Note: This was originally published on HackerNoon and written in 2019.
As I decide to enjoy deep breaths of the warm ‘eternal spring’ air after my all-nighter on the plane, I notice a man running towards me.
Before my first solo trip, my friend Waj, a seasoned traveler, imparted upon me that the best part of travel is the people you meet. In Medellín, you feel welcomed by the people who live here, which becomes contagious amongst travelers, creating a small-town feel in an international city.
Due to my lack of sleep, or poor Spanish skills, I was waiting in the airport parking lot for my Uber. The man running is Juan, from Uber. I realize as Juan and I run through the parking that he has abandoned his car in the pick-up loop. In most cities, an Uber would drive away after a short wait, and an unattended car would be confiscated by police. Not here, Juan came to find me.
This marks my first solo adventure. My last trip abroad was with a group in Israel eight years ago. I read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek (T4HWW) when I was 20. During a college job, standing in the weight room waiting to spot frat bros, I vigorously annotated T4HWW.
Long-term travel being possible and affordable while working was a mindset shift. Tim’s podcasts led me to Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding, a book with practical advice, anecdotes, and insight on viewing the world was the launch pad for my travel.
Being stressed with work leading up to the trip, I thought about a favorite stand-up comedian and podcaster, Ari Shaffir, and his global stand-up adventures. I asked myself, ‘What would Ari do?’, allowing me to take the leap.
For reasons such as its accessibility from San Francisco, Medellín is a great choice for my first solo adventure out of the wealth of places I haven’t visited. My plan was to explore for a week, and then work remotely as the creator of Coinverse, the first cryptocurrency news audiocast app.
Reasons to come here
Balance of city and nature
Sitting on the beach is great for a few days, but I prefer an active approach to exploring via running, hiking, eating, drinking, and wandering. Medellín is a balance of a vibrant city with unique culture and history, nested in the valley, between the mountains and rainforest.
Parts of the city, like El Poblado, contain natural greenery and flowing streams throughout the neighborhood, while hiking opportunities are only a short rideshare away.
Everyone I know who has traveled here shares how welcoming and joyful the people are. It’s inspiring how Medellín has transformed in the last two decades. There are many markets to explore for food, crafts, and art, as well as unique buildings spanning many time periods and outside influences.
Theoretically, I can work on Coinverse from anywhere. However, Medellín has growing nomad and local developer communities. These communities are easy to access with platforms such as Meetup and Facebook.
Once connected to a few like-minded individuals, you begin discovering other groups. For example, after working at Selina coworking for a week, I was part of an informal lunch club with a diverse group of people.
Medellín is relatively affordable compared to most cities in the US, especially San Francisco, where a meal in a restaurant may cost one-half to two-thirds more.
The city of coincidences
As Juan drove down into Medellín, he sensed my excitement as the panoramic views of the city emerged from the valley. Without asking, he stopped three times in order to take my picture.
A less-than-rigid schedule leads to opportunities to make unique connections where you may meet someone and end up talking for hours. I planned my trip not knowing anyone in Medellín.
Right before leaving, I saw a post from someone I met twice, Mary Evans, looking for a roommate starting the day I left the hostels. This set the theme for the coincidences.
The second week, at Urbania Café, I saw a potentially familiar face. Derek Pankaew is the co-founder of one of my favorite Kickstarters. After Derek caught me studying his website on my laptop, he introduced himself, and we had lunch, brainstorming ideas for hours.
Discovering how cryptocurrency is having real-world impacts is important to me. I had not found such projects online when a guest of the apartment arrived my second to last week. I mentioned the project I’ve been working on.
This led to my new friend teaching me about how Medellín is a major city for crypto, using Dash, a project creating financial freedom for everyday people. As I continued to ask questions, we talked the whole day, and I was invited to dinner with a developer working on Dash, which led me to meet other people in the Dash community.
Lastly, when shopping for pull-up rings, I was confused when Google led me to a residential building. Upon realizing I accidentally went to Sports Fitness’ corporate office rather than the store, I assumed they would send me away.
After communicating my desire to acquire $30 pull-up rings, we talked for over an hour, and I left with an offer I couldn’t refuse, free pull-up rings in trade for sharing e-commerce insights.
Originally, I planned to be in Medellín for a month and then ended up extending it to two and a half months. You’ll see why in my posts on the best food, local activities, and working remotely. Follow me to stay tuned.