I am always hiking near my Villa . I can’t give an exact amount of days per week. It depends on my hair. Yes it does. I am after all still a woman who likes my hair and nails to be perfect, even if I live in the Rainforest. Yes, I am revealing something about myself. I usually walk on days I have to wash my hair. OH, so you think why do we need to know this? Because you do. I live in the forest. I am not always interacting with others. I like being alone. I like reading, I love writing and I love my space. I really love being alone. I worked for years as a flight attendant. I don’t care if I hear a bunch of people complaining ever again!
“Worry less about what you want to be, and more about what you want to do.” – President Barack Obama in Chicago today. I love this quote because it describes me and my life to perfection. I want to be successful in my small business. But if I am not I can accept that. I want to be immersed in nature as an avid photographer. I love getting up early and going out on my own with one of my dogs to walk and photograph the beauty that surrounds me. Photography is part of me. I am part of the photos I take on my hikes. I see people and talk to them. There is no such thing as a Colombian who ignores someone they pass, whether in an office, or on the street. Even if they dislike you they acknowledge you. I find that a wonderful way to live. What is the use of hurting others? With that I share some photos of my life around and about as an avid photographer and the life I lead as an expat.
Awaking to the sound of birds, falling asleep to the sounds of frogs and crickets. The cool breeze that comes through my window while I write in my office. The sway of the leaves of the banana trees. The sun that is an orb of fire as it sets over the valley. The fog that comes up suddenly over the mountains. A high-pitched wail that I hear every evening around 6 pm coming from the mountains surrounding my Villa. Like clockwork I hear the shriek of some bird or animal calling the day to a close. Comfort like a warm blanket over me when I am snuggled in bed, secure in the knowledge a new day will come in the morning with new adventures to discover. Where I see horses grazing, livestock who are so friendly they follow me on my hikes. The sound of a rushing river, and a random butterfly who finds itself trapped in a window at my home. The little church I own here in my pueblo, having a mass where the dogs participate also. This is my life in Colombia. I am secure in the knowledge that I have found my paradise. As I hike and look up to the clouds the sun is shining on me with an embrace I can feel in my soul.
I often go on hikes in the forest near my Villa. When I lived in the USA fast walks were part of my weekly exercise routine, but I can’t really say that is what I do here in Colombia. Walking in the forest consists of numerous stops just to take in the beauty I am encased in. Just recently while walking through dense forest I observed a woodpecker hammering a bamboo tree, a group of parrots took off when they saw me, then I watched as a beautiful hawk glided past me searching the green terrain for food. Babbling streams lift my spirit with the sounds of the rushing water, while I also take in the calls of all the birds in the surrounding foliage. Many I can’t see but know they are watching me on my silent journey in their jungle.
Studies show that living in nature and having access to the beauty of green views can do more for our stress level than any pill that can be prescribed. Light, sunshine, sounds, and the air of the outdoors can bring joy and peace to any person.
As we age we grow wiser. We become a certain age and (maybe) we think “I wish I could stay this age forever.” That is how I feel about my upcoming birthday. I want to stay 59 forever. Wisdom is my middle name. I am no longer the young, beautiful girl I was when I was hired by Delta at the age of 20 years old.. But; I am also not an old-looking person either. I have a bit of vanity left in this older body. I exercise and I take care of myself. I have always said to anyone who listens “I want to look the best I can be at whatever age I am.” I also want to be the BEST I CAN BE with humanity and what I pass on to my many social media pages. I want to share good things, but I also want to show the person I am inside, not just on the outside. We cannot change the aging process. We can try, and I certainly do! But we are going to be old sooner than we think.
All of my longtime friends will attest to my crazy disco self in the 80’s. I am sure they could tell so many stories of my life and the fun we had. Now (as an older person)I am not so much about fun, but about peace. I love peace and nature. I awake in the morning to hear the sounds of nature I brought to my life by my move to Colombia. I love the noise, the calls, and the happiness of my life. I don’t like the way I feel about my country the USA right now. It is not what I grew up to respect and want for my place of birth.
However, I can call all of you to visit Colombia and me and see what I have accomplished in my “older” age. I have shown many who doubted me what a woman can do with a mission in their head. I have often read that people who go through tragedy change. I can say without doubt this is true. I changed. I realized that the old cliche “life is short” is very true. I didn’t let myself wallow in that phrase. I proceeded to accomplish the best thing I could do in my limited existence. I have shown who I am and what I represent by moving and making a life that is true to my spirit. You can too.
