Gliding into the New Year
I love flying. I love the feeling of being in the clouds, of seeing for miles, of floating along. So when I heard about the opportunity to go paragliding, I jumped at the chance!
I’ve been skydiving but I’ve never done paragliding and it was on my list of things to try this year. We hopped into taxis and drove all the way through the city and up the mountain on the other side.
I always enjoy driving and seeing different neighborhoods. What surprised me the most was how so many houses seemed to cling to the cliffs or mountainside and I wondered how people carried groceries home!
Our cabs parked on the side of the road and indicated we were here. We got out and walked along a narrow grass path and came to a small shack – this was it!
We had a brief safety overview, signed waivers and filled out forms including our age and weight. We were then paired up with an instructor, given a helmet and strapped into a harness.
It was all happening so fast, I had no idea the video was already rolling (you can hear my nervous laughter and see my shaking knees!)
As I was repeating the instructions to my guy (you know me, safety girl), all the sudden we were up in the air! I squealed as the rush of take-off sent butterflies throughout my body.
We were off!
Soaring high above the birds, looking down on farms and fields and waterfalls. The city was only tiny dots of buildings far away in the distance.
It’s a serene feeling. It is peaceful, silent and soothing. Everything floats away and all you can think about is how amazing it feels to be drifting along with the wind, to see the world from a new perspective.
Our 20-minute flight went by too quickly and just like that we were landing again.
It was so much fun and not scary at all! In fact, we laughed that it’s something you should do anytime you’re feeling stressed – you simply can’t be stressed when you’re soaring above the clouds.
Bucket list item complete!
As our days in Medellin were quickly winding down, (one month goes by so fast!), we decided to take the free walking tour. Normally we do this the first day or two after arriving in a new city but I’d been wrapped up in looking at Christmas lights!
It was a 45-minute drive to the meeting point (have I mentioned how crazy traffic is?). But once we arrived, they were well organized and we were on our way.
Our guide, Julio, was a former university professor and passionate about educating people about the truth of Colombia. He promised his tour would show us the good, the bad and the ugly side of Colombia.
As we walked around the city looking at monuments and buildings and parks, people stopped and stared at us. Sometimes they would walk up and join our group, listening intently to Julio. Other times they would walk right up to Julio and speak with him, which he would then translate.
Julio explained that they are so happy to see us, are curious and want to say hello because for so long, there haven’t been any tourists. Seeing us means that things are changing for the better.
It was only 20 years ago that Medellin was listed as the most dangerous city in the world.
In the world.
People disappeared. People were killed in their homes. People were afraid in their own city and tourists certainly weren’t coming to visit.
But something interesting has happened.
Colombians have turned off the switch in their brains to erase bad memories and chose instead to only focus and celebrate the good. History classes aren’t taught in school (one of the only countries in the world to do this).
Instead, they take something small (like winning a stage of the Tour de France or scoring a goal in a world cup game – not winning the Tour or the game but simply scoring) and turning it into something monumental to celebrate.
One of their greatest sources of pride is the Metro. In a time when they had nothing, when they lived in the most dangerous city in the world, they were able to build a metro system. It seems so small to us but for them, it was something to hold onto, to celebrate.
There is no graffiti, no vandalism – it is clean and looks brand new. Julio said no one would ever throw trash on the floor or scratch their name in the seats. It is something locals are proud of and respect.
Isn’t that different from other metros in the world where you have to hold your breath, reach for hand sanitizer and watch where you step?
Of course, Colombia has done more than just “forget” about their past – they’ve redeveloped parks into safe and inviting spaces for families, they’ve built libraries for anyone to access, they’ve provided transportation options to poor neighborhoods.
And it’s working – Medellin is a beautiful, safe, lovely city to live in and visit.
As we head into a New Year, I’m going to adopt the Colombian mindset.
Forget, or let go, of anything I don’t want to remember and instead focus on the things that make me happy. And celebrate every small thing!
How do you want 2018 unfold? Let’s focus on that and get ready for an amazing year!
Happy New Year!