Making It Young In Medellin
A handsome couple in their mid-20s, Lauren Brown and Jason Richter are living an international lifestyle that most of us, unfortunately, don’t consider until later in life. Most of us wait until after kids, mortgages, and careers to think about making the break from North America and setting off on the adventure of building a whole new life somewhere else.
Of all the somewhere elses you could consider, I’d put Medellin, Colombia, the city that Lauren and Jason have chosen for their adventure, at the top of the list. Recently I met with these two youngsters who’ve moved to the city that I’ve likewise chosen for my life’s reinvention. Over coffee in the fashionable El Poblado gourmet ghetto of Carrera 37, I asked the young couple what brought them to fair Medellin.
“I met Lauren at a conference in the States,” Jason explained. “She was being sent to Mexico with a San Francisco-based startup, and we ended up doing the long-distance Mexico-Canada thing for a year. Then when Lauren was offered a placement in Colombia, we talked about the idea of the two of us moving and starting a life together.
“In the end, the placement with the tech startup didn’t work out, but, by that time, we were excited by the idea of moving to Colombia… so we went ahead and made the move on our own. Now here we are.”
“We have committed about five years to Medellin,” Lauren continued. “So far we’ve been here seven months. We’re both completely convinced that coming here was a great decision. We’ve met a wonderful group of expats of all ages who are active in the community, bringing their own entrepreneurial expertise to Colombia, and making new lives in this beautiful city.”
“I’m from Calgary,” Jason offered, “where I was managing two restaurants. My mom and dad had moved 15 years ago to Nicaragua, so I wasn’t a stranger to living in Latin America. I learned early that it can be an ideal life or at least a great experience.”
“I’m from San Francisco, and I loved living there,” smiled Lauren. “San Francisco is truly a unique city, so alive and cosmopolitan, but also so very expensive. I was often working two jobs to pay my bills, a day job at the tech startup and serving tables at night.
“I grew up in the Boston area,” Lauren continued, “where my parents shared their love of travel with me. At Loyola University in Maryland, I majored in Spanish and international business. I did an exchange to Buenos Aires for six months and fell in love with the language and the culture. After this experience I knew I would live in Latin America again. When the opportunity arose to go to Mexico for the tech startup, I jumped on it.”
“What were your first impressions of Medellin?” I asked the couple, “and what do you think of the city now that you’ve gotten to know it a little better?”
“I love the weather,” Lauren told me. “Who could complain about 75 degrees and sunny every day. The tree-lined streets and green spaces give a tranquility to the city. I also love the people here. Everyone is nice and friendly. The paisas, as Colombians from this part of the country are known, are especially welcoming and willing to help.
“I have been impressed with the abundance of boutique cafes and restaurants in Poblado, Laureles, and other neighborhoods,” Lauren continued. “This city also has a big health and wellness theme, which is important to me. I am a marathon runner and love to be outside and active. This city and its climate really support that interest, and I have easily found running groups to connect with.”
“I immediately liked how easy it is to meet people here,” Jason added. “The expat and excursion groups and the many social media pages dedicated to social, cultural, and business needs and networking make it fun and easy to become involved and connected.
“We are working now as international reps for a U.S. company, Nu-Skin, Inc. We are also consulting with expats and paisas on business opportunities in Colombia. And Lauren is marketing herself as a running coach, trainer, and nutrition consultant. We’ve been successful so far supporting ourselves and growing our businesses. Right now we live in a nice and inexpensive neighborhood across the river, but we’re thinking about moving to El Poblado because that’s where most of our clients are.”
“In fact,” Lauren interjected, “we’re sitting in our office right now.” Then she smiled over at the coffee barista and, pointing down at our table, said, “Nuestra oficina, sí?”
“Sí señora, con gusto!” the server replied. Talk about low overheads.
“So, what about your longer-term plans,” I asked the couple. “Do you have thoughts to settle down, have a family?”
“Right now and for the foreseeable future, we’re flexible,” Lauren explained. “There are lots more places in the world we want to explore. We might have a child here or somewhere else; however, that won’t be for a few years.”
“Living in Asia for a few years is a possibility.” Jason continued. “I don’t know how important roots might be, buying land or a home to retreat to, to be grounded in this place or another. Raising our future kids could happen anywhere.
“Meanwhile we’re committed to Medellin and to doing our best here, making some money, making friends, and having a great time…”
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