I am writing a book. Please comment below if you like this title. I think I will stay 4ever59! I will keep writing and I will keep learning to be forever young. xo, Michele
When I moved to Colombia I was in a place of need. I needed rejuvenation of my spirit. I needed to get away from some awful lies and innuendos that were circulated by people I knew and loved. I can never say enough about how gossip can really hurt a person, especially when the true story is not known nor shared by the one who (me) was being trashed regularly. I really cared what people thought back then. I was always trying to defend myself. I wanted the truth to be known. Guess what? No one really cares. They love a good story, especially if it makes them feel better about themselves.
Do you know what makes a difference? Your own actions. They show people who you are not what they gossiped about. Your actions show the truth. Of course when someone is at the bottom like I was, you can only go upwards, which I have. However, there are still the haters. They are miserable in their own lives and want others to be the same. To them I say this: I wish them the best that they can find in their lives, I wish for them to find what I have found out. Life is about being a leader not a follower, life is about choosing your own path without worry about what other’s might say, life is only good for you if you are healthy in your mind and your spirit. My mantra is “don’t complain about what is past, make the most of what is now” I do believe I am doing this. I am living a life of purposeful meaning.
Now, I know many still condemn me for leaving my son at the age of 16 to move to Colombia. I want to address that because if I was a man, then I wouldn’t be chastised for this decision. A big part of my life after my daughter’s death were the selections I made based on my situation at the time. I left because I could not win. I couldn’t then and maybe not even now. Life is to be enjoyed not endured. I want to emphasize this sentence because I was enduring my life during my divorce and the death of my daughter. I was enduring my life! I repeat this for those who are doing the same. Enduring your life is not living your life. You must be a bit selfish to come out ahead with any sort of growth. You must embrace yourself to embrace others. You must show who you are to the world. If we fill our lives with our real passions and purpose, and spend less time looking for approval then we can get further along a path of self-awareness.
Some nights you may lie awake thinking about the past, I do this often. It is sad for me to remember my sweet children when they were young and my marriage was happy. Then life happens. It just happens. You can’t control it. Even when you try so hard. But I have found regret leads you nowhere. It leads you to loneliness. It leads you to stairs that can never be climbed.
Those stairs of regret lead you to more regret and then you are overwhelmed with what your life could have been, should have been. But who is to say what life will be? I would never in 100 million years think I would end up in a country that had such a bad reputation. A country I can relate to. A country that has redeemed itself. As have I. So maybe my path of being alone, which equaled loneliness now shows me that being alone is not such a bad thing when you come out ahead.
I am alone without a life partner, but I am not lonely. I have had two marriages and one really amazing love affair, along with a journey to Colombia with a love who is now a friend. I have known true love with all, including my children. But the most important love is to find yourself and to love yourself. To give 100% to yourself. I have done that in these past years. I have meditated and thought about so many things. One is moving to Colombia. I still pinch myself when I wake up and see the beauty I am surrounded by.
Medellin, Colombia is a city with a past. A dangerous past. A city of people with great pride, they call themselves Paisas. Paisas feel they are different from the rest of the Colombians, because of their history that is intertwined with Medellin. They have seen the worst and now they have seen the best. They have lived with the horror of Pablo Escobar, the FARC, barrio warlords, gang leaders, unimaginable violence. They have a past that lies dormant in their memories of what Medellin used to be like, something we Americans can never understand. After moving here I saw a different world view, one I hold inside my heart. But now they have stability while the tourism industry has grown 260% since 2002. They are very proud to live in Medellin, but they are still getting used to having foreign people come to visit this once very uncontrollable city. They have those horrible memories that will never leave them.
Sergio Farjado mayor of Medellin from 2003 to 2007 started the talks about improving Medellin beginning with the poorest areas. A bottom up strategy that has worked. I had two wonderful tour guides while visiting Medellin and both were from the poorest areas, they had many stories to tell. Most importantly, they both were not old, Manny was in his mid-thirties and Camillo was around 23 or 24 years old. They both used what was offered by the government to improve their lives. Both are successful and proudly independent, not wanting to take anything more from the government. They are truly proud Paisas.
