We just passed our 6-month anniversary since we arrived in Colombia. If you are paying attention, like Colombian immigration is, that means our time here is up. Without a visa you can stay in Colombia on a tourist permit for 90 days and get a 90-day extension, allowing for 180 days in a 360-day period. After that, it’s time to move along or figure out another visa option. Taxi drivers the world over seem shocked that we have visa rules that limit our stay in most countries. Yep, we have visa and border run stories to last even the longest dinner party.
How Long Are You Staying in Medellin?
Yep, we know this question is on your mind! After the first day of school in January, the niñas told us they wanted to see the school year all the way through to the end, which means staying until December. We consulted a lawyer, went through a zillion pages of paperwork, stamping, notaries, messengers, signatures, copies, trips to the grumpy guys at immigration and finally, we have our visas. It’s a business visa which means we invested in a business here. We didn’t really invest fully, but we invested in an existing business enough to get a 3-year visa. Or until the original dude who set up the company wants to come back, whichever comes first. Either way, we knew it would get us through the end of the school year so we were happy. Cost of JUST the visa paperwork? About $2500. Yeah, not cheap. But that seems to be about the average cost for that visa. If we’d had income from a pension or retirement account, it would have been a whole lot easier.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As we talked about what to do in December, where to spend Christmas and where to go after that, the reaction we got from both of the niñas was “meh”. At first we thought “meh” meant “We trust, you, Parents. We’ll go anywhere and see anything and we’ll be fully engaged and fulfilled doing it!” But then we realized it really just meant “Nah.”.
The kids are starting to lose their enthusiasm for fast, nomadic, no-home-base travel. They are tired of living in someone else’s home, sleeping on someone else’s sheets, not buying some of the comforts because it doesn’t fit in their one suitcase. They are tired of investing in friendships only to see them end, with an uncertain promise of when they’ll see each other again.
So we kept talking and decided that there’s no reason to do something we aren’t inspired by. So we floated the idea of staying in Medellin even longer than December. Perhaps another full year of school? The reaction to that was much more enthusiastic. Both of the girls immediately communicated with friends from school, who had already been lamenting that they were only getting 1 year with their gringa friends. And so, our news is: we’ve decided to stay in Medellin until the end of 2019. We still want to see some places in South and Central America, but taking trips with a home base feels a lot easier and more enjoyable to the girls. Dan is happy either way. For me, a home base suits me well.
Dan and I are not spring chickens. As we get older we really like our comforts. Soft beds, fresh breezes or A/C, a comfy place to watch TV together, and a kitchen that is not frustrating to prepare meals. But when you travel fast and nomadic, you don’t necessarily get what you want all the time, and you aren’t there long enough to warrant paying for things to make it your own. So the thought of setting off for an adventure with no end and no idea of when we’ll have our comfy digs of a house again… well I could skip that. Somehow the idea of simply vacationing to other areas but knowing we’ll go back to our apartment in Medellin feels a lot better. And of course the girls are very excited to settle in a little further and make this city and this apartment their home.
So what is it about Medellin that landed it into the “Staying Put” category? Well, it happened that we found the not-perfect-but-really-fantastic storm. I’m sure if we worked at it these things could be found elsewhere, but they were found easily here and we want to continue to enjoy it. Here are all the things we like about Medellin:
- Spanish speaking, so the girls and I can really operate on either platform of English or Spanish. And the girls are getting to the level of rock-star Spanish.
- We have our network. The girls have a school they love, friends who they connect with, I have my Pilates and friends and my favorite door guards. Dan has his office, 50 MBPS of internet, no income taxes and delivery of his favorite pizza with NO cold weather.
- These friends need a bullet point of their own: The Cates. They live across the hall and sharing this adventure with them is nothing short of amazing. Haley and I were talking the other day and I said, “It adds a lot that they live there, doesn’t it?” and she said “It’s everything, Mom”.
- The weather is great in Medellin. Sometimes, for part of the day, it gets a little warm. Most of the other parts it’s always pleasant. It’s never cold. We get some great thunder storms.
- The prices are reasonable. We pay a more-than-average amount for our apartment (for Colombia or anywhere, for that matter), but it’s a great spot for us, with easy access to restaurants and groceries, friendly Colombian neighbors and plenty of space. Prices for goods and services is low. Our property management company is extremely responsive to anything that needs attention.
- Time zone compatibility with the US means we have an easy time connecting with friends and family and tuning into major events happening in the USA that we still follow, like the Superbowl. Asia was so hard in this regard.
- Not only time zone, but physical access to the USA is also easy. Whether it’s a direct flight to Florida or a few hops to get to Arizona or Oregon, it’s not hard and is not as arduous as coming from other continents.
- There are a lot of Worldschoolers passing through Medellin staying for a short time or a long time. This makes for an active social calendar and meeting lots of new people who understand our lifestyle.
- Medellin has a local middle class, which means we meet local people who have things in common with us. This sounds odd, but in Panama the town we lived was so small and most people had never left the area, even to see the canal in their own country. We found it difficult to connect with locals because we had no common ground. Here, we meet Colombians who have traveled to many parts of the world, we share interests and we can enjoy each other’s company.
- Staying longer allows us some benefits in the homeschool area too. Haley is now preparing for the GED, after which she hopes to find some marine biology adventures that will accept a 16-year old intern or volunteer, while still going to school part time as an Once Girl. Zoe will continue school as a 7th grader at the private Catholic school, and she’s decided to focus more fully on her music, taking ukulele and singing lessons once a week. I am currently studying World Cup 101.
Will You Stop Blogging?
Never fear, we will continue to blog about all of our adventures, here and on our trips. I have lots to share with you about our new home base and I’ll keep updating you as we explore areas around us. As 2020 approaches we hope to spend some time in Europe, perhaps making a base from which to travel for 6 months, and then do the same in Asia, but for a limited period of time. Our plan is to return to the USA at the end of 2020. Stick around and see if we come anywhere close to that plan!
But do you know what this means for YOU, our loyal reader? You have plenty of time to plan a visit. When else will you get a chance to visit Medellin with someone who can show you all the great things, arrange for someone to pick you up at the airport, advise you on lodging and food and activities and invite you over for a pool party?? We’d love to see anyone who makes their way down here.