Traveling the world as a nomadic expat has brought surprises at times, disrupting a set agenda. Like the time we were at Machu Picchu on a typically busy day. During our lunch break, there was a steady rain shower which drove most of the crowd away. The rain passed after a couple of hours so upon our return, we had the ancient site mostly to ourselves, it was magical.
There were also memorable moments for the wrong reason. Early in our travels, we were drawn to an Ecuadorian coffee and cacao farm to be volunteers for a week. Harvesting coffee berries and processing cacao beans into chocolate sounded so enticing. The reality was a week of back-breaking work that left us questioning if we would survive to see our next destination.
Assurance of Insurance
Which brings us to our time in Colombia during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve returned to Colombia numerous times. We love the people, climate and especially the Paisa culture of Medellin.
In 2019 we were fortunate enough to acquire private health insurance with the best provider in the country, SURA. Colombia’s healthcare quality is outstanding so we’ve decided to return each year for our annual check-ups.
With our annual medical exams complete the plan was to travel to Brazil, Argentina, a brief stop in Chile and return to Mexico. As February led into March it became clearer each day, even though the coronavirus arrived in South America last, we would not be spared. So we decided to stay and ride this out in Sabaneta, a lovely city just south of Medellin.
A Strong Safety Net
Colombia has a fairly strong social safety net. There is national healthcare for all citizens (including foreigners with resident visas), tenant rights are strong and housing is affordable. Inexpensive fresh food is plentiful since they can grow almost anything in this tropical/temperate climate.
As the number of global virus cases grew exponentially, most Latin American countries responded aggressively to prevent the rapid spread of the disease. The two largest countries, Brazil and Mexico, unfortunately, delayed serious action as I write this. Hopefully, they will have woken up to the reality of the situation by the time you read this.
Colombia decided to impose a lockdown order much earlier than expected. For nearly a month, we can only leave our apartment two times per week to purchase food. It quickly became clear this was the right decision as it slowed the rate of infection.
Away From Family
We feel good about being in a place that took this threat seriously combined with access to a solid healthcare system. Our greatest concern continues to be family and friends back home who are at higher risk.
Being far from home can sometimes be anxiety-provoking yet at the same time, there was something comforting being in Colombia this time. I guess that’s why we remain nomadic expats. It was a reminder that we’ll always want the option to return whenever we feel it’s best for us and our family. It’s kind of the best of both worlds even under difficult circumstances.
Do you have any questions about how Colombia is handling the pandemic? Please share what is going on for you in your country.
by: Eileen Brill-Wagner