Cartagena, Colombia

 Colombia is a place I've always dreamed of going as a young adult. Some of my best friends IN THE WORLD are from this beautiful country. When we got the chance to travel to Bogota in 2013, my love and I literally jumped at the chance! Bogota was so incredible. During that trip we traveled to Santiago, Chile and Sao Palo, Brazil (of course stopped in Mexico on our way home- I mean who wouldn't always stop in Mexico? It's on the way everywhere). Ok so back to debriefing from our trip. I remember everyone told us, be careful when you are traveling to Colombia. 100% of those people had never been to Colombia before! 4 countries later, we returned home from that trip, and guess what?! Colombia was our favorite- hands down! 

Then when we were able to travel back to Colombia this year (2016), we were giddy with excitement! And Cartagena- YES PLEASE! 

So we traveled to Cartagena, Colombia and literally had one of the best trips of our life. Smack dab in the middle of our mid-western winter, in February. It was like traveling to heaven. 

SO lots of things to share from our trip. First downtown Cartagena juts right up against the ocean. The sand is this beautiful fine volcanic black sand. And the ocean is warm (although many of the locals thought it was cold as it was their "winter"). Colombia I would add is simply not for those who are not well-traveled. It's a place where you eat the local fish, the local fruit, and get your feet out dancing every. single. night. Cartagena, Colombia while I found it to be diverse, it was nothing like Mexico. Bigger cities in Mexico and more touristy areas you will always find people who speak some English or broken English and are catering to tourists. Here in Cartagena, everyone spoke Spanish. You must speak Spanish if you want to travel to Colombia. And I say that in a way that is implying that much of Colombia I feel has been untouched by western or American tourism. 

Things are still pristine, protected, safe in a way that I honestly cannot explain. Like the reputation of being the "cocaine bad boys" for a few decades has almost kept the culture and country more isolated in a way than some of the surrounding countries. If you watch the international news, the current Colombian government just made a treaty with the FARC rebels and are excited about facilitating and creating rural farming jobs. Not only that but they are on the forefront of entering into the emerging Global Market of medical marijuana- specifically with Canada. 

Don't get me wrong, you have to be careful. Cartagena is just like any major city in the world. Unlike other airports I've traveled through, they grill you heavily at the airport on if you have drugs, are you carrying drugs, and that your life is over if you're currently attempting to smuggle any. However, I'll boldly say it's no more dangerous than L.A., Chicago, or Miami. Colombia is working hard to challenge and excited for a chance to change their image to one that "grows plants that heal and cure".

If you ever get the chance to travel there- go. Go without hesitation. It's an amazing country full of incredible people and has one of the most diverse protected rainforests in the whole world!