travel

Solo Travel to Cartagena, Colombia: A Few Tips for Female Travelers

First off, let me just say that Cartagena is beautiful.

From the pastel colored buildings and rich history to the lovely weather, it was an amazing time. I spent about four days out there and it honestly wasn’t enough for me. Even though I didn’t get to make my way to the beach (ugh) I spent a good bit of time in the Walled City and the funky Getsemani neighborhood. I feel like those two made up for whatever I missed this first visit, but I’ll definitely be going back to see what else there is to offer. Sooner than later actually, like in a few months sooner. I loved it out there so much.

As I mentioned in my previous solo trip post, the thought of solo travel was never off-putting or scary to me. I was intrigued more than anything else. I want to see as much of the world as possible so when I can go, I’m going. Coordinating trips with other people isn’t always practical or easy because of work schedules, responsibilities, etc., so I decided to take full advantage of the times when I can just get up and go.

My flight left on an early Saturday morning—I wanna say it was like 6:30am. It was a comfy and quick 3 and a half hour flight to Panama with Copa Airlines. I switched planes then rode for another hour until I reached Cartagena.

My AirBNB was about a fifteen minute ride from the airport and lucky me, my taxi driver was bilingual and spoke pretty good English. He welcomed me several times and told me about some restaurants and historical sights to visit. He kept saying, "If you have time go here..” or, “If your schedule permits,” because he KNEW five days wasn’t gonna be enough time to really explore and see everything. Honestly, I didn’t have a whole bunch on my agenda (for vacations I never do) this trip was mainly for relaxation (which I did a LOT of), so mission accomplished.

By the time I reached my AirBNB, the weather had cleared up a bit. It was raining on and off which was annoying, but at that point it was sunny but still a little sticky out. The only thing on my mind was getting settled in and getting something to eat. I was staying in the heart of the Getsemani neighborhood and y’all, I’m so glad I did. Everything was so colorful, warm and within walking distance, including Bonche Gastrobar—the first place I made my way to for some food. It was right across the street from where I was staying, so it was perfect. Note to self for next trip: pack plenty snacks and then some more snacks in your carry on.

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At Bonche, I ordered the Pulpo Crocante which was just crispy octopus served with creole-style mashed potatoes. This dish turned out to be pretty damn good with a lil bit of hot sauce. LOL. I got it in a to go box because I thought I’d wanna head back to my room and just eat there and catch up with my host, but that changed once I actually sat down. My tired ass didn’t even feel like walking across the street. I just chilled at the bar for a bit, sang along to some of my fave songs while enjoying that wonderfully fried octopus and margarita pictured below.

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After I ate, I decided to walk around the neighborhood for a bit since the rain had completely stopped. I noticed some kids running around, some other solo travelers snapping it up and soaking up the sights which was cool, and there were a few locals just chillin’ on their porches, sipping beer. Sounds like a pretty chill Saturday afternoon if you ask me. This super sweet older lady offered me some mangoes from her cart and pointed me to a ducked off liquor store—like, girl yes! Thank you. I don’t know much Spanish; I don’t know any Spanish besides a few common phrases so it was soooo cool that my first few encounters were with people who spoke/understood a little English. That was literally the ONLY thing I was worried about with this trip. Lets just say, I did a lot of talking with my hands and google translating. It wasn’t bad at all, though.

The Getsemani neighborhood had such a home-y, retro and relaxed vibe, but it’s also hella lit. For various reasons, of course. There are vendors, cool bars/lounges, wonderful artwork, friendly locals…I would definitely recommend trying to stay in that area, especially if you’re traveling alone. A lot of restaurants are close by and there’s always something to do. If you’re “bored” there it’s because you choose to be!

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I booked some fun outdoor activities for Sunday morning and that afternoon but due to inclement weather, they were cancelled. I wasn’t really too too upset about it, honestly because sleeping in and staying in bed most of the day seemed more appealing at the time anyway. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the thought of constantly having to be on the move while on a trip. Sure, you’re in a new place, but the point of a vacation is to relax. I knew I’d have plenty time to explore, so not doing any of that for a few hours really didn’t bother me. It was perfect, “stay in the room with the lights down low and just read for hours” type weather. Ain’t no complaints.

Meet Molly, my hosts’ lovely doggo.

Meet Molly, my hosts’ lovely doggo.

My cozy room. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was one of the books I brought with me. I loved how things progressed in this story; it’s def one of my fave reads of the year so far.

My cozy room. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was one of the books I brought with me. I loved how things progressed in this story; it’s def one of my fave reads of the year so far.

During my stay in Cartagena, I was able to link up with Isabel for a night full of drinks, laughter, salsa dancing. #LIT. I interviewed her on my blog last year so you haven’t already, check out that post here! Coincidentally, she was vacationing there the same time as me. I found out a few days before my trip, so we immediately made plans to link up when we could. Sunday night, we decided to go out for drinks at Alquimico, a really nice bar in the Walled City. The historic city reminded me a lot of the French Quarter here in New Orleans. I’m pretty sure that’s why I felt so at home. Has to be. We had a drink in the downstairs bar room area which was a great vibe, but after about a half hour, we decided to retreat to the rooftop to hear some better music and and get better views.

This, my friends is a strong ass Mai Tai. Cheers.

This, my friends is a strong ass Mai Tai. Cheers.

Honestly, this veggie sandwich and eggplant fries was everythinggggg. And then some.

Honestly, this veggie sandwich and eggplant fries was everythinggggg. And then some.

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We were out alllllll night on Sunday. We went from spot to spot and bar to bar…y’all I hadn’t been out like that in a while, so I surprised myself with how well I was keeping up with the turn up lol. You can usually just catch me at a happy hour every now and then and dassit. We passed by spots like Cafe Havana in Getsemani (told y’all it’s popping over there), which had a live band and salsa all night. We also went to a club up the street from Alquimico that I can’t remember the name of but I remember those strong ass drinks. They were very generous with the liquor and for that I was #grateful.

The next day, I decided to get up a little early so I could head to brunch. The weather was absolutely beautiful (finally) so I was looking forward to being out and about in the streets. I ended up La Brioche, a cute and cozy breakfast spot in the Walled City. It was about a fifteen minute walk from my AirBNB, but the weather was great so I didn’t care. Sunny skies and a light breeze= perfection. I decided to be basic because starving, so I ordered pancakes and a mimosa. I knew it would be good AF. As a matter of fact, it was muy delicioso. Isabel recommended that place to me the night before, so I made it a point to put it on my list. As you’ll see in this post, I didn’t have many traditional Colombian dishes except for the meals my host cooked. That was completely fine with me. As long as ya girl eats, period..I’m good.

Views during my commute to brunch. Breezy weather and unbothered locals.

Views during my commute to brunch. Breezy weather and unbothered locals.

This mimosa was really just champagne with little splash of orange juice. No big deal, I can dig it.

This mimosa was really just champagne with little splash of orange juice. No big deal, I can dig it.

Artwork in Getsemani.

Artwork in Getsemani.

I booked a photo walk around the Walled City with Alex, a proud Cartagenian and local college student. We met up at La Caponera Bar around 3:30pm then walked over to the Walled City. Once there, we headed to Mirador Gastrobar for drinks. Mirador’s full menu wasn’t available yet, so we had a traditional Colombian cocktail to kick off the evening.

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why did I have to be so cheesed up though?

why did I have to be so cheesed up though?

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After a good two hours of walking, getting history lessons and having deliciously unhealthy street food, I was exhausted. There was so much going on in the city this day. Lots of travelers were out and about and there were a few wedding receptions going on. And of course, there were vendors galore. Handmade trinkets, artwork, keychains, etc. You name it, they had it. Alex made it a point to try to avoid the areas where there’d be too many tourists since she wanted to me to get a genuine feel for her city. Realistically there was only so far we could get away, as the Walled City has turned into a hotspot for tourists over the years.

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This is the type of vacationer I am: I want to see things, oh and ah at breathtaking views, EAT, but I want to just chill more than anything. The freedom to do just that is probably one of my favorite things about traveling alone. My plans can change as much as I want. I don’t have to compromise and though I have no issues doing so, it feels great to not even have to consider it. My last few days were spent doing a bunch of random stuff. Big chilling. I went out with my host to hear live music one of those nights, but I was having such a good time, I didn’t take my phone or camera out for pictures. I was living in the moment, sipping whiskey cocktails and eating empanadas well into the morning.

I saw this cute restaurant near where I was staying, so I said I’d eat over there at least once. Basilicia Pizzeria gets 10 out of 10 stars from me. Straight up. I found that this spot got pretty packed at night, but when I went for lunch, I was the only one there. You know what that meant? There was zero wait. Quick service and amazing food= a happy Lyndsey.

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker was my other vacation read. Loved this one.

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker was my other vacation read. Loved this one.

This gorgonzola pizza though >>>>>>

This gorgonzola pizza though >>>>>>

I wandered into a museum after lunch….

