make the best of what we are given. I think I am doing that.
When your family gathers this Thanksgiving, let go of Politics, let go of grievances, just let go and let be.
Grief is something that I have learned to live with. I have a hard time when I read of an unexpected death. It happens a lot because I am connected to many people on Facebook. I especially loved the page Hummingbird Haven started by Faye, a very dear person I came to know many years ago. She posted such beautiful photos of hummingbirds she had taken at her home in Oregon on the Columbia River. An amateur photographer who taught herself to take great photos. She encouraged all of us who were not photographers with how fast she learned the artistry of nature photography. Hummingbirds are special messengers to the spiritual world, and I have many here in Colombia, South America also. Faye had her own stories of grief, hardship, and love which she shared willingly with all of us who followed her. She helped so many of us who did not actually know her personally, she was a brilliant diamond who drew us into her world, life, and her love of hummingbirds.
I would visit her page daily just to see the beautiful posts she shared of the world surrounding her along with the photos of her hummingbirds. She posted photos of Eagles, the Columbia River, scenic landscape shots of her home, and barns. I was enchanted to visit with her every single day. I would occasionally send her a photo of one of my hummingbirds and sometimes she would post them even though the quality of my photography left a lot to be desired back when I was learning about photography myself. She would direct people to my page Villa Migelita Ecolodge and tried to help me gain followers. She was so generous in her help to others. She was instrumental in getting me and my Ecolodge started.
One day a hummingbird flew into my office through the open window. I was able to video the miracle that occurred with my other hand. I kept trying to put this Fawn-breasted brilliant hummingbird back outside with the other hummingbirds. It kept returning to me. I am still convinced it was a message of love sent to me through the Universe from my deceased daughter. I wasn’t finished with the construction work on my Villa, my chipped fingernails and hands that were very chapped from working in my organic garden looked horrible. I look back at this video and think this is when my destiny took hold, and I soared with the prospects of a new and better future. I shared the video with Faye and she posted it on her page for me. I couldn’t believe it when the video went viral. I think over 500,000 people viewed it.
As a result of this video and dear Faye I was contacted by several people and had my first guests arrive to stay at my Villa here in the Andes Mountains of Colombia in the Valle del Cauca department. I now have a popular hotel visited by hummingbird photographers, nature photographers, nature lovers, adventure travel enthusiasts, and people who just want to visit and bask in the peace that surrounds me. I know it is because Faye shared the video of the hummingbird that wouldn’t leave that I had my moment to shine. I continued to pursue my dream as a woman entrepreneur and to meet people from all over the world.
I am living a life that any retired flight attendant would love, a life that I appreciate daily when I look around at what I have created. All the while having visitors come to my place of living. I get to share the hospitality I learned from being a flight attendant for so many years. I will be forever grateful for Faye. She helped me and I am sure she has helped others as well. If you were on her page she prayed for you. I know she did because she told all of us daily that she kept all of her thousands of followers in her prayers. I can only hope that she knows how many of us loved her so much, even though we didn’t know her personally. She was an inspiration to all. God bless you Faye Marie Miller for all you did for the people you touched. I know I am a better person for having shared some of my life with you. Now you are gone to a better place escorted by the beautiful hummingbirds you loved so much. I will never forget you. I hope you meet up with all who have gone before you and continue to spread the joy you gave to all of us. Thank you, Faye, I will always appreciate what you did for me. I also hope you meet my daughter, I will always feel she had a hand in our meeting and that very special video.
My guests at Villa Migelita Ecolodge of Colombia always ask me the same thing. “How did you do this?” By this, they mean my move to Colombia and opening a hotel in The Andes Mountains. Many of my customers come to see in person what I have achieved. Curiosity about living in another country along with the love of all things nature is a driving force for many of us living in what is a chaotic time in the world. As I said in my last blog: Living Your Best Life, we must stop trying to impress others, we must breathe, live, and be ourselves. We must give up what we think others expect of us and do what we enjoy. We must change, materialism and achievement are two different things. Materialism is a preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values. Achievement is something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed: both are definitions from the dictionary. I believe we all have it inside of us to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. It might take 8 years as I have done, or you might be able to achieve your goal in a matter of weeks.
We should reflect on achievements in our lives and not materialism. I am a spiritual human being. The Universe is my religion. I am not a believer in organized religion. I am not saying it is unacceptable, it is just not for me. I believe in a God of all people who made the beauty of nature that surrounds me in Colombia and the rest of the world. I am worried about the upcoming generations and what is happening to our climate. Spiritualism is my way of life. I do not expect others to follow my beliefs. I do believe we should be civil to each other and respect the Earth. I have shown this is possible by my lifestyle change. I live what I write.
