Next on our Latin American Expat Blogger Series is Viktoria from Chronic Wanderlust. She has a lot of experience in Latin America first as an exchange student in Venezuela, then as an intern in Mexico, and now living in Colombia for school. She writes about the best dive spots in Latin America as well as travels throughout Colombia. She also takes rad photos all around the world in a dirndl (a traditional Austrian dress).
Tell us about yourself and when and why you decided to start your blog
I’m Viktoria, a professional travel blogger from Austria, who loves to go diving and be outdoors. When I lived in Spain four years ago I started my little blog and after a year I already worked with a couple of companies. I’ve been self-employed since 2013, while usually maintaining a part-time job aside – which I no longer do. My blog features great dive sites, travelling, as well as cost reports of most of my trips, and much more.
Have you ever heard of the MUSA in Mexico? It's quite a special dive near Isla Mujeres, but also creepy! Would you dive there? #musa #cancun #islamujeres #buceo #diving #tauchen #quintanaroo #mexico #mexiko #museosubacuatico #underwatermuseum #scuba #scubadiving #girlsthatdive #chronicwanderlust #travel #tbt #bucearesvivir #divingisliving #padi #padipro #padidivemaster #divemaster #careydiving
How long have you been in Colombia? How long do you plan on living there?
I arrived mid-January, so it’s been almost two months so far. I’ve already made a reservation on a containership from central America to Europe early August. I guess I’ll be in Colombia until June.
Where did you live at before coming to Colombia?
In the lovely city of Linz in Austria
What made you decide to move to Colombia?
I’ve lived in Venezuela almost seven years ago and I wanted to go back to a somewhat similar culture. Also Bogotá’s climate is perfect for living, not too hot and not too cold. Colombia is on the rise tourist wise now, this was also a reason to come to Colombia and write a lot on my blog about the country.
What was the visa process like?
Quite easy, but I had to provide a bank statement stating I had enough funds to ” survive“ on my own in Colombia – it was a bit more tricky to get than expected but in the end everything worked out just fine.
How do you make a living?
My travel blog is my business – truth must be told, I’m in Bogotá to study for a semester and of course I work on my travel blog. So on the one hand some advertising gigs on my blog and a scholarship make sure I get to eat every day.
What is the average cost of things in the city Bogotá?
It really depends, but the cost of living in Bogotá isn’t really high. I live with a Colombian family, where I rent a room at their house and I pay as little as 150 US$ for rent. I’m not living in the very city centre, where the costs are a bit higher, but you can still rent an entire apartment for 300-450 US$ per month.
What have you learned since becoming an expat in Colombia?
If the internet is working – work like there’s no tomorrow. Might just been an initial problem where I’m living, but generally the internet here is good!
It’s not so easy to work with local companies since they don’t calculate a lot of marketing budget or don’t see the value of a travel blog. It’s hard to argue with them because they just don’t want to see the benefit – at least most of them. They want to see the money coming in now and not in the next weeks or months.
What is your favorite thing about being an expat in Colombia?
The cheap cost of living and travelling can be very inexpensive here as well. A table full of fruits and veggies only costs about 3€ and will last your for a week!
What is the worst thing about being an expat in Colombia?
Insecurity and therefore not wanting to take my camera or laptop everywhere I go. In Austria I take my laptop pretty much anywhere when I know I’ll have some time to write or edit photos. I don’t do that in Colombia when I’m in Bogotá. But it’s also a good thing: I’m more proactively looking for other things to occupy myself with when I have to wait.
What do you miss most about home?
Haha! The food and the security. I love to walk and to run, both are very restricted in Bogotá due to security reasons.
Do you speak Spanish fluently? What has the language process been like?
I do speak Spanish fluently! I love the language and the culture that I connect it with. When I lived in Venezuela I didn’t know any Spanish and within three months I started to speak more confidently. I’ve also worked and travelled Mexico extensively and lived in Spain – all that helped me a lot with getting to where I’m now with my Spanish.
Learn by talking, but don’t forget about the grammar at some point.
What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I chose to live with a Colombian family, that way I gain some great insights about Bogotá and Colombia. We always share our meals and eat together – and of course talk about pretty much anything.
In Bogotá there’s a bar that offers this “Gringo Tuesday“ event, where you can practice Spanish or any other language. You wouldn’t believe how many gringos and Colombians take part!
What custom/habits have you found to be the most different from your own culture or have found it difficult to adjust to?
Being on time. When you decide on meeting at 3pm, you’ll probably meet around 4pm or even later. So when I make plans with friends I always ask “Colombian time or Austrian time?“ They understand and try to be more punctual.
How do you feel that the people of Colombia see you? Are you treated any differently?
I do feel treated differently sometimes when people judge me by my physical appearance only. I’m tall, blond, blue-eyed and compared to many Colombians a ghost when it comes to my skin tone. Sometimes I get really annoyed when they try to charge me a gringo-tax, but mostly they reconsider when we start talking in Spanish.
What is a myth about your adopted country?
Myth 1: Everyone is a drug dealer. Drugs shaped Colombia in the past and they still do. But that doesn’t mean everyone is involved. There are so many people in Colombia clever enough not to get involved in the drub business.
Myth 2: Pablo Escobar is a national hero – might be true somewhat but remember that he was a murderer.
Myth 3: It’s not safe. In the last years the whole security situation has changed and improved a lot. You can travel Colombia at peace, but still trust your gut! FYI: Did you know that Colombian presidente Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Price for settling an agreement with FARC.
What is your favorite dish in Colombia?
Probably Empanadas – filled corn dough. I prefer the Empanada de Queso – empanada with cheese. Those are sold pretty much anywhere. It’s fried, so you wouldn’t want to eat them everyday.
What advice would you give someone who was traveling to Colombia?
Trust your guts and trust the people here. Eat lots of the delicious fruits and simply enjoy it.
What are your favorite spots in Colombia that you have visited?
So far: I loved the diving in San Andrés (but I didn’t like the island itself), I absolutely fell in love with Cartagena and the national parks around Bogotá. I’m sure that will change as soon as I’ll get to see more in the next couple of weeks and months.
Any plans on visiting other Latin American countries this year? If yes, where will you go and what you will do?
Now the good part! While living in Colombia, I’ll try to visit some places that really call my attention – anything outdoor, diving, hiking, …
Then I’ve planned to go to amazing Galapagos in April, then probably come back to discover mainland Ecuador in June. Then off to Aruba, Bonaire and Curazao, before making my way back home to Austria – without using a single plane. I’ll take a boat from Cartagena to Panama, then some buses around Panama and Costa Rica and board the containership there. It’ll stop in Jamaica before arriving in the Netherlands about two weeks later. Then some buses or trains and tada – back in Austria.
And I’m already planning to go to Bolivia and maybe Peru next year in spring.
More about our expat series: