In a previous post, I spoke about some fun things to do while you’re visiting Medellin. In this post I’m going to focus on a few things to see and do, as well as some restaurants to find good food in the beachy town of Cartagena.



Old Town, also known as Old Cartagena, is a historic, walled city with beautiful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. The vibe is definitely more laid back here, than in Medellin. This area offers many museums and amazing restaurants. The museums of note in Old Town are the Zenu Gold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. You can even enjoy walks along the top of the walled city. During our visit, I often went out at night to stroll around on top of the wall.


If you choose to stay in this area make sure you stay in a hotel or AirBnB that has a back-up generator. The first few days we were there, there were blackouts three nights in a row that lasted from about 10pm until as late as early afternoon the next day. The whole area of Old Town was dark. One night we were sitting in a restaurant and thankfully had already finished dinner when the power went out, but the other two nights it was past 10pm when the power cut out. The bad thing about having the power go out at that hour is that you have to sleep without air conditioning in hot weather which is a miserable experience. We ended up moving to a hotel outside of Old Town for the last few days of our trip.




Tour guide, Alex Rocha offers a tour of what he considers real Cartagena. As someone, who grew up in one of the barrios and calls Cartagena home, Alex is an expert on the city. In this tour you discover more authentic locations of Cartagena and not just the tourist traps. You’ll also sample some of the local foods. During the tour, Alex also discusses the African influence on the culture and way of life in Cartagena.


Part of the tour included visiting the Mercado Bazurto, which is a food and marketplace where many locals shop. It is a hive of bustling activity with food and fruit stalls and other vendors selling all sorts of goods that range from souvenirs, to clothing and other household goods. (Note: There is an occurrence for theft so keep an eye on your purses, wallets and backpacks.)



You won’t find San Basilio de Palenque in too many guidebooks, but it has a very important history of being the first settlement for freed slaves in the Americas. In 2005, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, about 4,000 people live in the village. It’s worth taking a day trip to visit the village and discover some of the rich history. The women in the colorful dresses, known as palenqueras, that you often see walking around Old Town with the baskets of fruit on their head originally come from San Basilio de Palenque. During the tour of the village, you learn about the people, culture, history and their way of life. We were able to see a dance troupe perform. For women, you can purchase a head wrap and pay the local women to affix the head wrap for you.

It takes slightly over an hour to get to San Basilio de Palenque from Cartagena. You can either book a tour with a local touring company (prices will vary, some will include lunch). The company I mentioned earlier in this article, Experience Real Cartagena offers San Basilio de Palenque tours. The other alternative is to either rent a car or take a bus or taxi on your own and then hire a local guide in the community to show you around.




La Mulata

Calle Quero 9 58 Sandiego, Cartagena De Indias, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6646222


Located within Old Town La Mulata serves up some amazing seafood and the ceviche is some of the best I’ve ever had. The food is moderately priced.


Restaurante San Marino

12, Cl. 8 #8, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6651140

This restaurant is located in the Bocagrande area so is bit more expensive. It overlooks the beach so you’ll have a nice view. The wait staff is friendly. The chicken dish I had the second night I went here was delicious. Also, another place that had great ceviche.


Restaurante La Perla Negra

Cl. 63 #21, La Boquilla, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6560846

Situated on La Boquilla beach, this restaurant offers up simple seafood dishes that are quite tasty. The fish was succulent and well seasoned. If you’re looking for inexpensive dining, you’ve come to the right place.

Trip Highlight

Another highlight of my trip to Cartagena was being there during the World Cup. Most Colombians are very passionate about football (I know we call it soccer here in the U.S.). Everyone walked around wearing the bright, almost neon yellow shirts in support of the home team. Getting to watch the Colombian team play a game alongside their countrymen was a very fun experience.



So there you have it, a few things to do and places to eat if you only have a couple days to spend in Cartagena. This city has a lot to offer. I look forward to getting back soon to further explore this great city.

Many people think of Colombia and they think of all the violence that encapsulated the country decades ago, but the Colombia of today is a country that has undergone an amazing transformation. It’s a word you’ll hear many of the Colombian people use when you speak with them. During my visit to Colombia I had the pleasure of enjoying a few days in the vibrant city of Medellin, the second largest city in the country.

Medellin is a vibrant city that has spent a long time reinventing itself and you see the evidence all throughout the city. People from the city of Medellin and the surrounding areas call themselves Paisas. They are friendly and welcoming. The city offers a lot to see and do. Here are just a few gems that are a must when planning your trip.


Where To Stay

Two of the best neighborhoods to stay in are El Poblado and Laureles. El Poblado is the most popular neighborhoods to stay in. This is where you will find most of the city’s nightlife, such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs. This area is also great for shopping.

We stayed in the Laureles neighborhood, an upper-middle class residential area of the city, in a highly rated, 4-bedroom AirBnB property.