Achieving my goals took time and I have a beautiful hotel. I worked hard and went through difficulties to get to where I am. I didn’t do this when I was young. I did it in my 50’s and now I am a senior citizen according to the definition. I don’t live as a senior. I play volleyball, I hike, I include myself in many adventure travel activities offered at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I am surrounded by many young people. I work with them, and I have them as guests. I laugh when I realize they don’t ever consider my age and expect me to keep up on all things adventure. I am thrilled they feel this way. I enjoy my life and all that I have accomplished. I am doing what I love, and you should aim for this too. Do what you love, do not look at other’s lives to decide what you need for your life. Do what makes your heart happy.
As for materialism, let it go. You don’t need a new outfit for every occasion, or the latest phone, car, jewelry, or whatever is the flavor of the moment. Living in Colombia has made me see how superficial we all can be. I was that way. In Colombia we wear the same clothes over and over, we don’t have new cars. I joke with my guests about the Toyota truck I drive. They actually say they love my truck. Then they see it is a good investment needed to do all the adventure travel options offered at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I wish I could have given myself this advice years ago. Being older has a lot of advantages, especially when you have lived through a lot of changes: good and bad. Take my advice and let the good things that surround you bring you joy, not material objects. Fun with your family, the beauty of a perfect day, frolic on the beach, in the mountains, or just play games with your children. We play volleyball almost every single day at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, even with our guests sometimes. It is the little things that bring joy. Not material objects.
I recently watched a movie on Netflix that reminded me of myself and my life. A girly movie called Falling Inn Love. I haven’t fallen in love with a person, but I have fallen in love with a new country and opened a hotel. I have found that changing my lifestyle and country changed me also. I have a new outlook on how I live my life. So there were definite parallels between myself and the main character of this sweet movie. Although the woman in the movie changed her life and attitude in a short period, it has taken me 8 years. I moved to Colombia without speaking Spanish, and I had to learn to live in a new culture completely different from the United States. This movie made me think about all that has changed in my life, and how I have evolved into the person I am now.
For most of my adult life, I lived and worked with the perception in my head that I was doing what I did to achieve not personal freedom and happiness but to achieve a certain lifestyle I thought was necessary to live a good life. As every human being knows our intentions sometimes take a different turn and we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. We find ourselves with problems that pop up unexpectedly, usually not of our own doing. We find ourselves having to fight for what is best and we don’t think of ourselves but of changing others. As I have grown older I have found out to change others is an impossibility. We can only change ourselves. We need to live our best life and let even the most beloved people in our lives see that they must also live their best life too.
Living in the rural country of Colombia is a lifestyle change of a magnitude I never thought possible until I did it and adjusted to the lack of accessibility to ordering a pizza on a whim or running out of an item and just running across the street to the grocery or drug store. Buying everything you need in one place, not going from store to store to complete my errands as I do here in Palmira, Colombia. We have errand days here in Colombia and we have it down to a science now. The years leading up to my now complete organization were difficult. I was not able to do things by myself because I couldn’t communicate well and I was nervous about driving without being able to speak Spanish well. Now I just hop in my truck and go.
Recently my son moved to Colombia to live with me. He, fortunately, doesn’t have to go through what I went through except learning Spanish. He is enjoying complete cultural change without learning hard lessons. He came from the rat race lifestyle that many Americans live to my place of peace filled with the beauty of nature, birds, and animals. He even has a new puppy that he can nurture with love and attention. I am surprised at how fast he is understanding Spanish conversation and speaking some Spanish words! Jovenes, as he is called here in Colombia, learn quickly. We even have a volleyball net set up with all of my friends and family coming to play many afternoons a week. I watch with pleasure as I see him transform into a fun-filled person making friends quickly with all whom I cherish in my life.
Cash the new Dogo Argentino at Villa Migelita Ecolodge
There is an important lesson in this syrupy movie on Netflix that can teach all of us. Stop and take time to enjoy the life you live. Look for pleasure in the little things. Get out and go feel fresh air on your face, exercise more, meet your neighbors, open your curtains up in your house and stop living in darkness all day so you can see the television better, change your diet by actually cooking food instead of ordering from menus online, be kind, stop the political posts on Facebook because you will not change anyone’s mind and put nice moments from your day online, show people how to live their best life!
