If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping to an exotic place, you’re not alone.
But many folks never get past the thought.
Expats Kim Macphee and Tony Clark made the dream a reality; they got started after their employer laid them off in 2006. They used their free time and severance pay to map out a strategy for the future, a plan that has blossomed into new enterprises and a new way of life in Popayán, Colombia.
For the first phase of their dream, they started a travel website. It focuses on South America and offers information about destinations, hotels, restaurants, and tours. The couple traveled to South America to find a home base from which to run their business.
“We saw opportunities everywhere, especially in Colombia, along its Caribbean coast and in the big cities. But the most obvious opportunity was here in the south of the country,” Tony says.
Like most expats, Tony and Kim imagined living in a place that offered romance—not just cheap living and good business opportunities. The city of Popayán offered everything they were looking for—and more.
Colombians call Popayán—located 400 miles southwest of Bogotá—the “white city,” because of the whitewashed colonial buildings that dominate its downtown. You can’t help but notice large groups of young people, many of whom are students at the Universidad del Cauca, founded nearly 200 years ago.
The university helps define the city’s atmosphere. It has transformed Popayán into an intellectual center, spawning writers, poets, and numerous Colombian presidents.
You’ll find plenty of consumer culture at the Campanario mall, where you can shop for name-brand fashions and electronics, grab a bite to eat at the food court, or see a flick at the multiscreen cinema.
Tony and Kim enjoy Popayán’s thriving café culture and they shop at the indigenous market. At night, they head out for a meal at one of the city’s great restaurants…or enjoy a musical or theater performance, followed by a walk through downtown.
During the day you can throw a picnic at one of more than 40 municipal parks…or visit the thermal baths in the indigenous village of Coconuco, located within Parque Popayán Natural Puracé—about a 30-minutes’ drive from the city.
The park encompasses a vast area of wilderness peppered with volcanoes and lakes. The diversity of landscapes is amazing, ranging from rainforests to deserts, and you can enjoy all types of outdoor activities, from hiking to bird watching to volcano climbing.
For Tony and Kim, it has been an inspired move. They have since opened two hostels in the city…and a rickshaw business!
“The charm of the colonial center is what keeps us here,” says Tony. “And we got a good reception from the Colombians and foreigners living here.”
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