In the final part of the series, in this blog Solo Female Travel Colombia Challenges and Surprises, five women share their insights of travelling solo through Colombia. They reveal what they learnt about themselves on their journeys and summarise their feelings about the country. If you have not yet met these women in the first blog, please see Solo Female Travel Colombia: Meet The Women.
Solo Female Travel Colombia: Challenges and Surprises
What challenged you the most in Colombia?
Leonie: In Colombia, I don’t think anything really challenged me. For me it was the last country I travelled to on my 6-month trip so by then I had already been in the weirdest situations and I think that by then I was unshockable.
Ivana: “Don’t put your phone out”. “Don’t walk alone”. “Don’t go out after sunset”. I got a little bit frustrated because I like to travel alone and be independent so when I was told all of these “rules” it made me angry and stubborn. Of course I didn’t follow it.
Anita: The lack of Spanish at first, also the special accent in the Caribbean coastal areas did not help.
Jenny: Traffic and things taking a long time – buses getting stuck in traffic and missing transfers. Just logistics. Other than that, it was a gem of a country and very navigable.
Amal: Being by myself, trying to figure out where to eat, how to get around. But the most challenging thing for me was to try to limit my phone use in public, being aware not to just walk around with my phone like I normally do.
What surprised you the most about Colombia?
Leonie: People were so much nicer there than in any other South American country. And honestly nice, not because they wanted something. It felt like they were so happy that they moved past what happened 10-15 years ago and that foreigners now wanted to come there too. They wanted to show you how beautiful their country is (and that it is), they were helpful and honest and I just felt the most comfortable there. And not insecure at all in contrast to what everyone in Germany makes you expect.
What also surprised me was that even after what everyone told me about how it was the most beautiful country in South America which made me build so many expectations, I was still amazed and overwhelmed by how amazing it really was!
Ivana: They are always late. Men are amazing dancers. Despite the difficult history, they are not afraid of foreigners. Many times, especially in a favela in Medellin, I was told “Thank you” from Colombians, for visiting their country.
Anita: How good the infrastructure for travelling was, how punctual services were provided. I expected delayed bus rides and other issues but that was not the case. How safe I felt.
The people are consistently warm all over the country in large cities and small towns. There is an openness I could not find anywhere else in South America, other than with my family in Argentina.
Amal: How locals are so happy and full of life with less things than we have.
Did you learn anything about yourself on this trip?
Leonie: I think it is impossible not to learn anything about yourself on a trip that long or any trip in general. Travelling gives you the chance to think about everything. You have so much time at school, university and work to constantly occupy your mind. I didn’t even know there were so many things I needed to think about and think through until after about 3 months I noticed that I didn’t really think about anything anymore. I just… was. It took me 3 months to unconsciously sort through my own head.
Just imagine how it must feel if you never do that in your whole life, if you never give yourself a break and just allow yourself to exist…
I could enjoy everything so much more; appreciate everything so much deeper once my head was cleared of problems, bad memories and fears that I had tried to bury. I learned how much I love nature and how it makes me feel complete. I learned that I think and plan too much and I just have to be and I try to remember that every day since I returned. I learned that there are places and people and moments that make you feel whole. I learned to always trust my gut. I learned to appreciate small things more. But I also learned things like: for me travelling 6 months in a row is too much – I will not go for more than 3 months from now to be able to fully appreciate everything while travelling and not taking anything ever for granted. You just learn to understand yourself better, learn who you are and why you are as you are. You learn to accept yourself for who you are.
Ivana: Yes! That I am much more braver and crazier than I thought I was. Colombia is definitely challenging and not for everyone and every age. I was shocked to see 18-yers old wandering across Colombia, acting naively and stupidly.
Jenny: I learnt about boundaries and that I had been travelling with the wrong type of people, and learnt to focus on people who resonated with me (my tribe). I learnt to ignore the bad and walk straight towards the good and not give a crap about judgement. I learnt to do what I want to do ALL of the time. It was magic!!
I learnt that I can do anything I set my mind to. I learnt that people are good anywhere you go and being afraid to travel is useless.
Would you go back to Colombia and why?
Leonie: I wouldn’t go back but not because I didn’t like it (I loved it) but because there are like a million other places I also want to see in my life. But I can only recommend anyone else to go there!
Ivana: I would go back to Colombia tomorrow because its way of life and people are different. I felt very much in love with Salento in the coffee region where I was picking coffee with Don Elias and admiring parrots in the bluest sky ever.
I was happy in Colombia. People were friendly and warm hearted. There I felt truly at home.
Anita: Absolutely. Rather sooner than later.
Jenny: In a heartbeat. There is so much more to explore, so many more lovely people to get to know, so much more to be enjoyed!
Amal: Yes. Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in my opinion and I want to explore more of its places. I need to!!
Anything, in summary, you’d like to add?
Leonie: Go travel to Colombia!
Jenny: TRAVEL – your soul fills up, your character is formed, you know your limits, you learn to honour yourself and look after yourself, you see so much that your love for others and Mother Nature grows to reach a level of consciousness that is unheard of back home. You meet so many people that you don’t spend a day alone (for solo travellers), unless you actually feel like a quiet recovery day.
Amal: To anyone wanting to visit Colombia, GO. Don’t go only to big cities (like I did) visit everything. Eat, meet people, and explore as much as you can!!
So according to these solo travellers, there are some challenges and surprises when visiting Colombia – but perhaps not those that you might expect! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, Solo Female Travel Colombia, and it has provided you with insights, information and reassurance that Colombia is a lot safer than it used to be and that it is a welcoming place to visit. All these women had positive experiences in Colombia and even more than that, each and every one of them fell in love with the country!
*For those interested, the featured image on this blog was a photo of the female toilet sign at an upmarket hotel in Cali. It wasn’t used to suggest that men are perverts! It just seemed like an apt and amusing image to convey challenges and surprises!