MOROCCAN DREAMING

I don’t know how to put this country into words.  It’s such a beautiful chaos in order.

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It’s a blanket of different pastel colors flowing into each other like a river.

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Its perfume consists of different smells of spices, fruits, oils, nuts and soaps.

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The diversity of faces in the streets is just countless. The voices of the locals are loud and silent at the same time.

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Their hearts are sweet and big. Sometimes eyes crossing mine are full of love, other times full of wonder, curiosity anger, pain or distrust.

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The sun shines strongly making this country look like a golden fireball. Shadows playing around in it!

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The colors of nature are those out of the jungle, the desert the mountains, the sea and flower gardens.

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The food tastes different but is delicious & warm and does have a diverse palet. Their tea truly is my cup of tea. I drink it a lot. It warms my heart and body.

Religion is loud in this country. So loud it wakes you up at 6 in the morning and reminds you of God at different times during the day.

The houses feel like home, like a sanctuary where you can retreat.

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The floors are colourful paintings telling different patterns wherever you enter.

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The roads are crazy. This country is crazy. Good crazy. I like good crazy. A lot!

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HAPPINESS X WITHIN YOURSELF

Happiness. .. 

If they ask me how to define happiness I would describe it as living my life without giving definition to everything. Happiness is seeing the sun rise or set in new places. Setting the horizon on fire or turning her into shining gold. 

Happiness is hearing the sound of the ocean, waves dancing with the wind, crashing ashore.

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Happiness is dancing with the waves, on the waves, under the waves.

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Happiness is being surrounded by lush green trees, plants and beautiful flowers, smelling the perfume of everything nature has to offer, feeling the cold moist texture of the earth.

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Happiness is hearing the sounds of nature, leaves whispering in the wind, falling down and gently tickling your skin. 

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It is pure simplicity. It is purity in all its forms. It is freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of feeling happy or sad or anxious whenever you want to without explaining yourself.

Freedom of going or staying. Freedom of loving and sometimes hurting. Freedom of being you, the true you and not you society expects you to be. Freedom of life, living your dreams, achieving your goals and taking all the time necessary to make everything come true. 

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Happiness is to work. To work on what makes you happy, what makes your soul tremble, what makes your heart skip a beat. Your heart.. not the one of someone else.  Also to work on yourself, your true self and the self you are trying to become. 

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Happiness is making someone genuinely happy with the smallest gesture.  It is loving someone deeper than the ocean itself. 

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Happiness is forgiving someone. Taking the knife out of your own back and not using it to hurt anyone else no matter how they hurt you. 

Happiness is realising what you have today is enough, and what you’ll have tomorrow doesn’t really matter for now.  It is not taking things for granted but being thankful for the things you have today. 

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Happiness is looking at yourself, for yourself; in yourself. It is not comparing, it is not being greedy nor jealous, it is just being you, at its deepest and purest form possible. Because that truly is enough. 

Happiness is how you define for yourself and it is different for anyone else. Happiness is found by yourself within yourself. Like a temple, a sanctuary of stillness, to which you can retreat anytime. 

LOVE TO LOVE … EVERYTHING

As I travelled, I fell in love with the sights and the views surrounding me. With places broken into ruins and places built anew. I fell in love with watching the sunrise and the sunset and wouldn’t let myself miss a single moment so I always kept my eyes wide open for every second in between.

I fell in love with the sound of the ocean, so calming, touching my heart and making it calm.

I fell in love with the wind, whispering words I could only understand. I fell in love with loving any tiny detail capturing my eye, my mind, my soul. I fell in love with every person I met, even if it was just for a moment to let them make marks on my soul before they left. I fell in love with the words people used just to beautifully describe feelings I could never express. I fell in love with the way they moved their mouths while laughing and yelling and crying. 

I fell in love with dreaming because dreams are real and it made me realise no dream is too big as long as you keep on trying. I fell in love with the sounds of people talking in languages I didn’t understand and forks clinking against plates and loud laughter drifting out of restaurant windows. I fell in love with wine filling glasses and making people drunk letting go of all their worries just for a second. I fell in love with the taste of fresh food and new flavours.

