Every weekend is an effortless new adventure living in Medellin, and I imagine in any country foreign on your own. This past Friday, I joined my roommate Martin, and David (Mexico), for a visit across town to Amu’s (Germany) apartment near Antioquia University.
It was about two months earlier that I first met Martin in a similar setting, so I couldn’t help but use the opportunity to reflect on the growth of that friendship, and the speed at which time is flying by. Back then, Martin helped translate for me so I could communicate with people who didn’t speak English. Now, at least I can fumble through introductory dialogues on my own if I want to talk with the locals.
David and I accompanied Martin to the bustling northern bus station so he could pick up a ticket to Cartagena for the following night. The one way cost was about $50. Then, we backtracked one metro stop and found Amu’s apartment. Inside, he was sitting on the floor giving an English lesson to a group of four Colombian university students.
I began talking to another David, this one from southern Spain. He was 8 months into a trip around Latin America, and fully enjoying it. We were able to relate to each other’s experiences very well. Daniel, from Boston, was couchsurfing at the apartment while on a shorter trip to Colombia, while eventually a man from Kenya (and his Colombian wife) arrived, followed by a Brazilian guy, and another German student studying abroad for a semester. It turned into a very international little apartment party.
Everyone spoke Spanish better than me, however I was able to follow about 90% of what was being said. I couldn’t speak fast enough to be able to participate much. The offer for English to be spoken for my benefit was on the table, but I declined. Everyone else seemed so in their element speaking Spanish. All the same, I was ready to go sooner rather than later, but I knew the exposure was good for me.
Just as with traveling, I find it incredibly easy to meet new people here. There is an undeniable quality about people’s accessibility when you meet them in a foreign environment. Acquaintances become friends much faster. When I think back to how many new friendships I developed in my adult life (let’s take the last 5 years at home), it is rather sobering. I make some good friends through work, but otherwise, it seems very few new people would enter my life on a recurring basis.
Maybe I do something different when traveling. Or other people are simply more open. Probably a little of both. The social experience of backpacking and traveling abroad is a big part of why I wanted to dedicate more than a year of my life to a grand adventure.