In the half-asleep hours of this night, I thought of a really good story to tell you guys. It started off witty and in a way that would draw you all in. And now, in the later evening, early night, the topic of the story has escaped me. Most of my thoughts aren’t even working right now. I’m actually in a pretty drowsy state now too.
Travel to Colombia isn’t easy. On a scale of difficulty, Colombia actually falls on a more difficult level for travel. At least out of the places I’ve been. Nepal might have been the hardest, but only because it was colder. But Colombia is rough too. The elevation (dependent on your location of course), the food, the safety, all of it.
I wrote that excerpt maybe over a year ago. I started this post so many times and then dropped it. I’ve had this thought on my mind for years now. Ever since my first visit to Colombia as an adult. The photos in this post are from that time too.
Colombia for me has been difficult, but interesting and beautiful in its own way.
My mom took me back and forth to Colombia as a baby and toddler and young child for years. But as I grew older the visits stopped. The stories of danger became more present. Colombia wasn’t safe. And still, like most places, it has its roughness. While there is undeniable beauty everywhere– the flora is lush, the fauna is diverse, the fruit is unparallel. But the people seem more worn, the terrain can feel rough, and our last visit had the unfortunate news of a bombing in the city while we were there.
Maybe you’ve noticed, but we’ve only ever traveled to Colombia for family. Both our visits to the Bogota area were to see my family (they live in the city and in the suburbs there). But even our tropical retreat to Cartagena was a trip planned to reunite with family as well. We’ve never traveled there for leisure. We debated on it for our family trip this summer, but in the end, we opted to be somewhere we find more comfortable, somewhere that already feels like home: Guatemala.
I think part of the reason that it’s taken me years to write this post is guilt. But the reality is, that whether I put these thoughts out into the world or I hold them privately in my heart, the feelings are still there. I want to love Colombia the way I *should*. The way I think I should. I want to feel a connection with a country that holds my heritage and my story. I want it to pull me in and tug at my heartstrings the way the very way that central America does (it pulls me so close). But it never has. And that’s hard.
Maybe I can blame my parents. The fact that my mom immigrated to America and barely looked back. My stepfather too. Both of them had their reasons for leaving Colombia and never returning. For me, I just never had a connection to it. The visits stopped much too young for me to remember much. I barely have one or two distant childhood memories that take place in Colombia and not much more.
I remember a stairway with a brick wall. I remember a flower that a friend handed to me– she told to try it because it was sweet like honey. Oh, and I have one memory from preschool– but I’m not entirely sure of the memory is a true memory or one I created from an older photo of the classroom my brother and I sat in. (Yes, we did some schooling there– I learned Spanish first, then English, then my tongue, but not my ear, for Spanish began to slip away).
I always assumed I wouldn’t love Colombia. But I could never justify my own opinion. I’ve been prejudiced against my own people and my mother’s motherland for no exact reason. I had hoped so badly that my first real trip, as an adult to Colombia could change this. That I could show up in Colombia and have it feel the same way Antigua felt the moment I arrived. Or the way Valladolid felt in the times I’ve spent there. That I would arrive and my emotional baggage and guilt would leave. That the weight would be lifted and I could feel an *energy of home* that I’d been hoping for.
The thing is, this never happened.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt uncomfortable there– but I’ve never felt the feeling of belonging and an unstated feeling of comfort that exists when you know you’re truly home either. Not in the home of my family– not in the beautiful towns I’ve been to– the ones everyone said would remind of Mexico– the ones people said I would fall in love with. Not really anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved those towns and the scenic views of the paseos and traditional fincas. I’ve loved diving into every tablescape of fruit or veganized traditional Colombian dishes my grandmother made for me. And most importantly, I’ve loved spending time with my family.
But still, each visit to Colombia has brought a feeling of guilt that I can’t explain.
Why can’t I love it the way I want to?
Maybe Colombia for me is like an ex-boyfriend or a broken friendship. One that you can appreciate– one that holds a special place in your heart because it was a thing that helped you grow into a develop into the person you are today– but it’s also something that you know isn’t right for you. Not now anyway. Maybe one day it will be, but maybe it won’t, and that’s okay too. It has to be. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and it doesn’t mean it isn’t important or valuable. It is… it’s just not comfort and home.
I’m so very grateful for the time I’ve spent in Colombia with my family over the last few years. I’m looking forward to going back to Bogota and Chia soon– once I know my body can handle the elevation a bit better than last time. I’m looking forward to one day getting on a flight with Alex and Marlowe and flying to Colombia- not necessarily for family (though I’ll try to see them every visit I can!), but for pure adventure and discovery.
I’ve never loved Colombia the way I feel I should. And I’m not sure I ever will. But I’m grateful for so much of Colombia — what it means to me, my family, my past, and my future.
I don’t know, I just thought I would share <3