What do you get when you mix over 40 Wharton students, countless bottles of aguardiente, rolling green mountains, beaches, and a country on the rise? The Colombia Trek, of course! Colombia is a place that has intrigued me for some time for many reasons, from the random locals I have bonded with in the US to the new corporate branches and start-ups that seem to be popping up in Bogotá of late. I knew signing up that I’d be in for an adventure, which is just the way I like it, so I booked my direct flight and found that Colombia is:
A place that is clearly up and coming. McKinsey, BCG, and the Acumen Fund all boast growing offices. One of our trek leaders, Diego Mariño, is part of a growing start-up community that is well supported by regulators and government funding. The four other business school treks we ran into in various cities is another hot indicator that Colombia is absolutely the place to be. And besides being on the rise, the country has a misty beauty that soaks in faster than the flash rainstorms that are second nature to the mountainous terrain.
But even more than the exciting growth and the beauty, what made Colombia Trek was the people with whom we travelled and shared countless “only in Colombia” moments with. We started the trip right with a drinking circle in a nighttime carnival parking lot! The locals marveled, and even got involved as one silver painted lady with a Chucky doll and pistol accepted a plastic shot glass and quickly asked for another round. It only got better with our bike tour of the city and visit to the gold museum, rounded out with an epic night at Andres, a club the size of a small town. The Wharton conga line dominated the dance floor.
We balled it up together, no night bigger than New Year’s Eve in Cartagena and no day bigger than New Year’s Day on the catamaran boat we rented. It was like an MTV music video, but with my crème de la crème classmates. With all the big city living, we did round out the second half of the trip with some time in countryside, where we had more beach time, took over a couple of fincas, and slept on the beach in Tayrona National Park.
Our head trek leader, Lucas Llinás Múnera, clearly planned the whole trip with love. If Japan Trek is a two Michelin star restaurant, then the Colombia Trek is a home cooked meal, complete with cheese arepas. We met his whole family at various legs of the trip, and his sisters confided that he’d enlisted their help identifying all the birthdays during the trip. He knew all our names by heart. Props.
And through all of these adventures, I met every kind of Wharton personality on this trip. There were the ones I had known by face and finally had a chance to have a good talk with. And others I never would have otherwise met. We’ve already planned our first reunion, and have a Colombia playlist we’ve shared in case we are in urgent need of a Carlos Vives hit. Trek leader # 3, Carlos Aldana Valenzuela, is carrying the torch next year and, no doubt, will bring a new twist to the endless adventure. Colombia Trek lives on.