Finding Yourself In Medellin, Colombia

Funny Thing Happened On His Way To Buenos Aires…

Joseph Greco has been a full-time investor and developer for the last eight years. He has invested through both growth markets and down ones, working on projects in the United States and abroad. For the past two years, his attention has been focused on Medellin, Colombia, his adopted hometown.

How did Joe end up in Medellin?

You could call it serendipity. Joe set out on a six-month road trip, looking for both adventure and up-and-coming real estate investment markets. He started from Seattle, Washington, and worked his way down the U.S. West Coast, through Baja, Mexico, the Mexican mainland, and into Central America, continually evaluating the cities and towns he visited looking for the best place to live and a lucrative place to invest.

Then…his VW van broke down. In Medellin. It was fate.

For, in Medellin, Joe immediately recognized the rare combination of attractions on offer. This place, Joe realized, is modern, sophisticated, organized…plus, it boasts an unbeatable climate, a safe, friendly population, and a strong economy, all set in a lush, green valley. Nothing was as he’d expected. What he discovered, as everyone who finds Medellin discovers, is that this city is nothing like what you’ve been led to believe by the press.

As Joe explains…

“When my van broke down three hours north of Medellin, at first my plan was to get it fixed and get back on the road south. But I couldn’t find the parts I needed for the repairs. In the end, it took nearly three months to get the thing running again.

“By the time I had my van back, I wasn’t so interested in moving on anymore.

“The first week I was in Medellin, I played tourist and saw the sites. I was impressed from the first day with how modern the city and its transportation system are.

“Having taken a six-month road trip through Mexico and all Central America, I can tell you that, for me, no city in that region compares. This is a notably cleaner city than cities in Central America, for example.

“For me, the friendliness of the locals is one of the biggest selling points. It was evident that there have been few travelers and foreigners in Medellin to date. The locals welcome newcomers with open arms and with lots of pride in their city and their country.

“Medellin is a big city. Full of events. I have been very impressed by the sporting complexes, for example–modern and well-maintained stadiums, gyms, swimming pools, running tracks, etc. One section of the main road system is shut down every Sunday to encourage locals to walk and bike the city. Again, not what I had expected to find anywhere in Latin America. The city is progressive in its thinking and its government. The library system is large and modern, and Medellin is big on green spaces and public parks.

“My other favorite thing about this city is the climate. On my driving trip down here, I contemplated living in many locations I passed through, including Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. The reality, I found, is that, once you get south of Baja, Mexico, the weather anywhere near the ocean is extremely hot. You just want to be in an air-conditioned vehicle or an air-conditioned building all the time. For a week’s vacation, a tropical location can be great. You spend your time lounging by the pool. But as a place to live and work, I find Medellin far more pleasant.

“My biggest complaint about living in Medellin would be traffic. It is becoming more of a problem. If you need to drive a lot in town, it can consume a lot of time. With the economy moving ahead, more and more people are owning vehicles.

“Language can be a hurdle, depending on the neighborhood you are in and what you are looking to accomplish. I would consider myself a beginner in Spanish, and I know I need to improve. I have enrolled at the local university for classes. The more touristy a neighborhood is (El Poblado, for example), the more English that is spoken. But, generally speaking, the people here don’t speak English.

“I think that is going to change, though. Medellin is on the verge of a major growth spurt. The city will continue to modernize and to internationalize. The government seems to be investing heavily in transportation infrastructure and educational systems (with an emphasis on teaching English to the next generation). The locals are moving up the ‘class ladder,’ and the middle and upper classes are expanding.

“In just the time that I have been living here, I’m noticing more and more Americans, Europeans, and Australians settling here.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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