The things I learned while traveling through Colombia

I was born in Bogota, Colombia and while I considered myself a Colombian, I came to the realization that I did not know what my country was really made of. I traveled for 10 days, between 4 to 13 hours a day, crossed 13 departments and slept in 7 different towns, and witnessed what my country really was, and how lucky I am to be Colombian. This is what I learned after 10 days.

Let people know that you appreciate what they do for you. People in this world will do unimaginable things for strangers. They will give you water, invite you into their homes, and cook you dinner. There is nothing more important than thanking them for it and letting them know that what they do for you is invaluable.

Get to know people. It is as simple as asking for someone’s name at a store or asking them how long they have lived in the city. People really enjoy it when they get to talk about themselves and especially when they realize that others care. When I was traveling, one of the most valuable moments was having the tour guide in Mompox, bring his son to meet us. We showed him we cared about him, and he took his time to care about us.

Take the time to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Whether you are Colombian or not, his books will change your life and the way you look at the world. From One Hundred Years of Solitude to The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, you will find a new pleasure in reading and discovering unknown worlds through literature. Having the opportunity to reread One Hundred Years of Solitude while traveling through the places where Garcia Marquez got inspired to write it gave the trip and the books a new dimension.

Write. Take your time every day to write a small reflection about the day. Know that someday you will go back to what you wrote and remember how life was like. Write about anything and just share your thoughts with your future self. While I was traveling, I would sit down with a notebook at the end of each day to take everything in. Know that happiness comes from within. Understand that what makes you happy is being at peace with who you are and what you are doing. Do not expect the people around you or the place you are in make you happy, you need to understand that it is within yourself. I saw the happiest people I had ever seen living in the most extreme poverty. Smile and understand that you have the power within yourself to be happy, no matter how cliché that might sound.