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Saturday, May 14, 2011

How I survived Colombia with 2 dollars

I have heard great things about Colombia from multiple people while traveling and I was really excited to come here but I must admit once I got here I let all the negative stuff get to me. I was VERY anxious (more than I have have been in any country) and the first day I didn't barely leave my couch surfing hosts house at all. It is true that Colombia in the past has been one of the most dangerous countries in the world and due to the Cocaine industry here and other things there was lots of drugs wars and kidnappings/killings. But, in the past ten years a lot of things have improved! The second day I realised that I could stay shut in and live in fear of Colombia the whole time and not enjoy anything here (Thanks CNN) or I could go outside and enjoy myself and stay positive and realise that not everyone in Colombia is wanting to kill me and/or rob me.

So on my second day I ventured out. You know what? I didn't get robbed or murdered! This isn't to say that you shouldn't be careful because you should but just know that you shouldn't always believe everything you hear on the news. Thus far in Colombia I have had nothing but good experiences! Everyone has been so so nice to me. This is one of the friendliest countries I have ever visited. My couch surfing host has been awesome to me and totally taken care of me and I have had multiple couch surfers show me around the city!

Everything was going swimmingly until I realised NONE of my bank cards/credit cards are working here in Colombia! Not my credit card or my Aussie/American ATM cards. I called my bank and they can't figure it out all they can do is send me a new card that will take more than a week. Well obviously I have money in my accounts but I cant access any of it! At this point I had left Bogotá with some couch surfing friends I met so I wasn't even in Bogotá (the capital city of Colombia) when I found out my cards didn't work! They covered my expenses for the first day but after that they didn't have anymore money to do so. I don't blame them and really thank them for doing that I know its hard when you don't have a lot of money. 

They gave me enough money to get bus fare back to Bogotá but after I paid the bus fare I was left with 4000 pesos (2 USD!) so by the time I got to the terminal I was alone and only had 2 dollars. Thank God I speak at least basic Spanish. My Spanish is not great by any means but it was good enough for me to let a guy understand that none of my bank cards worked and I only had 2 dollars. This guy was the shop keeper at a phone/internet store.

You know what he did? He gave me a free drink and took my bags and told me to come sit down. Then he let me use his phone and internet all for free. Ask yourself how many people you know who would do all that for a stranger?! Well he did and I am forever grateful. I used the time to call my couch surfer here in Bogotá and he was with his family hanging out but he came with his mother and her husband in rush hour traffic to come get me and take me back to his place to stay, again out of the pure kindness of his heart! There is good people all over the world and my bad experiences I can count on one hand even after two years traveling but I would need 1000 hands to count all my good ones! So it could have ended up really really badly for me but hopefully soon I will get money via Western Union from home and all will be well. I have been in a few hairy situations over the past two years but this has by far been the worst. Luckily it should all be ok and if I can survive this I can survive anything!

I wanted to mention something else important. Sometimes in life you meet people who pass thru your life that you really connect with but due to whatever circumstances you just don't get the time with that person you would like to get to know them. As a traveler this tends to happen a lot more than if you were just at home doing your thing. It has happened to me before and I am sure it will happen again. I just wanted to tell you about my most recent experience. I met a girl at the airport in Brazil and she was from NJ. She spoke English and so did haha so we had that connection right away.

I talked to her in the terminal and we had a really good time. But, sadly she didn't get to sit next to me for our six hour flight. I saw her as we exited the plane and we started up again right where we left off. I planned to see her once I cleared customs etc. But, I got held up as usual lol. By the time I got out she was gone. She was just in Bogotá for three days on business. I was honestly really quite sad that I didn't get to see her again to say bye/exchange contact details. I really felt that we had a good time together and I was sad it had to end like that.

But there is a semi happy ending to this story. Through some seriously impressive detective work she managed to find me on facebook! (I had jokingly showed her my messed up passport lol) and she remembered my name! So we connected again online and got to talk more. She has left Bogotá now and is back home, its a shame I didn't get to see her again but I have a good feeling our paths will cross again one day in the future!

So always treasure the experiences you have with people in life and don't take any for granted and realise that just because someone passes thru your life doesn't mean that it is a meaningless thing or it doesn't mean you wont see them ever again!

Tyler over and out from Bogotá, Colombia.

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