Day 9: March 5, 2016

Hot Cities 2016 has come to its final day but we couldn’t have asked for a better end to this incredible trip. Our schedule was clear until 4pm, giving us the opportunity to explore the old city of Cartagena, hang out by the rooftop infinity pool at our hotel and go shopping for souvenirs.

At 4pm we meet as a group and walked over to the Galavanta Colombia Tailored Travel office. Galavanta is the luxury travel agency that planned our stay in Colombia, starting in Bogota to Armenia and finally to Cartagena. Galavanta is a high class Colombia travel agency that was started by Cristina Consuegra and her partner Alexis Pradie, who are both McGill MBA graduates. We had a panel discussion with them about their journey from corporate jobs to where they are now, with a very successful and growing travel agency. It was interesting to hear about the contrast between structured corporate life and the lives they are living now. Thought, they both work longer hours than they did before, they both agree that they are much happier where they are now. All thanks to Cristina we were able to meet with companies like Uber and McKinsey, as well as travel to a beautiful coffee plantation in Armenia and explore the small city of Salento. Having a connection to a McGill alumnus that started an amazing travel agency definitely took this trip above and beyond what students were expecting and what we could have done on our own.

Check out their amazing website:

For our last night in Colombia and Latin America, we went to talk to a local NGO, FEM. FEM empowers indigenous communities by providing them with the human capital and expertize they lack. Unlike most non-profits, FEM does not provide any financial support to the communities it is involved with, instead, its major contribution comes in the form of volunteer’s time. Volunteers are usually well-educated individuals who come to Colombia to work directly with the communities by teaching them useful techniques to tackle their daily challenges, and this knowledge sharing is core to FEM’s success. This model exemplifies the famous sentence “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In fact, we met with one of the members of the local community in Cartagena who was going to work with McGill University students on a project which consists of destroying his own house to rebuild one that is more energy efficient and flood resistant as that is a major issue in the region. This project will also involve architects and engineers from around the world and we are proud to be helping with the fundraising along with the volunteering work.

Our last night was a real treat. After eating a delicious group dinner in the walled part of Cartagena, FEM Cartagena Insider shuttled us onto two busses and took us into the more authentic, local part of the city. Cartagena Insider is a branch of FEM that takes guests to local salsa spots and educates tourists about salsa culture and Caribbean history. Our first stop was at a local spot called El Coreano. We can honestly say we’ve never felt like bigger gringos in our entire lives. Colombian men and women of all ages were sitting around the outdoor dance floor cheering, salsa-ing and laughing to the Latin beats. It was one of the most authentic, vivid experiences of the entire trip.

When the night was all said and done, we ended up at four different local salsa bars, consumed numerous beers, grooved to many salsa songs, and ended up becoming certified salsa dancers. Until next time Cartagena!

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