All roads lead to Medellín

My very first blog post on TEFL in Colombia is called Everybody wants to live in Medellín. Its main aim was to motivate teachers, especially newly-qualified ones, to look beyond this amazing city and consider working in other parts of Colombia. In addition, I mentioned some disadvantages of working as an English teacher in the capital of Antioquia. And now I’m sure you can guess where this is heading: A year and a half after writing the blog post, I moved to Medellín.

All roads lead to Medellín

To be precise, I decided to move to Envigado, which means that technically I live outside the city of Medellín. It’s just two metro stops away from Aguacatala, though, so it feels very close. I chose this location because I wanted to avoid the noise of the city centre and the high prices of El Poblado. My experience in Envigado has been very positive so far.

Does this mean that the original blog post was just a load of nonsense? I don’t think so. I still recommend exploring the country and looking for opportunities away from major cities. After deciding to leave Medellín in 2017, my work took me to three different regions of Colombia, so I had a chance to visit some really cool places. I’ll never forget living in a town in Boyacá during my first teaching role, which was a brilliant experience. My two years in Manizales allowed me to explore the beautiful coffee region. The stint in Bucaramanga was affected by the pandemic, but there were still some positives.

The main reason for moving back to Antioquia is that I feel ready for it. While I was away, I managed to get a Delta and became a Colombian resident, which makes language institutes see me in a completely different light than four and a half years ago. Back then I was just a random tourist with no teaching experience. I’m sure that I can avoid the pitfalls of working in ELT in the second biggest city in Colombia.

Moving to a new place also gave me an impetus to make changes in my professional life, and I’m not an employee anymore. The process of registering as a freelancer caused me a bit of a headache in terms of dealing with local institutions, but I believe that I’m going to benefit from it in the long term. In addition to being more flexible when it comes to my work schedule, I hope that this will give me an opportunity to gain experience in a variety of areas related to ELT.

Since I moved to Envigado, I’ve done some interesting work as an independent contractor with International House, which has offices in Bogotá and Medellín. One of my main reasons for collaborating with this institute is that it takes professional development seriously. In fact, I did my Delta Module Two with IH Mexico and took the Train the Trainer course with IH Lima, and I hope to get a chance to develop professionally here in Colombia. I’ve already received Delta-style feedback on a lesson, which is exactly what I need in order to improve as a teacher.

It seems my 2022 is going be about learning useful skills and using them in new teaching contexts. For example, I currently teach one-to-one classes, which is something I’d had very little experience with. Creating personalised lessons from scratch and designing my own materials is a lot of fun! Even though it could mean that I won’t have much time for updating this blog in the next few months, I feel that I need to focus on making the most of this new opportunity. Leaving the comfort of employment is a little risky, but the only way to find out if this is the right step for me is to give it a go and see what happens.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

Medellín is a popular destination among foreign visitors to Colombia. It may not be the best choice when it comes to your first job as an English teacher, but the city is really impressive. There are plenty of interesting sights such as Pueblito Paisa, but you can also go on trips to other places in Antioquia. Probably the most popular one is Guatapé, which is located close to the amazing Piedra del Peñol. If you don’t have much time, you can simply take the Metrocable to Parque Arví. For those who love something a bit more adventurous, there is another really nice place that can be reached by public transport.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

Envigado is officially a separate town, but visiting it will make you feel like you are still in Medellín. It’s only seven metro stops away from the centre and you can actually walk there from El Poblado. Many people prefer living in Envigado because it allows you to stay in a calm neighbourhood while being reasonably close to everything you need. Its location is also convenient for trips to places such as Parque El Salado and Cuevas del Higuerón.

If you like hiking, I recommend visiting a waterfall called Chorro de las Campanas, which is located close to Envigado. Let me show you what it looks like, and if you would like to know how to get there, just scroll down and keep reading.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The hike to the waterfall starts in Arenales, which is just 7 kilometres away from the metro station in Envigado. Although the easiest option is to get a taxi, the most entertaining one is provided by the local bus leaving from the southern exit of the metro station. The last section of the winding road is very narrow and maybe a little scary, but that’s the only way to get to Arenales. Although most of the buses turn around and return to Envigado, some of them continue to La Catedral, which now contains facilities for senior citizens. Don’t hesitate to ask the driver to confirm that you’re in the right place.

The trail to Chorro de Las Campanas is easy to follow. If you go there at a weekend, there will most likely be other visitors to show you the correct way. You can also use this helpful Wikiloc trail to guide you. At the beginning, you have to go downhill towards the small river, and the only thing to pay attention is that when you reach a gate, you should take the path to the left of it. You will then reach a narrow concrete bridge crossing the stream, and that’s where the fun part starts. If you get lucky, you may be able to see colourful butterflies.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The hike to the waterfall is pretty straightforward since you just have to follow the stream. You will cross it several times, and in some places it’s actually easier to wade through the water due to thick vegetation on both sides of the stream. You can walk barefoot if you feel comfortable with that, or you might want to take an extra pair of shoes for the hike. I tried to keep my feet dry as long as possible, but in the end I gave up and decided to walk through the stream. Going back home in my soaking wet hiking boots wasn’t the most pleasant experience ever.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The waterfall is just a kilometre away from the bridge, but the hike isn’t exactly easy because of the terrain. Getting wet is part of the adventure, and there are also several natural pools to take a dip in. Some visitors even jump into the icy cold water directly under the waterfall to cool off after the hike. If you are hungry for more adventure, you can continue to Salto del Ángel and La Catedral, which involves going through some rather challenging passages of the trail. The other option is to go back to Arenales and catch a bus to Envigado. Whichever route you choose, you won’t regret it because both of them are great choices for spending time in an amazing place away from the busy city.