When you live your best life you live the life you deserve. It might happen quickly, or it might take 8 years as it has for me. I have found myself with a lot of difficulties, but I am the best person I can be. I am fulfilled, I still have problems because that is what life is about, learning to navigate problems and still be a good person. Show by example, stay strong, fight when you need to, and give complete authenticity with all you do. Don’t let others influence who you are. Just be the person you are, and be proud of it!
It has been over eight years since I moved to Colombia. Many people felt that I was “loca” to move to Colombia. Joyful vibrations were in the air when I arrived on Christmas day 2010. Latin music, festive decorations, the country was alive! I fell in love from that moment and I am still in love with this beautiful and fascinating country. I am living my dream come true. Surrounded by nature, living in my castle in the air, and meeting new people from all over the world who share my passion for nature. I would never have predicted my future to be the owner of an Ecolodge in Colombia when my daughter was murdered in 2010.
I am writing this blog on the day of what would have been my daughter’s 30th birthday, July 22, 1989. Her final resting place is here under a beautiful garden filled with flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit while she is surrounded by the mountains. She was always enchanted with the hummingbirds and mountains during our summers spent in the Smoky Mountains. I dedicate my accomplishments to her. She has been my driving force to find peace. She is in my mind whenever I achieve a new goal. I live for what she lost. Her life.
Lessons learned through hardship are saved in my soul now. I am not the same person I once was. It seems so long ago that I lost that person I once was. I am filled with the wisdom I never knew I could achieve in life. It is not important that people I thought would want to see my Paradise in Colombia have never visited. I have so many people from the world over who come and stay at my nature retreat in the Andes mountains of Colombia. The delight I see in their faces when they experience everyday moments is sufficient to remind me I have created something special at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
I have made so many friends from different places I knew nothing about! I always thought I was an expert in travel because I was working in the skies for years as a flight attendant. I have visited so many countries, states, and smalltown cities. I knew nothing about any of the above until I experienced a different culture and moved to a really small pueblo. I have learned to honk at everyone I pass in my truck, to give a lift to someone going to Palmira our main city, and to speak in Spanish about how life is going for them. I have found that every guest leaves me with a fresh perspective on what I have created. I have made so many friends that I may never see again but I will always keep them in a special place in my heart that has opened up so much since the death of Misha. I appreciate all that is given to me through the knowledge of others who bring experiences that I can learn from. The sadness from the loss of my child is replaced with the happiness I feel when a guest gets to hold a rescued hummingbird, or they feel the wind against their faces while riding horses in the mountains, or they see the mist of a waterfall that touches them with tiny droplets, while they soar above the clouds and look down onto the mountains below them with awe when experiencing Parapente. These are moments that I keep with me after they leave. Then someone new comes and I get to start again with new adventures.
Everyone who follows my social media sites knows that hummingbirds are my spiritual reminder of Misha. They surround me with their rapidly moving wings, flying backward just like I experience sometimes when I think of Misha and my memories of her. I know hummingbirds surround me with ethereal knowledge of life that exists beyond this earthly world. Misha is with them in every flutter of their wings. I am blessed when I have a guest who comes to photograph them. Each guest gives me more knowledge than I have taught myself. I have made some very special friends through these special jewels that bring peace and tranquility to Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
Recently Carole Turek of The Hummingbird Spot on Facebook came for a short visit from California. You could say we “clicked” immediately. I had joined her group and began posting hummingbirds from my Colombian Villa. Carole has a goal to photograph all the hummingbird species of the world. She had never been to Colombia but has a trip planned for November 2019. I am honored she decided to visit Villa Migelita Ecolodge first. She spent five days photographing Colombian hummingbirds and wrote a blog featuring her time at my Ecolodge and showcasing the species she was able to photograph while at my home. She also taught me a lot about photography and more about hummingbirds, myself being self-taught through the internet over the years. She is an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles and she also is an expert on hummingbirds.
I had a lovely family come in June who brought with them a love for hummingbirds and photography, but also the delight of having a precious little 6-month-old with them who gave us smiles all day long. Then, of course, my friends from the airlines that come to experience Colombia for the first time, and find a totally different experience than what they expect. I am able to dispel all bad rumors about Colombia immediately and show the magical realism of this country through ecotourism and adventure. There are people who find me through this blog, or my Facebook pages, Instagram (all at Villa Migelita) and the many groups I belong to. They come from Canada, Australia, Europe, and many states in the USA. All become lifelong friends. This is the blessing of customer service, interaction in a personal way. We definitely strive for that here as I never take more than one group at a time. I like to keep my Ecolodge exclusive and the personal service and customized menus are all part of the experience.
