Sunday’s Inspiration: The Man Who Swapped His Camera For A Cow!!

“I don’t want to be a consumer” – Julio Felipe (2005)

swapped his camera for a cow

Imagine swapping your camera for a cow!! The story of Julio the crazy Colombian!

It’s story time on Sunday’s Inspiration on Don’t Stop Living! And bear with me, as this is a long one but hopefully one you will enjoy. As a traveller you always end up in random jobs with random people at random times. This story begins in July 2004, in Bournemouth, Dorset, ENGLAND. I lived there at the time and was in my third month of working by the beach selling ice cream. It was a great time in my life. Days were spent selling ice cream to tourists by the beach. I worked 9-6 most days and on occasion stayed longer as we used to close around midnight when the place got busy and the sun was out… I was a busy guy – I would also work as a barman in the Heathlands Hotel in East Cliff immediately after my day job. On my nights off I would party down town with the many international friends I had made from living in the seaside town. Life in the summer of 2004 was good, if busy.
selling mr softee ice cream best break

Selling ice cream at Best Break by Bournemouth Beach, ENGLAND

One day I was selling ice cream in a beach hut known as “Mobile Two”, it was council run and I was in charge of the unit for the day, working alone. Late afternoon I got busy and help arrived in the form of an intriguing Colombian guy. I was immediately introduced to Julio Felipe, my co-worker and we sold ice creams together. He was the first ever Colombian I met.  We got talking about the usual stuff – where are you from? what do you do? why are you here? fancy a beer? etc. Julio and I built up a rapport and though I didn’t see him much in the winter (when our summer jobs ended), we were reunited the following spring as we often ran the hot food joint in “Best Break” on busy bank holidays. We would take turns at cooking the food and doing the tills. Julio’s English was good, my Spanish at the time was just a few words through hearsay! The radio blasted out the tunes, we cooked and sold the food and generally enjoyed our work 😉
bournemouth beach party camera for a cow

Partying with Julio Felipe my crazy Colombian mate in Bournemouth in 2005 – note the CAMERA round his neck…

He had a sense of humour. He often made fools of the local “hard English guys” that used to come up and ask for a hot dog. One day a guy says to Julio on the till in a hard drunken English swagger “mate get me a hot dog”. Of course Julio didn’t. The sort of decent burger seller who deserves respect rather than bullying from a customer. The guy finally got irate when he realised the hot dog wasn’t on its way. I went over and asked the guy what his problem was. “Wheres this guy from?” he asks me, probably assuming (correctly) I was British. “He’s from Colombia mate”. Said English guy was a dickhead and I loved Julio’s sense of humour to him. When the hot dog finally arrived (by me) and was sitting in front of the English guy, in front of a busy queue the English guy shouts “where’s my f**king hot dog?”. Needless to say the guy felt a bit embarrased when it was pointed out his hot dog was sitting in front of him and a smirky remark from Julio Felipe put the guy in his place leaving our hot food unit in raptures!! A few more profanities continued from said English guy as Julio and I bonded and pissed ourselves laughing. I’m not sure why I’ve isolated this incident in fact, as the next one is better and some of our working memories you just HAD TO BE THERE. But you get the idea – I made an amazing Colombian friend in Julio Felipe.
bournemouth house party

Julio Felipe livens up our house party in Bournemouth back in 2005!

It was a busy bank holiday Monday and Julio noted that I handed a customer a Pepsi and said to them “here’s your Pepsi”, as you do. He asked me why I said that, and suddenly we were onto a new level of anti commercialism which stuck. Why call it a Pepsi? OK, we know it IS a Pespi, or at least Pepsi want you to know it’s a Pepsi. But lets’ just call it browny black liquid, a cola drink, a beverage or a refreshment so we did. It helped Julio bump up his English by concocting odd names for products. We banned each other from using or admitting to any knowledge of brand names for weeks that summer. I loved it!
the crazy Colombian Julio Felipe

Julio Felipe – my amazing Colombian mate “I don’t ever want to be a consumer” he said!

A Mr. Softee ice cream became a cone with some white whipped ice cream on it. A 7Up became a tin of lemonade. We destroyed brand names, to the point where our evening beers became “pint of your cheapest beer, please” – yes you guessed it, I turned against commercialism. There is an irony of course as I studied Public Relations at the time, worked for Apple a year later and indeed am proud of brands I have worked for. But think about it:
1. Tannoy System – should be Public Address System
2. Hoover – should be vacuum cleaner
3. Velux – should be tilted opening window
4. Apple – it’s a fruit, not a computer!!
5. Father Christmas – he dressed in green until Coca Cola came along
bournemouth beach party 2005

Julio and I at another party on the beach in Bournemouth in 2005. He’s the one with the CAMERA. I’m the one with the Northern Ireland shirt.

