First off, I have to confess that the title of this blog is a misnomer. You see, I don’t actually travel much. I move. A lot. About once a year for the past nine years. In fact, I like to call what I do troving, a portmanteau combining “traveling” and “moving.” And now I’m about to do it again. Colombia will be my 10th country in a decade.
Why Colombia? Why not? A lot of travelers think narcotraffickers still run the streets of Colombia and would never go there, but their information is outdated. I’ve done a ton (errr, at least a kilo or two 😉 ) of research on the coffee-growing capital over the past few months, and it’s clear that nowadays the level of safety is on a par with its neighbors such as Peru and Ecuador. A nomadic friend of mine spent some time in Colombia a few years ago and loved it. He found the people to be among the friendliest he’s ever met. Very warm, open, and helpful. And besides, the weather is great and the women are gorgeous!
So, how did I get here, here being Chicago, IL, USA? Well, after 13 years abroad, I finally began to miss this place, the country of my birth. I’ve often said that, given enough time, I could even miss hell. 😉 And that’s what finally started to happen. I began to miss “home.” I put that word in quotation marks because I’ve long thought that no place is really home for me. In a sense, I’m homeless. I belong no more to one place than to the next, as Paul Bowles once put it. So, I’ve been back “home” for almost a year, and it’s been quite a disappointment.
Everything seemed great at first: Wow, all these people speak English! (Well, almost all.) This is great. And everything is so convenient, and people are so friendly. Or are they? They seem friendly. In Chicago you can talk to random strangers in the grocery store, on the street, or wherever. But try to become closer friends with them and they put on the brakes real fast. I have almost no friends after close to a year here, something that hasn’t happened to me in any other country I’ve lived in. I’ve repeatedly asked myself why this is. I’ve met lots of people here, including some with whom I have a lot in common. But it just doesn’t develop into anything more. I think this is because people here tend to socialize within the groups of people they already know–from work, school, etc. They’re cliquish. Whereas in many other countries the people I’ve met have been inclusive–very open to becoming friends with new people, those I’ve met in Chicago seem to be very exclusive–not open to making new friendships. Based on my experience living in other US cities over the years, I don’t think this is entirely unique to Chicago. When I think about it, I realize that I haven’t been very happy in any of the US cities I’ve lived in, and I think this lack of “inclusiveness” is the main reason. For me, the people make the place. Or they make the place miserable.
So, off to Colombia I go! We’ll see if the happiest people on earth are also the friendliest. Thirty-eight days and counting….