I've written about a few horror stories on buses in Central America, but my experience in Colombia changed my opinion of buses altogether...
Ever watched a crazy movie or TV show where some guy tries to buy some drugs and ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time? One of my good friends from my travels ended up in that exact situation...
1. Take a stroll along the wall of the old city and see all sorts of old Spanish architecture, along with a beautiful sunset! You've probably read all about the old city and it really does live up to it's hype. A majority of backpackers traveling to Colombia from Panama will arrive in Cartagena. It's an amazing introduction to the even more amazing country that is Colombia...
Are you trying to get from Central America to South America on the cheap?! I'll tell you how I did...a ferry, it cost about $100, took approximately 16 hours from Colon 2000 (the Caribbean side of Panama), and was an extremely fun and cheap way to head south...
Something strange hit me on those islands...the rest of my trip I couldn't quite fit into the crowd...I felt like almost everyone around me was doing the same things that I had left back home. I don't want to sound like some superior being, but this trip was supposed to be so much more than a vacation to me, and yet, here I was following the crowd again. This time it wasn't the crowd that I left back home, 9-5'ers, these were the travelers that were one step physically closer to their dreams, but a million steps mentally from them.
I Want to Travel, But I Can't Seem to Find Where to Start?
I remember sitting behind my desk at my 2nd engineering job on my lunch break, saying to myself, "I want to go somewhere, do something big, but where and what?". The dream often comes well before any sense of practicality. Don't let that stop you, my goal with this blog is to show you how to travel with as little planning as possible.
YES! I almost left without getting vaccines/immunizations and I am extremely happy that I changed my mind. Trust me, you DO NOT want to constantly be thinking about getting sick, or even worse, actually getting sick. PLUS, some countries won't you in if you don't have proof of certain vaccinations.
Which Vaccines/Immunizations Do I Need?
Your health is the most important thing when you're traveling. That being said, how many/which vaccines you'll need
Getting a passport in the U.S. can seem impossible when you've never had one in the past, but it's actually quite simple!
What You'll Need: DS-11 form (more info below), Proof of U.S. citizenship and a photocopy of this document(again read below), the fee (usually less than $200, pay with credit/debit card), and finally a passport photo (read more below).
I decided to take a 3 day, 2 night trip to the San Blas Islands with friends from Bocas. The journey started at the crack of dawn, 5 am we took off in a cramped Toyota type jeep. After an hour or two on the highway we made our way into the mountains. My head felt like a bobble-head, swinging side to side for another two hours. The views were beautiful as we rose through the clouds, eventually you could look down and see the clouds in the lower valleys. There were a few major construction projects as we climbed, posters showed images of massive hotels, a sure sign that tourism in the area would be increasing ten-fold in the years to come...
I don't presume to speak for all us backpackers when I write, but I do feel that many backpackers have similar mindsets. There has to be some reason that so many use their hard earned money to come half way around the world instead of investing in the traditional lifestyles that many are accustomed to back in our home countries. I don't think that all of the people need to travel to feel happy with their every day routine, which is amazing and "I/we" don't hold anything against people like this. For us travelers there seems to be a slight flaw in the routines that we have left, or else we wouldn't leave. We are searching for a greater meaning in the whole scheme of life.
For me when I decided to finally leave home and the comfort of life in the States, I had created this world outside where people spent less time working, more time with their community, and were happy and fulfilled with their jobs. I came to find out that in reality, many here work the same amount and in the same ways that people in the States do. Unfortunately there are many here in more extreme poverty, and when people try to work their way out of poverty it is often a long battle for years making 3-4$ a day, scarcely enough to provide for the families that they all start at very young ages*.
*People are more sexually active from a younger age, and there is less access to birth-control options. I also took a history course in college (university) that talked about the different stages of population in developing countries, and it is in our nature to reproduce more when people have less access to medicine, because more of our off-spring are likely to die before they have time to reproduce. (The population in Europe and the U.S. is now actually only increasing because of immigration)
Sex-history lesson aside, it is very difficult for many here, but there are many with opportunities similar to mine in the U.S. The world is really inheriting a global economy. Many of the larger cities that I have visited have the exact same structure as in all developed countries. So recently I have started to ask myself if the world is really that different anywhere? I mean there are certainly different landscapes, different languages, different cities/art/values...but aren't the people similar everywhere? We all use language and art to express ourselves, we have rural areas where peoples values are different from those in the cities and vice versa. People go out on the weekends for entertainment, perform similar tasks during the week, and travel the same as me.
Naturally this lead me to question why I decided to travel. At first, like I mentioned, I had this dream of a different world where there were people who's values aligned more similarly with mine. Recently I have come to another conclusion, perhaps "I/we" travel to understand ourselves more. Certainly not an original thought. However, I think I have a better answer than the stereotypical idiom, "I want to find myself." I think that when we say we want to find ourselves, we really are trying to be more honest with ourselves. Each day, many go to a job that they don't enjoy, they lie to their mind and tell themselves, if I do this job, it will provide security and stability for me and allow me to do what I really want. This lie perpetuates for so long that we lose sight of what else we had wanted to do originally. When we lose the purpose behind our work we lose faith and begin to question what we are doing. In order to break the repetitive cycle we must escape the boundaries that society has placed on us. When traveling, you can be whoever you want. An asshole who only cares for themselves, a saint who is selfless and helps the needy, a child who is simply captivated by whatever comes in passing on that particular day. The options are endless and there is no fear of people making judgements because you can leave the place and people behind in an instant. As we try out these lives we become aware of what our deepest values are and re-align ourselves allowing us to refocus our minds and find purpose behind what we do again!
What are your thoughts on travel, and why "we" travel? Leave a comment below...thanks for reading!
Adrian Amy (McQuinn)
Determined to do what I love, I found my passion for travel, blogging, photography, and film.