That or something along those lines was often the reaction when I told someone about my upcoming solo four-week trip to Colombia. When I say “often”, I mean when I told my grandpa, but there was definitely some consternation accompanied by a whole lot of warnings. I got messages from people, who usually don’t keep in touch much warning me to be careful and not to trust anyone. What worried everyone most, was that I was going to go alone.
Now don’t get me wrong – I also have a couple of very encouraging friends and family members and it can be nice to know that people are thinking of you and wishing you safe and happy travels. Everyone else – please trust my judgement and hope you won’t be able to say I told you so.
The initial spark that started this experience, was the fact that one month after I turned twenty, I came into the possesion of some money. My grandma had been paying into an insurance for me and my cousin ever since our respective christenings, and now it finally payed off. My cousin spent her money on her driver’s license and a used Volkswagen. Not bad things to buy at all, but I already used some of the money to get my license when I was sixteen, and I couldn’t afford a car permanently anyway. So as I almost always do whenever I have some extra money, I decided to spend it on a holiday.
Fork in the Road
There were two options: go away for a longer period of time and slum it in hostels for a few weeks, or book a shorter trip to some sort of beautiful island. At the time I hadn’t been reading travel blogs, nor had I ever been on a several-week-long, self-organized trip to another continent before, so the former seemed like the slightly more dangerous option.
I asked some friends, but people either didn’t have the time or the money to accompany me. It seemed a little pathetic to go on a holiday alone, but I decided to screw the social stigma attached to it – I wanted to see more of the world, and I wanted to do it now.
I decided that if I did go to some sort of paradise island (Bora Bora, hello), I would either go full out and enjoy the luxury of a five star hotel, white beaches and turquoise water or I wouldn’t go at all. Turned out vacationing in paradise is actually rather expensive, so I went with option number two: backpacking.
South East Asia was highly recommended for my budget and as a first time backpacker, but it didn’t tempt me all that much. I do want to go sometime, but the sanitary installations are deterring me a bit – I know, I know; everyone has their quirks, okay? So me being the (self-perceived) rebel that I am, I chose to go to South America instead. But where to? Flights to Bolivia were too expensive and Mexico? Well, definitely tempting, but in all honesty, I wanted to go somewhere none of my friends had been before. Somewhere I knew next to nothing about.
And we have a winner!
As you know, I decided for Colombia, the land of coffee, sugar and an interesting history of drug production. Lo and behold, I found an extremely cheap flight for 360€/$500 from Germany over Madrid right to Bogotá. That left me with enough money to travel around the country as long as I stayed in hostels and ate cheap. I booked a hostel for the first two nights, got a few last minute vaccinations that cost almost as much as my flight, and off I went.