Is it a Zombie? No…it’s just Dani of the blog Going Nomadic. Looking slightly terrifying here, Dani’s a wild one! She gave away everything she owns and has been travelling around South America ever since.
1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Colombia?
My name is Dani Blanchette, and I’m a photographer, roadie, metal-head and self-proclaimed ‘horrible tourist’ (I don’t carry guidebooks and suck at seeing the ‘touristy’ thinigs). I am also the creator of Going Nomadic; my photo-heavy travel blog about my crazy adventures. I also have a photography website at Dani Blanchette Photography.
I’ve mostly been in Medellin in Colombia and I LOVE IT! I came for 2 weeks in October to go to a rock festival, then I came back in December, and have now been here for 4 months. I actually haven’t been too much outside of Medellin, but I have made a lot of friends here. People here are unbelievably nice and helpful with no expectation of return. Its amazing!
2. What made you choose this country and what were your first impressions?
I wanted to come to Medellin and Colombia since I was about 8 or 10. When the whole cartel thing was happening and all over our news, all I would hear from my parents is “You don’t want to go there”; which of course made me want to come more.
At that young age, I really wanted to come to Colombia, get kidnapped by rebels, and live in a rebel camp for 2 years so I could learn the rebel’s side of the story.
Colombia is nothing now like it was back then, it is unbelievably safe and filled with wicked nice, fun-loving people. But this illustrates what my parents had to deal with raising me. Hahaha.
3.How much money can someone travel around Colombia for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
I’ve found Colombia to be really cheap; cheaper than Ecuador. Hostels are not so cheap, and traveling by bus or plane outside of Medellin can get expensive compared to say, Ecuador and Peru; but I worked at a hostel in exchange for a bed until last week (I know live with a friend). Staying just in Medellin, and working for a bed, you can live for less than $50 a week (if you don’t party every night and you cook your own food).
I think the biggest expenses are the hostels, and the drinks and clubs. They are as expensive as going out in downtown Boston. What is the cheapest is the fruits and veggies. There are multiple farmer’s markets and you can get unbelievably fresh veggies, fruit and meat for really cheap prices.
The hardest thing for me to get uses to here is that the supermarkets are more expensive than the smaller, corner, convenience-type stores. In Colombia, it is a status thing to be able to afford to shop at the supermarkets. Totally opposite of the USA.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?
I love eating the local cuisine usually, but Medellin has an unnatural attachment to fried EVERYTHING! And low-heat fried so the food sucks up the oil. I’m pretty sure people here consider vegetable oil a vegetable in Medellin.
The traditional food here is some kind of usually cream-based soup with greasy, fatty fried meat (chicken, fish, pork, beef), sausage, AND ground beef, with rice, beans (usually fried and topped with vegetable oil), soggy greasy french fries, fried plantains, and sometimes a minuscule amount of chopped carrots or lettuce as a salad. And fruit blended with whole milk to drink.
And this is just lunch. You can literally squeeze oil out of everything you eat. But yet, you can buy an amazing variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, spices and so forth here. So it is very easy to cook healthy and flavourful here. It’s just Medellin and the whole department of Antioquia holds onto this high fat, high calorie diet with a passion.
So what thing I miss most in Medellin? FRESH, NOT-FRIED FISH! But since I love to cook, I am loving trying new foods and cooking them in ways my waistline is slightly happier about.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Colombia and why?
There is an abundance of theater, free movies, free music and so forth all over Medellin. The easiest way to find it is to talk to the tourism bureau or just ask at your hostel. Medellin also is one of the world leaders in public transportation development and if you come here you have to take a ride on the cable cars and go visit the outdoor escalators! Oh, and at the stadium complex (off Estadio station) is a FREE public pool anyone (tourist or local) can use.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
I love the people here! The people of Colombia are the nicest people! I have had people walk me 4 blocks out of their way to walk me to the door of places I was looking for. Why? Because I didn’t totally understand the Spanish directions. The people here are unbelievably nice.
My least favourite thing? I’m still going with NO FRESH FISH.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
I try to focus on anti-tourist things to do wherever I go. I dont carry guidebooks. I spent 6 weeks in Quito, Ecuador and never saw a single touristy thing. Museums and places filled with other gringos ooo-ing and awe-ing just have no appeal to me. I use social media and walking around to befriend locals and find things to do that you will never read about in a guidebook. I’m not going to say you SHOULDN’T see touristy things. By all means, there are many cultural things you should see, like the Botero statues in Parque Berrio, but I would rather do things like become a zombie in a promo video for the Medellin Zombie Walk.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Colombia without?
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Colombia? What post had the most interest?
People seem to be interested in Colombia, but honestly, I haven’t written a ton about it yet. My blog has chronological schizophrenia. One post I will be writing a story from Venezuela, 2 days later I will post about Chile, and I purposely started my blog a few weeks behind where I am. I like to keep stalkers guessing.
My most commented on post about Colombia yet has actually been a photo I took of a very well-endowed female mannequin. There is zero stigma about breast enhancements here and the mannequins are made to look like the women. But being a zombie and the outdoor escalators have had more social media comments.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Colombia what would it be?
I wish someone warned me that Medellin is the Spanish equivalent to Boston! The accent here is nothing like what I learned Spanish could be in school. (like since when can the ‘LL’ be a ‘ja’ sound? I learned it was a ‘ya’ sound!)
Both Medellin and Boston (where I am from) talk wicked fast, in an accent and slang that exist nowhere else, and both are damn proud of the fact that no one can understand them. My biggest problem communicating here is understanding what people are saying to me! (So thank god the people here are so nice and helpful)!
Love this interview! Thanks Dani.
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