Taking inspiration from travel – My 2020 trip to Colombia

August 15, 2020

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So, I think we can safely say that 2020 is the year that travel forgot. I know I’m not the only one who’s seriously missing a summer holiday. As a small business owner, my work can be full-on. But however busy the diary’s looking, I always try to make time to travel. For inspiration, for relaxation and for SANITY, it’s what keeps me fresh and fills me with a renewed sense of energy when I get back down to business.

Luckily, I did manage to escape away to Colombia at the very start of the year and wow, what a place it was. Travelling around from Bogota to Pereira and Medellin to Cartagena, I was captivated by the vibrant, vivacious country I saw. I’m not sure anywhere else I’ve visited has left me with quite such a sense of wonder, and its spirit definitely energised me with an enthusiasm I’d been craving.

Why saying yes is sometimes the best decision

I almost didn’t go. The work diary was stacked, arranging dog-sitters was proving difficult and with my mum’s health deteriorating, it hardly felt like the right time. But saying yes proved to be the best decision. With hardly any research and zero expectation, Colombia blew me away.

I’ve been re-visiting my highlights recently. Well, let’s face it, there’s no other holiday on the horizon and I wanted to share with you some of the incredible experiences that gave me such an energy boost and filled me with a renewed inspiration…

My Colombia highlights

Salento

Despite not getting a single decent cup of coffee here, Salento – the Andean town in the Cocora Valley is famed as a coffee-growing region. Nestled in amongst the mountains, the scenery is so verdant with lush green botanicals filling the landscape as far as the eye can see. I’d imagined that Colombia might be hot and barren but I was so wrong. It was in fact simply bursting with greenery including the world’s tallest palm trees, majestic wax palms stretching as far as 200 feet into the heavens.

Colombia Cocora Valley

Colombia Cocora Valley

The towns nearby were also a riot of colour. I loved how the locals paint their houses in rich, contrasting shades such as peaches with green, indigo clashed with cerise and bumble-bee striped blacks and yellow. Everywhere was also beautifully clean, ordered and tidy. Well-kept exteriors and vast bushes of bougainvillea dotted the streets all around in a magnificent visual blaze of colour.

Colombia Salento

Medellin

I was slightly overwhelmed with my first hectic glimpse of this bustling city at rush hour. But away from the crazy streets, smog and pollution, this is a place that totally embodies Colombia’s troubled history. In particular, the district of Comuna 13 – once considered the most notorious area in Medellin (and that’s saying something with Colombia being rated the most dangerous country on earth just a few short years ago, and Medellin the world’s murder capital) – it was fascinating.

Colombia Medellin

The stunning arrays of art, colours, graffiti and murals adorning every wall shared heart-breaking accounts of war and disruption. But they also reflected the way in which this city has now been transformed into a place of shared optimism with a bright, hopeful future. I loved its sense of creativity and community.

Colombia Comuna-13 Medellin graffiti

In particular, I was uplifted by the many initiatives supporting women. Restaurants not only serving up their delicious food such as empanadas and ceviche but also designed to offer a safe haven to women suffering domestic abuse. Girls weaving bracelets street-side and selling them as a stepping-stone to create their own income. Inspirational.

El Poblado – another suburb of Medellin – is vibrant, modern, buzzing and filled with sushi restaurants, smart cocktail bars and boutique hotels. It was also where I discovered my new favourite drink – The Basil Smash, a fusion of gin, fresh muddled basil, sugar syrup and lemon juice.

Metro Culture

Anyone who visits Colombia can’t fail to notice its sense of social harmony, solidarity and respect. A phenomenon which is in no small part down to the Metro Culture. Medellin’s iconic transport system was designed to make travel across the city more convenient, but its impact has been much more far-reaching. Residents and visitors abide by the system’s strict protocols and as a result, it remains immaculate. No eating, no vandalism, no feet on the seats, polite behaviour with the elderly and pregnant women getting priority to board. I was so impressed by this culture of respect and how it spills out into every aspect of how this country’s people go about their lives.

This pride extends to their surroundings. I didn’t see a single shoddy or shabby bit of paintwork anywhere. And I found the expressive use of colour palettes endlessly inspiring. In some ways, the clashing colours and two-tones should have been hectic and jarring, but it all somehow linked beautifully. It gave me so many ideas for how I could incorporate some of these ideas into my home and my upholstery work. I discovered a new appreciation of how rather than overpowering your senses, a riot of colour can be calming.

“A never-ending drumbeat of music pervades the city and it’s impossible not to get swept up in its rhythms, routines and traditions.”

Cartagena

Superbly preserved and architecturally outstanding, I found the wonderfully colourful Cartagena more polished than anywhere else I glimpsed on my travels through Colombia. In the old town, smart Colonial-style villas line the Spanish-influenced cobbled streets and alleyways, which are festooned with colourful flags, fairy lights and all manner of colourful trailing plants. The locals’ mix as one with the tourists and a never-ending drumbeat of music pervades the city making it impossible not to get swept up in its rhythms, routines and traditions.

Colombia Cartagena Old Town

Colombia Cartagena Old Town

Colombia Cartagena Old Town

Tayrona National Park

With its spectacular blend of pristine rainforest, wild unspoilt beaches and diverse wildlife, and its own indigenous tribal people, this area of Colombia is heaven on earth. Eating breakfast amongst the parrots, toucans and other exotic birds actually felt like living in paradise.

Colombia Tayrona National Park

Colombia Tayrona National Park

Colombia delivered everything and more that I needed and wanted it to, and it will always have a very special place in my heart. Its wonderfully friendly and passionate people, breath-taking colours and electric pace completely revived me. But for now, dreaming of the next adventure will have to suffice.

Do get in touch if you’ve got stacks of inspiration from your own travel memories and have an upholstery project in mind. Contact me for an initial, no-obligation quote by filling in the online contact form. Alternatively, you can email me directly at sharon@vintiqueupholstery.com or call me on 07764 182 783.

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