By Aara Johnson
One could argue that traveling is already hardwired into our minds as PCVs. We decide to leave our country to live in another for two years. Yet, after a while our sites become the normalcy from which some of us desire to escape. This is where one of my favorite pastimes enters: travelling. I am not advocating fleeing your site any chance you get, because that contradicts the spirit of the Peace Corps. But I work hard at site so I can play hard in my host country. Therefore, with so many puentes—long weekends due to festivos—and breaks since we are education volunteers, plan accordingly. Here are some accounts of where I have been in the interior during the seventeen months I have lived in Colombia. Contact me for more information.
Costeños scoff at the interior. But, to escape the heat and experience what sometimes seems like a completely different country, jump on a plane. Medellín is amazing: clean, organized, cool, and beautiful. Paisas are quite proud of this city, and themselves. I loved the architectural democracy the city boasts: many new libraries, plazas, and other infrastructural additions that help all levels of society.
[Old Town, Bogotá]
Then there is Bogotá, which is very big and rising as an innovative city: there are many bike paths and they shut down traffic on many streets on Sundays for open streets. Monserrate is a church up the mountain, the view allows you to see most of the city. Outside the city, Laguna Sagrada de Guatavita hosts the “Road to El Dorado” myth. And you will understand so much from the cachaco accent, which is argued to be the clearest Spanish.
Finally there is Bucaramanga, which is famous for its parks. Every few blocks you can settle in with a tinto to people watch or converse. You should also leave the city to check out a few attractions like Parque Chicamocha which has the world’s second largest canyon and Latin America’s longest teleférico. Or Barichara, which is by far my favorite small town in Colombia. You will be enamored with its white walls, clay roofs, and inclined brick roads. In Santander, extreme sports are huge. I really enjoyed paragliding, but you can also go whitewater rafting or bungee jumping off a cliff.
I plan to visit Cali to get my salsa dancing on, and the Eje Cafetero, particularly Salento, to make some coffee. We are also allowed to visit Boyacá, which is famous for its colonial architecture and gorgeous landscapes. And, we can go down south to Leticia for some Amazon Rainforest fun, or get accepted to live and work on the lovely islands of San Andrés or Providencia.
We receive forty-eight annual leave days: use them all. I love la costa caribe, but I have fallen more deeply in love with Colombia by seeing other regions. This country is rich of nature, resources, history, and sorrow that it is clear why Colombians are often the happiest people in the world. I am able to tell their story more clearly because I have traveled.