I’m sitting on my balcony in Jardín, a small town in the Colombian coffee district. I’ve been here for almost 3 weeks, which is an exceptionally long time for me to stay in the same area. Generally, after 3 days in one place, I already feel like I am settling. I’ve been moving around so much, that any day, where I don’t have to pack up my backpack, feels like a day of rest and a reason to celebrate. It’s real refuge.
That might sound like a crazy lifestyle to some, but when you’re traveling that way, you don’t even consider other options. After all, time is money, and you want to make the most out of your time as possible.
Still, needless to say, there is a point when your body starts acting out, telling you to give it a break. A time, when your brain reports to you that it is overstimulated by new sensations, people, places, food, languages. The name for this: Travel fatigue
Which is why I am staying at this place for a full 5 weeks.
I remember panicking when I first reserved for one whole week because it felt like such a long time in one place. Contrary to my feelings and thinking that sounded insane, I then contacted the owner saying that I might even stay two weeks (you can see my wavering). And finally, upon arriving, I booked a third week and then a fourth and fifth because once out of the travel ‘circus’ I realized that this place was exactly what I needed.
A small house with 2 floors, 3 tiny bedrooms, all for myself. The kitchen downstairs takes over most of the space on the first floor, and the top floor provides an area to lounge on benches with thick cushions on them. The house is made of red bricks, which have been turned into whitewashed walls on the inside. The latter are accompanied by a dark wooden interior and blue curtains, making it look like your grandma’s house in the countryside, radiating warmth, peace, and tranquility. I chose the smallest bedroom as it had the best view of the outside. As nice as the interior feels, the surroundings are what makes this place special. The house is in the middle of the countryside. A small countryside road leads through a small settlement of about a dozen houses. The bus that runs about once an hour, some moto-taxis and some tractors are the only traffic noise you hear. Thus, you feel somewhat connected to the nearby town yet in enough peace and tranquility not to be bothered by it. Other than that, the natural soundtrack to this place features the following: The clopping of a horse once in a while walking up the road, a man with a cowboy hat sitting on it. The crowing of the roosters at 4 in the morning. A small dog barking around 5 pm every day, as if noticing something menacing. The drop of a dried leaf of a palm tree, making for one of the most startling noises here.
With the arrival of dusk, birds will dominate the sky and their small cries mixing with the constant noise of the crickets will make for my evening concert. Sitting on my balcony, I enjoy the view, especially at this time of the day. Blue mountains tower in the back, their often slightly hazy sight, sometimes covered by fog, sometimes by clouds, give me a feeling of stability. Having that same view every day makes me feel safe, knowing that I will see something familiar when I wake up again the next morning. I have a hard time spending my time other than with this view, thus my balcony is my little oasis of peace in this world right now.
My gaze falls onto the grazing cows while writing this. To their left, I am looking at huge palm trees, full of plantains. To my right, I can see over the valley with more palm trees, mandarin orange bushes in front of my house and flowers. This is a very colorful area. The houses in town are as colorful as all the flowers that line the way. They boast of life and happiness. And just to add another cherry on the top, this landscape is filled with a dozen of the most colorful kinds of birds I have ever observed in the wild.
I remember going birdwatching, getting up at 6 am in a small mountain town in Ecuador, just to walk around for 4 hours, seeing one type of bird from close-up which wasn’t even that spectacular. Had I only known, I would see the most colorful birds from my balcony every day in Jardín. Red-bellied black birds who’d always appear in a pair, sitting on the electricity line every night. Yellow-bellied birds dashing in and out of the trees. Blue-bellied birds hiding between the trees, flying in and out so quickly, that I can only catch a quick glimpse of them. Here I am, wishing they’d sit still for a second or that my meager camera on my phone was able to frame this memory.
Once it gets dark, the scenery changes and framing any memory gets even more challenging, if not impossible.
On clear nights, the sky will be covered in stars. On nights like those, I cuddle up in a blanket and lay on my back on the balcony, staring through the wooden railing which is partly shielding off me otherwise panoramic view. Nothing has brought me more happiness at this place than seeing this. I felt like a young child, staring at the stars from the small window in my bedroom, looking far away, hoping for a happier future than what I felt life was like at that moment. There is nostalgia in this in my current moment but also more gratitude, knowing that I did find a ‘happier’ future in the ‘end’.
On other nights, a completely different yet as mesmerizing, spectacle presents itself here in front of my eyes – lightening. Lightening to me has always had something menacing. I’d always sit there, anxiously waiting for the clap of the thunder. Here in Jardín, lightening comes on its own. It breaks through the clouds, illuminating the otherwise pitch-black view in front of my eyes, and then disappears as quickly as it appeared. It’s completely quiet except for the sounds of the crickets. And then the lightning hits again, quietly.
Being here, I have felt for the first time as if living in my ‘dream home’. This place is the closest I’ve ever come to finding it. Which gives me hope because it shows me that my dream doesn’t only have to be a dream.
I wrote a part 2 to this story.