On a post-retirement trip through South America, decisions can sometimes come easily. “I took a bus to Medellín on Christmas Eve 2012, didn’t know anybody, didn’t speak very good Spanish either. I had a hotel room in Poblado for one night and I didn’t know a soul,” says William Edwards, 62, of the moment when he decided to move to Colombia for good.
“I went up to the top floor of the hotel and there’s this beautiful view of the city. I thought ‘this is nice’. I was so impressed, you know? That’s probably when I knew Medellín was for me.”
After 35 years as a biologist for the Federal Government, William recalls the urge to explore the world beyond Boulder, Colorado, where he worked until 2012. “I had a long career; during which I learned a lot of good science and enjoyed my work. But, when I became eligible to retire, I retired on the very first day that I could, when I was 54.
“I then took a long trip through Central America and a side trip to Colombia, which was my first chance to visit the country,” he adds.
After spending a couple of days in the capital, Bogota, that Christmas Eve journey to Medellín sealed his retirement fate. The rest is history.
William cites his love for nature, and wanting to discover “other rivers, other mountains, other tropical environments” as the elements that attracted him to Colombia.
“I wanted to have a life in a tropical type of climate that I had only ever experienced on vacation, and there’s nowhere more tropical than Colombia,” he says.
Here, he enjoys a new routine grounded upon the simple things in life. “I do everything that other people do except I don’t have to go to work. I do laundry, I go to the bank, I go to the grocery store. I volunteer in community projects. I visit friends, I go to concerts, I go to barbecues. I explore places around my city and I take vacations from where I live. That’s everything I used to do at home, but here it has a different twist because it’s Colombia.”
The friendly nature of the locals in Medellín has made William’s experience a rich one and, despite living in a big city, he believes “it has the vibe of a smaller, friendly town, that makes you feel part of a community and mentally it’s better for you too. It makes you feel like you are at home.”
While William’s “love at first sight” affair with Medellín was the determining factor in his decision to relocate here, the low cost of living was an added bonus.
“That’s one of the things that’s nice about Colombia, the cost of living is not too high. By-and-large things are much cheaper here. You can go out and have a nice breakfast or lunch for $4, and you can have a nice dinner for $8.
“I have nice private quarters here with a big balcony. I pay one bill per month that covers internet, cable, gas, electric, trash, and water. I pay one person, once a month. No hassle.”
William lives in a shared house in the Estadio neighborhood with other expats, a deliberate choice to give him contact with other travelers and cut out any unwanted hassle with rental administration.
“I also have the opportunity to meet other foreigners that are passing through for a shorter time and hear their stories.
“I think a person could live here comfortably for $1,500 a month,” says William. “That would be your rent, groceries, entertainment, and eating out regularly. There are concerts and theater events that I go to that are not expensive at all. There are also a lot of free activities. I think the same lifestyle in my hometown in the U.S. would cost roughly double, or even more.”
William’s gratitude toward his newly adopted country is plain to see, and when he’s not hiking or biking around the mountains of the Antioquia province, he’s volunteering in an English-teaching program.
“There are lots of programs and opportunities to help here and it’s a great way to connect with locals,” he says. “I have had a very rich experience volunteering. I’ve met so many wonderful people that are still my friends to this day.”