I wrote the following reflection in early April following a month with Unsettled in Medellín, Colombia. I never published it on my blog nor have I shared it with anyone, until now. I’ve been sitting on this post as I wanted to get it “right.” I wanted to capture exactly what my month with Unsettled meant to and for me.
In hindsight, I realize I’ll likely never get it “right” in that way. A month with Unsettled is something that needs to be experienced to be understood.
That said, rather than keep the reflection that follows to myself, I thought I’d share it here — on the eve of embarking on my second Unsettled experience in Cape Town, South Africa. I think it captures a large part of my motivation for living Unsettled a second time. So cheers to this next adventure, my expanding Unsettled family and many more moments spent embracing the unknown.
Back in March, while living in, working remotely from and exploring Colombia with Unsettled, I spent a weekend along the Pacific with two friends. Travel, even a quick weekend getaway, can be quite the adventure at times, and this memorable trip to Guachalito, near Nuquí, was a great reminder of that.
There was a delayed flight; a missed flight; walks on long stretches of remote, deserted beach; fresh fish and seafood; fresh plantains, fruit and fruit juices; coconuts falling from trees; a seemingly strange man with a machete asking if he could have said coconuts; lazy mornings and afternoons in hammocks; morning, evening and afternoon swims in the warm Pacific Ocean; sunsets with our feet in the sand and cold beers, or sometimes warm rum, in our hands; a jungle excursion to some waterfalls; SUPing along the coast; a small surf session; a last-minute scramble to get vaccinated for yellow fever / proof of a yellow fever vaccination that was apparently mandatory, as of early March, to board the flight to Nuquí — but then ended up not being asked for at all; a shortage of pesos due to an unexpected extra day and night in paradise — see above: a missed flight; nights spent looking at the stars when the clouds cooperated; and, most importantly, time spent with good friends without cell service or wifi, completely disconnected from the rest of the world.
There’s more to that weekend than this summary. I did a bit — actually, a lot — of writing along the way. So here’s the full story of one of my favorite weekends in Colombia, one of my favorite weekends in a while.
“You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy. You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output — how much you produce — not in terms of the quality of your life experiences.” — Jean Shinoda Bolen
Three weeks ago, my friend Ashwini and I were riding in a jeep through the Colombian countryside near Guatapé. As we took photos and marveled at the lush, green, thriving mountains and the adventure we were on, I tuned in and out of a conversation between the Irish guy and Canadian girl — two fellow travelers, not in our group — with whom we were sharing the jeep.
As the jeep lurched and hobbled down the dirt road, pulling us back and forth with it, the guy and girl began talking about St. Patrick’s Day. As they did, I became lost in a momentary conversation with myself.
“What month is it?” I considered the question in silence for moment before looking at Ashwini.
I returned to Buenos Aires last night after spending the month of March in Medellín, Colombia with Unsettled.
It was a fast, intense and incredible month, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I quickly fell in love with Medellín — what’s not to love about a city tucked in the beautiful Colombian Andes — but within a few days, I found my love, admiration and respect for the people I was in community with taking over. So after a month, you can only imagine how deep that love is. How hard it was, and still is, to realize I won’t be seeing them on a daily basis anymore.
I’ve never been around a group of people that was so ready to dive in, especially upon first meeting one another. This group was so willing to embark on this adventure together. We were willing to embrace the unknown together; willing to be open, honest and vulnerable with one another; willing to trust one another.
Within a matter of days, 21 strangers became friends, and within a month, those 21 friends became family.
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. There’s just something to waking up out in nature that nourishes my soul. That tickles my toes.
I’ve woken up in a sleeping bag in a tent on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan; tucked somewhere behind the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park; in camping spots in Big Sur, on Mt. Tam and overlooking the Pacific near Jenner, California – sometimes with LBK, my lovable deaf cat; among thousands of other campers in Yellowstone and Yosemite; in a cave in the Sierra de la Ventana in Argentina; and – perhaps my favorite – in a sleeping bag and nothing more in between two towering walls of rock alongside the Colorado River in the mighty, beautiful, breathtaking Grand Canyon.
This morning I find myself snuggled beneath three fleece blankets in a hammock on the second-floor porch of a cabaña in the Andes Mountains near Jardín, Colombia. From where I rest my head, I can see the top of a mountain. A few clouds are creeping over it, hanging out. No one is in a hurry here. Not even the clouds.
“The truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live.” — Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
I recently uncovered this quote in Steph Jagger’s Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, and it feels fitting to not only this post but to where I’m at in my life right now, so I’m just going to leave it here — if for no one else but me.
This morning was our first official orientation as a group, and as Jonathan, Liza and Simmone introduced our group to both Unsettled and Medellín, I couldn’t help but be struck by something Jonathan shared. Among Unsettled’s principles is a commitment to being true to yourself. For me, among the exploration, the community, the friendship, the adventure, the intentionality, the unknown, the learning and the growth that this month will inevitably bring, I think this idea of being true to myself hits at the heart of what I want to get out of being here.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask ‘What if I fall?’
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?” — Erin Hanson
It’s 4 a.m., and I’m sitting at Puerta 14 at AEP in Buenos Aires. I got about an hour of sleep last night, and I’ve got a long day ahead of me — four flights. Buenos Aires to Mendoza to Lima to Bogota to Medellín. I get into Medellín, Colombia around 7:30 ET tonight and then have roughly an hour drive down into Medellín.
It’s early, but I’m using this time to reflect — to think about where I am, what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. There’s a lot to this moment. This moment of leaving Buenos Aires for a month and embarking on an entirely new adventure in Medellín. For so many reasons, I am a mix of so many emotions. Excitement, uncertainty, adventure, fear, sorrow, patience, etc. etc.
I’m feeling every emotion under the sun, and most of them spring from this lingering sense of “not knowing.” Not knowing what the next month holds. Not knowing what the months that follow it hold. Between going to Medellín, returning to Buenos Aires and whatever comes next, there’s a lot I don’t know at the moment. For me, that’s simultaneously exciting and slightly terrifying.