I fell in love with textures of clothing of satin of cotton of wool created by the local hands with warm hearts and radiating souls.

I fell in love with the sky filled up with the most beautiful shiny stars hoping one of those stars are my loved ones long time passed away, watching over me and guiding me. I fell in love with praying to whatever I believed in, because a long as you believe, you are not lost. I fell in love with the clouds creating the most beautiful shadow plays in the sand, in the water, in the dirt of the roads. I fell in love with rain, not only because of its sound but mostly because of the delicious earthy perfume it spoiled my nose with.

I fell in love with the spirituality and different energies my body lacked or flowed over with abundance. I fell in love with feeling always so much but expressing so little. I fell in love with love, because it is the most beautiful gift you can give not only to yourself but also to others. 

I fell in love with colours. Colours of sunset and sunrise, of skies and paintings of eyes and skins and hair.

I fell in love with the universe, being thankful I am able to exist and create my life in a way I feel like I need to. 

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 But most importantly, I fell in love with my life — because every moment was mine and no one could take that away from me. Someday when I look back on these moments and realize they’re all just memories, and some fade faster than others I just never want to forget that one should fall in love every second while they can, because they’ll never forget the things that made their heart race. I never did. 

INSPIRATION X EUROPEAN OUTDOOR FILM TOUR 18/19

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Last night, I attended the European Outdoor Film Festival. And honestly, I got one of my most inspiring moments since a long time. For a very long time, I didn’t have those moments of goosebumps or adrenaline kicking in.

Weird you would think? I don’t think so. While traveling for almost 8 months in North-, Central- & South-America & Hawaii every day was a day full of moments of goosebumps from head to toe, being swept of my feet and adrenaline kicking in. Because every time I didn’t think and just did.  Because traveling to me was all about taking risks and living life to the fullest because now is the moment!  And as you’re always on the move, tomorrow is too late.

To make it clear what point I want to make I want to tell you a little anekdote. It is one about the many bad things but good things at the same time, which happened to me. While hiking in Colombia in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, I almost cut off the top of my thumb while being at 2300 m altitude. Knowing that the day before I burned my leg very badly on a motorbike, which caused a lot of pain, I still decided to hike up to 2700 m to reach the top.  Being in pain in both my leg and my thumb, thoughts of going back to the village and going to the hospital arose every now and then. But giving up was not even an option because I knew what was waiting at the top would make everything better.

And it was! I forgot about the pain. While descending I fell over some rocks and opened my thumb even more. The pain was killing but it also made me feel so powerful! Because before I thought I already reached my limits but clearly I could handle worse. I realised my body was much more stronger than I thought. And so was my mind.

Pun of the story. Now I am back in Belgium. Routine. You know, this always busy society working for the dream of others.. Not being as crazy as before easily making impulsive decisions. Thoughts that arise sometimes block me from doing the things I want.  And I feel a lot of decisions I need to make, small or big, are leaving me anxious. Sometimes you fight but sometimes you also give up. As before I would go the extra mile before giving up. That power which I had when being on that mountain top in Colombia and while facing situations during those 8 months is hidden in a little chamber, locked inside my body, ready to come out again.

Now yesterday feels like the key to that locked chamber.

Schermafbeelding 2018-10-19 om 13.58.18Watching Adam Ondra, the most successful Czech sport climber of our time. He successfully climbed the most difficult route in the world and established a new level of difficulty,  9c. His physical endurance and surely his mental strength and peace of mind made me quiet. It was so jaw dropping that it brought back my believe that everything is possible. He also empowers the importance of meditation and stillness and being detached from your body. Sometimes the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of success is what’s going on inside of our heads. A mind that is not under control is a mind that makes mistakes – mistakes that could prevent you from winning.

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And then there was this other legend The Frenchy For Jacques Houot, spoken as HOE-O, nothing in life is a problem. This 82 year old and always smiling guy -which is addictive – believes every time you smile, an hour is added to your life. Nothing is too much at his age. 23 times is the number he almost lost his life and he still moves mountains. No mountain bike trail and no ski slope is safe because he still does it all with ‘no problem’ as he always says himself. He reminds me I shouldn’t take life too seriously. Just laugh at life and everything gets better.  They say you only have one life but he surely has 23, so stop hesitating to take risks! You will fall but that’s necessary to rise higher than before. You are only as young as you are in your head so go out and do whatever the fuck you want.

