I’m sitting in Cartagena in a beautiful plaza, drinking an Aguila Light and eating an arepa con huevo, listening to a local band play live music while couples salsa dance around them, on an amazing Colombian night…and I’m having a moment.
How the hell did I end up here?
A month ago, I was sitting in a monastery in Myanmar, meditating for two hours a day, practicing yoga daily, and volunteering as a nurse in a country where I couldn’t even begin to speak the language and had little to no grasp of the local customs. Since then, I’ve backpacked through Myanmar, visited California and Florida on a whirlwind 12-day tour of the US, and spent the last week partying it up in Cartagena with a group of friends I’d never have met if it wasn’t wasn’t for a bunch of bizarre twists of fate. The juxtaposition of my life a month ago versus today, if I stop and think about it, is staggering.
I guess I should back up a bit. For starters, hey! Long time, no write – and that’s on me, my bad. This blog hasn’t been updated in real time since I left Europe for Southeast Asia a whopping THREE months ago…woof. Keeping up with my writing became a classic case of overwhelm. Every time I sat down to write I’d get so, so overwhelmed by just how MUCH I had to write – in my three months in Southeast Asia, I traveled through five countries (southern Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar) and met up with friends old and new to have wayyyyy too many adventures. It got to the point where I didn’t know how to catch up on all the things I wanted to catch up on, so I just stopped writing. Plus, to be honest…I was having too much fun to stop and write a daily blog post. 😉
However, it’s a new year – and one of my 98234 New Years resolutions is to update this blog more. So we’re going to start at the top of 2018, which brings me back to my original question:
How the hell did I end up in Colombia?
It all started, funnily enough, because of a volcano in Bali.
Back in November, I traveled from Thailand back to Bali to meet up with a few friends who would be vacationing there. One of my good friends from SF, Joe, and his buddy Alex flew down to Bali for a week and the three of us – plus my fellow travel homegirl Britt – ended up having an awesome time running around and exploring the island together. We surfed in Canggu (well…kind of. I mainly just fell down), slept in an eco-treehouse in Ubud, and cooked Thanksgiving dinner at a villa in Uluwatu. It was a kick-ass week, and we all promised to stay in touch after it was over.
When it was time to go home, though, the Mt. Agung volcano eruption grounded most of our party and kept us in Bali longer than we anticipated. To get off the island, (my now-friend) Alex and I had to take 36 hours of public transportation through Bali and into Java to get to the port city of Surabaya and fly out of the country. It was a total pain in the ass, but also totally cool. At one point, we found ourselves on an un-air conditioned school bus for three hours through the roads of rural Java while Indonesian schoolchildren not-so-covertly took selfies with the only white people on the bus (aka, us). At another point about 34 hours into our trip, the bus driver decided he’d had enough of the metro Surabaya traffic, got his two co-pilots to hop out of the bus and direct traffic, and REVERSED a quarter mile down an eight-lane highway only to back up and drive the wrong way off of an exit ramp.
I’m getting carried away, though.
At one point during said 36-hour adventure, I was sitting with Alex talking about New Years plans and lamenting that after some recent personal developments, I was without a plan for New Years Eve. He told me about his group of friends that gets together every New Year for an adventure somewhere in the world…and at one point asked, “Dude…why don’t you just come to Colombia?”
“I can’t do that”, I said. “Wouldn’t it be weird if I just showed up and crashed a huge group of friends that all know each other?”
Two days of chatting and one insane flight deal later, I decided it didn’t matter if it was weird or not. I booked a one-way ticket to Cartagena, and on December 31st, off I went.
I’ve spent most of my first days of 2018 with this “huge group of friends that all know each other” who ended up being some of the warmest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. We rang in NYE at a rooftop bar overlooking the Torre de Reloj in Cartagena’s old city, visited the (in)famous Playa Blanca, and drank wayyyyy too much aguardiente (Colombia’s local liquor). And honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better first week in Colombia. I have a working theory going that the more random the adventure, the more fun it’s going to be…and this last week proves said theory. 🙂
Next up – I’m going to Guajira with a Colombian family I met on a bus…say what?