My month in Colombia couldn’t have been more different from last month in Peru. Where my time in Peru was full of honeymoon bliss as I began this year-long adventure, this month was full of trials and challenges that tested my resolve and my positive attitude again and again. I want to be clear that despite the bumps in the road, I had an incredible month full of grand adventures and opportunities to form close connections with members of our group and I fell in love with a country I knew little about prior to my arrival. However, I do get the sense that the universe is testing me to see just how much I can handle and teach me life lessons that will make me stronger.
For several reasons, the transition from Lima to Medellin was unusually hard for me. I had formed strong attachments to my first set of roommates and had developed a great routine in Lima. I had planned a lot of incredible adventures before getting to Peru, but while there I hadn’t had much energy to plan ahead for Colombia. My last day in Peru was one of the happiest of my life as I reflected back on all I’d experienced and achieved throughout the month. I guess I realized that those feelings of sheer joy, anticipation and elation would be fairly short lived as I start to normalize and adapt to this new way of life.
My first few days in Medellin were full of anxiety. Despite that I was excited about the city, knowing from the moment we dropped down into the lush valley that I would like living there. I was also excited about my new roommates, Shannon and Rachel, who I’d just barely gotten to know in Lima. I felt like I hadn’t been social enough in Lima and I hadn’t explored the city at all while we were there. I didn’t want that to be my experience in Medellin. I guess you could say my first month of Remote Year was so perfect that I was worried month two couldn’t compare.
I never really found my routine in Medellin the way I did in Lima, but reflecting back now, I think that’s alright. Every month of this year will be a new experience filled with unique challenges, connections and opportunities. Where Month One was full of hiking and meals cooked with roommates and a set daily work routine, Month Two was more about experiencing the city through salsa lessons and cultural dinners, nights in drinking wine and getting deep with my roommates and relaxing weekend getaways. I wasn’t as productive professionally and I never found a set routine to focus on my physical health, but I had a lot of opportunities to test and strengthen my mental health throughout the month.
Our third week in Medellin I got a sinus infection. It had been making its way through the group and I finally caught it. I spent two days in bed, working from home, hoping to get better before heading to Guatape for the weekend. I was over the worst of it within a week, but it lingered on for a full two weeks. Five days after the sinus infection hit, I got food poisoning. I had a friend in town visiting and had hoped to spend the day tackling the two things I wanted to do most in Medellin. Instead, I spent the entire morning in bed and then sucked it up that afternoon and ventured out only to have the weather ruin my plans. While powering through these health issues, I was trying to figure out how to sell my car back home, gathering documentation to file my taxes and doing my best to stay on top of my job. I guess you could say, this month shit got real and I received multiple reminders that for me, Remote Year is a lifestyle choice, not a year-long vacation. Who knew then that my trials would become amplified the day before I turned 30.
I spent the weekend before my 30th birthday on an island off the Pacific coast with two of my new friends, James and Sahoua. We left Medellin in a 9-passenger plane and flew to the village of Nuqui. We were met there by our host, Linsey, who owns Prana Pacifico Retreats. She led us to a dock where we took a boat to the island of Terco, 45 minutes away. The house where we stayed was right along the beach, on the tallest point on the island. We waded from the boat to the beach and then climbed up 250 stairs to a rustic treehouse with a gorgeous view. The day we arrived we put on our bathing suits and headed to a dock and a cliff nearby where we jumped into the water and then swam back to shore. The water was deep and warm and we celebrated our arrival in paradise. Linsey was an excellent host and chef, providing the perfect environment for a relaxing weekend away. My plan for the weekend was to reflect on my goals, do some journaling and center myself before saying goodbye to my 20s. In the course of four days, I did find much time for self care, reflection and writing, but the zen, profound transition from 20s to 30s that I had imagined was not meant to be.
