Cartagena… you were a dream! Let’s go to Medellin!

Boat ride forgotten, kids on the mend back home, emotions stabilized… I was excited to check out this bustling, international, youthful city!

We had a delay at the airport (no worries… cocktails were had and some work was done)… and we touched down just in time to grab some tacos and witness the street scene!

What a completely different “feel” this city possessed…

While Cartagena was completely “old world”… Medellin felt like it was looking forward… shedding its skin and showing off its new shiny self…

We spent our first morning doing one of my favorite things… tasting (and learning about) COFFEE.

The lovely (and very cute) baristas taught us how to use, and WHY you choose a Chemex, vs. French Press, vs. Aeropress and more!

We left perfectly caffeinated, stimulated… and ready to explore!

And speaking of stimulating… Tricia… pictured above… was the girl most likely to send everyone into a fit of giggles. Ready to get her drink on, and down to say something inappropriate… she was definitely the comedienne of the crew.

She has also been traveling solo for a year, which I think is just the COOLEST.

I could see her rallying up the troops for an alumni trip… and I know we’d all follow her!

Also cool? The murals around Medellin! At almost every turn… there was another amazing piece of art!

After lunch and some time to roam….

…we finished off our first day by meeting the founder of El Camino Travel, Katalina, at a roof top restaurant called Alambique.

Awesome vibe. Hidden entrance. Great menu.

I would highly recommend this place if you are visiting!

On to day seven and eight (and arguably making my top three days of the entire trip)…

… we headed out of Medellin and into the Andes Mountains to Guatape… which I can only describe as a village straight out of Disney’s It’s A Small World!

Cobblestone streets and a color-lover’s DREAM… you can stroll through the town, take a crazy amount of photos, and grab a snack before driving to the lake.

It was on this excursion that I was able to sneak in some time with this lovely lady, Stephanie.

She has a keen sense of style and is a smart cookie to boot.

We talked football (KC Chiefs & Rams), paddle boarded on the lake, chatted about expectations and experiences on this trip, and discussed where we’d like to go next.

I loved carving out this moment with her and we now DM on the regular!

This insanely gorgeous lake visit is something we all needed.

The trip… in its entirety… is pretty jam packed… and hanging out at this beautiful house eating home cooked barbecue and lounging in hammocks is just what the doctor ordered.

With these extra hours, I was also able to chat more with Jessica #2 (Jessica #1 being my roommate). I didn’t have a lot of one-on-one with her, but I was drawn to her quiet energy, and learned we have similar views about health and wellness and what we are consuming as a society!

She is also risk-taker in life and business… and I DIG that.

Jessica… I hope we can have another tete-a-tete soon!

 

I wish that convo could happen at my new house built on the land I want to purchase… but the word is already out… it’s as expensive as trying to score a plot of real estate in Malibu!

So I’ll just have to take some road trips to visit my new friends… like Amy… who resides up in Nor Cal.

Amy and I arrived in Colombia at the same time, before everyone else, and right away I could tell she was an easy-breezy kind of girl… someone who you can strike up a conversation with, very organically (not forced), and who can move in and out of a group at her own speed.

She was the perfect person to meet first… and honestly put my nerves at ease as we shuttled to the Casa together and strolled around a bit.

Thank you Amy for getting my trip started on the right (relaxed) foot!

For our final day in Medellin… we took the trolley over hillside villages and visited Comuna 13, at one point one of the most dangerous communities in the city.

It reminded me so much of the favelas in Brazil… with houses upon houses of people, crazy amazing views, and locals striving to make a better life for themselves.

Comuna 13, though, felt a bit different, in that it had a thriving tourist industry, guides eager to talk about their storied, intricate, dangerous past… and an art culture taking root among the youth in the area.

You could feel the positivity flow through the breakdancing and street art…

… and the pride of the locals who live there.

We were able to eat at the home of a well known family in the community (graffiti artist and guide), and we were served a homemade meal cooked by their mama!

Experiences like these are what make traveling with an agency like El Camino worth every penny!

These immersive experiences to Colombia are also unique because El Camino decided to partner with CN Traveler, and their Women Who Travel group.

Lale, pictured above, is the editor we were so honored to have with us.

She was a sweet ray of sunshine with an adorable English accent who appreciated every last detail of our adventures together. Here are her favorite moments on the CN Traveler website (where you might catch a glimpse of my mud covered face!).

Her excitement while traveling was palpable, and it was easy to feel like you had made an instant friend in her (which is cool when you don’t know anyone yet!).

One of Lale’s favorite activities… and mine too!… was learning how to spray paint with one of Comuna 13’s most famous street artists, Chota.

See that beautiful pink face? That’s LEGIT baby!

And see this gorgeous profile?

This was our on-trip photographer Simone. All of these out-of-this-world photos are from her magical lens (except for this one I had to snag of her myself).

It’s a tough job to try and capture everyone equally, and this woman was a star at making that happen.

She also had a laugh that could be heard for miles, so…

1. You could honestly never get lost with her around.

2. It was impossible to hold onto a bad mood (if you were in one).

We all joked that we would hear “phantom laughing” from Simone after our trip was done… and honestly… we should be so lucky! Go peep her photography here!

Our last evening and last meal together… was held at a spectacular restaurant called¬†¬†Il Cielo. If you want to experience the perfect marriage between art and food… this place is for you!

We began dinner by washing our hands in melted chocolate. Nuff said.

… and then it was time to go home.

Melissa (above), and I were the luckiest travelers… with a wake up call at 2:30am for our shuttle to the airport!

This girl had the loveliest of smiles and a genuine soul… and was also one of our best “go with the flow” human beings.

She encountered some pretty gnarly motion sickness back in Cartagena (enough to send any mere mortal into a fit of tears)… but she stoically prevailed and laughed it off as a “part” of travel.

I was nervous to head to the airport that early… but with Melissa by my side… I knew I’d be okay.

Colombia. I heart you.

I am already planning on a return trip with family and friends in tow.

I am consistently asked, “Did you feel safe?”. The answer is ABSOLUTELY.

When you really pay attention to what is happening around the world… South America is as safe as any other country you can visit.

South American travel is also easier than you realize, with less jet-lag to worry about, less travel time to get there, and the most amazing mix of experiences you could ask for.

I said it before (about Brazil) and I will say it again (after visiting Cartagena and Medellin).

Take a chance on the roads (and countries) less traveled (and less instagrammed)…

… your inner adventurer will thank you!