I cannot remember when I last seen Julio in the UK, but his lasting words to me were “I don’t want to EVER be a consumer”. One of my final conversations with Julio was about my desire to travel the world. I’m just a wee guy from Bangor in Northern Ireland “BUT” I said to Julio “I’ll see you in Colombia one day”. And that I did!
house party in bogota colombia

No designer name shirts please – Julio Felipe and I are re-united at a house party in Bogota in 2010. COLOMBIA.

I only kept him waiting five years before I arrived in Bogota, greeted by the man himself. Julio lived the dream. He went to England, he worked his ass off, he studied hard, he toured all over Europe and enjoyed himself. THEN in life’s corridor, he headed back to Colombia with a camera full of memories. Julio’s camera stood out as he was streets ahead of the rest of us – he had a good quality camera.
guatavita colombia amazing

The boys are back in town! Julio Felipe and I touring Guatavita in COLOMBIA. I had the camera, he swapped his for a cow!

“I sold my camera for a cow” – Julio Felipe

After a few hours reunited with Julio in Bogota in 2010, I noticed that something was missing – I had been taking ALL the photos, so I asked him “so where’s your camera Julio?”. We were drinking a ron (rum) and cola at the time and he says to me “I sold my camera for a cow!” Sipping and then choking on my rum and cola, I was surprised. We were staying with a friend of his at a house party at Margarita’s flat and he said “tomorrow night, I’ll take you to my farm and you can meet the cows…”
camera for a cow

Julio despises commercialism and after touring Europe he returned to Colombia and swapped his camera for a cow!

The next day arrived and as a piercing Colombian sun faded it’s way out over the splendid mountains, our bus left behind Bogota city that night (I didn’t return to Bogota incidentally) and headed for the lofty town or village of Guasca . Here we enjoyed a beer and an Aguardiente shot and arrived at dusk in Julio’s farm. In a village known as Vereda Santa Ana Alta.
santa ana alta colombia

The view from Julio’s farm in Santa Ana Alta, COLOMBIA. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view every day?

The next morning I got to meet his two main cows – Jupiter and Venus (named after planets – Julio a man of crazy, sublime and creative genius to the core). One of them was once a camera and once Julio lived a travel lifestyle of his own. Yes, Julio could write a blog like mine, in at least two languages. In fact maybe I’ll encourage him to do that sometime. Would love to read it!
jonny blair milking cows in colombia

Milking cows in Colombia – well I had to help out while I was staying on the farm for free. Thanks to Julio Felipe – genius, traveller, cameraman and farmer.

Staying on Julio’s farm meant relaxation, distance, mountains, countryside walks, great food and milking cows!! Yes life had gone full circle for me and aged 30 there I was milking cows for Julio on his farm in Santa Ana Alta. I remember thinking how amazing it had all been. Working in Bournemouth meeting Julio, keeping in touch and arriving in Colombia to stay on his farm and be inspired again.
julio felipe swapped his camera for a cow

Julio Felipe relaxes in the mountains near his farm on a walk we went on – near Guasca in COLOMBIA.

Julio now owns  4 cows and has his own farm in Santa Ana Alta in Colombia. He is a proud farmer and he dislikes commercialism. He is an amazing man, a top friend and Julio Felipe will always be remembered as “The man who swapped his camera for a cow”. Hats off to this remarkable gentleman, one that I am blessed to have met on life’s corridor. May life bring you all the best and may we be re-united again sometime.
If you are interested in Julio Felipe’s story you might want to meet him. He could write a book you know. You can send a message to Julio via my contacts form – I’ll forward it to him.

How much does a camera cost? – Who cares

How much does a cow cost? – The price of a camera

Which is worth more? – I’ll let Julio Felipe answer that one 😉

A few videos:

Relaxing with Julio Felipe in the mountains near his farm:

Witnessing some eagles in the mountains near Julio Felipe’s farm in Santa Ana Alta, Colombia:

Julio Felipe working away on his farm in Santa Ana Alta, Colombia:

My attempt at milking the cows on Julio Felipe’s farm in Santa Ana Alta, Colombia:

In La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia with Julio Felipe:

Last Beer with Julio Felipe and his brother David in Chia before I headed to Venezuela:

Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel . I’m a travelling Northern Irishman and this epic tale of the man who swapped his camera for a cow is just one of hundreds from my travels. Don’t Stop Living!

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