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Traveling as a stress test for your personal organization

leather wallet with bills and cards

During my second week in Colombia, I went to an ATM in Poblado to withdraw cash and an error message appeared on the screen: “Contact your bank.” I tried my second credit card, but the same error message appeared again. I tried the other ATMs in the bank, but they told me to contact my bank as well. Now I was getting worried because I didn’t have any cash on me and I needed to take a taxi to Laureles. I sat down nearby the bank to think and overheard two American backpackers saying that they can’t withdraw any money. The error message had let me to believe that my cards weren’t working, but now I started to hope that the ATMs weren’t working. I looked up the nearest bank to try my luck again and found one five minutes down the road. The ATM was slow, but after a couple of seconds it finally spat out my money.

Traveling is a great way to test the versatility of your processes and to detect hidden weaknesses. You also gain local knowledge about the places you visit and general knowledge about personal organizing. I recommend to formalize the learning process and to write down the learnings of your travels. As you optimize your systems and processes traveling becomes more convenient over time.

Accommodation

I used CompartoApto to find a cheap room for the first three months. The room was in San Joaquin near Calle 70, so I had to walk for twenty minutes every day to get to La Casa Redonda. The room was basic and didn’t have a window and a desk. After three months I had enough and moved to a nicer Airbnb room near La Casa Redonda for the last three weeks. I paid only slightly more and had a much better experience. Next time, I am not going to take the cheapest room I can find.

Banking

Most Colombians use Bancolombia. I went there two times to transfer money. You only need your passport, cash and the account info of the recipient. You should also bring enough time because there is always a long line of people.

I brought a second credit card as a backup. When I wanted to use it, I couldn’t remember the PIN and it became worthless. Live and learn.

Gear

I think the most common mistake among travelers is to pack too heavy. In particular inexperienced travelers carry around too much gear to prepare for all eventualities. More experienced travelers tend to pack light. I didn’t pack too much stuff, but my gear still had optimization potential.

I had brought a cheap adaptor from Germany. It worked well, but it wasn’t able to carry the weight of any charger. Therefore I had to build a foundation (e.g., my backpack) to prevent the charger from falling when I used the adaptor horizontally. For my next trip, I am going to buy a better adaptor.

I switched from a Lenovo laptop to a MacBook Air two years ago and never looked back. I love the thin and lightweight metal body, the long battery life and the sleek design. I carried my Mac from my apartment to La Casa Redonda and back every day. I didn’t feel comfortable carrying around such an expensive item daily and I think I am going to buy a cheaper Chromebook for my next trip. You can get a decent one for $300.

Medellín and the surrounding area have great hiking trails, which made me wish I had packed my hiking boots. I hadn’t brought my hiking shoes because they take up a lot of space. I considered buying a pair of hiking shoes in Medellín, but they were too expensive and too small. Next time, I am going to check out the new Decathlon Store in Envigado. I love Decathlon and I was pumped when I found out that they operate in Colombia.

SIM card

For whatever reason, I brought my German SIM card with me to Colombia. I never knew where to put it and I ended up losing it. Next time I am going to leave my German SIM card at home.

I was certain that I had canceled the contract for my German SIM card, but apparently, I hadn’t. Next time I am going to double check all contracts.

I also realized that I have a couple of services, where I need my German phone number to access new messages (PIN) and to make transfers (TAN). Next time, I am going to leave my old phone with my German number for this purpose at my parent’s place.

You can buy a SIM card on every corner in Medellín, but you have to register it as well. You need a Colombian ID or a Cedula Extranjera for the registration. I tried to avoid the registering process and ended up wasting a lot of time. Next time, I am going to register my SIM Card with a Colombian friend straight away.

Work

Before I went to Medellín, I had worked for a couple of months in a co-working space in Germany. I enjoyed working among other people, but there wasn’t an overlap between my work and the work of my coworkers. The space was also a little too corporate for my taste. I wanted to give coworking another chance in Colombia and went to La Casa Redonda for a trial day. I liked the positive and creative vibe so much that I signed up the same day. Living near a great coworking space is a top priority for me from now on.

Conclusion

Living in Medellín for four months was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot about my preferences and priorities and as a side effect, I also discovered weaknesses in my personal organization. I am looking forward to tweaking my personal organization for my next trip. Now you know everything you need to know about traveling as a stress test for your personal organization. The rest is up to you,