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More frolicking in the city…

More frolicking in the city…

So, are you considering Cartagena? Wanna make your way to South America? Cool. I think you should. I loved my time out there so I have no doubt that you will too. If you’re curious about traveling alone, don’t let fear stop you! This was my second solo trip and it won’t be my last. I think the main thing to keep in mind when traveling alone is the importance of being aware of your surroundings. Use your common sense. Don’t do no dumb shit you know you wouldn’t do at home. Also, carry yourself with confidence. When I walked down the street, I always had an idea of where I was going because GPS, so I walked like I knew where the hell I was going and what the hell was going on. Don’t be out fumbling with a map, pointing around and looking scared. Gather your path before you leave your hotel/hostel then just go explore. Cartagena is a beautiful destination so add it to you must visit wishlist ASAP!

peace and blessings,

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How to Successfully Plan a Solo Trip

I'm no extreme expert on this, but I did take a solo trip earlier this year and I did a damn good job of planning it. I learned a lot from that experience and I can't wait to put what I learned into action for my next solo excursion. By the way, said excursion will take place sooner than later (yay) so stay tuned!

SOOOO, your boss approved your PTO request or you just respectfully let those good people know that you have plans for a couple days and won't be able to be in the office. Cool. Either way, you're free! Now you can get started planning a bomb ass, memorable trip for yourself. Congrats.

Something very important that I remained mindful of throughout the whole process is that it was ONLY me financing all the fun. There was no one to go 50/50 with me on anything, so I had to be smart AND realistic about all expenses. I'm talking accommodations, food, activities, etc. I know people love to flex for good ol' Instagram and Snapchat (do people still use that?) but if you don't have it, you don't have it and that's fine. There are tons of things to do when traveling that will allow you to stay within your budget. It's all a matter of doing a little research. You don't wanna be heading back home with your bank account in the negative because you just had to do the most for your Instagram stories.

Another helpful tip is to avoid waiting until the last minute to plan. I personally fall victim to this at times and it made trying to jet set anywhere an absolute pain in the ass. Once you have a potential destination in mind, immediately look up flights and hotels or hostels. Jump on it. You have to be a bit restless with this until you have things locked in and booked. Pressure makes diamonds, people lol. Also, once you come up with a budget, stick to it and make everything else work around that--not the other way around. If you say you’re not willing to pay more than $400 roundtrip for a flight, stick to that and be consistent. There are tons of great sites to find cheap flights and great deals. My favorites are Skyscanner and Expedia. The further out you attempt to book, the cheaper your flight will be (but duh y’all knew that already).

Flight is booked, you found a nice place to stay and you’ve even lined up a few fun things to do once you touch down wherever. What now?

This next tip is very crucial because I could have done more of this when I was planning a solo trip— SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. I don’t care if you’re under budget, save more. You never know when a few more coins will come in handy, nor do you know what’ll happen. It’s always better to be on the safer side of things. Let’s say you get your entire trip booked up at least a month in advance. Set money aside each week to go towards your miscellaneous travel fund. I repeat, even if you already have your budget under control, if you have the means— save more. What harm will it do? When I hit Belize, I decided last minute that I wanted to do a tour some locals talked up to me. Had i just been relying on the money I had originally had set aside for the trip, that would’ve been pushing it. But because I saved more, I was able to enjoy some extra stuff at ease. Traveling alone can be hella fun and exhilarating; you really just need to take the planning part serious.

Okay. You’ve got all that other technical shit together, now you’re just nervous about being anywhere by yourself.

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Let me just tell you, it’s not that bad, but this is also coming from someone who enjoys doing things alone. If you’re a person who has to be with people 24/7, I’d advise branching out in your hometown solo first. Hit a happy hour alone, the movies or maybe lunch. Get comfortable with being alone in familiar territory and build up that confidence. Doing things alone strengthens you as a being because it forces you to take charge and become more self reliant. You develop a deeper appreciation for life in general (well at least I did) and that new perspective pours over into all other areas.

One of my favorite things about solo travel is being on my own time. If you know me personally, you know how important that is to me. I hate being rushed and I hate for people to try and plan out MY time. I never had any doubts that I wouldn’t like traveling alone, but ever since the first time, I’ve been too ready to go again.

peace and blessings,

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My First Solo Trip: Belize City + Caye Caulker

I told myself last year that in 2018, I'd take even more risks and do things that absolutely terrified me. The thought of traveling alone never scared me though--it was more so a build up of excitement for all the adventure that I knew would come out of it. I was just ready to get up and go explore instead of daydreaming about all the places I wanted to go.

So, I did that.

I took some days off from work, booked a flight, then viola. Ya girl was in Belize.

The whole time on my flight, I was still in awe that I was really going out there by myself. I kept trying to avoid thinking about it so I didn't overwhelm myself, but that didn't work. My mind was literally all over the place. I kept wondering if I'd be lonely, if the people would be friendly, would it be obvious that I'm alone, etc. Basically, I was worried about a bunch of shit I shouldn't have been, because Belize was absolutely wonderful.

I will say, Belize City itself wasn't too appealing to me. It's a small and cute town that's still developing, but I had the most fun out on one of the islands that was about a 45 minute water taxi ride away. If you plan on traveling alone and want to easily get to the beach, bars (happy hour, woo!), party, etc., don't stay in Belize City. Opt for San Pedro or Caye Caulker. You can definitely look forward to endless beautiful views and a good time with those two.

the view from the deck of the AirBnB i stayed at in Belize City.

the view from the deck of the AirBnB i stayed at in Belize City.

