Bogota is an unusual Latin American city. High up on a plateau, the weather is cool year-round, giving it a crisp autumn feel that I find exhilarating. I love to look at the orange brick buildings set against the deep green mountains and bright blue sky, and absorb the energy of this Colombian city.
Living abroad, I feel that I can choose the kind of lifestyle I want. I keep my life purposely simple, and my friends here consider that smart. Back home, I felt more pressure to buy this or that—more advanced technology or a better car, a larger home, or more exotic vacations. In Latin America, I feel free to choose what I truly need and want as an individual.
In my hometown of Philadelphia, I was the editor of an art and literature magazine. I moved to South America to do something completely different: volunteer teaching. The slower pace of life and friendly, more people-oriented culture makes teaching even more rewarding and fascinating.
To maintain my income, I work as a writer, editor, and translator. As a food writer, I’ve been to most of the upscale restaurants here, and I frequently indulge in street food. A tasting menu at one of Bogota’s fanciest restaurants could cost around $60—literally hundreds of dollars cheaper than the same meal in the U.S. Certain areas of Bogota are filled with gorgeous, tiny restaurants where main dishes cost about $9 or $10. And most restaurants offer a menu of the day—very cheap ones called corrientazos, start as low as $2.
My husband and I eat healthy at home, and vegetables and fruits make up a large part of our diet. Bogota is just the right place for it—we get an abundance of fresh (and local) fruits and vegetables all year round. Colombia is blessed with an astonishing variety of exotic fruits. I shop in inexpensive Fruver supermarkets, which feel like farmers markets filled with heaping mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Two years ago, I set up my own business, a boutique coffee tourism company. I love coffee and I love what specialty coffee can mean to Colombians, so this business lets me live my passion every day. I never even imagined that one day I’d be considered a coffee expert and would spend a large part of my time teaching others about coffee. It’s something that only opened up to me because I live abroad.
Starting a new endeavor abroad isn’t always easy. For most people, “easy” is staying home where they know how everything works. Living abroad takes a small leap of faith, but the effort is rewarding. You get to learn a new way of doing things, you discover new freedoms, and you encounter different attitudes.
What can’t be measured, though, is the excitement of filling each day with new experiences. I wake up most mornings in Bogota excited to see what good things the day will bring, what I’ll eat or drink that will fascinate me, or what new friendship I’ll form. I’m never bored, and I feel that I have had more experiences than another person would fit into five lifetimes.
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