When first beginning to talk about going to Colombia, my friends and family were extremely concerned for my safety. People began emailing me links to the U.S. State Dept. website regarding mandatory travel ONLY to Colombia. I must admit that at first reading I began to question wether i should go. However, after further online research from people who had been, I decided that the information I was hearing was so contradictory that I wanted to see for myself.
Upon my arrival, I was a little nervous. By myself, a very limited ability with the language, and a conversation with an embassy worker on the plane who just gave me all kinds of things to watch out for. I quickly found however that the people I met were genuinely concerned for my feeling comfortable and were only trying to help me on my way.
After meeting up with more members of our group, and getting out and about, Bogota didn't seem that different from many other cities I'd been to. There was a european feel and plenty of sites to walk and see. The next night myself and another traveler walked on our own to get a beer and talk. I wasn't seeing any of the negative images conjured by most our media.
Throughout our trip we saw everything from Ciudad Bolivar to the Cafeteros to Parque Tayrona. Everyone we met was interested in why were there and more than once people offered the unsolicited request of telling others when we return what we'd seen, that they get a bad wrap in the international media.
Overall, Colombia is a beautiful country. The people are passionate and proud of the gains they've made over the years. The businesses and politicians we met are well aware of the many social initiatives needed to continue moving the country forward.
Colombia is not with out it's problems and past, no country is. We all have more work to do regardless of where we're from. As far as safety goes, a person can get into trouble anywhere in the world. I found it ironic that after all the concern I received from my family and friends that after spending 2 weeks in Colombia, the least safe I felt was at a gas station near the airport here in the U.S.