The two days we spent in Salento were a welcome retreat from the city hustle and bustle. It’s there where we reconnected with rural South America in its finest representation – amidst the colorful colonial buildings of yesterday hidden in the cloud forest. Salento is a sleepy town just west of Bogotá and is home to many American expats and Colombians searching for a slower pace of life. We landed at the airport and were greeted by our hostel host who spoke perfect English with no accent. After a few months in South America, hearing that level of English quickly gets your attention. We ultimately found out that he was a Colombian who grew up in New Jersey and quit his corporate job right out of college, travelled the world for a few years and fell in love with Salento by accident. It was in Salento that he decided to settle down and he had just finished building a hotel after a two-year construction project. To meet people by chance who have such a passion for life and living it by their own standards is what traveling is all about. This guy – maybe three years older than me had already squeezed so much experience and adventure out of life. For me, the people we have met on the road punctuated our trip in such an amazing way. The active role he played in his life and the way he had cultivated it according to his own nuanced idea of a good life was really inspiring to me.
We checked into the Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel, perched on a hill and sat on our balconies amidst a fierce rainstorm. We sat there for about an hour doing nothing – just enjoying the view of the rich green valley below. It was astounding as to how quickly we were overtaken by the slow-paced life of the town.
Our hotel was a five-minute walk to downtown and we were in love at first sight. The buildings of the downtown were painted every color imaginable and the friendly nature of the residents was immediately felt. We window shopped for a bit then stopped in for dinner at a recommended restaurant, Bernabe. After polishing off one of the best steaks I have had thus far on the trip, we enjoyed freshly brewed coffee from a plantation just outside of town – truly some of the most delicious coffee I have ever had. Milk and sugar wasn’t even on my radar screen (which is very out of character for me) as it would have adulterated the coffee somehow. I have never experienced coffee in that way and it made me realize just how lucky the people of this town were.
The next day was spent wandering the small town and enjoying drinks in a bar that overlooked the valley and cloud forest below while catching up on some overdue work. Our dinner the first night was so good we decided to go back to the same place and it didn’t disappoint. While we may have missed out on some of the activities of Salento like exploring the coffee plantations or hiking through the nearby forests with insanely tall palm trees, we got a deep sense for the small-town charm that can be offered in Colombia. The town is a very special place that I hope to return to. I also got a strong dose of inspiration from our hostel host – it’s reinvigorating to meet people that inspire you. // Jeff