My hummingbirds are the most prized gifts that I show to any guest for whatever reason they come to visit Colombia. This is because they fly free in nature, glittering in the sunlight, sharing something special to all who view them. Besides the beauty of the hummingbirds, I have many species of Neotropical birds and butterflies that flit around all my gardens on the property. I like to think all who leave have been blessed in a way that only nature can achieve.
This is my eighth year of living in Colombia. I am a resident of this wonderful country. Colombia can’t escape a bad reputation no matter how hard she tries. She is like the girl in high school who was called awful names, the girl whose rumors were spread no matter how untrue, she just could never escape her past. She changed as she grew up and into her beauty. That is Colombia. Colombia is growing into a major tourist industry despite the reputation she has. She is winning, but then something happens. Just one thing and she has to fight again to regain respectability.
Bogota had an attack in January by a rebel group. A fringe element after the peace agreement was signed and President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This was the first such attack in nine years. Meanwhile, in the United States, there is a mass shooting of some sort almost every week. Some are so horrific that the rest of the world, including Colombia, cannot comprehend why these guns are easily available to these domestic terrorists. In Europe, we read of terrorist attacks frequently, sometimes I worry because I have friends who still are working in the airlines and the places attacked are popular layover spots. So because I haven’t needed to write about how wonderful Colombia is in quite a while, I thought I would share some facts about life here in Colombia. Why Colombia is an undiscovered Paradise and the most bio-diverse country in the world.
Colombia doesn’t meddle in other countries problems. Colombia is a democracy and modeled after the United States with similar governing styles. However, Colombia is pretty much self-sufficient and doesn’t need to go after other countries oil. They are really helpful to Venezuela right now with the humanitarian crisis that is happening. When Colombia was going through bad times, Venezuela was there to help the Colombian people and Colombia has never forgotten.
Colombia is a frugal nation of people. The people pay in cash more than with credit cards. I don’t live in a big city but in The Andes Mountains, the children are raised very much like I was raised in the 1960s and 1970s. They are raised to be self-sufficient, the boys by the time they are adults can fix and do almost any repair, the girls know how to cook, clean and do their own laundry, they can also do almost any repair too! When the children have a vacation from school they go with their parents to jobs and work alongside them. At the schools here in the country, the children keep the school clean. They all have assigned chores for once a week, and once a month is a day that all the children clean the school completely. The school system is really good. They have a bus that transports the children to school and back. School starts at 7 am and for the older children, it is over at 3 pm. They have many classes and homework just like the children do in the United States. They also have physical education, art, and music. Exactly like I had at Nova elementary and high school in South Florida in the 1970s. Art is encouraged with all classes.
Colombian people are brought up to be polite. They will always be attentive and respectful to everyone in person. However, they love to gossip and embellish on any story and usually by the time you hear the “chisme” it is so untrue and I can only compare it to the novelas they watch on television It is part of the culture and I have learned to just ignore and live my life. Everyone here thinks I am a wino who drinks wine every single day. I do. I don’t care if they like it or not. I enjoy my wine, and my health is good. Colombians will never act rude to your face. They will just talk about you later. I find that as I grow older, I enjoy my solitude from anyone who is a fake person. No matter if they live here in Colombia, or in the United States. Fake is fake, and I have no room in my life for this. If I find out a person is fake, I let them go without thought. No matter what you think of a person here in Colombia, you greet them politely. This is how it is living here. Personally, I find this the best way to live. I just let things go. I say hello, but in my mind, I am saying goodbye.
I live in the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia. I am in a very safe area. There is a department called Cauca (This department has some warnings). This is not the same as the Valle del Cauca. I am a birding paradise in the mountains. My Ecolodge is Western style with mountain views surrounding the entire villa. My area is called La Buitrera de Palmira and the areas encompassing us are filled with the biodiversity Colombia is known for. Neotropical birds are abundant, along with many different species of hummingbirds, small mammals like the black jaguar, monkeys, armadillos, and owls. I have yet to see an owl on my many eco-hikes but I see many photos of them from a friend who is a guide in the mountains. Colombia is colorful whether you are in the city or in the countryside. Flowers are bountiful, including orchids, roses, lilies, bougainvillea and many species of Heliconia and exotic plants. Fruit is everywhere in the country, and you can just pick it right off the tree, so are butterflies. Colombia has the most species of butterflies, birds, fruits, and is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. I live 20 minutes from Palmira the city and an hour from Cali, Colombia. There are many fun tourist activities in the Valle del Cauca, including my new favorite tour of birdwatching while on a small motorized boat through a nearby jungle reserve. We are also known for Parapente (para-gliding in English) which is a wonderful bucket list adventure. I am a legal hotel Campestre registered with the Chamber of Commerce but do my taxes in the USA because my guests are always from another country and they do not pay taxes for lodging in Colombia.
