top of page

Early retirement travels - week 6 Colombia

Cartagena street art

Despite being mostly on my own, I’ve still enjoyed this week. Not doing much, plenty of time in coffee shops, sometimes a lazy week is exactly what we need.

I’ve deliberately left Medellin unexplored until I return to the city next month with my daughter, Rebecca. It will be more fun to explore with her company and it’s given me a week where I can do little without feeling guilty that I’m wasting the time.

My lazy week meant ditching my routines, one of the challenges I find with travelling. I’m convinced routines are key to keeping my early retirement on track so I'm usually very protective of them. But going freestyle these past days in Medellin did feel good. Maybe it’s something I need to work on, finding a different balance between my routines and a slightly more laissez faire approach, but without sliding into laziness.

The closest I came to exploring Medellin was during my morning runs, although most of my focus is on the traffic, kerbs, pedestrians and simply trying to breathe. I still got some feel of the place and the different neighbourhoods though. Only once did I wander into an area that caused me some angst - most likely it was okay but I wasn’t sure, the rest of the time I felt safe.

I’ve caught up with life admin tasks such as my rental property speadsheet and some investment admin. It surprises me how much time these take. Partly because I’d let a backlog build up, but I also suspect I’m slower with these tasks compared to when I worked - there’s no set deadline nor boss/salary/output metrics so I can afford to get sidetracked, and quite often do. Not what you want if you’re an employer, but if you’re early retired these things remind you why and how good it can be. Stuff still needs doing, but the how, the when and the how fast is something that can be much more relaxed.

Another activity for my lazy week was a haircut, an interesting experience with a language barrier. It’s like the haircut version of Russian roulette except I tell myself that, if it goes wrong, my hair will grow back - I fear that’s perhaps becoming wishful thinking! Haircuts are another joy of early retirement. No longer a rushed weekend chore, early retirement has converted it to a relaxing weekday treat. The Colombian barber did OK, but the best barbers in my experience are from Lebanon or Syria, I have no idea why, but they give a different level of haircut service.

Getting ready to cycle to Patagonia - not me!

On Saturday I flew from Medellin to Cartagena to meet Rebecca who’s taking vacation from work to join me. While waiting for her flight to arrive, I saw a couple building their bikes and wondered where they’d come from and where were they going? They’d cycled from San Francisco to Panama and now, after a short flight to Cartagena (you can't ride or drive from Panama to Colombia), they're heading to Patagonia, then Australia and New Zealand. It’s taken nine months so far and their plan is the entire trip will take “as long as it takes”. It puts our Route des Grandes Alpes cycle trip into perspective.

I was obviously happy to see Rebecca walk through the arrivals gate in Cartagena. She left home five years ago when she started university and then moved straight into a job in Zurich. Travelling with Rebecca is therefore special, I get to spend a whole month together with my daughter again.

After getting to our hostel early on Saturday evening, we wandered into the quaint streets of Cartagena’s Getsemani district. Perhaps a little touristy, but we still enjoyed buying our street food and watching the start of the street performers. We gave a little money to the first set of street performers and politely batted away those trying to sell us things we didn't want. I'd rather they left us alone once we've said "no" but I guess they wouldn't sell so much that way.

On Sunday we started to explore Cartagena Old Town. The small streets certainly have a Spanish feel to them and we enjoyed the colourful houses, street art, cathedral and city walls. It was seriously hot though, and our frozen yoghurt stop may have been the highlight of the morning. An early afternoon siesta recharged our batteries before we set off for a run, passing some nice residential areas, an unbelievably huge yacht and then a less pleasant industrial area where not too many tourists venture, but it’s interesting to see the different sides of the city.

One of our healthy salads

One thing for certain is that week one in Colombia has been cheaper than Costa Rica. It was just me, no rental car nor tour or attraction entry fees, but there was a haircut, a slightly costly airport transfer and almost daily coffee shop visits included in the total cost of only £145 (€162/$189).. I can see why Medellin sometimes appears as a possible early retirement low cost of living destination.

As to my exercise and healthy eating, it’s been a pretty good week. Four runs gives me 8 out of 10 and four salads as evening meals has to count for something, maybe not quite a nine, but I’m saying a solid 8½.

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.

Week 6 - what we've done:

Monday – Medellin. Moved hostels, coffee shop, blog, reading, Netflix. View of Medellin at night with a couple from the hostel

Tuesday – Medellin. Morning run. Coffee shop, blog post done, reading, haircut, Netflix

Wednesday – Medellin. Morning run. Life admin, coffee shop.

Thursday – Medellin. Morning run. Life admin (rental properties), football match on TV, coffee shop for travel research

Friday – Medellin. Life admin (investments & rental properties), chatted to a fellow traveler, worked on blog

Saturday – Travel from Medellin to Cartegena. Travelling took all day again. Street food and entertainment in evening.

Sunday – Cartagena. Explored the Old Town. Afternoon run. It was very hot. Evening blog work and Netflix

Week 6 - we spent a total of £145 / €162 / $189 for 1 person on:

Accommodation £42 / €47 / $55

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £65 / €73 / $85

Transport £23 / €26 / $30 Airport transfers

Toiletries/Medicine £4 / €4 / $5

Other £11 / €12 / $14 Mostly haircut


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page