Before moving overseas, I spent 23 years working as an attorney specializing in litigation. My life was full of angry people and I was required to keep track of every minute of my day so my firm could bill the clients. I was basically living at the courthouse, and had very little time to relax or live my life.
Then there was years of bitter cold and extreme snowfalls each winter in Northern Illinois.
So my husband, Darren, and I began searching for a place to live where the weather is mild and welcoming, all year round. After researching our options, we came across Medellin, Colombia—”The City of Eternal Spring.”
Situated at around 5,000 feet elevation in the Andes mountains, the temperature ranges between 62 F at night to 85 F during the day, almost every day. A local once told me that his most difficult decision every morning is “whether to wear a short or long sleeve shirt.” It was exactly what we were looking for.
Although Medellin is Colombia’s second largest city, with a population of 3.5 million people, it still feels like a small town in many ways. Each barrio, or neighborhood has its own distinct vibe. For example, the neighborhood of Laureles lies on the valley floor, near one of the five major universities. The community spreads out from the college and has peaceful, residential areas and a more traditional feel.
In contrast, the area known as El Centro is in the heart of downtown where museums, plazas, and outdoor markets draw large crowds that throng the sidewalks.
My husband and I live in the El Poblado area of Medellin, a popular choice for expats. Our neighborhood has outdoor cafes, open-air restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, and high-rise apartments. We don’t have a car, and don’t need one, because everything is within walking distance, or an easy taxi, bus, or train ride away. The Medellin metro system doesn’t cost much. A train ticket, which includes use of the metro-cable car system, costs approximately 80 cents and I can travel throughout the valley in which the city is cradled.
Our monthly budget when we lived in the States was around $5,000. Here, we live well on $2,000 and that covers all household expenses, entertainment, travel, food, and a sizable wine budget. We buy most of our fruits and vegetables at the weekly farmers’ market. For around $20 we get so many organic goodies, it can be difficult to carry everything home.
Restaurant choices range from local fare to fine dining. A typical Colombian lunch of soup, meat, rice, plantain, avocado and juice will set you back $2.50. A dinner for two at a fancy, white tablecloth restaurant, with a bottle of wine, may cost $80.
We live in a three-bedroom penthouse with spectacular views of the entire city. Our rent is $620 per month, which includes all utilities—gas, electric, water, high-speed WiFi, and cable TV. We don’t need heat or air conditioning. In the States we were paying at least $1,200 per month for just our mortgage.
Since moving to Colombia, I never use an alarm clock. In fact I don’t even wear a watch anymore, because my time is now my own. My mornings are spent making breakfast with my husband, taking Spanish lessons, and planning my next writing project (I completed an online travel writing course). In the afternoons I may do some writing, get a pedicure ($6 including tip), pick up some organic groceries, or indulge in some artisanal ice cream.
Medellin is a city of hope, pride, and reinvention, mostly because of the outstanding people who live here. While the weather was a big reason for us coming to Medellin, we stayed for the people. This city couldn’t be more different from the dark times of 30 years ago…in fact, the biggest danger today is you might not want to leave.
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