Cars are expensive in Colombia. I bought a 4 x 4 Toyota Hilux when I arrived and it is old. I just replaced the motor, because having a truck is important when living in the country. The roads are dirt in many outlying areas. If you are thinking of relocating to Colombia, you cannot bring a car with you unless it is brand new and shipped here. We keep our cars forever in Colombia. The cost of maintenance is very low, and to buy new is really pricey. I love my old truck and it takes my tourists on many adventures, many into the jungle surrounding me at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I keep it safe and always up to date with repairs and maintenance. Colombia is about being humble and not showy at all. When you buy a good car, you keep it. I became a minimalist since relocating here. I also live like a millionaire. My views, my lifestyle are completely different than the life I left behind in the United States. I live simply, but elegantly. I was very lucky to find the home I did and for the price I paid. Real estate is expensive in my area now.
I have made a good investment, and I hope to continue to live like I do well into my old age. I can never describe the views I experience while watching the sunset in the evening, nor the climate I live in. I have perfect temperatures year round. We are on the cool side, but perfectly cool. I advise my guests to bring real pajamas for sleeping and jackets because we are cold in the morning and evenings. Palmira just 20 minutes away is hot. I do my errands early because I hate the heat now. I am spoiled with this wonderful lifestyle I live. I love to be at my villa more than I have loved anyplace I have ever lived. You just never know what bird will show up and even enter through our open windows and doors to the balconies. A completely different lifestyle than living in an enclosed space of regular homes such as I grew up in and lived my entire life in the USA. I enjoy the fresh air, no air-conditioning, and the food.
The food is always organic in my area. Even when buying produce from the grocery store the locals sell to the markets. The fruit and vegetables are sometimes still covered in dirt. For example, when I go to a local fruit market and buy potatoes, they are sold by the pound and just taken from the earth. The meat, chicken, and pork come from a store that is always fresh from the country, all free range. Fish comes from the Pacific coast and is caught by local people. I have special stores for all my purchases. I don’t just walk into a store and do all of my shopping. I have a store for the meats, and one for the seafood, a regular grocery store for staples. I haven’t been sick with a cold in a long time. We eat healthily, and we cook food that is tasty and with the Colombian flair. Breakfast is at around 8:30, then our main meal is at around 1:00 pm. We eat light at dinner, which is usually a soup, sandwich, or salad. We make desserts from bananas growing on my land, or oranges. We don’t have junk food here. There are fast food places in the cities but I never see many people inside if I am around one of these locations. Colombians eat well and food is a serious business. We always have food in the house that is fresh, no boxed juices that are so common in other countries. We make our juices, lemonade, and we use very little sugar.
Colombia has the most holidays in the world also. There are many three day weekends throughout the year. Colombians do not work on Sundays ever unless they are employed by a supermarket or restaurant, or health professional in a hospital. Sundays are for your family and friends. This week is called Santa Semana. The Easter week. It is as special as the Christmas holidays. Forget doctor appointments or anything important during a week of celebrating in Colombia. However, you will find many fiestas and fun. The Colombian people love to party. They also enjoy any time they can spend with family. Nothing is ever stressful here in the countryside. I just look out at my view and I remember I live in complete peace, in a mansion surrounded by nature. I never had this in the United States. Never. I have it here and I appreciate my life more every day.
I could continue and I will in another blog. Life is delicious here in Colombia. I have a manicurist come to do my nails every week. She does designs which are another special part of Colombian life. You must have a Colombian manicure and pedicure if you visit this wonderful country. You will see for yourself the myths perpetrated for years when you visit. Just remember to be humble, to leave jewelry home and buy some of the beautiful artistic jewelry sold here by the Indigenous people and locals, and to relax. Colombians love to wear jeans and nice shirts, and pretty shoes. We are simple and we are fun. Come visit Colombia. Look for more soon in my next blog. Michele