One Way, One Year – Looking Back on Our Leap


One year ago today, my husband Gio, son Marcello, and I took a one-way trip on Spirit Airlines (ugh) to Cartagena, Colombia. We were in route to our new city of Barranquilla – a city in which I had never before set even my big toe. The weeks leading up to the move were intense.
We sorted all our worldly belongings into three piles: 1) ship to Colombia (a small pile), 2) store in Atlanta (a bigger pile), and 3) get rid of in some way, shape, or form (the biggest pile).

Getting rid of stuff can be really hard, and I don’t mean just making the decision to do it. I mean actually getting rid of it.

Marcello saw so much packing that he suddenly decided to pack a box of his own.

Marcello saw so much packing that he decided to pack a box of his own. There are two toys under that paper.

I put items for sale on Craigslist months in advance, gave away baby stuff to pregnant friends, donated piles to Goodwill, held a last-minute yard sale, and finally gave away or trashed the rest. Oh, and our cars – we had to do something with them too, since only new cars can be imported into Colombia. I sold mine to CarMax and Gio turned his over to his dad so that he could finish paying the loan.

And then came the packing. Complicated packing. Packing for placement on a ship in the case of stuff that would go to Colombia (a sad fate was in store for that shipment), and packing for long-term storage for the rest. Oh, and of course suitcases of stuff to get us through the three to five weeks minimum before our shipment would arrive in Barranquilla. Then came interviewing shippers, renting U-Hauls (to get one pile to the warehouse in Miami and another all the way to Atlanta), and renting a car to get ourselves to Atlanta.

Our weekdays were filled with hours-long trips to the Colombian Consulate in Miami, to get our menaje and start the process for other important paperwork. And for at least eight weeks leading up to the move, every weekend was chocked with tape and boxes and sorting and craziness. We never would have made our deadlines — and there were multiple deadlines — without the help of friends and family. Astrid, Quitterie, Juan, Verena, Annie, Bob, Emma, Esperanza and many more (my memory of that time is hazy at best) – there’s no way we could have done it without you.


Our Lovely Wedding – July 21, 2012

Oh, and did I mention that we drove to Atlanta and had a wedding in the midst of all this? Yes, that too. Our wedding anniversary was two days ago, July 21st. The event was a wonderful, joyful respite in the midst of the chaos. We hold close to our hearts the family and friends who made such an event possible under our tight timeline. Those few days of rest and celebration meant everything in the exciting but trying (yes, even more so than those days of endless packing) weeks to come.

A year later, we have made it through the transition. We can look back with wonder at how we made the leap, at how we made it through that time. The reasons why we did it have made whatever hardships there were all worth it. This casting video for House Hunters International, made in December 2012 just over four months after our arrival in Barranquilla, somehow does a pretty good job of helping me remember earlier days. (Sorry that the video’s vertical – rookie mistake!)

We revel in gratitude for where we are now, and rest in the knowledge that the adventure has only just begun. Onward.


8 responses to “One Way, One Year – Looking Back on Our Leap

  1. What a journey Courtenay! Thanks for sharing with everyone.


  2. Only new cars are welcome in Colombia. Less than 5 years? Less than 2 years? I have read cars less than 5 years will be accepted.

    What part of Killa do you live? We are hoping to move from Canada in less than 1 year. I hope to be in the Alto El Prado area.

    I got married in Killa and have been to Killa 12 times!! Love those perros and the Corral burgers.

    My parents are a bit afraid to go. Colombia has a terrible image. It seems that the media in Canada, the US have chosen Colombia to be the Israel of mondo latina.

    Ideas to blog on:

    – the unforgiving heat; espesh in the summer months
    – Cartagena old and new
    – Santa Marta
    – Brazilia bus service
    – subtitled movies and US TV; that is how I learned mucho Espanol
    – the steadfast unilingualism of Barranquilleros ( a bit easier to find an
    English speaking Cartagenero )
    – Carulla !!! Love it
    – Colombianos and Colombianas love pollo!
    – The presence of Lebanese restaurants ( Los Fringales and Beyrouth, etc.)
    – Downtown Killa
    – Taxis ( verrrrrrrrrry cheap )
    – Shoes you can buy in Killa
    – Fedco
    – My favourite pool in Killa: Hotel El Prado
    – Pizza Loca ( in Canada, pizzas are made with a lot of sauce and just
    enough cheese; I find that is the opposite in Killa).

    What’s your beef with Spirit? I know it’s not our favourite Avianca but it’s much cheaper to fly from Upstate NY to Cartagena via Fort Lauderdale than from 1) Montreal to Miami with American Airlines and 2) Avianca from Miami to Cartagena. Really much cheaper!!!


    • Jeff, thank you sooooo much for all the great suggestions for blog posts! A few of them let me know about some things I should apparently check out, too — for example, I haven’t been to the Hotel El Prado pool or had the pizza from Pizza Loca. I need to get on that right away. 🙂 I’m with you on Carulla and Corral burgers, etc. And yes, we are melting down here right now in the heat. 🙂

      As for Spirit, we do fly them whenever we’re headed back to South Florida. The Cartagena-Fort Lauderdale prices just can’t be beat if you have one of Spirit’s very frequent sale fares. But for anything longer than that, we try to see if we can find flights on another airline where the price is comparable. For example, I flew to Toronto not too long ago, and my husband flies sometimes to Connecticut. In a couple of cases, we’ve been able to take Copa, which is Panama-based and flies through Panama City. The price for a long trip like that was only a tiny tad higher than flying Spirit, if higher at all (that’s assuming you’re checking bags… that’s what really drives the price up on Spirit, as I’m sure you know), and you actually get legroom and meals and movies, etc. etc. I just find Spirit uncomfortable, and terrible if heaven forbid you need to make a change or something. I fly them for the price, but if I can get anything comparable on another airline, I’m there!

      With regard to cars, I thought I would be able to bring mine from the U.S. I had a Ford Fiesta that was less than two years old. I too had heard something about being able to bring cars less than five years old, but at the time we were moving, we were told the car had to be imported directly from the dealership… as in, completely brand-spanking new. But like I said, I have heard conflicting info on that, so I wouldn’t take my word for it. Even if you find you can bring a relatively new car, I would check out the cost of import taxes, though, to find out if it would even be worth it. Anyway, we were definitely told it needed to be brand new, but it was word-of-mouth, so who knows how reliable. You might be able to ask at a Colombian consulate.

      Thank you again for all the feedback and great suggestions! A gold mine! I really appreciate it. Thanks for reading.



    • Jeff, I’ve since figured out that some of our favorite pizza in Barranquilla is Pizza Loca! I didn’t recognize the name because I always think of the place where it’s located, the “Punto Multiple de Sabor”. You are right that it is great!


  3. Re: Cars
    The car to be imported must be the model of the year. Not necessarily with the new car smell but new just the same plus 16% of the “IVA” or VAT; i.e., sales tax on the price of the car.

    But I will ask the Colombian Consulate in Montreal.

    Re: Spirit. Yes making changes with Spirit. But sad to say many airlines take advantage. I guess because Spirit Management knows that it is still cheaper with them than with anywhere else, they charge where they can.


  4. Happy Colombianniversary! We still need to get coffee sometime – work has me all over the place until the end of August but then I will be in touch! Take care.


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