Hungary is located in the middle of Europe (part of the EU). Most of those who try out their luck in different countries choose their destination staying in Europe. It doesn't happen every day that someone decides to relocate from Hungary to Colombia. The two countries are divided by the North Atlantic Ocean, while getting there you have to travel 9,915 km (~15 hours by plane).
A couple of weeks back, we started boosting our tour selection here at Trekhunt. During charting South-America, we bumped into a lovely and energetic tour company, which turned out to be founded by a Hungarian guy, Peter Popal. We wanted to know more about him and his story.
Tell me your story. How a Hungarian guy turns out to live in the other part of the planet?
First of all, thanks for the interview. Well, that's an exciting story...
In 2010 I did an Erasmus exchange program in Milan, and I met with a lot of Latin American students, primarily from Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. We were hanging out all the time. At some point, I was keen to visit that part of the world. I also decided to write my thesis about Latin America, so I had to read a lot of articles, news, and books about the culture and the region.
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In 2013 I finally had the chance to visit Brazil - and I loved it. Later I visited Chile, Argentina, and Brazil (again) with my friends. But to be honest, I always had a feeling that I should visit Colombia soon. So in 2016, I traveled there with my brother and with one of my friends.
During my vacation, I've fallen in love with the country and also with a Colombian girl. At that time, I worked from home, and my schedule was flexible. It wasn't a risky decision to go back to Colombia for a few more months.
The few months became years, and here I am, still loving and living in Bogota, Colombia.
Have you had any related experiences before?
I've been working in the Tourism industry since 2014 - I was a manager of a hostel in Budapest, and I am still managing a few apartments in the heart of the Hungarian capital. Having my own travel company in Colombia was a prominent and natural choice for me. That's what I love, and hospitality is what I'm good at.
How long have you been a tour guide?
I started my own travel agency in Bogotá in 2017 (YourColombia.com). I love traveling, so I was always dreaming of working in the tourism sector.
In the beginning, I had to do everything on my own: sales, marketing, website stuff, PR, and guiding the tours too. It was a challenging job.
Nowadays I have an Italian business partner, Federico. This year, we could hire two Colombian tour guides as well. However, I have a lot of business development, and administrative work each day, I try to guide as many tours as I can. Meeting people from all around the world makes our days exciting.
Which one is your favorite tour?
Now it's the Chorrera waterfall tour, which is only an hour's drive from Bogotá! This hike is terrific: the Andes, fog forests, friendly local people, fantastic food, and two waterfalls! Highly recommended, and it is still an off-beaten path.
How do you decide which tour do you provide?
We are continually exploring the surrounding area, adding more and more tours each year. As Bogota is more and more popular, we have to always search for the new hidden gems - which is not that hard to find, as we all live here in Bogota. Some clients don't like crowdy places, so if a destination becomes over-visited, we can provide him other tours as well. When we are exploring new destinations, we only add them to our selection, if we believe it can be our new favorite. If it's not as good or better than we already have, we won't lead tours there. That's how we maintain and improve the high quality of our trips.
You can find Peter's tours here. YourColombia offers mainly day activities, along with multi-day tours as well. Explore those hidden gems, and destinations which you can't find in any guide books or travel magazines.
What kind of tours do you provide?
The Colombian nature is a real paradise - so mostly, we are organizing hiking/walking tours for nature lovers.
There are a lot of hidden gems in Colombia, and the country is so diverse: mountains, the Caribbean, and the Pacific coast, colonial villages, and vibrant big cities.
Usually, my friends keep asking me if Colombia is safe or not? My reply is that it is not as secure as Budapest, but you don't have to be afraid. The majority and the popular areas in Colombia are safe! There are safe and less safe areas, of course. But it's the same in every city or country, I guess. You have to be conscious, that's all. Overall, Colombia is incredible and unique!
And one more thing. What happened with the girl you mentioned earlier?
I got married to Brenda. Last week was our anniversary.