Cartagena and Playa Blanca – a lesson in planning

9 Oct

Traveling, as a job is interesting because it is not constant movement.  Many people initially approach traveling this way and soon get exhausted.  Novice travelers start out with schedules, maps and the experienced ones roll their eyes at the word, “plans.”

At first these reactions annoyed me.  These people didn’t know me, and my plans were flexible.  However, as the days, and now weeks pass I can see how soon I will narrow my eyes at those I just meet and silently wish them good luck.

Traveling is a culture in and of itself; it is a wandering community with no official destination.

Professional travelers land in cities, bunk down in dorm beds and sip on cheap beer.  They will sometimes engage in the tourist activities and they will sometimes only stay for one night.

However, that one night could lead into the next and suddenly they possess a job at the hostel and are learning that they can bribe the police to let them get away with anything.

I was determined not to really become one of these drifters.  In Cartagena, I immediately made friends, went off to Playa Blanca and then suddenly decided to stay for three days.

Me and my new Peruvians friends rented a wooden shack with a grass-thatch roof that changed from brown to green when the rains drenched the entire beach.

We ate fish at a white plastic table that sat near the near sea.  The owner of the shacks lit candles and we watched the fierce lightening string itself across the sky.

Of course, we talked about sex because that’s what women do together when they’re on an almost deserted beach and no one can judge them.

The next day I felt the need to stay and unlike my new friends I had nowhere I had to be.  So I stayed, and swam in the Caribbean in the rain.  The tourists didn’t come because the boats weren’t allowed to cross the choppy water.

My “shower” was a wooden stall that I could enter between the hours of 5-7 pm, and I was given a bucket of water to dump on my head.  The bathroom wasn’t much different and my clothes became encrusted with salt from the water.

After three days my plans encouraged me to jump on a boat and return to Cartagena.  I had to go to Santa Marta, Tyrona and the Surf Camp.  “Seeing everything,” was egging me on.

Then I realized my legs were covered in bites, so I waited a day for them to heal, and my sandals got stolen so shopping was a must, and then it became obvious that it was time to do my laundry.  So one day stretched into the next and these days stacked on top of one another and my plans became so weak I just didn’t listen.

Now, four days later with a flight to Medellin on Friday I realized that even that flight was a foolish plan.  I will board the plane, and happily say goodbye but now I know that I will always need more time.

And that’s when it becomes interesting; it’s not the constant leaving but where you decide to stay and why.  It’s having no boundaries or commitments.  It’s the realization you can just stay in a city for as long as you like and slowly discover it at will.

It’s the slow unfolding of one day into the next without belonging to or owing anyone anything.


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