My first guide Manny was from a barrio that has been transformed with escalators to allow the poorest to reach public transportation easily. To be able to get to work without the steep climb up and down the mountains. He told stories of the area we visited. Manny remembered the army had to use helicopters to begin projects in these areas as they were so dangerous. He spoke of dead bodies being placed outside the homes planted with grenades so the police and military could not enter to help the populations of these poverty-stricken areas. They couldn’t even remove the bodies to bury them. It was quite sad to hear this from someone who actually witnessed such brutality. But with persistence the truly needy and their homes have been reinvented. Manny said many innocent lives were lost. However, now the violence is replaced with libraries throughout these areas, programs for the poor to send them to school, to give them loans to start businesses. Every public park in Medellin has free WiFi. Colombia and especially Medellin has shown you can take the people from the most needy areas and give them a reason to break the chain of violence and drugs. The above photos show the images posted in an office at the top of the barrio I visited, before and after transformations. Here is a video I took of the ascent to the top. You will see the street art which is used all over Colombia as a way of expression to show the past and the new future. This street art is a favorite part of my love of Colombia. I love to see color, a lot of color. I also love light, not darkness. The homes are so bright and cheery in these under privileged areas.
Color is important
The barrios are so clean
Looking out at the view
The Street Art is Colombia
Colombia is spending millions on infrastructure to improve all the big cities. Cali, Colombia which is closest to Villa Migelita , my Bed and Breakfast, is transforming areas also. What is really fantastic is that all the walking areas throughout the large cities in Colombia, have a strip in the middle of the sidewalk for the blind to guide them. Wonderful, thoughtful ideas are being implemented! Unlike the USA, Colombia is not using the tired line of trickle down economics of the rich vs the poor. Colombia is showing the world that improving and giving to the poor is a way to get the whole economy thriving and raising people up to achieve great things! Medellin alone went from 40,000 tourists in the year 2010 to over 4 million visitors in 2016. I arrived in Colombia to live in 2011. It is not difficult to get a Visa to live here. The only thing that needs to be emphasized is that Colombians are super polite people. They do not want to offend anyone, but they are noticing the bad behavior of some tourists. Check out this photo.. Please, thank you and a nice greeting in Spanish really impresses all Colombians.
Another amazing part of Medellin is the super fast metro system built during very turbulent times in Medellin, also the cable car system is phenomenal. While in the city I used this metro and cable car system more than taxis! Wonderfully clean, because no one will destroy what they are so proud of! If disabled, older, or pregnant, a seat is offered immediately by all who are nearby. I watched and observed the behavior of everyone. I am so proud to live in this country as an expat.
A tip to those visiting Medellin. Use the free walking tour offered by Real City Tours. My guide Camillo was fantastic. He was informed and educated. He is from the poor barrios, but has a degree in bio-medical engineering. He is bi-lingual, he is charming, and he is making money taking these tours around his city of Medellin. He is what we should strive to be in this chaotic world. I cannot say enough about his intelligence, drive and knowledge. He rose from poverty to become a part of sharing the history of Colombia’s success, and also his success. I often say to those who make fun of other’s accents, “Do you speak another language?” “Can you rise from a past that had you living in violence to having a college degree?” “Are you successful?” I think success is based on what you accomplish, not just money. I told Camillo, you must make your family so proud. He was so modest, so polite, and so intelligent.
Botero Plaza in Medellin
Camillo would make any mother proud and I told him so. He was delightful, smart and fluent in English because the Colombian government gave him a chance to become all that he could be! I was so impressed with his stories and the walking tour. It is free, and a tip is your price. Again I emphasize, be kind, be generous, and enjoy the culture of Colombia. Don’t be cheap because you can be. I had that happen with recent guests. They ignored my lovely and hard-working maid after 33 days of being cared for by her. I will never allow that to happen again. Please remember to give thanks to those that give you good service here in Colombia. We don’t tip like in the USA. However, tips are to be given to those that become part of your stay, part of your journey.
The last part of our walking tour was at a park for concerts in Medellin. This square also features the art of the artist Fernando Botero. In these last photos I will show there was a lesson present. A bomb blew up his sculpture of The Bird in the 1990’s. This bomb killed a little girl and more than thirty people. The perpetrator was never found. The Colombian government wanted the sculpture immediately removed. But the President of Colombia received an important phone call from Botero himself. He said “leave it there to remind all to fight against this terrorism” So they did. It is a reminder to all who live in Medellin of their past. One they need to remember as the future unfolds with the prosperity and growth of Medellin. Colombia is now a thriving and innovative country. A country of proud people with a past they would like to forget, but never will. We are the future. People like me, an American who lives here in Colombia and is showing the world that a terrible past can evolve to a wonderful future. Maybe that is why I feel so at home in Colombia. I know the past does not define who you are.