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I arrived midday Saturday and was pooped from the flight, so I really didn't feel like getting dressed to go anywhere and explore like I initially planned. I ended up just walking around the neighborhood where I was staying and I went to get some pizza and fries from Moe's Pizza which was about a three blocks away. I came back to my room and cozied up with a beer and Netflix on my laptop. #relaxed #perfect.

The next morning, I got up pretty early to catch the water taxi to Caye Caulker. That island is about 45 minutes away from Belize City and was $28 USD for a roundtrip ride. When I was sitting at the dock waiting for the taxi is when my nerves started to kick in. I was alone and didn't know what to expect. I saw groups of girls snap pics together, families using selfie sticks to get a shot with their numerous kids; I felt lonely af for like 10 minutes, y'all. I didn't let that get to me though. I quickly shook the nerves because that was the point of the whole trip: experience, excitement and change. I put my shades on and got ready to go on an adventure.

My first stop once i arrived in Caye Caulker was Brisas Del Mar. It was one of the only open restaurants at the time, so in typical Lyndsey fashion, I made my way to the bar and got my life with a rum and coke. I also ate breakfast here. I got simple scrambled eggs, toast and fruit. The bartender hooked me up with more rum in my cup as my drink got low and gave me extra toast and eggs. Nom. I shall be eternally grateful for free food. Always and forever.

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At the bar at Brisas del Mar. Very chill spot with strong drinks.

At the bar at Brisas del Mar. Very chill spot with strong drinks.

After breakfast I went for a walk along the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect and everything was so vibrant. There were quite a few local vendors open where they sold handmade trinkets, jewelry AND most importantly, food. I can't even tell y'all how many grills filled with all types of meat I came across. The vibe was lovely and for a while, I forgot I was even out there by myself. I met other solo travelers (women at that) and some locals that were open and willing to give recommendations for things to do, see, eat, etc. 

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Sadly, I didn't take as many pics as I wanted to on this trip. I was so caught up in the moment and that felt better than reaching for my camera most times. The rest of my time in Belize was soooo chill. It was great way to get away from the city for a few days and take a break from work. It was Mardi Gras time back home and I conveniently work right in the midst of the madness. I really wasn't looking forward to maneuvering through the traffic and crowds, so getting the fuck seemed like the most logical thing for me to do.

 I randomly ended up meeting some girls from Hawaii that were staying at the same hostel as me. We talked over brews on the deck then decided to go downtown for dinner the next night. After two failed attempts of getting to some restaurants we'd been recommended by locals because they were closed, we ended up at this little outdoor restaurant/bar near the ocean. I wanted to get traditional Belizean food on this trip, but only one of my meals was, and that was the meal my host prepared for me the night before. 

Ceviche!

Ceviche!

Next time i go to Belize, I'll definitely be trying more authentic Belizean dishes. This was good too, though.

Next time i go to Belize, I'll definitely be trying more authentic Belizean dishes. This was good too, though.

The next couple of days were spent catching buses to different parts of the city, walking around and just absorbing as much of the atmosphere as I could. I remember one of the days, I didn't even bring my camera with me and my phone stayed deep down in my bag.

One thing I really love about traveling alone is being completely in control of plans. I woke up one morning, decided I didn't feel like going on the tour I planned on and stayed in bed with a beer and a good book. Around 1ish, I got up and just spent the rest of my day at the beach. I already love doing stuff alone, and now I can happily add travel to that list. It was so peaceful and a perfect way to self reflect. If you're thinking of taking a solo trip, DO IT. Absolutely do it. Brandie over at theoddlyducklingtravels definitely inspired me to get up and go; even if that meant going alone. Last year we talked about the importance of seeing as much of the world as possible. If you missed that post, catch up here. She gave great insight and has tons more on her site.

Overall, I have three tips for y'all based on my experience:

- BRING & USE CASH. It just makes everything easier. Also, you'll be able to trade out USD for BZ$ if you want. Plenty places accept USD, so it's up to you if you want to make that trade. The ratio is $2 BZ for every $1 USD.

- LOOSEN UP & HAVE FUN. Don't be uptight and stay open minded. Relax, you're on vacation. Enjoy yourself!

- CREATE A FLEXIBLE ITINERARY. Plan things, book tourist-y stuff, but don't be hard on yourself if you decide to do none of that shit when you get out there. Lol. Do a day of organized activities, then the next, just chill and explore at your own pace. Whatever you choose, just make sure you have fun and get the most out of the experience. That's the whole point.

can i just do this everyday or nah?

can i just do this everyday or nah?

peace and blessings,

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