Change is in the Air: My Month in Medellin

By Sarah Shandl

There are bats living in the trees along the street where I live. No other streets; just mine. I wonder what it is about these trees that make these bats want to call it home. This is just one of the many curiosities running through my mind these days.

Three weeks ago I hopped on a flight to spend two months working remotely in Latin America. The first stop, Medellin, Colombia. I have always loved travel, but need to feel as though it serves a purpose. I want to see the world and experience new countries and cultures and people, but never want to put my life on ‘hold’ to do it.

That’s why the concept of working remotely had so much appeal to me.

Essentially remote work means…I’m doing the same work as I would be at my office or coffee shop back home, but in another city. Emails. Deadlines. Meetings via Skype. All the same, just different views.

For the Colombia stretch I’ve joined Unsettled, a co-working retreat that gathers people from around the globe to live and work together for 30 days at a time in various cities. It’s been beyond fantastic.

We have 22 motivated individuals who are looking for personal and professional growth. We have all types of jobs among the group, there are side hustle projects that we support each other on, but we also know how to unplug by grabbing dinner and drinks together, exploring new neighborhoods or “comunas,” or taking a weekend trip to Jardin in Colombia’s countryside.

I’ve found a temporary family, a tribe, a community of adventure-seekers looking to live life a little less ordinarily.

When I started looking into working remotely abroad, Medellin, Colombia was not at the top of my travel list. I’ll admit, I didn’t research much about the city until the day before I left (read: procrastination from packing). I’d never seen Narcos, but to anyone I mentioned “Medellin” to which I got a worried response.

Medellin is beautiful. The people. The views. The food. The palpable feeling of potential and change in the air.

Author working with a view from Medellín.

Author working with a view from Medellín.

I’m glad I didn’t arrive with a preconceived notion of what I thought this place would be like. Yes, there is still tension, still a need to be cautious, but there's so much more once you begin to understand this city.

I spent a morning at Museo Casa de la Memoria, soaking in the deep conflict that has affected every Colombian. Everyone has a personal tie to the conflict. Colombian history is complex, violent, and fascinating, particularly given the current political landscape. I feel the weight of where everyone has been just as much as the inspiration of where they are headed.

But this city, this country, it’s so much more than its past. I’ve had the opportunity to hear first-hand from change agents invested in the idea of innovation in this city, both in the private and public sectors. There is hope that can be seen. There is a pride the locals wear. There are unmined gems waiting for anyone willing to dig past what they think they know of Medellin.

I love this city. For what it is. For what it is becoming. For the people who I am sharing it with.

There’s a colony of bats living on my street, and I’m not sure why. For them it’s home. I may not have the answer to what led me to Medellin, but it’s home for me as well.