Tell someone you’re going to Colombia, and they get a little pale in the face…add that you’re a woman going solo, and they nearly hyperventilate.
When most people think of Colombia, images of Pablo Escobar, cocaine wars, kidnappings, and guerrillas spring to mind.
It’s no exaggeration to say Colombia has had a troubled past. In recent years, though, it has struggled hard to make a come back. Colombia is a traveler’s paradise. It contains three mountain ranges, peaks topping 16,000 feet, some of the most biodiverse habitats in the world, and whole regions of untapped Amazon rainforest. Eleven percent of its territory is protected in national parks, and it’s the only country in South America that borders both the Pacific and the Caribbean, with 2,000 miles of coastline. Black sand beaches ring the turquoise Pacific, and the climate is so hospitable, that even the volcanic boulders sticking out of the ocean are covered in ferns and sprouting palm trees.
Colombia is also the world’s major source of emeralds, 70% of the cut flowers imported by the US are from there, and Colombia is one of the least expensive places in the world to get SCUBA PADI certified. Oh yeah…it’s also home to the current Miss Universe…no pressure…
And so I’m boarding that proverbial jet plane for 10 days of wandering Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage walled colonial city, and Santa Marta, a beach town three hours away, preparing to eat as much street food as possible, including all sorts of fried goodness, fresh fruit-I’ve-never-heard-of smoothies and ceviche (fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, like lemon or lime, and spiced with chili peppers), snorkeling, beach bumming, stand up paddle boarding and whatever else comes my way.
As usual, I’ll be staying in hostels — not in dorms, but private rooms with my own bathroom (because I’m too old to be wakened up at 4 am by drunk 21 year olds, but I still want the community only a hostel can bring), taking public transit, bungling my way though situations with locals using my kindergarten-level Spanish and maybe learning to salsa… but probably not like these kids… .
Best of all, when it’s -30 degrees back home, it’ll be over 30 degrees there. Did I mention I sprang the extra for A/C in my room?!
My bags are packed, I’m ready to go…come on JetBlue, call my boarding row!