Over five years ago, I decided I wanted to live in Medellin.
I barely knew the city, the people, or the culture, but sometimes all one needs is a first impression to take a leap of faith.
I began approaching and dating pretty girls with a confidence I never had before. I began receiving invitations to visit friends’ fincas.
I began renting a room in Ciudad del Rio, as the new neighborhood was literally constructed around me. I bought the bed, floor lamp, fan, sheets, pillows, and a decent shower head. I even chipped in on a new refrigerator.
I began answering questions via email and social media, responding to interviews, and meeting with people upon their arrival in the city for the first time. Others began referring to me for all things Medellin-related.
I wrote my own travel guide to Medellin.
And for the last 5 years, I’ve been content to limit my time in Colombia to the 180 days per year afforded on a tourist visa. Traveling for a living, this scenario suited me well, until recently.
By the end of 2012, I was burnt out and exhausted from all my travels the prior 18 months.
I planned to focus on work and writing in 2013, and limit travel. I returned to Medellin right before New Year’s Eve, and as always, it felt like I was returning home.
This year, I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to travel to parts unknown. I don’t want to set up shop in a new country, and start from scratch getting to know the city, region, culture, food, and customs again.
Living in a foreign country? It’s a lot of work.
Besides, why do I continue to leave Medellin when I so obviously enjoy it here. What’s standing in my way from spending 360 days a year here instead of 180?
The answer to that is a visa, specifically anything besides the tourist stamp you get on arrival. Getting that one is easy, and extending a tourist visa isn’t too hard either.
But which visa? How much will it cost me? What’s required? And what are the odds I’ll actually be approved? This year I began asking those questions, trying to figure out my options.
Colombia offers about 15 different kinds of visa. Using the process of elimination, I narrowed down the list.
I’m not living with a girlfriend in a civil partnership (resident visa). I’m not in a position to invest $35,000 (investor’s visa) or buy $200,000 worth of real estate (resident visa again).
In June, I hired Alan Gongora and the Langon Law Group to help me sort out my best option, and guide me in the application process.
Several friends had used and recommended him, and at $220 (including tax and fees), the price was well within my budget. Last month, I had the initial consultation, where we discussed various options.
The standard business visa seemed like the most appropriate option for me, but Colombia doesn’t look at online businesses the same way as brick and mortar ones.
Would the person reviewing my business visa application recognize the value I offer Colombia in my line of work? Will they only give me 6 months instead of 12 months, or worst of all, reject my application entirely?
Last week I finally decided to move forward with the standard business visa application. I’ve begun collecting the required documentation, a process I will describe in the next post in this series.
But it’s mid-July now, and the clock is ticking. My tourist visa runs out August 20, 2013.
If I can’t get a new visa before then, I’m effectively kicked out of the country until 2014.
I’ll be giving up the room I rent, and the comfortable living situation, plus saying goodbye once again to friends, and any lucky girl I happen to be dating.
I won’t be around to host the bi-weekly reader meet-ups which are going so well. And it effectively puts on hold the other big plans I have in store.
I’m feeling the stress. It’s like I’m in a pressure cooker. And things are only going to get more intense in the coming weeks, as the August 20th deadline draws near.