When I first moved to Villa Migelita I had a duck house. These eggs were the first ever and I was so excited to have them. Alas, out of all these eggs only one little duckling survived. I have since not allowed my duck to sit on eggs because they don’t survive long and I find it heartbreaking.
This box was moved to the hen-house and then I had wonderful results. It was turned a different way and look what happened.
Healthcare: If you can obtain a Visa here in Colombia you will get a Cedula which is the country ID in Colombia. The different Visas available in Colombia are listed on the Colombian government website: most are pretty easy to obtain. We have social security cards in the USA and the Cedula is similar : but it shows your blood type and a number that registers you to the country of Colombia. You need this card to get healthcare, you need this card to show your identification anywhere as a person living in Colombia. It is more important than a driver’s license. Colombian healthcare is not socialized, you can shop the different healthcare companies. They make you take a physical and then they rate you by your health. Colombia does not turn people down, but the rating of good health gives you an advantage. I can never emphasize enough how much I love my healthcare here, the peace of mind it gives me. For more information you can write me below in the comments. I want everyone to know the benefits and the care I have received living under the Colombian healthcare system is like nothing I have had in my life. And the price: did I mention I have the prepaid Gold plan for around 120 dollars per month ?
Great Climates for everyone: Colombia offers so much diversity, you can travel the country and look for a department that you feel is perfect for you! The Pacific and Atlantic coasts are warm and humid, the Andes offer cold weather, so does Bogotá. Then you have the Amazon which is hot and humid and the biggest department of Colombia. The Valle del Cauca where I live is quite diverse. The mountainous regions are cool, perfect temperatures, but the cities of Cali and Palmira are hot oftentimes. You just need to decide on what it is you want and you will be able to find the perfect location. Another reason to come and explore Colombia!
Real Estate: Colombia still offers affordable real estate. You can buy for a very reasonable price, or you can rent anywhere for so little you won’t even want to buy. Most places for rent are not furnished. You will most likely have to supply your own refrigerator, washer, dryer, furniture and any electronics. But you can find a beautiful place in most any department for around 400 to 500$ per month. Furnished places are more expensive. I suggest anyone who wants to try out living in another country to rent for at least a year. Then you will know if you like the area. If you don’t you can try another spot. It is so worth it though, especially for the healthcare. Healthcare alone makes moving to another country worth it.
Learn a New Language: The language barrier. ARGH it still is haunting me, but I can speak Spanish now. It is certainly not perfect, but I can communicate. Learning a new language is an endeavor that is not easy. Especially Spanish: all those damn rules will never be perfect for me. However, I love that I speak two languages. It is an achievement I am quite proud of and I will never understand anyone making fun of someone for an accent or improper verbage when speaking a language not their own. At least they know two languages. Do you?
Cost of Living: You can live really well anywhere in Latin America on a fixed income. You do not have all the variables that you have to put in your budget in the USA. Healthcare is so reasonable and there are no deductibles, you can get a prescription without going to a doctor! Your grocery bill is one-third of the cost in the US. You can buy fresh meat, chicken, fish at the local Galleria. This area of business is in all Colombian cities and they also sell produce and supplies for farms and pets. Also the food is organic. You don’t have all the insurances you pay in the USA. What a big savings that is!
The People: Colombian people have been rated time and again as the happiest in the world. After living here for 6 years I will agree and they also have lovely manners. If you walk into a doctor’s office everyone will look at you and say hello. If you have a favorite restaurant, they will learn your name. The friends you make will be your friends for life. They will also help you learn their language without any snide looks or eye rolls. They will correct you and they will practice with you. They will be your forever friends. I love my friends here, and I respect them more.
Nature: If you love nature, if you love the mountains, if you love the ocean, if you love biodiversity and the perseverance of the animal kingdom, then Colombia is your place to live! I see big construction projects all over my area of the Valle del Cauca: but they leave the trees alone. We have trees that date back over 350 years here. The Colombian people respect that nature is first. I love that and so will you if that is as important to you. We have the most species of butterflies, birds, fruits and flowers in Colombia.