On Sunday, our second full day in paradise, we woke up and celebrated Sahoua’s birthday. We ate breakfast and sat around the table long after talking and enjoying each others’ company. In early afternoon we put on our bathing suits and went down to the dock. This time, the water was at low tide. We debated whether or not it was safe to jump in like we had the day before. It was obvious the water was much lower than it had previously been, but we couldn’t imagine it was terribly shallow. We discussed checking the depth, but we didn’t. We did agree, though, that we shouldn’t jump from the cliff, which was substantially higher than the dock. I grew impatient and decided to jump first. The instant before I did, I thought to myself “Is this smart? Probably not. But what’s the worst that could happen? I guess you could break your leg, but what are the odds of that?” And with that I launched myself off the dock and straight down, where my heel sunk into the sand. I shot back up to the surface and seconds later, stood up to find that the water was only four feet deep. I realized my mistake and warned the others not to jump.
The pain wasn’t immediate. It actually took a good 10 minutes for me to realize something was seriously wrong. I was walking back to the beach over rocks with the tide pushing me back and forth. Once the water got low enough to where I was standing above the tide, I realized I couldn’t support myself on my left leg. James had to help me the rest of the way to the beach and once there I collapsed in the sand. He went to get Linsey and Sahoua came around to sit with me. I soaked my foot in the water as the shock began to set in. I was trying to calm hysterics by taking deep breaths and moving to the side of the cliff so I could lay on my back and elevate my foot. James gave me a piggyback ride up the first 125 stairs and Linsey took over for the second half. I so admire their strength! Once on the deck they set me up with a painkiller, wrapped my ankle in gauze and put ice cold beers on my foot (that’s what serves for ice in paradise). I took in the magnificent view and Linsey made conversation to distract me from the pain. I hoped it was just badly bruised or maybe sprained, but having never broken a bone before, I didn’t really know what that would feel like.
I woke up on my birthday and hopped down to breakfast. Linsey piggybacked me down the stairs where I was passed into a boat and then carried onto the dock and piggybacked to the airport. Good thing Nuqui is a small town! I hobbled out to the tarmac and then onto the plane and upon landing in Medellin, I was met by an attendant with a wheelchair. Sam, who would be my unofficial nurse for the next few days, met us at the airport and helped me to get home. My roommates were gone for a few days, so I don’t know what I would have done without him, but he made sure I didn’t have to worry about a thing. Once home, Sam set me up with some cushions and ice for my foot and served me lunch, followed by ice cream and cookies. I’d expected a night in, just the two of us watching TV and ordering food, but he had a few surprises up his sleeve. We blew up birthday balloons, opened a bottle of wine, ordered tacos and started watching TV. At some point there was a knock on the door and Mariyah and Laura showed up with a bottle of champagne. Sam brought out a birthday cake with “30” candles on it, Although it had been far from the 30th birthday I’d imagined, I was grateful to my new friends for salvaging it and making it special.
The next day Sam took me to the hospital. They took an x-ray and confirmed that I’d broken my ankle. They gave me a boot and crutches and told me to keep all weight off it. I was told to get another x-ray in 10 days and see what the doctor in Chile says. The doctor estimated two months recovery. So here I am, traveling the world on crutches, wondering how someone as cautious as me, someone who’s never broken a bone ended up like this. It’s all a statement of where I am at this point in my life. I’m tired of shying away from risks, playing it safe, doing what’s expected. I’m ready to truly live and explore and meet life head on, even if it means making some stupid choices along the way. I’ve created some major challenges for myself (have you ever packed a suitcase while in a cast?) but the way I see it, this is all part of the process of growth I started several months back. I know at times I’ll be frustrated to tears or unable to sleep because I’m in pain, but I’ll get through this and find myself stronger on the other end. I’m learning how to relinquish control and rely on others when necessary, both lessons that don’t come easy to independent me. We’ll see what further lessons there are to be learned in March in Chile. In the meantime, I’ll just have to slow down a bit and figure out how to stay on the go while in a state of decreased mobility. #crutchingit Until next time, chao!