By Sarah Duncan, International Living

Wandering through the busy streets of Bogota, Colombia, you’re bound to come across some colorful street art. From murals to graffiti, the city has become a hub for urban art, a testament to the artistic freedom that Bogota awards to its inhabitants.

Expat Christian Petersen first visited in 2001 and moved here full-time in 2011. “Colombia is completely different now in terms of security, tourism, opportunities, economics, and its global perception,” he says.

“When I first came it was one of the most treasured traveling experiences I’d had in my life, mostly due to the hospitality, kindness, and happiness of the people here.”

However, it was Christian’s appreciation of street art that led him to create an income with one of the most well-known tours in the country.

“When I got to Bogota I was gobsmacked by how prolific and high quality the street art scene was. I was also surprised I hadn’t known this before I arrived,” Christian says. After meeting local street artists, Christian even began painting himself, and along with Canadian graffiti writer, Opek, the Bogota Graffiti Tour was formed in 2011.

Christian’s walking tours begin in Bogota’s hedonistic and cultural center, La Candelaria, a throbbing mass of activity. There is so much to take in here, and the graffiti is just the half of it. During the day the narrow streets are filled with buses, and university students and foreigners emerge from their hostels ready to explore. Street vendors lean against any spot they can find to ply their trade. This is everyday life in this historic neighborhood. Founded in 1538, the graffiti drags the colonial-style buildings into the 21st century.

The reason for the sheer quantity of large murals colorfully plastered on the sides of buildings, and mostly in broad daylight, is because street art is, for the most part, legal in Bogota. This artistic freedom results in murals depicting political, global, and social issues throughout the city. But Christian favors the smaller, more obscure pieces found throughout the city.

He says, “I love the random and surprising walls you literally run into as you turn a corner in the back streets of Candelaria or Chapinero. Even the hidden treasures of small stickers, paste-ups, and street sculptures that are easy to miss, I love.”

“It’s a walking tour that we run so we don’t need transport, we don’t have an office and we all do any administration from home or on- the-go from our phones. The tour is very different in this way compared to many established businesses,” he says. Because of this flexibility, Christian is able to spend more time with his family.

As for the cost of living? You can live cheaply in Colombia. “Compared to the cost of living back home, it’s a lot cheaper,” Christian says. “Our monthly living costs are very modest and reasonable.”

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