Medellin, big city life, expat living, sex

Dear friends and family,

My first morning in Medellin was a Sunday. I came across the Medellin marathon so thought I would join. All the main streets downtown were blocked off from traffic, so many lanes were open to runners, walkers and bicyclists. Some of you can remember from a post last year about competing in a marathon without training and how well that worked out. (Not).

Turns out it wasn’t a marathon, it was a Sunday. Every Sunday the downtown streets get blocked off for non-motorized enjoyment. There were thousands of people, most of them quite fit and anxious to show off their fit bodies in their gym outfits. Wow! I did get swept up in the crowd and walked about three miles of the downtown streets. Because it was in the center of downtown, I kept my hands outside my wallet and phone pockets, as the crowd offered a chance to be pickpocketed. 

Pickpocketing was my only fear in this daytime crowd. I realized that if I were in the US, my biggest fear in a crowd like this would be an AR-15 carrier, intent on gunning down as many people as possible. Seeing the street scene not unlike the Kansas City Chief’s parade last week, I felt strange feeling much safer here from that kind of violence. 

I’m not much of a big city guy, so Medellin didn’t offer much for me. I stayed in the El Poblado neighborhood, which is the most upscale and safest one of Medellin. Another private room at a hostel, dead center of the nicest part of this neighborhood. The hostel, Viajero, is part of a chain of hostels in North and South America. Big, safe, comfortable, offering activities like beer pong, it was easy, but less like what I enjoyed prior in Colombia. The most American backpackers I came across so far in my time in this country. One could get by with no Spanish in this neighborhood. It is one of the nicest city neighborhoods I’ve ever seen, with an abundance of sidewalk cafes and coffee shops amongst the trees. 

I think I need to address the articles written recently in The NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. Thanks readers for sending me copies.  They all talked about the eight Americans murdered in Colombia in the last two months. It turns out that all eight were here to participate in the sex tourism industry, which is a big business here, especially in Medellin. In the case of the eight murders, participants agreed to meet sex workers on an app, then were murdered after the meeting. I’ve read and heard here about sex workers putting scopolamine into drinks of clients, rendering them helpless to move as they got robbed. Supposedly, if the dosage is too high, these people can die from the overdose. Not to downplay this, but how many murders in any city in the US during that same period?

With the huge disparity in income levels between even the non-rich foreign tourists and the local women and the women fleeing the dangers of Venezuela, it is easy to see why there is such an industry. Supposedly, the pairing of an older guy with a very young Colombian woman is socially comfortable here and I saw many examples of that with the expat community in this neighborhood. No judgement on my part, one could say that it serves both well here as long as there is freedom of choice. 

Medellin supposedly has the largest community of expats in the country. Lots of them live in this upscale neighborhood. Why?

  1. Price-things even in an upscale neighborhood are really inexpensive compared to Western Europe of the US.
  2. Housing for long term is especially a bargain. Can rent (if long term) a nice apartment with amenities for about $500 USD per month.
  3. Food in restaurants is about a third of US prices
  4. Groceries are about a quarter of US prices
  5. Transportation: taxis, Ubers, buses, all really reasonable
  6. Health care: there is a thriving health and dental care tourism industry, in that the reputation is good and the prices are about a third of the US prices. A tooth crown is about $400 USD
  7. It doesn’t take a lot of income to get a pensioner visa here, and not hard to obtain. 
  8. Weather is “forever spring” 
  9. The people: my experience being a bicycle tourist has been wonderful and I had no negative or scary experiences of the people here. That being said, I am extremely careful where and when I go out. 


  1. Language, you really don’t want to stay here without speaking at least basic spanish. 
  2. The “forever spring” weather is way too hot for me. It gets to be over 80F every day, hard to want to be very active in that weather for me. Spring weather for me would be about 60F!
  3. Culture: things run at a different pace here and patience is necessary every day. 
  4. Getting things done: talking to lots of locals, it is very hard to understand the rules of how to get permission (permits?) to do things and who to pay what to and the laid back way of getting things done
  5. Corruption: every local talks about this and says it is at every level. They do the minimum of dealing with it, but if you were to live here, you would have to face it. I have had no experience of it, so only getting this second hand. 
  6. Gringo being petty crime target
  7. Beggars- I have not had any problem with them being too pushy. I just say “no” firmly and get left alone. 

A lot of the young people (I’m one of the oldest at this hostel) visiting Medellin enjoy the city. Turns out I’m not a city guy. I enjoy outside activities and small towns and people I meet there.

Years back, about 1980, my sister Gerianne (who was a professional ballerina) called and let me know she would be performing a ballet (La Sylphide) on stage in New York City with Rudolph Nureyev. Would I be interested in attending?

Dancing ballet on a stage with him is equivalent to playing basketball on the same court as Michael Jordan. Rudy is regarded as “the greatest male ballet dancer ever” by most in the industry. 

So, my new girlfriend Nancy and I set off for the big city. I had traveled to all the states and been to Europe a couple of times already, but New York held special paranoia for me for its potential dangers.

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, which my brother John had stayed at many times earlier on his business trips to the city. As this country bumpkin departed the taxi, I felt generous and tipped the taxi driver a handful of change I had in my pocket. 

“Fuck you, you hick” he thanked me as he threw the change at me and stormed away. 

“ Welcome to the big city” I thought to myself as I went inside, less than confident of my big city skills.

The front desk person told us to wait for a bellman to accompany us to our room. I figured that it was just for the tip and trying to save a couple of bucks, tried to insist on going without. We were told that the doorman had to check the room for dead bodies before we went in, and that is what he did before allowing our entry. Turned out there were none, so we were safe to enter. It took a while before I realized how much I’d been played. Is it possible I gave off the “country bumpkin” vibe?

We managed to enjoy the ballet, go out a few times in New York and not get murdered. 

I think the big city paranoia has stayed with me. Here in Medellin, as I did earlier in Bogota, I was in safe areas after dark and didn’t explore the night life scene here. So far, I haven’t been murdered here either! 

I don’t think I’ll be moving here permanently anytime soon. A summary of my time in Colombia is coming.

Sending love,


We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

4 thoughts on “Medellin, big city life, expat living, sex”

  1. Different fears depending on where you are. It takes a while to get to know how to deal in all these situations. Here in the US we have high end corruption. Probably in Columbia it is more small scale like in Mexico where we have had to deal with it just being there as tourists or trying to do business there. Never comfortable and never sure how to proceed.
    Sounds like a nice way to end your trip, in a very lovely neighborhood.

  2. I like your reasoning for living/not living in a third world country. I’ve been living in the Philippines for ten years. My relationships with family and friends have become the fundamental reason why this has become home. I hope that I see you again Charley. We would have a great conversation!

  3. Nanette Laufik

    Glad to read your thoughts and observations about crime & danger there. I’ve been holding back anxiety for you after a friend was robbed at knife point for his phone in Nov, on a layover in Bogota. He’s 6’2″, an Air France capt of many years, a lovely, adventurous but cautious guy, been all over the world. In other words, not an easy mark & pretty savvy. He thought he could fight the guy off, but when it looked like he was managing to do so, 2 other guys who were waiting in the wings jumped in. His injuries were fairly minor but he was quite shaken. Held back telling you this until now to avoid being Bad News Betty. So…I’m glad others have sent you warnings. Above all, I’m relieved you’re clearly aware of all the dangers and through your own common sense, experience & good luck, remain well & intact! Now I can relax….

Comments are closed.