Flag of Colombia

Colombia is a wild place. Last weekend I went camping at a finca (farm). Fusagasugá. This is a rural Colombian town. So, this YMCA-sponsored excursion was tranquil and rejuvenating. It was my first time camping in three years. The first time in a foreign country. Albeit, I didn’t traditionally camp outdoors with a tent and sleeping bag. But, there were cabins and the tranquility of country living. There’s no Internet nor connection to the outside world. An opportunity to unplug. Frankly, in provincial areas you get a truer experience of a country.

Colombia’s a place known for Shakira, good coffee and cocaine. This country has turned a page from its days where Pablo Escobar ruled. It has a dangerous rep worldwide. Thus, the camping group was diverse. Nine nationalities; US, Canada, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana, Poland, Denmark, Turkey, and Ukraine. So, here are five of my takeaways from the experience!

1. Slow Down

Gazebo #1
Pool Area
Nature

When you slow down, you notice a lot more. Walk slower. Eat slower. The greenery and environment at the finca let me contemplate the meaning of life. Something about its tranquil vibe facilitated this. Inside the cabin there were two spigots in the kitchen. Agua potable (a lot of chlorine in it) and agua tratada. Surely, if you rushed and drank the water from the latter you’d get sick. The place also had much “character” like cold showers and a bathroom lock that didn’t work.

There wasn’t much to do inside the quaint cabin. It looked like it was from the 1950s. There was a European plug TV that didn’t work and a billiards table. Clearly, the purpose was to enjoy the camp without distractions. There was also a “nothing room” beside the kitchen and two gazebos outside.

While there, we broke into groups and did various activities. Most notably, balancing a tennis ball on bullrings attached to strings. We had to pull the strings (in groups of six) using only one hand and without dropping the ball. Obviously, going from Point A to Point B was tricky. But, we managed to do so. Also, there was a bow and arrows for archery (the symbol for my fellow Sagittarius folk). The last night there, we gave presentations (verbal and/or via PowerPoint) about our countries.

The “Nothing Room”-(looks like a defunct bathtub)
Una ensalada con salchicha en arroz, papas, y limonada natural

2. Life is the Best Inspiration

Just gazing out the window

The best ideas come from daily life. For example, the greedy dog staring at me for food. Currently, I’m adding the finishing touches to my fiction book (be on the lookout y’all!). So, I got the craziest ideas for it at the most random times. Such as when listening to other people speak or give presentations. Or even during my own presentation on the U.S.’s culture and jazz!

Music is so universal. Case in point, I was able to draw a parallel between jazz music and the billiards/pool table in front of us. Specifically, that jazz music was very popular in American poolhalls. This level of sentience and mental presence is only possible when abiding in nature. Oftentimes, in the car you’ll hear radio stations play American music. Despite this, imagine my surprise when I heard the bar next door blast songs like “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross or “I’ll Be Around” by The Spinners.

We also practiced traditional dances like bachata, merengue, salsa, and reggaetón.

3. Live in the Moment

So, let’s keep it real: We are only here for a glimpse in history. Our own mortality is a source of fear. Instead, it should be like engine oil. If you knew when you’d die, would you change how you live? That’s a question I’ve asked repeatedly the last few days. The rustic, hickory smell of a campfire (surprisingly didn’t attach to my clothes) was so thought-provoking..

Campfire

It made me ask things like: Is social media really that important? Are phones really that important? The irony of spending July 4th there was not lost on me either. I wondered, “Do people even go to church on Independence Day?” Or “Is blind patriotism their sanctuary?” The conundrum of worshipping Old Glory and never leaving America is unfathomable for me.

4. Animals are our friends

A red squirrel in Santa Marta, Colombia

You can learn a lot from animals. You can also learn a lot about people from watching them interact with them. For example, watching how someone handles a vulnerable creature shows you their heart. From the rooster on the roof doing his daily cock-a-doodle-doo, to the friendly dogs that ‘d randomly run up to us.

Being more connected to nature and the Earth is like a cleanse. A clarity only comparable to when I went vegetarian for a month. The nature makes you clearheaded and feel physically lighter. Try it some time!

5. Colombia is big… and so is our world

Fútbol team of Colombia in a victorious uproar (Sat. Jul. 3rd)

Colombia is a very biodiverse country. You can go from one end to the other and experience every season. A winter in Bogota, or an eternal spring in Medellin. It also has the bragging right of being the only South American country connected to both oceans (Both the Atlantic and Pacific). That’s what the blue in the flag symbolizes

Because of the US’s biodiversity, many Americans never leave the US. As a result, they’re close-minded and ignorant. Travel expands your frames of reference. In South America, soccer is huge. So, when Colombia beat Uruguay to advance to the COPA America semifinals the atmosphere was hype. People honked their car horns repeatedly out on the street. All in all, the trip was a chance to rejuvenate. No place better than provincial Colombia!

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