Departments of Colombia: There are 32 departments in Colombia. Departments in Colombia are like what we call States in the USA. If you decide you want to visit Colombia you need to see a few of these departments and enjoy our tourism. I am still traveling and finding new places to visit. My department the Valle del Cauca is known for the agriculture, but also includes Buenaventura where the shipping port is. We have many forests and waterfalls, and a great amount of hummingbirds, bird species and butterflies.We are also famous for Parapente, because we have great wind currents. If you love the beach then you will want to include Cartagena, Choco, and Santa Marta in your travel plans. You can watch whales in Choco, sunbathe and eat great food in Cartagena, hike mountains and see the ocean in Santa Marta. We have a bit of everything to offer in Colombia. We also have rivers that turn colors like Cano Cristales, and then the Amazon which is adventure travel with lots of water and animal life, including pink dolphins.
Peaceful living: If you like to live peacefully without drama then you need to move to another country. I am very happy in my mountain home high in the mountains. I hear frogs at night when I fall asleep, I hear birds when I awake in the morning. I can be down to the city in 25 minutes, but I can stay at my house and never see a crowd. It is about what I want on any particular day. I am at peace in a beautiful home I have remodeled and it is heaven on Earth. Believe me, life is good.
You can start a business without any fuss: I started the business of my Bed and Breakfast. I didn’t do much. I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and I have my own blog and website. I don’t do much to advertise my place. I haven’t needed to. You just have to have a small amount of capital and you can do what I have done. It is rewarding, it is fulfilling and it is on your terms.
A favorite photo of me when I first discovered the beauty of the country of Colombia. Riding the back roads on a motorcycle and exploring nature was all it took for me to want to change the lifestyle I had been living in the United States. I felt free, I felt the wanderlust hidden inside of me waiting to burst out like the flurry of the wind hitting my face as I road the little Suzuki motorcycle around the mountains.
My divorce, my advancing age, and my love of the mountains all came together to make the decision to seek an alternative lifestyle. One I do not regret. I am flourishing here in my adopted country. I find that no matter your life lessons, you can go on to accomplish great things even when you have found yourself beaten down by life. I started my new career as a hotel owner four years after this photo was taken.
Who can ever know what life has in store for us? We have to wing it sometimes, and I have. I am discovering new things about me, what I am capable of. Living my life for the moments that I encounter that bring me joy. Colombia is also coming around, being named by many prominent publications as the country to visit in 2017. A little country full of great people, wonderful nature, and inexpensive to visit.
One thing I have definitely learned is life is about accomplishments, not possessions. Let the allure of whatever is your secret desire pull you into that path, that walk, that direction. Just go for it! Life is short, a cliche I know, but true. Don’t let your life pass you by!
I often say there is no other country as colorful as Colombia. I am an amateur photographer with a desire to photograph all that is colorful in my newly adopted place of living. As an expat in a country that is full of joy and happiness I try to capture real life here in Colombia. I am a casual observer of all that is around me, camera ready always. Colombian people are found to be the happiest people in world online polls. I think you will see why in my series of photographs. Colombia was just named number two by Lonely Planet as one of the places to visit in 2017. Enjoy my photos, there are so many it was hard to choose them for this blog. Let me know what you think of my choices. Enjoy and come visit Colombia. A wonderful country full of culture and vibrancy. A country known for a dark past that it has overcome. A country of great history. A country I now call home.
The above images and the main cover were taken while watching a parade of horses ridden by their owners in Buga, Colombia. These parades can be found almost any weekend in most cities of Colombia. The horses are Paso Fino and very well-trained. The fun includes drinking aquardiente the Colombian drink done as a shot.
The Colombian pueblos are full of life and action. The area of Buenaventura, Colombia in the Valle del Cauca is a coastal seaport city. This is where the ships bring packages and cargo that are sent from other countries. The bustling life of this area is fascinating. Then there are areas that are far from the coastal town deep in the jungle.
The beauty of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Colombia has two coasts the Atlantic and the Pacific. I try to capture the subsistence of regular life in Colombia in my photos.
Reality is present in all of my photos. I am showing all of my blog followers how I live. It is always the present, I capture the essence of Colombia. I show how you can just buy fruit from a stand on the side of the street. I show how it is presented. How multicolored Colombia is. No matter where you visit. You will find such beauty. I always say Colombia is eye candy to those that enjoy life in the purest form.
Cali, Colombia is full of Salsa dancers. I was wandering the area of San Antonio barrio when I caught these photos on film. I always pinch myself when I enjoy a special moment in time. This was one of those times.
If you want to consider Colombia as a vacation, I have a Bed and Breakfast in the Valle del Cauca department. Consider staying with me at Villa Migelita.