Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Traveling Abroad as a Colombian

By Danna Guarin

I have had the fortune of visiting 15 countries throughout my 18 years of life. My mom argues that money invested in material things such as houses, cars or luxury objects can’t bring to your life the satisfaction that personal experiences can offer you.  She also says that material properties are temporary, but experiences last forever and help you grow personally, open your mind and be aware of situations people live all over the world. However, travelling abroad as a Colombian can be difficult because of the stereotypes that classify us.

Novels and internal conflicts have shown at international level that Colombian people are drug traffickers (or potential consumers), prostitutes, easy life lovers, guerrilleros and more. In spite of this social imaginary, in any of my experiences of visiting different countries in America or Europe, migration authorities have had a disrespectful attitude towards  Colombian travellers. It is true that security parameters are high when flights depart from Colombia to specific countries such as Mexico (a territory that is facing a critical period because of drug trafficking and criminality) or Spain (a ‘’door’ that communicates Europe and America); in these cases, luggage is opened and all your personal belongings are exposed to airport authorities.

Many people get concerned because of these controls, but this may be seen as minimum security requirements to ensure the safety of all passengers. If you travel for tourism, educational or professional purposes, you won’t have anything to be worried about.

Having a bad Colombian reputation is just an imaginary that you can change from the moment you start interacting with foreigners. I had an experience in Florence (Italy) when I went to a laundry to wash my clothes. I didn’t know that the payment for this service was in coins, so I didn’t have enough money. By coincidence, I met a polite Italian guy that gave me some coins to complete the required rate. I was very thankful to him and suddenly we started talking about Colombia and Italy in Spanish and Italian; we were amazed because we became aware of how close our languages were, despite their geographical distance. Part of the conversation was about reggaeton singers; the man knew J Balvin and Nicky Jam (who resides in Medellin) and we started singing their songs! After that conversation, I became more aware of how globalization has joined people through technology, music, arts and sports and I’m sure that Colombian stereotypes were changed by a nice and cheerful image of Colombian people. 

My advice is to not be afraid of the world’s thoughts about us; surely you can change them by showing foreigners the image you want to be spread of Colombian people all around the world!

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