Cali es Cali…

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to the Ecanto-esque pueblecito of Salento with a beautiful soul I crossed paths with during my travels. During our stay in Salento, we decided to go on a hike en el Valle de Cocora. But we did something I’d never done before–we started hiking without knowing when or where the path would reach a viewpoint/endpoint. All we knew was that we had 3.5 hours until the last Jeep departed back to Salento, and we simply started hiking to see how far we could get.

A view from early on in the hike.

As we hiked up and through el Valle de Cocora, we would occasionally turn to one another and speak aloud our inner dialogues: “Do you think we’re close to the top?””Does an endpoint/viewpoint even exist?”How much longer do you think we can keep hiking and still make it back in time for the last Jeep?”

Spoiler Alert: We never made it to the “top.”

A photo I took after we realized we weren’t going to make it to any sort of mountaintop view 🙂

After hiking for just over two hours with no mirador(viewpoint) in sight, we decided to simply sit down where we were and be present with ourselves and nature. Seated on the Earth, we closed our eyes, breathing in the gift of fresh oxígeno from the trees, listening to the sweet&simple sounds of nature, wholeheartedly content in simply existing. After about 10 minutes, we opened our eyes, smiled at one another, and began our journey back down the mountain.

On our way back down, I thought about how yes, it would have been amazing to have reached an “endpoint” with a beautiful view overlooking all of Salento y el Valle de Cocora…and also…the journey was amazing in its own right. The journey up and down the mountain was a journey full of laughter and smiles, butterflies and birds, complex root systems and rivers sounding like waterfalls, sunlight kisses and hugs from the wind. The journey was truly magical <3.

After about an hour of descending, we made it back with time to spare and even got a prime spot on the back of the Jeep where fireflies and a nearly-full moon lit up our 30 minute drive back to Salento.

___ ___ ___

I keep thinking about that hike in Salento because it feels like a microcosm of my larger journey here in Colombia.

I came to Colombia with no expectations. I had no plan, no sense of whether or not my time in Colombia would result in an”endpoint” or some sort of final destination.

Back in December of 2022, my original plan was to try to live in/re-locate to Costa Rica. But after two months of trying to find home, I realized Costa Rica was not the move(literally). Costa Rica was a beautiful country to visit, however, it has become so overrun by tourists/gringos trying to relocate (like myself :/) that it has essentially become a mini United States of America.

For example, despite my dedicated attempts to speak only Spanish, the majority of shop owners and locals would only respond to me in English because they had become so used to English-speaking tourists&expats who refused to put any effort into learning Spanish. I also witnessed several individuals&families arriving from the United States and Europe with their retirement and architectural plans, tearing down the beautiful natural landscapes of Costa Rica’s wild jungles, creating their own private paradises and mansions at the expense of local and indigenous communities. On top of all of that, the prices in Costa Rica were beyond reason–$12 for a jar of peanut butter…$10 iced lattes…it was giving…more expensive than my life in the United States.

An invitation I made for a goodbye party my Canadian bestie and I hosted when I realized my time in Costa Rica had come to an end.

After those experiences in Costa Rica, I decided to change my mindset. Instead of committing myself to any sort of plan of moving to a new country, I decided to simply enjoy traveling for however long my bank account could *reasonably* allow. I chose Cali as my first stop because I had fallen in love with salsa dancing during my travels, and when I typed into Google “Salsa Capital of the World”, Cali, Colombia popped up, and I said, LEZZZ GOOOOO!!!

Shout out to the sparkly dance shoes I bought because I am serious about this salsa dancing journey.

The first day I arrived in Cali, I immediately felt spaciousness. I felt possibility. I felt excitement. My body/mind/soul was flooded with so many What-Ifs: What if I could actually make things work here? What if I could find authentic community in Cali? What if Cali could actually be home for me?

It is now day 60 and those feelings of spaciousness and excitement and possibility are not only still there, but are ever-evolving and expanding…those What-Ifs are becoming more and more real.

Two months might turn into two years in Cali, or two months may turn into six months and then I make my way to Brasil or Argentina or Guatemala. I still don’t know. I don’t have an endpoint, and to be honest, I’m not even sure I believe in the concept of “endpoints” when it comes to life. We are always transforming and learning more about ourselves&situations, and we’re allowed to change our minds.

I know there are people who think the idea of “not having a plan” is unwise and immature, and sometimes I have to fight against judging myself for living this way. But the reality is, I’ve had countless “plans” that never pan out, and I’d rather choose presence over a plan. Instead of forcing myself to define Cali as my endpoint, I’d rather continuously take time to pause, close my eyes, and breathe, just like I did en el Valle de Cocora, asking my body: How and what are you feeling? Spacious? Full? Supported? Safe?

With time, a plan may unfold, but if it does, it will be in retrospect. It will not be meticulously calculated or pre-meditated. It will come out of freedom and presence. It will come out of a decision to seek joy and follow it as honestly as I can. And right now, I am happy and healthy. Right now, I am free and full. Right now, I am alive and living. And that is enough. That is enough of a reason to continue saying yes to Cali. Así que aquí me quedo…en Cali <3.

3 thoughts on “Cali es Cali…

  1. I love this. SO FLIPPING MUCH. Yes life experience as a living metaphor. Yes free and full. YES FREE AND FULL.

    Mil abrazos !!!!!!!



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