(The featured image is from http://daringplanet.com/stupid-go-medellin-colombia/)
Damn! You sure intend to terrify your friends and family this time, I’m thinking. I haven’t told them yet, because I don’t want to deal with the response. But this is not the Narco’s Medellin. Times have changed, Medellin is now known as a sophisticated, peaceful and very modern city, with superb public transportation and other amenities. But, after years of reading of Pablo Escobar and the state of narco war in Colombia, and now with the new TV series that makes all of that fresh again, the old reputation prevails.
Why start at Medellin? A decision had to be made. The time had come, and in all of my readings, Colombia kept popping up. I’ll admit that the current exchange rate makes it inviting, as does the climate. Probably weighing in heavily was the ease of travel from the States, specifically Miami, but also Houston. Nonstop 3.5 hour cheap flights many times a day. I would get there eventually, why not immediately? Besides, Medellin, Colombia meets the requirements of my list:
Family and friends. Medellin is very close, via air, to the United States, and it is a cheap flight. Convenient for friends and family.
Affordability. I’ve chosen the cheapest city in the US, Harlingen, Texas, as a point of comparison for cost of living on numbeo.com. “You would need around … (1,325.44$) in Medellin to maintain the same standard of life that you can have … in Harlingen, TX…” Amazingly close to may $1300 mark. Shockingly, Medellin, according to Numbeo, is cheaper than Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, Cambodia!
Legal Status. “You have to receive 3 times minimum salary in monthly bases to qualify for the retirement / pension visa. $644,350 pesos is 2015 minimum salary, so you must gain $1,933,050 pesos per month. Thats 805 USD with an exchange rate of 2,400 pesos per dollar.” (According to http://www.colombiaretirementvisa.com) Today’s exchange rate is 3,221.16. That translates to $584 US. The Pensionado visa must be renewed annually for 5 years, at the end of which you can get permanent residency.
People. It’s hard to generalize about the people of an entire country, especially one as diverse as Colombia. I have read that the people of Medellin are warm and friendly, but those of Bogotá are more reserved. Time on the ground will answer this one.
Language. Colombians speak Spanish, of course, and I understand that Colombian Spanish is preferred for newscasters for its clarity. I hope!
Culture. Latin American culture blends indigenous, Hispanic and African, so it is a lively stew. What is distinctive about Medellin? As one of the great cities of Latin America, Medellin has the urban high cultural elements one might expect in Mexico City or Buenos Aires. Well, that might be too high an expectation, but it seems to be a cosmopolitan city with elements from graffiti to museums and performances.
Climate. It calls itself the City of Eternal Spring. Sitting near the equator, the weather is pretty constant, and pretty constantly in the 70s and 80s (F). It is warmer than Cuenca and Mexico City, but certainly not as hot as places at lower altitudes in the country.
Beauty. I’ve seen the photos. I can’t wait.
Access to medical care. Both Colombia and Ecuador have national health schemes that expats may participate in. “If you live in Medellín, it is possible to have access to world-class health care in several hospitals in Medellín at a much lower cost than is found in hospitals and clinics in the U.S., Canada or Europe. Each of these hospitals and clinics in Medellín also has some of their staff that speaks English.”(http://www.firstamericanrealtymedellin.com/hospitals-in-medellin/)
Terrain. Most of Medellin is a valley floor, and relatively flat. Some of it is steep hills.
Food! Being a Latin American urban capital, I fully expect the food to be varied and pretty great. Medellin is now earning a rather foodie reputation. (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/15/travel/medellin-food-destination/)
Coffee. Colombia. No need to elaborate.
Amenities. It’s a big city, but in a developing country. All the modern amenities will be here, but don’t expect LA standards. Internet probably won’t be as fast, for example. For me, having lived in Asia for many years, I’m rather inured to inconveniences. I used a bucket and pitcher to take (cold) showers in Bangladesh, so I have a rather lower bar than many.
Tranquility. Aha! Being a big city in Latin America, I would expect peace and quiet to vary a lot by neighborhood. The is another “we’ll see”.
Medellin may help me sort out whether I am more of a city mouse or a country mouse. I love the energy of cities. Being embedded in a neighborhood with cafés and little shops, with life all around me appeals to me. I loved that about Ho Chi Minh City and Chittagong. The frisson of the unexpected mixed with the familiar keeps me motivated. I have always been torn about city or country (by which I mean a village or small town). I can probably do both for a while.
I would love to have questions from my readers and I’ll do my best to research the answers.