The Volkswagen Diaries

Volkswagen Diaries 2
The Volkswagen Diaries
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The Volkswagen Diaries – Part 2

Expat stories are a popular item. It is fascinating for the readers to see how or what it took for someone else to take the leap to live, work, play, invest or retire in a foreign land.

Many people who are familiar with First American Realty in Medellin, know that they are the number one Expat Real Estate consultants in Colombia.  Rich Holman, the founder, has had his story told many times but the other partners have ”languished” in obscurity.

Joe Greco’s entrance into the company brought about a number of dynamic changes. Joe is an intuitive, creative, street smart guy. He has an excellent eye for good value and a great vision for project development.

Here is the link to part one of his story –

by Joe Greco.

On the road again, having waded through the paperwork, headaches and delays of receiving my van and belongings in the Port of Cartagena, and securing the needed approval for a vehicle tourism permit, I was ecstatic to be headed south.  Since Colombia was not a top contender for a place to end up, I had not invested in much research and was merely going off the large (and undetailed) South American Continent map for my navigation guide.  Luckily, the route seemed pretty clear and simple.  Head south on the Pan American Highway and pop out in Ecuador on the Pacific Coast.  From what I could tell, there were a couple of big cities along the way (Medellin and Cali) which seemed to be the perfect overnight resting spots for my three day journey.

In Cartagena, my first impressions of Colombia were that it felt a bit unorganized and chaotic, and coupled with the coastal heat, it was more then I could bear.  One thing that really did resonate well was that the people seemed extremely eager and willing to assist an ‘out of place’ Gringo.  In Mexico, in the tourist zones, many of the people that helped me always seemed like they wanted something in return.  Throughout Central America, the locals seemed a bit more standoffish, reserved, and distant.  As I came to know Colombia better, it was clear that the locals were extremely happy to see foreign travelers in their land.  Having had received such bad press international press in the 80’s and 90’s for the internal violence and drug trafficking, the image and fear of a country in unrest lingered in the minds of those who did not know the new Colombia first hand.

Winding my way south, it was quickly becoming clear that my three day cross country estimate may have been a bit underestimated.  The roads were far from straight, and the terrain was very mountainous. As a result my travel time was much slower than planned.  As I pulled into a road side gas station in the mountain town of Yurumel, I tried my best to get some local advice on how much longer until I arrived in Medellin.  On my map it looked like it couldn’t be more than 30 minutes, but from what I could understand (in my broken Spanish), it sounded like it might be more like three hours until I arrived in the 2nd largest city in Colombia.  In respect, neither assumption would be accurate for me.

With daylight fading fast, and since I had already put in a full day to driving, I figured I might as well call it a night and opt for an early morning start the following day.  Arriving into a big city like Medellin would be much easier to tackle during daylight and with my energy at full steam.  I had also learned that driving at night was never a good idea in an unknown Latin American country.  My van was running strong, but I had experienced a couple small glitches in the past (such as a brake issue, a warning light mysteriously appearing, and a flat tire).  None of these would be fun to deal with on this narrow mountain road with no street lights.

Watch for the next Colombia Portal newsletter for Part 3 of the Volkswagen Diaries to see why Joe still has not made it to Buenos Aires.

David is the Chief Editor and CEO for EscapeArtist Colombia.


  1. Have been going to Colombia for close to 25 years.Your visit was to brief to really draw any conclusions.It is a fairly big city,historic district,beach community/area,and then where most of the people live.Too big to draw any substantial conclusions that short a time.Lastly,slowly the country has been improving over time,with the progress on the economy and drug wars.

    • David,

      Thanks for your comments. I will reply on behalf of Joe, but hopefully he will have an opportunity to respond.

      Personally, I lived in Cartagena in two years. For people passing through, they are often left with first impressions. The majority of people passing through, don’t see both sides of the city. I know Joe has been back numerous times since he first arrived.

      Certainly the country has been been improving slowly. With your 25 years experience of visiting Colombia, you have definitely seen very positive changes.


  2. I love Colombia, lived in Cali 4 months in 2004, also in Bogota, briefly, too cold big and unfriendly . 3 times to Buenaventura and also San Andres, what a jewel just not too good for surfing, the reason I moved to El Salvador in 1994 and of course best country to invest about to drive back soon

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