Category Archives: Uncategorized

Colombia Through My Eyes

Coming to Colombia was an experience that I have been waiting for for as long as I can remember. From childhood, learning that my dad was from another country, had an accent and had very different childhood experiences from me (being raised with maids and attending a Seminary school to become a priest for the majority of his adolescence). When I was old enough I started to wonder about the country he was raised in, and would ask him about Colombia and his different life there (preceding immigrating to Canada when he was in his mid 20s). He rarely spoke Spanish to us in the house, I think it was because he wanted to perfect his English. The only time I heard him speak Spanish is when he was on the phone with his sister or other relatives in Colombia, or when we were on vacation in Puerto Rico. I always wanted to travel to Colombia with him, but it wasn’t until the year before his death that he started talking about it as being a real possibility. I have always felt connected to Latin America and Latin culture, even though I look 100% Canadian and speak limited Spanish, I can feel the Colombian blood running through my veins. So when Ryan and I decided to come traveling in Latin America, it was not a question that we would come and visit Colombia. We saved it for the end of our trip, but after the months of relaxing beaches, surfing, sun and yoga this country was quite a culture shock. Although I didn’t consciously have expectations in coming to this country, I feel they were rooted deep within. Colombia plays a large part of where I come from, so naturally I expected to feel at home the second I stepped on this Colombian soil. But in reality it could not have been any more opposite. We flew to Cartagena first, expecting a cool Caribbean feel, but it was crazy! I always heard my dad talk about Cartagena as if it was a holiday destination (which I’m sure it was is the 60s), but it was loud, dirty, sketchy, and smelly. Disappointed with this first impression I had of ‘my’ country, we left the next day for another “beach town” called Santa Marta. We found a nice hostel in an outskirt neighborhood which we settled for a while. But we still weren’t crazy about this city. That being said, we did still enjoy ourselves and had some great experiences, hiking through Tayrona national park, shopping in the local downtown Santa Marta, and eating the local fare.

Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park

The next step of our journey was Bogotá, we arrived about 5 days ago and so far I love this city! I know this is the city that my dad called home, I even passed by his Seminary, where he spent all of his school years. Although I did not instantly feel “at home” arriving in Colombia, I have the home feeling in Bogotá, the feeling I have apparently been longing for. This city is colorful, artsy, friendly, creative and it actually reminds me a lot of Montreal, with the mountains in the distance, the mix between ugly, dilapidated buildings built in the 50s and the charming old buildings surrounded by cobblestone streets and covered in colorful graffiti.

Camouflaged against the  graffiti in Bogota
Camouflaged against the graffiti in Bogota

On top of loving this city and wandering the streets, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of my fathers relatives; great-aunt, cousins and second cousins. It has been an amazing experiencing meeting these friendly strangers I call my family. They all have wonderful stories and memories about my dad, despite him leaving this country in 1972 never to return before he passed away.

Some of my Colombian family! Beautiful people :)
Some of my Colombian family! Beautiful people 🙂

All in all I have experienced what I have always wanted to experience, coming to this country where my last name comes from, walking in the streets that my dad walked down over 40 years ago and feeling his presence in certain places I see or even just looking at the sky and mountains. I am happy and proud to say this is where 1/2 of me comes from. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA xo Lia P.S. If you want to follow my travel photos on Instagram, follow me on @emiliavida

Surf, Yoga, Dogs, cats and great people: Olon, Ecuador

Its been close to a month in Ecuador and I know this is a place that I will come back to one day. We have been in a small town on the coast (Olon) for the majority of the time, I was here for 2 weeks with my mom then Ryan came and met up with me after a brief family ski trip in BC. We have friends here who have been so incredibly helpful in every possible way. They make it their business to be helpful, whether you want to learn Spanish, get surf lessons, get directions…anything! Check out their company and website outdoorecuador.com. Since arriving here at the beginning of March, I have gained so much confidence in speaking Spanish! Ivonne (our friend who started Outdoor Ecuador) is an absolutely amazing teacher and made me excited to learn and practice Spanish, which is just what I need before traveling to Colombia to visit with relatives.

Outdoor Ecuador Surfboards to choose from
Outdoor Ecuador – many surfboards to choose from 

Ryan has been a happy surfer because the surfing here has been the best yet. Most days he’ll come out of the water having experienced catching “the best wave of my life”! Stay tuned for his latest surf video which will be uploaded this week. On the flip side, I’ve been taking yoga classes every couple days (which is also organized by outdoor ecuador), and not to mention they are Spanish led classes! It’s a great way to learn my spanish words for body parts.

