👋 Hi, I'm James.


I occasionally write about lessons learned on the journey to live a healthier, happier and more intentional life. 


📍 Austin, TX 

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  • James von der Lieth

Why I Fell in Love With the Colombian Andes

I've been living in a mountain farming town called Santa Elena, just outside of Medellin, Colombia for 5 months now. A lot of people in my life are sort of confused why I've decided 4 times now to extend my trip, rather than come back to America during Coronavirus. For me, it's the exact opposite - I can't understand why anyone would prefer to be in a big American city during this crazy time we're living through.

On top of being an amazing place to spend the Coronavirus Quarantine, I also think it would be an incredible place to live for an extended period of time for a creative, freelancer, digital nomad, retiree, or someone who just needs a retreat from city life. It's a special place here.

Here are 16 reasons I love it here.

1. The mountainous countryside feels extremely safe to me

Colombia has had a bad reputation because of the drug violence in the 80's, 90's, and early 00's. The cities can still be a bit sketchy, in my opinion. However, I've never felt more safe than in the countryside here.

Dogs and neighbors serve as a natural security system, and I haven't felt remotely threatened once. For extra peace of mind, most houses have bars on the windows, left over from the days of drug violence. In my 5 months here, I've never felt threatened or unsafe.

2. Some of the strongest, most positive spirits in the world

There is a very clear choice everywhere in the world, but especially so in Colombia: Good or evil. The people who chose "Good" during the Narco years had to be extremely spiritually tough to resist the evil or becoming bitter.

I mean, can you imagine having to grow up in a place where you had to walk over drug war corpses on the way to school? In the 80's and 90's, that was a reality for many Colombians. In my experience, the people that have survived that era, are especially spiritually strong and positive. There have been so many people whose stories of their struggles have deeply inspired me.

3. Amazing Organic farms with Inexpensive, Diverse & Fresh Produce

Imagine eating completely organic, fresh locally grown food for $7/day. That's what life is like here. Since much of the produce is exported to Europe and North America, the farms sell their ripe organic food for 1/5th of the cost of the US. You can really taste the difference between freshly picked food and food that takes months to reach the market, like much of the US is accustomed to.

4. Dog & Horse Culture

I've never heard of a Colombian family who lives in the country and doesn't have at least 1 dog. In fact, many have multiple dogs or horses on their properties. In fact, nearby there is a horse farm that you can take lessons for $25/day at.

5. Diverse Wild Flowers & Exotic Birds

Since this is one of the most fertile places on the planet, and 2nd most biodiverse places in the world, colorful flowers and exotic birds are abundant here.

6. Genuine and Kind Hospitality

I've experience such selfless, genuine hospitality here that it's made the place feel like home. I've been to 19 countries now, and have experienced amazing hospitality in many of them. However, Colombia takes the cake. People are so giving, helpful, warm, and kind. Of course, there are also the

7. Being Forced to Be in Touch with Nature

There's no such thing as a weather forecast here, so that means you constantly have to have your eye out for indications of storms. There's also no heat or dryers for clothes, so your body is always forced to be in sync with the

8. Inexpensive Cost of Living

Nomadlist.com has a very accurate account of how much it costs to live in Colombia medium-term. I probably spend $1000 USD/month to live extremely comfortably here, eating very healthy, and basically having everything I could possibly want.

9. The Eternal Spring Climate

Since it's the mountains, the weather differs greatly, depending on where you are and what elevation you are at. Where I'm living in Santa Elena, the weather is a dream. In the afternoons' it's typically warm and sunny with 75 degree days. When the sun goes down the temperature drops to the 50's at night. There's also a lot of rain, which is relaxing. Since Santa Elena is located on the equator, the weather is more-or-less the same all year long!

10. Solid internet

The internet is apparently Fiber and has been fast enough to stream movies, have Zoom calls and have 4 devices regularly connected, without any major issues. Of course, that experience probably isn't everywhere, but the point is that it does exist.

11. Very Entrepreneurial and Tight-Knit Communities

Anytime you need help with something, you just ask someone in the community. Next thing you know someone is ready to help you solve your problem or connect you with the right person.

12. The Andes Mountains

Need I say more? They are filled with so much nature beauty, wildlife, and fertile farms with all types of amazing fruits and vegetables.

13. Some of the World's Best Organic Coffee & Chocolate

Since some of the world's best coffee and dark chocolate is exported from Colombia, it's easy to find extremely high quality beans for good prices.

14. Simple Living

I appreciate the simple living here. For example, when I go to the local tienda (store), I carry all my groceries in a reusable bag and none of the produce is in plastic bags. Then I have to walk a mile back with all your groceries. We burn our cardboard waste in a weekend fogata (bonfire) and compost the natural waste. In my past life, these things would have felt like a tremendous inconvenience. Now it just feels like the right way to live.

The lyrics of "Time Passes Slowly" by Bob Dylan often come to mind.

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains Catch the wild fishes that float through the stream Time passes slowly when you're lost in a dream Once I had a sweetheart, she was fine and good-lookin' We sat in her kitchen while her mama was cookin' Starin' out the window to the stars high above Time passes slowly when you're searchin' for love
Ain't no reason to go in a wagon to town Ain't no reason to go to the fair Ain't no reason to go up, ain't no reason to go down Ain't no reason to go anywhere

15. The Fresh Spring Tap Water

There is no need to use plastic bottles or water filters. The water is the best quality tap water I've ever had. It comes from nearby streams and rivers.

16. The Biking Culture

Colombians love to bike. There are many bike stores and roads that accommodate bikers. If you like mountain biking, there are a lot of trails here.

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