 

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‘Mbuzi Dume’  Swahili for ‘strong goat’ aka Tom Belz. Strong doesn’t even come close to how I would describe this incredibly brave man! Tom’s left leg was amputated when he was just eight years old because of bone cancer. Since then, he goes through life on 3 legs—on one leg and two crutches.

Ever since he tested the power  and the challenges of his body. While climbing the Kilimanjaro, he faces the challenges in life that everyone must surmount.  I learned you are physically AND mentally stronger than you think whatever battle you are fighting in that moment. You can will yourself to keep going when your body grows fatigued. Your brain and body are like a circle. One connection. As long as you can set your mind in the right mindset, your body will follow.  Like Mahatma Gandhi says: “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” 

After seeing all the other documentaries I realised everyone can do amazing things when they choose to be strong. We all have a survivor-instinct. We have all had our share of battles and wounds resulting we sometimes questioned if we could lift ourselves back up again.

But because of the struggles we’ve endured we’ve learned to bounce back and stand up even stronger, wiser and even braver. The mind and body is stronger than you think. YOU are stronger than you think.

Today, if you question what you can change, handle, or overcome to achieve your dreams and goals, I think we should just remember that you can do amazing things when you decide to be strong.

COLOMBIA X SANTA MARTA

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Santa Marta, is South America’s oldest European-founded town and the second most important colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It is told to be “The Pearl of the Americas,” and is known by the beautiful beaches surrounding it. The biggest eye-catcher for me are the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal mountain range in the world.  It is the only place in the Caribbean with everlasting snow, although peaks have slowly been melting due to climate change. It is one of the most biodiverse areas of the world.

It was Rodrigo de Bastidas who planted a Spanish flag here in 1525. Why? He choose it as a site at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to serve as a convenient base for the incalculable gold treasures of the Tayronas.

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Although Santa Marta has been given a bad reputation by lots of tourists finding it a dodgy and traffic loaded place nowadays it is undergoing a process of urban renewal. To me it is a charming city with a long history. It is a town difficult to forget. The secret to Santa Marta is to use it for what it does well: cute little hostels, cool restaurants and bars.

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While strolling through the streets you can really feel the Colonial atmosphere. You get overwhelmed by Colonial style architecture painted in the most colourful colours making me think of the little houses of Cartagena. On every corner of the street you can find delicious fruits and juices and sadly but truly, homeless people.. This is the one downside of the town which really hurts my heart.

Besides the beautiful architecture, Santa Marta is the perfect spot to get out and explore other pearls of  destinations nearby such as The National Park of Tayrona, the lush and green Minca and  the little fishers town Taganga. You can discover more about these cute spots in my next blog posts.

Where to stay when in Santa Marta?

During my stay in Santa Marta, which was 5 days and then I returned for 2 more nights, I only stayed in one hotel called El Habitante Hotel Escuela. It’s a 900s Republican era estate of Mr Bastidas. From day 1 I fell in love with this place and the people hosting it. It felt like a little home away from home.

While scrolling through Booking.com I wanted to avoid the touristy and chique hostels. This one immediately caught my eye because the hotel is a social business created by one of Colombia’s leading NGO on Sports For Development strategies, Fundación Tiempo De Juego.

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Thanks to your stay in the hotel, children and youth from Colombia are able to develop Life Skills through sports, arts and culture while creating their own life project and promoting a movement towards peace, equality and cohabitation. Proceeds from El Habitante help sustain a local program right there in Santa Marta. At the same time, it is conceived as a training facility for local youth to learn skills and trades related to the hospitality industry.  (VISIT WEBSITE:  El habitante Hotel Escuela)

Everything from top to bottom just falls together in one place. When you enter the lush green garden, the little pool captures your eye immediately and invites you to jump in and cool down from the tropic heat. You can choose for a private room or a shared dorm with a delicious breakfast included in the price. I tried both and both were very comfortable to sleep. There is also a little fair-trade shop and tons of activities you can join, like dance classes and day trips to surrounding towns.

