I wouldn’t tell you Colombia is always safe, because it’s not. Nor would I tell you Colombia is always pretty, because it isn’t. The truth is that there are streets far darker and dirtier than any I’ve ever been down. There are men without homes, women without options, and children without food. This is one side of Colombia.

There are magnificent skyscrapers too. And ornate restaurants and deistic vistas. There is flickering neon nightlife and shopping; food of undiscovered ingredients and artists with unseen colors. The capital, Bogota, is a city built on aged colonial paint, the distant shadow of Bolivar himself still somehow present against those colored walls.

And it is in this mix of excitement and caution that one finds beauty. In the heartbreak of poverty, there is also genuine love and joy between the people here. There is laughter and comfort, and an intangible appreciation of life by all generations.

Colombia is ascending in Latin America to a point of power, wealth, and respect. And with this rise will hopefully come safety and comfort. Much of it is already there but more is needed. And yet, it is now that one can truly find Colombia. Somewhere between the challenges and the pleasures one will discover real beauty and real life. If one is a cold and timid soul with no stomach for the uncertain or the exciting, then perhaps Colombia is not the right fit. But for anyone who is looking to not only have a fun vacation but to also see the world in all of its flawed charms, this mighty Andean country is waiting.