Every summer has a story. My story last summer was a romance. In the summer of 2015 I fell in love.
I’m not sure whether it was the hot and sweaty sunsets, the sexy salsa backing track, or knocking back copious amounts of rum (or, perhaps, a combination of all three), but I fell head over heels. Hard and fast. This wasn’t just your typical holiday romance though, as this wasn’t just your typical holiday.
It was a love/hate relationship – I loved every second we were together, I hated having to say “adiós”.
Long after my return to the UK I would think of my love, usually while staring out the window at the wet winter that was upon us. I would dream of being back on the beach, laughing carelessly, salt on my skin and the sun bleaching my hair.
Walking away was tough, but I knew I would always have the memories.
I would always have Cartagena.
Colombia is not a traditional tourist hot spot for Brits – though neither is it your typical traveller destination.
Last year, when I announced that I would be travelling to the country as part of my 12 countries in 12 months mission, I was met with mixed response. While some shared my excitement to explore somewhere a little less mainstream, others retorted with comments about crime, corruption and cocaine.
“Be careful,” they said.
You can’t ignore the fact that Colombia has a bad reputation. And these days Netflix’s Narcos is probably just as much to blame as drug baron Pablo Escobar’s legacy for the immediate nervousness when someone even suggests they may travel there. But how much truth is there in the tales of unruly drug cartels and merciless kidnappings?
As a young(ish), female solo traveller heading to the South American country for the first time, I was told to be on guard, vigilant and to “stay safe”. Other travel blogs gave helpful advice, while the Colombian families I stayed with warned me about possible scams and potential threats.
But nobody warned me about how bewitching Colombia is. There was no advice or counsel for this. And by the time I reached Cartagena, I was infatuated. I fell in love.