Lessons from Latin America

Transportation in Latin America: The Ride of Your Life

Before coming to Latin America, all I knew with regards to transportation in Nebraska and the New York metropolitan area were the standard methods that serve us well in the States: car, bus, subway, and train (and the occasional farmer in the dell tractor that yes I’ve seen off in the panhandle of Nebraska).

Americans value efficiency and speed above all things in life. And yeah I know this last example wasn’t the best reference of that but anyway…

These American values of efficiency and speed are reflected in the way that we get around in very obvious ways– from the app you can use to buy your tickets while on board the train, thereby saving time you might have spent waiting in line at the machine to get it (although you should technically purchase it before you get on…) to the punctuality of Uber and Lyft drivers that we take into account when giving them the star rating at the end.

Getting from point A to point B is the goal, and everything that gets in our way from here to there is just an annoyance.

En cambiooooo …

If I’ve learned anything from living in the slower-paced society here in Latin America it’s that…

Life is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

I’m reminded of this lesson in a very literal way when I just look at the kinds of vehicles outside in the street!

For one, there is the CHIVA. It’s basically the ultimate Colombian party vehicle that looks like a decked out school bus straight out of a psychedelic Beatles song. You get on with a group of people you don’t know, immediately get a rush from the blasting reggaeton music, end up taking shots of guaro (Colombia’s traditional liquor) along the way whether you like it or not, and never really know where you went at the end of the night.

In this case, it’s really exaggerated; it has nothing to do with the destination and everything to do with the journey.

Let me tell you – a chiva ride is a really good time and you might forget the respectable adult that you are for the carefree kid that’ll come out of you while onboard. Iiiiiiit’s a party!

If you are visiting Medellin for the first time, I recommend taking one from http://chivasrumba.com.co/ located on Calle 70 that has daily tours and night rides on weekends.

Now of course a chiva would be for a night out. How I prefer to get around on a daily basis?

–> MOTO  <–

Almost everybody it seems gets around in motorcycle (which I will hereby be referring to as moto because the word ‘motorcycle’ is obnoxiously long for me now). There are so many of them, used by both men and women alike, that at times there are more motos in the street than cars! The culture here is highly dependent upon motos. You’d think that this would mean more accidents and less safety in the streets. However, from my experience, the safety standards here with regards to driving are highly observed in the city and I’ve never felt unsafe in any way while riding on a moto.

How would I know this? Well I take one almost every other day! I’m gonna drop a big secret bomb for those who live in Medellin. The app is called Picap. It’s a very young company, but has saved me tons of cash! It’s just like the Uber app but the driver comes in moto, with an extra helmet of course. J

Since it’s technically less safe being on a moto as opposed to a car, the prices are much cheaper. For example, to go from Laureles to Poblado in Uber might cost anywhere between 10,000-15,000 pesos given the hour. In Picap it would only cost you 8,000 normally, sometimes a little less. I highly recommend downloading it here from the app store.

Among another fun mode of transportation in Colombia is the tuk-tuk. Mostly found in pueblitos (little towns), tuk-tuks are moto taxis sometimes ornately decorated with bright colors like a chiva. They’re just another addition to the already highly picturesque scenes of the pueblo streets.

The last mode of transportation I want to mention is highly unique to Medellin – the metrocable! It gives you a spectacular view of the city from above and is a must-do activity for those visiting.

Not only has the metrocable provided the people of poor outskirt neighborhoods access to jobs and opportunities in the city center, but it has transformed the city in its entirety! The metrocable is so much more than just a mode of transportation for Medellin. It has been the solution to integrating marginalized communities, spurring social and economic development for the city, and reducing violence significantly.

Transportation is so much more than just getting to your final destination. Sometimes it’s a long ride and it forces you to be patient, like for example the buses (combis) I rode every day when I lived in Lima Peru.

The fact is … we all have places to go. But if you’re so focused on where you have to be or who’s gonna be mad at you for how late you arrived, you could miss some pretty beautiful things along the way. The same goes for life. Sometimes we feel like we’re going at lightning speed on a Kawasaki Ninja down an open highway and we’re gaining speed. Sometimes we can’t get a hold of life because it’s going by us SO fast.

Living in Latin America has taught me to stop the rush, get off the moto, and take a moment to lay in the grass. It’s taught me to breathe in the moment and exhale the worry, both literally and figuratively. There’s nothing more valuable than taking the time to appreciate THIS MOMENT. Because that’s the thing with time, it’s not a road. We can’t go back. Only forward.

So wherever you go next, whether you take a smelly subway, a normal car, or a cool AF chiva, enjoy the ride. And don’t miss a moment.

Life is not about the destination. It’s about the journey… and the many moments that make the ride.

*tune the Rascal Flatts “Life is a Highway”*

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