Goodbye Cali, Hello Cuba!

29 Aug

It’s the end of an era!

Today, after almost 2 years living here, I have left my “Cali bella”. I’m leaving Colombia.

I’m writing this post in El Dorado Airport in Bogota (funnily enough this song was playing when I got off my flight from Cali) as I await my connecting flight that will take me, via San Salvador, to my next destination: La Habana, Cuba.

I’ve spent the last few weeks answering the same questions from my friends over and over again:
-Why are you leaving?
-Did you get bored of Cali?
-What’s are you going to do?

I probably should have written this post a lot sooner to preemptively answer those questions but, as a lot of my friends in Cali pointed out to me over the last few days, I seem to have taken to procrastination after spending so much time here. Better late than never, right!

Why am I leaving?
I’ll be brutally honest: I feel like I’ve stagnated here in Cali and I’ve felt that way for a while now.

I came here with the goals of learning Spanish and adding more “latin sabor” to my salsa. I now speak Spanish (far from perfect but enough for some Colombians who have been speaking to me for a few minutes to find it necessary to confirm that I’m not originally from Colombia) and I now dance very differently from how I danced before I came here.

So now I think it’s time to move on to another challenge (more on that in a moment).

I also feel I need some time outside of Cali to think seriously about what I want to with myself, long term. I was speaking with my mam a few weeks ago and she dropped the “You’re nearly 30” bomb on me. She’s entitled to do it; she’s my mam and she only wants the best for me and she wants to make sure I’m doing something with my life. It still hurt like a kick in the teeth, though.

I’m hoping a change of environment should help me to think and plan a little better. At least that’s the idea.

Did I get bored of Cali?
The best way to answer that is: No, I didn’t get bored of Cali BUT Yes I did get bored of the salsa here.

I’m the Dancing Irishman (yup, it looks like it’s gone to my head) and salsa is a huge part of my life. I’ve become far too comfortable in Cali (typical Irishman; thinks something’s wrong when things are going too smoothly). Dancing socially in Cali doesn’t challenge me the way I would like it too. Don’t get me wrong, I love going out with my friends and dancing into the wee hours but it has become quite repetitive for me. In general I can only use a limited amount of moves in salsa caleña.

I want to learn other styles. I want my own style to continue evolving. I want to get better.

This is why I feel I need to move on and find new challenges.

So what am I going to do?
Cali is known as the world capital of salsa but there a few other places around the world that would like to claim that title.

Hence my first stop: Cuba.

I arrive tomorrow… or this morning… or whatever, I’m tired from a week of going away parties. I’m going to spend 3 weeks there (very short I know but the length of my stay has been dictated by the pitiful-ness of my budget. The plan is to learn as much Cuban salsa as I can, dance my ass off, and get to know the country (and its people) that claims to be the birthplace of salsa.

And then, near the end of September, I arrive in Miami. The idea is to start there and slowly but surely dance my way up the east coast to my final destination: New York City.

Yes folks, it’s time the Dancing Irishman learned to dance “On2”.

And that’s my plan, in all it’s naive simplicity.

Mi nuevo camino
I’m looking at this like an adventure. I’m following my heart (can you say cliché?) and going where the dance takes me.

If you happen to live some where on or near the east coast of the US and you have some advice for me on places to visit (salsa or non-salsa related), if you want to meet up for a coffee or if you want to offer me a couch to sleep on during my travels 🙂 drop me an email:

As I’m a big fan of Couchsurfing I’d be very happy to hear from you. Bear in mind that while I’m in Cuba (until September 20th) I won’t have much access to internet but I promise to reply once I arrive in the US. This means I probably won’t publish any new posts for a few weeks.

To my friends in Cali
I can’t finish this blog without mentioning that which became more important for me than anything in Cali: the beautiful people I got to know and the incredible friends I made.

In just two years I truly feel that I became part of Cali, that it opened its arms and accepted me as one of her own (albeit an exceptionally pale one). The people here made me an honorary caleño, ve!

They made me feel welcome, they thought me how to appreciate salsa on a level I never even knew existed, they helped me find my latin “sabor” (turns out I’m white chocolate) and when I was leaving they made sure to say goodbye in a way that would make me want to come back as soon as possible.

Las sonrisas bellas de mi gente linda! That was one hell of a Farewell Party!

Las sonrisas bellas de mi gente linda! That was one hell of a Farewell Party! Try and find the Irishman!

I love you Cali. I love you my Caleños. Les quiero mucho…e hasta pronto!

Cuba, here I come!


