“You Shouldn’t go to Colombia by Yourself”
I work day shifts at a bar in NYC, and its main patronage are dudes who throw back every ounce of beer in a can during their lunch breaks as they can to face going back to their 9-5s. I understand in a sense; I could never give in to the idea of sitting at a desk all day, but society tells us that’s what we are supposed to do.
I converse with these guys and half of them have (unbeknownst to them) become my personal therapist as much as me giving them beer is theirs. I often talk to them about my travels since that tends to be the main motivator in my life. I get questionable stares when I tell them I’m going places alone…but never so much as I did when I told them I was headed to Colombia in January 2017 (solo).
One of my favorite regulars is a man who drinks red wine (two bottles a day keeps everyone away). He is always supportive in my sporadic decision making and always has a “who cares? Go for it” attitude when I tell him of my questionable plans. I suppose that’s why when even he was concerned about me traveling there I was a little taken aback. I told him I wanted to backpack through all of South America but didn’t have the time to properly do each country so I had narrowed it down to Colombia and Peru.
“No, no. Skip Colombia. You’re going to get killed. It’s not safe,” he insisted.
“How do you know? Have you ever been?”
“No, but you’re a girl. You’re going to get killed.”
^ And that comment is what reminded me what type of world we live in. Let’s clarify what my life is already, if travel wasn’t even a part of it; I live in New York City. Alone. I have lived here for seven years. Before NYC, I moved to Los Angeles at age 17 and lived there for three years without knowing a soul (granted I made plenty of friends but it didn’t start that way). I have walked down dark streets late at night, sometimes drunk; I have been followed various times, I have been punched in the face by a crazy drunk guy, I have been pushed down by a drugged out homeless woman, I have had a Corona bottle thrown at my head at 8am because a woman (whom I had no idea who she was) accused me of “stealing her boyfriend” (“Bitch you stole my boyfriend!” over and over while following me), and the list goes on. All of these things have happened in either NYC or Los Angeles. I am not by any means saying that these things, or worst things, cannot happen in other countries, especially when I WOULDN’T have someone to call, I don’t fluently know the native language, etc. However, the experiences I have dealt with from just living in the places I’ve lived have shaped me to face fear in the face and say “Fuck you.” I easily could have let the fear of being followed (which is scary as shit, every time), being punched, being pushed, being harassed, being cat-called, having a beer bottle thrown at my head for no apparent reason, shape me into a timid sheltered person who hides inside her apartment all day. But to me giving into fear is much scarier than fear itself.
Oh, and by the way, I did indeed go to Colombia by myself. I met the nicest waitress in Cartagena who convinced me I wanted to teach English (her English was as awful as my Spanish but we managed to communicate, and in the end she wrote me a note in English), I had the best cocktail of my life while watching traditional Colombian dancers, I saw extremely clear waters contrasted perfectly with white as snow sands, and I even got ripped off by a cab driver and had to walk back to my hotel 3 miles because I was out of cash. But even being a girl, I didn’t get killed.