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It’s safe to assume that most foreigners, especially those from the West, who come to Colombia on a whim don’t arrive with the expectation to make money here. That is to say, those who come not having work already lined up with a decent paying school/university, NGO, big multinational or the like.
It’s generally more a case of being here on an adventure. ‘A see what happens’ approach while making the most of this beautiful country and largely friendly people.
Indeed many sacrifice a more financially stable existence to ‘give things a lash’ in countries not quite as ‘developed’ as their homelands. Some come with a cash cushion, making things much more manageable. ‘First World’ savings can go a long way in these parts.
Comfortable with mediocrity
Others, and we’re pretty much in this boat, don’t exactly have wads of a strong foreign currency to fall back on. It’s more a case of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ in order to find the resources to keep the adventure alive. That ‘way’, more often than not, is freelance teaching. It provides a somewhat steady income while also giving the freedom to explore the country when one wishes.
Then, as time passes, a root takes hold. What initially might have been planned as just a relatively brief stay turns into years. It becomes difficult to leave. Of course, for some there are strong, solid reasons for that; a long-term relationship, an improved employment situation, a child.
For others, and again this is where we’re at, it’s simply a question of time itself. There’s no long-term relationship (none at all actually), no improvement in earnings, no child (thankfully). We’re here because we’ve become used to it. (There is also the small incentive of being only months away from being able to apply for a five-year residency.)
We could, perhaps even should, seek out new pastures but we’ve become comfortable with the status quo, with mediocrity if you will. Returning to the ridiculously expensive Western World without any guarantees of finding decent, fulfilling work just seems madness.
Moving to another ‘developing’ country, starting from scratch again, seems more hassle than it’s worth. (Visiting them still appeals greatly, though. What’s more, no place could be ruled out if a job with appealing terms and conditions was forthcoming.)
Yet, sometimes, like a smartphone app, you have to hit ‘force stop’ and either reinstall or forget about it altogether.
With that in mind, it will be seven years this June since we made our return to South America. Moreover, what could be viewed as the ‘birth’ of Wrong Way has its tenth anniversary this coming November.
It was back in 2008 that the then reluctant traveller took flight from Ireland on a personal voyage of discovery. Things have never been quite the same again, for better and for worse. (The book recounting this 10-year, life-changing phase is in the making. Watch this space!)
We’ve had a good innings at it. There have been some unforgettable experiences, new friends for life made (we hope) from all walks of life.
However, without some significant modifications in the coming months it feels like this Colombian chapter is drawing to a close, for now at least.
Some of those on the outside looking in might think we’d be silly to end what they see as a sort of surreal, fantasy life when there’s no real pressure to do so. ‘Sure you’re living a relatively carefree existence. Why rock the boat?’
There is merit to that viewpoint.
West is best?
Yet the reality is that it can often feel more mundane than magical. More of a frustration than a fantasy, especially from a financial perspective.
It’s not all about money of course. As The Beatles sang, it ‘can’t buy you love’. Fair enough, but as a tienda-socialising, non-dancing foreigner in these parts, without flaunting the cash, you might not get much ‘action’.
A steady job and income, our own lodgings, a return to ‘a life more ordinary’ among our own, this kind of living is beginning to look more appealing. If only for a time.
The transition back to that, though, could prove quite a task. For one, finding that steady and hopefully fulfilling job is not going to be easy. There are also plenty of things we like about Colombia.
We must be careful what we wish for. Yet changes are required nonetheless.
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