Happy Surfer
Happy Surfer

There are the most stray dogs and cats I have ever seen in one town. We’ve come across hundreds of dogs and a few cats and kittens. It’s hard to come into this exposure with them when we treat them as our pets, but most people here do not even look twice at the animals. They are constantly chasing and barking after cars and motorcycles, constantly “having relations” with eachother next to your table while eating a meal, following you all over town looking for a little love and attention. It’s sad for me to see, but I know this is their life and they do seem happy enough, despite being itchy and flea-ridden.
The other day I came across the smallest kitten I have ever seen! It was meow-ing uncontrollably looking for its mom to get some milk, but the mother cat was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t leave it in the middle of the street during the hottest part of the day. So I brought it back to the hotel room, bought it some milk, which it figured out how to drink after a while. He calmed down quite a bit and fell asleep next to the heat of Ryan’s body. While I was looking at that 1lb ball of fur, I was thinking long and hard about how we could bring him along on the rest of our trip. That thought left my mind quickly when I thought of the 20hr bus ride we are taking to Colombia next week. So after his food and sleep we brought him back to the area we found him, hopefully he has a mom out there somewhere who will find him!

Sleepy Kitten
Sleepy Kitten

It will be hard to leave this place, but we know we’ll be back! We’ve met amazing people, made some great friends and grew a couple relationships. The locals in this town are so friendly, every person you pass in the street greets you with “Buenas Dias” and everyone is happy to have a conversation with us despite our lack of fluent Spanish – they just appreciate us trying.

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Great dinner with some great people!

But we must move on, so tomorrow we will be traveling to Baños (a supposedly beautiful town in the mountains), then Quito en route to Colombia. I am so excited to FINALLY be visiting my father’s homeland and meeting relatives I’ve only heard about. It really will be an amazing experience that I’ve been looking forward to my entire life.
Stay tuned to see where we’ll be traveling after Colombia! It will be a little change of pace.
xo Lia+Ry

My love for traveling

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Traveling is not waiting for things and experiences to come to you, but for you to go and find them.
Traveling is experiencing new smells, tastes, sights and sounds every day.
Traveling is not having fear to try new things.
Traveling is about letting go of your inhibitions, trying to communicate in different languages even though you don’t always know what you are saying.
Traveling is meeting new people, having in-depth conversations with complete strangers that you’ve only known for 2 minutes.
Traveling is following your gut, listening to your instincts when you can trust someone or need to watch your back.
Traveling is being able to live in the moment, make decisions and let go of regrets.
Traveling tells you the true nature of a person.
Traveling opens your mind.
Traveling tests your nerves and your problem solving skills.
Traveling allows you to connect with yourself on a level that is hard to reach when you’re distracted with regular everyday ‘life’ and work.
Traveling makes you appreciate everything you have.
Traveling is not knowing what to expect, not having a plan.
Traveling is the best thing you could do for yourself.

Traveling is beautiful.
Traveling is passion.
Traveling is life.

Never stop the journey.

Surfing Turtle Lodge

We have landed in my ideal paradise. Yesterday we left Granada and had a fairly smooth day of travel (2 busses, 2 taxi’s, a boat and a long walk on the beach) to Surfing Turtle lodge about 40 minutes outside of Leon.
Upon arriving we saw a large straw-roof hut, a few small cabinas, tents and large solar panels to the side. This eco-lodge is totally off the grid and runs off solar power.
We were shown to our private room upstairs and I immediately felt like a queen. We have a 4 poster bed with clean white sheets, high open ceilings, drapes blowing in the wind, by far this is the nicest room we’ve had so far! I awoke this morning to the sun rise out our window, which I wasn’t expecting because the sunsets here are beautiful, and usually you either have sunsets or sunrises, this place has both!
I practiced yoga at the foot of our bed this morning feeling the breeze and hearing sounds of waves, a perfect way to start my day.
Everything works on a tab system here, and they just have 1 restaurant. If I were to come back here I would make sure to pack my bags with snacks and fruit so I wouldn’t have to buy every meal, but they’re cheap, so its all good. We have some fun activities planned for the day and will be playing beach volleyball later in one of their daily tournaments.
They also have a turtle egg hatching area so we are really hoping to see a baby turtle and release it!

Here are a few pics so far:

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Volleyball court and straw huts out front.
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The ocean view from our window.
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The new hostel guard dog.
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The hostel begger - at leasr she's cute.