08 February 2017
Uncover Colombia Interview: Mark Kennedy – Canadian in Colombia
Mark Kennedy lives in Colombia because of a fateful coin toss. While backpacking around South America, Mark enjoyed visiting Peru and Colombia. But when it came time to decide which country he would call his new home, he couldn’t decide.
“So, I flipped a coin and the coin landed Colombia,” Mark said.
That was 6 years ago. The Canadian currently lives and works in Bogotá as a marketing writer for an international technology company. He’s also in a long-term relationship with a Colombian woman and has created a social circle that consist of Colombians and other foreigners. The 38-year-old said it’s his nature to travel around and has also lived in Taiwan, China and Bermuda. But when it comes to Colombia, Mark sees himself living in the South American country for “a good many years.”
Uncover Colombia: What advice do you have for someone who is considering living in Colombia?
Mark: “Just do it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry too much about the future, you can always go back. It’s not a death sentence if you have property, sell it, then move to another country.
What’s the worst that could happen? You get a cultural experience, you learn a bit of another language, and then you go back. What’s the best thing that could happen? You could fall in love with a country, you could fall in love with someone and you could create a life there. You could really get to know a culture, have a broader world view, and get some fluency in another language.
Uncover Colombia: What was your level of Spanish when you arrived in Colombia?
Mark: “Pretty much zero Spanish. But I knew that I would need to learn the language pretty fast in order to be self-sufficient and in order to be more appealing to the job market. So I started taking classes and after making Colombian friends, studying with a tutor for about three months, and forcing myself to speak Spanish instead of English, I gradually got better.
Uncover Colombia: What is your advice for people who want to learn Spanish?
Mark: “If learning Spanish is really important to them, if it is a life goal, immersion is necessary. You can study it all you like in school and in class and in your native country, but chances are, you’re not going to use it outside of class. But when you are forced to use it (in a Spanish-speaking country), then you start to learn faster – not even by choice, but by necessity.
Uncover Colombia: Which Colombian destination would you recommend to travelers?
Mark: “It’s kind of cliché, but I really like Santa Marta. You get that friendly beach-vibe from a lot of the people, but it’s not as overrun with tourists and tourist traps as Cartagena. I had a lot of fun in Santa Marta and I was able to just be myself. Not only are there beaches, but it has hiking (trails) too.
This interview was edited for length and clarity. Are you a foreigner traveling or living in Colombia? Let us know and we could interview you, too!
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The Uncover Colombia Team