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Are you already excited to visit incredible Santa Marta?

2018 X GO WANDER, START LIVING & FIND YOUR HAPPINESS

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In 2017 I decided to quit my job, put everything I own in the size of a backpack, jump on a plane and leave my old life behind in Belgium in search of finding whatever I needed to find in life.

So here I am, 8 months of traveling are suddenly coming to an end not knowing whether I’ll ever be ready to go back to normal life. 8 months, 245 days of traveling, time flies and so did I. I have learnt so much. Things they could have never taught me at school. I have learnt how to be independent of others and how to depend on myself. I have learnt how to take care of myself and how to take risks and estimate the consequences. I have learnt how to keep an open mind and heart wherever I go, not judging any place and person trying out their local food and drinks, dancing on their music, speaking their language and respecting their nature.

It taught me we are all the same, just a different color, language and culture, having all the same goal in life which is TO BE HAPPY. Some find their happiness in working the job they always dreamt off, having the big house they worked their ass off for and others find it being close to family and friends, being in the place they lived their whole childhood and adulthood. I used to be that kid, dreaming and wishing, always wanting more.

Well, in 2017, I found my happiness somewhere else. I found my happiness in living out of my 40L backpack, jumping planes and tons of busses, no idea of where I’ll be the next day, week or month. I found my happiness being in remote places by the sea, surrounded by coconut trees, seeing the most incredible sunsets and sunrises, speaking to locals in a body language they must have thought I was playing clown with them.

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I found happiness in surfing in the rain, feeling the cold raindrops falling on my shoulders and the warm water touching my legs on my surfboard. I found happiness in dancing Salsa and listening to Cumbia and Reggaeton. I found happiness in challenging myself to climb mountains and volcanoes and in being in different time zones celebrating NYE as the last one in the world in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and felt the most alive surrounded by great people on the island of Maui.

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I found happiness in discovering my spiritual self and path while doing my YTT in Guatemala going into places deep inside of myself I’ve never expected they existed.

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I found happiness in finding that one person along the way that made my heart skip a beat in a very long time, showing me there is no such thing as coincidence and that things are meant to be and you feel it when time is right. Which means sometimes you have to let go of good things in order to receive even better things.

Man, I feel so happy, because traveling changed me. It shifts things inside of you no other things can do. It brings out the best of you. It makes you feel alive and makes you feel so many things you would never feel at home. It brings you closer to your purpose in life. It makes you meet people along the way, the right ones and the wrong ones, both are a lesson and a blessing. I have seen cultures that taught me how big things don’t matter, simplicity like music on the street reuniting people, sharing food, a place to sleep… I have learnt languages showing me it does not matter how perfect you speak them. Body language is enough.

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Ive seen sunsets and sunrises, showing me how thankful I am I am alive and how I love Mother Earth for this beauty day in and out. I’ve been in nature, making me feel connected to what this world consists off and disconnected from the unnecessary. Ive walked miles and miles and miles and hiked and suffered and laughed and cried, thinking about everything I want and need and don’t need in my life at the moment and for the future.

Ive been thinking about family and friends and about how much I miss them and wish I could share this journey with them and make them see what I see and feel, in every place I am. Ive been feeling my heart skip a beat, for people and places, for the ocean touching my skin and the wind kissing my hair. Ive been feeling alive. Ive been feeling the completest Ive ever felt, just me as myself, on my own, knowing I don’t need another half to complete me but another complete person to join me and who loves to walk beside me on this journey I am on.

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Here I am, sitting on the wall, listening to the sound of the sea, waves crashing, admiring the sunset, in Lahaina, one of my favourite places in the world. And I am so happy, isn’t that all that counts?

COLOMBIA X CARTAGENA

Aaaaah you beautiful Cartagena! The city that conquered my heart with its charming little streets filled with beautiful colorful colonial houses. Its little squares filled with street musicians, dancers and streetfood stands will make you fall in love.  Oh Cartagena, you just have it all. Located on the Caribean Coast of Colombia, this city is the perfect getaway in South-America for a short trip.

