Working remotely while living in Medellín, Colombia
When we announced we were moving to Medellin, Colombia for a period of time, we received a range of responses, most of them somewhere between utter disbelief and concern for our sanity.
A few short decades ago, all we heard about Colombia were violence, drugs and civil unrest. Then Netflix launched its Narcos series, further extending the lore of the country’s tainted past.
But having traveled throughout Colombia on vacation a few years earlier, we saw something different. We saw an amazingly diverse landscape, wonderful Spanish colonial villages, colorful pueblos and beautiful scenery. Most of all, though, we found a population that is eager to show outsiders a Colombia that is so much more than its violent past.
So when we launched our second “tour” of international living, we decided to return to Colombia. We chose Medellin for 3-6 months, an increasingly popular destination for those who travel while working. As it turns out, we liked it so much we stayed for 7.
Largely due to its entrepreneur-friendly environment and lively night life, Medellin attracts a large number of young entrepreneurs. Most the foreigners we met were in their 20s or early 30s. That said, its affordability and high quality of life are earning it a reputation as a great place to retire as well.
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So, why Medellin?
Well, the simple facts are that it is beautiful, has a temperate climate and is extremely affordable considering all of the amenities available. As you arrive at the airport, make your way over the mountain and drop into the city that sits in a valley, you are greeted with lush forest areas and a sensation of freshness from all of the greenery scenting the air. But most live in the city, of course, where median rent for an apartment is $540 USD according to teleport.org (we paid more).
There will be more traffic in popular areas and the bustle of city life, but you also get access to countless restaurants, affordable natural juices and craft beers, as well as generous portions of the local specialty food for a ridiculously low cost by our standards. A must-try is ‘Bandeja Paisa’, a more than generous serving of beans, rice, stewed meat, chicharrón, egg, plantain, avocado and lime. Expect a moderate to serious case of food coma afterwards.
The city and its people have worked extremely hard to overcome stigmas of the past, and open their doors to tourists, digital nomads and early retirement seekers alike. This atmosphere provides a vibrant diversity of people to network with and make connections to help you settle in your new surroundings.
The city is relatively clean, internet is stable and there are plenty of options for work spaces. Walking around the streets of popular neighborhoods such as Poblado, Envigado, Laureles and Belén, you’ll come across a number of cafes with Wi-Fi and a stable of remote workers lost in their screens. Co-working offices are popping up too, offering reception, printing and other shared office services at minimal costs. This is a great way to meet others embracing the nomadic lifestyle and find additional income opportunities.
While the city is well suited to remote work, it also offers a vibrant art scene with museums that specialize in modern art or more historic pieces such as the Botero art featured in the Museum of Antioquia. Some of the most delicious bakeries with mouth-watering pan de bono (yucca and corn flour cheese bread) and farmer’s markets with fresh produce can be found scattered around the city. Atop the scenic ecological nature reserve, Parque Arvi there is a popular market on the weekends. If you are exploring Parque Arvi, you can arrive by Teleferico cable cars with sweeping views of Medellin before collecting your fresh products for the week.
Most remote workers find that they have more time off and flexibility built into their schedule with the freelance lifestyle. This is good news, since Medellin has nature at its doorstep. Close by you can affordably hire a driver to explore the stunning Guatapé – a quaint town and nearby giant rock called La Piedra del Peñol which you can climb to view the entire area, including pockets of blue-green water. Beautiful hikes in surrounding areas take you to unexpected rock formations, waterfalls, and even Pablo Escobar’s former prison. And, a day trip will take you to Colombia’s Coffee Region; what digital nomad doesn’t enjoy a sip of fresh brew?
*Photo by Dtarazona CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
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