I can’t hardly believe it but tomorrow is my last day in Manizales, Colombia! My flight to Cartagena is early Saturday morning. I’ll be in Cartagena until the 4th and then I fly to Peru to meet my family. While I’m so so so excited for Cartagena and Peru, I am really going to miss living in Manizales. I can’t believe I’ve been here more than a month, I feel like I stepped off the plane yesterday, and there’s still so much I haven’t done. But of course there is always too much to do and never enough time, and I am so incredibly grateful for the time I’ve spent here and all the unforgettable experiences I’ve had. While I’ve been living here I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and re-evaluate what I want from myself, my life, my future and I think I’ve grown a lot as a person. I don’t feel different necessarily, but I feel like a better, truer version of myself. Definitely a happier one. So, without further ado, I thought I’d share a few things that I am going to miss about Manizales, Colombia:
1. The mountains
Even though I wake up to see the mountains every day I have never gotten used to the view, they take my breath away every time. I often find myself gazing at them for minutes, or rushing home from work so I can catch the last golden light from the sunset on the peaks. About once or twice every week I have gone on trips to coffee farms with work, and my co-workers would always look at me with puzzled bemusement while I continually ooh and aad at the vistas during the drive. They have seen these mountains every day of their lives so they don’t really understand my wonder. I definitely have a mountain soul and my time in Manizales has only made me crave them even more.
2. The fruit
Most of you have already heard me go on and on about my love for Colombian fruit so I won’t go into much more detail about my obsession, but I will say that I have honestly considered bringing a suitcase of fruit with me back to England (if it wasn’t illegal). Fruit at home will never taste quite the same as I’ll always be comparing it to its South American equivalent, but on the upside, I am now a fruit addict and know it will be a much larger part of my diet when I return home. I also realized how un-experimental my fruit eating habits are at home and I want to try and eat a wider variety when I get back.
3. The neighborhood
Palermo is truly one of Manizales’ hidden gems, and in my humble opinion, it is one of the best neighbourhoods in the city. When I arrived I made it my goal to really get to know Palermo while I was here and I think I’ve visited almost all the shops and restaurants in the area (though I’m sure there are a few I haven’t discovered). It is the perfect laid back neighbourhood yet it has so much character, diversity and community. I am already crying over the inevitable separation from Green Creation’s incredible acai bowls and the wonderful fresh pastries from Suzette’s bakery.
4. The coffee
Now that I am about to leave Manizales I can finally admit that I am not a big coffee drinker! Sadly, I have a slight intolerance to coffee that always leaves me with a headache, so I usually don’t drink it much at home. I didn’t become a coffee drinking addict while I was here, but I do have a much greater appreciation for coffee. In Colombia coffee tastes completely different, there is so much more complexity and flavour and no cup is quite the same. Plus, I am going to really miss working at Cafexport, visiting the farms and learning about the coffee industry here. Coffee farmers and workers in Colombia are some of the kindest and hardest working people I’ve ever met and I know meeting them changed me for the better.
5. The alone-time
Even though I have been living with a family in Manizales and have met so many wonderful friends, I have still been very much ‘out in the wild’. There is something so thrilling about exploring a new city on your own, embracing a different culture and way of life. I learned to truly love being alone while I lived here, to enjoy my own company and focus on myself. As a result, I’ve had a burst of creative energy which I’ve put into reading, writing, planning trips, working on my blog. So many doors open when you realize that everything you need to be happy is within yourself. Obviously, you still need a roof over your head etc. but happiness at its core is about loving yourself and embracing your potential. Happiness is a choice. Anyway, I don’t want to get too deep into philosophical preaching, but I am definitely going to miss the freedom and self-discovery that comes with being alone.
6. The Spanish
Funnily enough, I am going to miss speaking Spanish. At times speaking in another language was very frustrating, feeling like I could only express a fragment of myself, but at other times it was so empowering and exciting, having whole conversations in Spanish and seeing myself improving. Interestingly I’ve noticed that speaking Spanish has helped me become a better listener and a more thoughtful speaker. When speaking Spanish, I always have to consider what I am going to say before I say it, so now even when speaking in English I find myself pausing more and considering my words more carefully. It’s funny to think that I used to hate speaking Spanish and now I’ve just spent a month doing little else. I’m sure I’ll accidentally start a few conversations in Spanish when I get home.
7. The people
Without a doubt what I am going to miss the most about living in Manizales is the people. I have said it before but I’ll say it again, Colombians are some of the kindest and most welcoming people that I have ever encountered. People who scarcely knew me treated me like family and made me feel like we had been friends for years instead of minutes. Colombians have this bright energy and openness of emotion that you don’t find often in England. It’s like the sunlight and the music and the beauty of their country is a part of their souls. I am going to miss all the friends I have made here more than I can describe, but I have an uncanny feeling this won’t be my last visit to Colombia.