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Bogotá: The Beginning of the Journey

Tomorrow marks the end of my time in Bogotá, and it really has flown by. Not only have I had the opportunity to discover a new country, city, and culture, but I’ve also been able to truly experience what it means to be a solo traveler and live in a hostel with strangers for the first time. Needless to say, it’s been an amazing week.

I landed late Monday night, and after a lengthy customs line and fumbling through my amateur Spanish with the currency exchange booth; I made my way to the line of taxis outside the airport to head to my new home for the week. The ride into town took roughly 30 minutes. I was staying in an area of the city named La Candelaria, which was highly recommended. La Candelaria is located about 30 minutes south of the Bogotá city center and is a historic neighborhood that houses many of the city’s best museums, attractions, restaurants, and bars. I knew this was a good place to be from my research, but I couldn’t help the feeling of skepticism as we drove through the dimly lit alleys. I had many different feelings going on at this moment, but I knew for sure that I was not nervous – which is surprising even to me. We finally pull left onto Calle 11, and my driver parks and turns to me. With a smile on his face, he says “Selina” and gets out to help me with my bag.

My bunk in the upper left corner

I was staying at Selina La Candelaria, and it was already past their prime hours so the place was pretty empty. I checked in, and a security guard walked me to my dorm and told me to pick out a bed. I chose the back, top left bunk (which I later realized probably wasn’t the best choice), threw my bags on the bed, and walked out into the common area. There were about 7 people hanging around – a few at some tables, and two guys playing pool. I walked up to the pool table because I overheard them speaking English and said: “Hey, I just got here and I don’t know anybody.”

“Where are you from?”

“United States. Nashville, Tennessee.”

“Tennessee? Hey, we’ve got another Tennessee guy here!”

Lo and behold, a guy originally from Knoxville, was sitting at the table drinking a beer. I was invited over, introduced myself to everyone, and spent a few hours shooting the breeze with new friends.

Most of the rest of the week was spent exploring the city. The following day I walked around all of La Candelaria. Something really cool about Bogotá is all of the amazing street art. At one point, I commented how much I liked them to a Dutch girl I met, to which she responded: “It is nice, but they have to do it, or else the walls would just get covered in shit.” True, but I think it’s cool regardless.

I spent a lot of time in the city, restaurants, and museums, and had the opportunity to meet with 3 different venture firms this week: Polymath Ventures, Simma Capital, and InQlab. I will be posting some write-ups about these firms and the VC scenes here soon.

I went to two museums. The Museo del Oro is very cool and highlights the history of gold in Colombia. My personal favorite was the Museo Botero, which highlights the art of Fernando Botero. Literally drawings of chubby people, it was awesome.

One of the main attractions in Bogotá is Cerro de Monserrate. The city of Bogotá is crescent-shaped and sits against the Cerros Orientales (Eastern Hills) that overlook the entire city. To get up here, you can take an intensely steep hike or take a cable car. I opted for the latter.

You get a great overview of the entire city, and there’s a market at the top where you can get some cheap enchiladas. Speaking of enchiladas, check out some of the amazing food I got to eat this week:

Friday night provided the highlight of the week. After striking up a conversation with some random Europeans at the hostel bar, I found out that their friends at a neighboring hostel had booked a private party bus through their accommodation to Andrés Carne de Res. This place is basically a giant restaurant/club located an hour outside of Bogotá and is one of the most recommended restaurants in the city. I had previously inquired about a party bus from my hostel, but it was canceled because they couldn’t hit the minimum amount of people. I was stoked to hear I could potentially get on another one. I joined this group of strangers and walked down the street to the other hostel, and luckily they had some extra room. While we were waiting to leave, we were given a lot of free shots by their hostel bar and got to know one another.

The bus arrived around 9:30 and wasn’t even a bus, but a shady old van. We all hopped in with a cooler of Coca-Cola, Rum, and Aguardiente. Drinks were poured and passed around, and we all laughed at the fact we were doing probably the least recommended thing in the world: Hopping into an old van going somewhere you’ve never been to with a bunch of strangers who barely speak your language, all while in a foreign country having drinks poured for you by someone you don’t know…mom will be proud.

Clearly, I am safe and sound, and the night couldn’t have been better. A week in, it was a quintessential travel experience.

Sitting here after one week on the road, I’ve already learned some interesting things about solo travel:

  • Good luck getting into any routine while living in a hostel with one week to explore a city.
  • Don’t take the top bunk! It’s a pain in the ass to get in and out of bed, and if someone below you is a snorer (which was the case in my situation), then the whole bed is going to rock.
  • Ubers are the best place to practice conversational Spanish.
  • Everyone is friendly. You don’t even have the chance to be around someone long enough to find out things you would potentially dislike about them.
  • You can go out for an entire evening with people and act like you’ve been friends forever, knowing full well you will never see each other ever again.

I’ve been fortunate to meet some people with similar itineraries to mine, and we will attempt to link up in some other cities as well. Tomorrow I’m traveling with a new friend to Medellín, and we’re going to try and watch the NFL conference games. So many more weeks left on the road, and I’m looking forward to the experiences.

Until then, Adios.

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