The Historical Center of Cartagena is surrounded by an ancient city wall. It is nice to climb on top of the wall and to admire the beautiful view over the city and its stunning old colonial houses.

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Head into the historical center and have a chat with the charismatic locals who can advise you the best places to eat & drink. Don’t forget to eat a Ceviche, a cocktail of cold fresh fish! I had one of the best I have ever eaten in Colombia, just a little outside of the wall of the historical center, on a little square with several Ceviche stands next to each other.  Sip a fresh coconut while walking on the cobbled stone streets and enjoy some juicy fruit of the generous fruit stands you can find on every corner of the street.

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One thing that I really love about Cartagena is the contrast in architecture. There is a mix of old and new facades which gives an interesting touch to the city.

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As I mentioned before, the locals of Cartagena are one of the nicest people. Don’t take yourself too serious and practice your Spanish by making some good old jokes with them. In return you will receive some good advice of where to go and where not to go.

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Then head out of the Historical Center, away from the touristy vibe, to experience the real more artsy, laidback Colombian lifestyle. Getsemani is the place to be! This neighborhood has it all. The streets are filled with amazing wall art, dance performances and even free Zumba and Salsa classes on the Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad. This square usually gets very busy in the evenings because of the little restaurants around it and it serves as a meet up point for lots of Colombians aswell as foreigners, ready for a night out.

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Then go to the wall that is surrounding Getsemani, watch the locals playing baseball and climb on top of the wall afterwards, take some beers with you and just chill at the waterside while enjoying the sunset falling over the skyline of skyscrapers.

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Do you think you could fall in love with Cartagena like I did?

COLOMBIA X GUATAPE

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Are you looking for a place to be swept off your feet by the beauty of nature? Are you wiling to challenge yourself by climbing some stairs in order to be overwhelmed? Are you looking for a mix of nature and colonial architecture combined in a place filled with stillness but where some Spanish music can be around any corner? Well, Guatape is the place to be! Only 2 hours away from Medellin, entering this place brings you into a whole other world coming from the busy and never sleeping city.

Before entering Colombia, I traveled Central- America and saw incredible places, landscapes and breathtaking point views. But in Guatape, it was the first time I got overwhelmed by the beauty nature has to offer. Before you make your way to the colourful town of Guatape, make sure you stop over at Guatapes most famous rock, La piedra del Penon.

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After climbing about 750 steep stairs constructed in the rock, an incredible 360 degrees view, overlooking the little islands surrounding this rock is waiting for you. Just being there with your head in the clouds, feeling the wind touch your skin will take your breath away.
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After climbing La Piedra, head to the little village of Guatape, known as the most colourful town of Colombia and surrounded by an oase of a green scenery giving it a jungly touch. This little town is famous because of its small streets filled with beautiful colourful houses. Eyes are not enough to admire these stunning facades filled with colourful designs of animals, flowers and many more.

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Hang out on the little square, enjoying the sun and admire the local church.

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To finish your day, head to the lake, pick one of the many restaurants and enjoy one of the local dishes known as Bandeja paisa.

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Ready to climb the top of Guatapé?

COLOMBIA X MEDELLIN

Medellin, the city of Eternal Spring, literally leaves everything to your imagination. This buzzing city known for wanting to distance itself of its bad reputation of being known as the city  where Pablo Escobars’ drugs politics were reigning or the city where the crime scene was reaching its highest toll. The goal was to attract more tourists. They succeeded for 100%. If you are traveling in Colombia you can not miss out on Medellin. This city has so much to offer and I felt this vibe since the moment I arrived.

Coming from the airport, at night, I got welcomed by a skyline filled with millions of lights stretched over a huge valley. This city is alive night and day.

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During my stay I stayed in El Poblado, known as the more fancy and tourist friendly neighbourhood, filled with some hipster boutiques and restaurants and bars for everyone’s needs from Veggie to Italian to Asian Streetfood. At night time this street is buzzing with locals as well as travelers hanging out and going out for drinks. It is cool to grab a drink and eat some food here but I would recommend to definitely check out the other ( less known and rated as more dodgy) neigbourhoods, I am mentioning later in my posts, to get the real Medellin experience.