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20 Responses to “Goodbye Cali, Hello Cuba!”

  1. Jackie Elton August 29, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Can’t wait to hear what you think of On2. Good Luck with your travels and couch surfing. Have fun.

    • The Dancing Irishman August 29, 2013 at 4:47 am #

      Thanks Jackie, I’m really looking excited about getting into it myself. You can expect a report in the near future.

  2. Ellen Keith August 29, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    Going to learn on2! That’s great. Once you start it, you may never go back. Sounds like a great few months ahead of you. Enjoy.

  3. Dilia - DAO August 29, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Vuela alto Monito, ilógico que un mono vuele pero… hehehe.
    De mi parte solo queda decir: aprende mucho, practica y sin timides devorate cada lugar donde llegues, por fin bailarás On2 y estoy feliz por ti, te seguiré por acá pq me interesa mucho los que puedas compartirnos, abracitos

  4. gregebersole August 29, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Great post! I wish you nothing but the best on your trip to Cuba! I wish I could go again. Maybe, some day. I’ll be anxious to hear your adventures there. I’ll be anxious to hear what you do in the US. I have friends in Miami very involved in the salsa scene. I’ll try to get you in contact with them. They are right now in the airport in Paris waiting for a flight to Istanbul. I’ve now been in the US for 2 weeks. Things are good, but I miss Cali and Colombia a lot. It will always be my second home. I leave on the train tonight of Oregon. I’m hoping for some clarity in the next month or two for what I want to do in 2014. Best of luck and I hope our paths cross again. You were one foreigner that I met in Cali who made an impression on me. I really enjoyed our visits and time together. And our fast descent on Tres Cruces. As you know, I didn’t go out of my way to meet other foreigners. I preferred the company of Colombians. I’ll be waiting to hear more of your adventures! Te cuidas mucho!

    • The Dancing Irishman September 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      It was great getting to know you too Greg especially since you held Cali so close to your heart.
      Best of luck in the coming months deciding on what your next path is going to be. I know it’s not an easy decision but that’s part of the excitement.

  5. ROBERT August 29, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Kind of saddened that you are leaving Cali and did not get to meet you in person but also very happy for you in your new adventure ,You are a real inspiration to everyone keep up with your posts, glad to know you are leaving Cali with a good feeling Im sure Cali will miss you too and hopes you return take care and buen viaje Robert Scotland.

    • The Dancing Irishman September 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      Thanks Robert. Twas a pity I didn’t get to meet ya in person but look after Cali for me while I’m away. I’ll see ya whenever it is that I make it back.

  6. Joshua August 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    NYC is the birthplace of Salsa!!!! Get it right! USA! USA! See you on the stateside.

    That being said, after 2 years of living there I left Cali for the exact same reasons (but cried for almost a month before actually leaving). I felt too comfortable and stagnated, and felt that I needed a challenge. I miss it terribly (as you probably know) but the experience expanded my horizons and made me a better human being. I’ll always carry Colombia and its people in my heart.

    Have fun in Cuba!

    • The Dancing Irishman September 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      Just hit American soil this morning. Keep in touch Joshua and I might get to see ya while I’m here.

  7. Klanek September 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Hola, buen articulo me gusto mucho, te deseo mucha suerte en tu nuevo camino ¿alguna vez fuiste a juanchito? el tradicional lugar de los salsomanos de Cali o a las discotecas salseras populares (la comadre, 7mo cielo, etc) donde se baila mas “natural”
    Gracias y Buen viaje!

    • The Dancing Irishman September 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      Hola Klanek
      Sí claro he ido a Juanchito, varias veces. Me gusta mucho la Comadre y Changó. Tengo muy buenos recuerdos de esos lugares.

  8. carinaofdevon September 19, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    You’re nearly 30? You’re only a kid! I turned 40 earlier this year. I have two small kids, and a husband who looks after them full-time. Both my husband and I quit permanent employment a few years ago, and from May of next year we plan to set sail around the world. We don’t own a house, have very little by way of savings, and have no idea where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing next year. And you know what? We’ve never been happier. Our way of life doesn’t appeal to everyone, but we were made for this life.
    My only regrets upon turning 40? I haven’t yet run a marathon, and I haven’t yet written a novel. The former remains a dream. But I completed a first draft of the novel the other day! Maybe it’ll be ready to send to a publisher before I turn 41…

    • The Dancing Irishman September 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

      I’ll be keeping track of your adventures with the blog. Don’t worry about not having run the marathon yet. You can do that at anytime. Tis the novel that will take the real work haha.


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