Friday, May 18, 2018

Vacation Recap - Cartagena, Colombia 2018

Hola Colombia!

Last month, I decided to be spontaneous and finally do something that was just for me. I was officially done with all of my required medical school clerkships, and had just finished my term as SNMA National President, so I had a lot more free time on my hands. Plus, with all the hustle and bustle of this past year, I was beginning to become completely burnt out and was in desperate need of a vacation. So what did I do? I booked a one-week solo trip to Cartagena, Colombia, and I enjoyed every last second of it!

Familiar faces in new places

Right after I returned home from the SNMA AMEC, I repacked my bags for my trip to Colombia. There were some amazing flight deals that I couldn’t pass up, and Cartagena kept popping up on all my searches for the best places for solo female travelers. The funny thing is that when I arrived in Cartagena, there was never a moment where I ever felt alone. Even when I arrived in Cartagena, I ran into one of the SNMA National Committee Chairs who had just been at the conference with me! We had no idea that either of us would be there, so it was a super crazy moment. She was staying not too far from my hotel, so it was nice hanging out with her and her friends while also getting my bearings and a feel for the city on the first day.

Melanin in Colombia

On the second day of my trip, I had an excursion to Playa Blanca that I booked through Alex Rocha (The Real Cartagena). Now let me just stop here and say that if you are planning any trip to Cartagena, then he is the person to go through!  I not only got to fully experience the city and areas I visited, but the tour guides were simply amazing and always on time. Plus, I had the pleasure of meeting other tourists who were a joy to hang out with. During my trip to Playa Blanca, everyone in the van was from Atlanta (I told you those flight deals were crazy lol), and I had a blast with the ladies on the trip. We were taken to a secluded area of the beach that had very few people stopping by to bug us with selling things, and it included a delicious lunch, and a tour to some lesser traveled areas of the city. It was definitely a great way to ring in my vacation, and I ended the evening with a nice dinner at a lovely French restaurant called Restaurant Montmartre. 

Ser Negro es Hermoso

On day three, I participated in “The real Cartagena” tour and was floored by all the beauty in the city. Not only is over 75% of the population in Cartagena black, but after a visit by President Obama in 2012, the “Ser Negro es Hermoso” (Black is Beautiful) movement was started. The city is literally filled with murals and statues celebrating black people. I was in heaven! Plus, there was more great food involved, and I got to interact with more awesome tourists. After the excursion, I went to the Choco Museum and participated in a 2-hour class that involved making chocolate straight from the cocoa bean. It not only was a fun experience, but I also ran into more Americans who invited me to spend the next day with them on a boat. There was no way I was passing that up!

Had a blast with great new people

On day four, I met up with the guys who I met the night before and spent the day having an absolute blast! It was also kinda cool finally hanging out with people who didn’t live in Atlanta, and being from the northeast, they were actually familiar with PCOM. They rented a boat for the day and we were taken to a beautiful private island that was literally a party. There were underwater huts where food and drinks were delivered to us, music, and a ton of people partying on their boats. It was a surreal experience, and I literally had the time of my life!

Wakanda Forever! (Even in Colombia lol)

Day five involved a trip to Palenque, which is the first free African village in the Americas and established completely by runaway slaves/freedom seekers. I was immersed in the culture, had more great food, and loved being around beautiful black faces. I also got my tour group to do the Wakanda pose!

A night on the party bus with other solo female travelers

When I arrived back to the hotel that day, I found that the power was completely out in the old walled city where I was staying. Luckily, the HOTEL I was staying at had a great rooftop bar with unlimited ice and drinks for everyone. I stayed there for a while sipping on drinks with my feet in the pool, and then as the sun was setting, I took a beautiful horse-drawn carriage ride through the old walled city. I then remembered I had signed up for the Chiva (Party) bus that evening, so I returned to my hotel room, managed to get dressed in the dark, and went out for some fun. It was great dancing the night away while meeting more fun tourists, and when I returned to the hotel, the power was finally back on!

Med students in Colombia!

I had reserved day 6 for relaxation and exploring, so I slept in and started my day with a trip to the Historic Museum of Cartagena. I spent a few hours there learning about the history of the city I was in, and then I decided to go check out the Gold Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed that day, but I was directed to the Emerald Museum next door. It was here where I ran into two more tourists who not only also lived in Atlanta, but they happened to also be two 4th year medical students from Morehouse School of Medicine who just matched into orthopedic surgery. How crazy is that?!?! We hung out a bit and then went our separate ways, but agreed to reconnect later. After that, I explored some more, managed to have dinner in the famous Don Juan Restaurant without a reservation (yay for being solo and cute! lol), and then reconnected with the med students I met earlier. We hung out, discussed our medical journeys, and then hit the club where I got the DJ to play my favorite songs and played pool with Canadians.

Met so many awesome people in Colombia

On my last full day in Cartagena, I took a trip to the museum, visited the university, and invited a few of the people I met during my time in Cartagena for a beautiful sunset dinner overlooking the ocean. We somehow ended up just having drinks and then hitting a pizza place afterwards, but it was an excellent ending to what couldn’t have been a more perfect trip. Cartagena was the ultimate trip of self-care, fun, and relaxation, and when the next morning came, I was not ready to leave at all. Out of all the trips I have taken, it currently stands as my favorite, and I can’t wait to return again.

A great ending to an amazing vacation!

Loved my hotel!

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