If you go down a few blocks from El Poblado, you will find the Zona Rosa surrounding Parque Lleras which is full of clubs, nice restaurants and hip bars. Parque Poblado is spacious, and at night, full of young people drinking and chatting. One personal recommendation is to go to Calle 9+1, situated as the name says itself, in Calle 9. For the lovers of the underground party scene this is the place to be to catch a techno party in a kind of hidden bar in this street and party until the sun comes up. Ask the locals for this place and they will show you the way. They play an alternative, funky techno-style music and they have special guest DJ’s almost every weekend.

Another strong aspect of Medellin is definitely the public transportation, consisting of a strong metro line of 5 different lines bringing you wherever you want to in a finger snap. Just keep in mind that they are almost every time super crowded. If you are coming from El Poblado, the easiest way to take the metro is to start in San Antonio, which is kind of the middle of the whole principal metro line. So you can start exploring the different barrios in both sides.

My first stop took me to Parque Berrio where you can find a nice mix of some architectural highlights as well as some little plazas where you can stroll around and sniff up the atmosphere of Medellin.

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From the Botero Plaza, I started walking around the whole city for hours. What I love the most about Medellin is that it is a city full of contrasts. First of all there is a lot of contrast between the different barrios with different styles of architecture. From modern skyscrapers to churches on the little plazas to the houses in the favelas at the highest point of the city. This city is so diverse. Second there is so much street art on every corner of the street which makes Medellin such a treat for the eye and it adds up an extra touch of that charm it already has.

After soaking up all the street art around town, tasting the delicious street food you can find on every corner of the streets, you can start discovering these other highlights in Medellin, you can not miss out on.

El Centro – The city center of Medellin 

Plaza Botero — the plaza filled with Fernando Botero’s most famous sculptures
Museo de Antioquia —  art museum in front of Plaza Botero
Jardín Botánico – a beautiful botanical garden, great to just wander around or spend an afternoon in the parc. While there, don’t miss out on Orquideorama or the butterfly house.

Carabobo y Avenida Junin – The busy shopping streets of El Centro, definitely cool to check out this busy street where the locals are in their element trying to sell as much as possible.

Barrio Populares y Communa 13

Barrio Populares or the Favelas of Medellin  and its famous communa 13 were just a few years ago known as one of the most dangerous barrios in Medellin. It was not a place to be for tourists as violence was around every corner. However through a series of events, violence has been significantly reduced. Communa 13 is now an important tourist attraction and you can not miss out on being there to see how the city has moved forward from its history and bad reputation. Although it sounds like taking your belongings or life at risk, there is plenty of security and police everywhere in the barrio just to put you at ease and to keep everything under control.

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Best way to get there:  Take the Metro Cable in La Estrella. The metro line changes into a cable lift which takes you all the way up above the Favelas, treating you with a breathtaking panoramic view over the city and the green valley filled with a sky full of clouds and rays of sunlight touching the city every now and then.

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If you really want to indulge into the streets of the Favelas, take the Toucan’s Café’s Medellin Graffiti Tour. This tour is organised by a foundation of  a group of local graffiti & hip hop artists who are responsible for making Communa 13 beautiful again by realising 95% of the graffiti art in the area. When you join this tour you also financially support them in their mission to educate local youth in the art of graffiti, hip hop, breakdance and rapping.

Other famous barrios to visit are Envigado and Sabaneto.

Ofcourse Medellin has a lot more to offer. To really get the best Medellin experience, just walk around town, speak with locals to get recommendations and explore but be conscious of encountering any less touristy, kind of dodgy neighbourhoods, taking care of your belongings.

Depending on how adventurous or maybe crazy you are.. I found it cool to wander around in these areas too, such as La Playa where you can see and feel the contrast of the Upper Class in El Poblado to this kind of drugscene, more lower class area in the city. I had an amazing hamburger at a little food stand on the square. The size of it is enormous so maybe you’ll make some homeless people happy too by offering them to finish your food just like we did.