Getting Around

There is a great metro you can use to get around or you can use Uber, if you don’t plan to rent a car.


Fun Things To Do

Real City Tours 

The tour of downtown Medellin offered by Real City Tours is a free tour led by a local. It lasts between 3 ½-4 hours. Put your walking shoes on and be prepared for a good walk. This tour is great because you learn a lot about the city itself, its history you walk through some of the squares and parks. Our tour guide was very colorful and made the tour fun. Even though the tour is free it does require you to make a reservation on the site where you can choose the date and time of day you’d like for the tour. The tour guides do work on tips so make sure to have money ready at the end of your tour to tip your guide.


The Rock of Guatape (Stone of El Penol or El Penol) & Guatape

El Penol is located in the town of Guatape and rises about 650ft. It is one of the largest . If you’re up for the climb, there are 740 steps to the top of the rock. Yellow numbers mark each step so you don’t have to keep track of how many steps you’ve climbed. I was unable to climb when we visited because I have a knee injury so I took pictures and explored the food stalls and vendors that surround the base of the rock. The surrounding area is beautiful and offers many picturesque views.

After you climb El Penol, head back into Guatape and visit the colorful little town. The Catholic church in the little village, Parroquia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen Guatape, has a beautiful interior that’s worth checking out. There are some good restaurants around the city where you can grab lunch. We ate at La Fogata and were even serenaded by a local during our meal. Afterwards, roam around and even shop for souvenirs.

You’ll either need to rent a vehicle or hire a driver to get to El Penol because it is about an 1 ½ drive from Medellin. You must purchase a ticket to climb El Penol. Ticket costs are around 18000 Colombian pesos. You purchase tickets once you arrive.


Cooking class and dinner at a local’s home

One of the things I always want to do when I travel is attend a cooking class and/or eat in a local’s home. This allows me to get the authentic experience I love to have when I travel because I get to go to a local’s home and have a meal, but more importantly good conversation where I can learn about them, their life and more about the culture.

A site that’s great for helping you find people that have been vetted is a great site called Traveling Spoon. You can check out profiles of home cooks in the area and then book with them. You can choose to do a cooking class and an in-home meal, throw in a market visit if they offer it or you can simply just go and enjoy the meal. Normally, I like to do it all. This particular visit we did the cooking class and in-home meal.

Our hosts were Daniela and her mother, Beatriz. They were wonderful. Step-by-step they took us through making yummy Colombian dishes. For the appetizer we made Papa rellena (potato stuffed with ground beef, tomato, onion and hard-boiled egg). The main dish was Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken and vegetables) and the beverage that we made from scratch was called Lulada (Colombian lemonade made with the fruit lulo. I wish I could find lulo in the U.S. because this drink was so refreshing. Towards the end of the meal they also made Colombian coffee for us as we sat around and continued talking. Everything was delicious and Daniela and I plan to keep in touch.

The experiences on the site, depending on what exactly you want to do (cooking class, market visit, and/or in-home meal) in Medellin will range from about $35-$140.


Graffiti Free Zippy Walking Tour Comuna 13

This was by far one of the highlights of my visit to Medellin. During the tour you learn that Medellin is broken up into sixteen communities (comunas) and Comuna 13 was once one of the most violent and dangerous neighborhoods in the world. The people here have worked hard to transform their community. Their story and reinvention is written on the walls of the community in stunning graffiti and street art. As you walk through the community and listen to the history, you’ll get lost in the artwork and murals that seem to decorate every surface.

Years ago, escalators were put into the neighborhood to make getting around on foot a little easier. You’ll ride up the escalators to get to the top of Comuna 13. Along the way you’ll find a small art gallery of local artists and you’ll even see some street performers.

Toward the end of the tour our guide, Laura, took us to her home, where we sat on her porch and listened to her talk about what life was like when the neighborhood was dangerous and you either were making choices to join the guerillas or a gang. It really is an amazing tour. This is something not to be missed if you’re going to be in Medellin.

This tour is also free and requires a reservation. They offer a day tour and a night tour and the tours last about 2 ½ hours. Again, even though the tour is free the tour guides do work for tips so please have money handy so you can tip your guides because they do an awesome job. Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot and up some inclines, hills and steps.



I enjoyed my time in Medellin very much and lamented that I was only able to spend five days here. I plan to go back very soon and spend more time. There was something electric about the city that just pulled me in and made me feel at home. I hope when you visit you have a great experience like I did.


Quick Facts:
Currency: Colombian peso
Language: Spanish
Weather: temperate weather all year long
Well known dish: Bandeja Paisa
Visa: No Visa required for US citizens

“With all that is going on in the world today, why do you travel? I’d be too afraid to travel.” It’s something I hear a lot when I speak about my love of traveling. Most of the time, I’m not a person that lets fear hold me back. Usually, I try to use that fear to propel me forward so I can try and conquer that fear.

Growing up in a military family where constant moving and traveling often to new cities and countries was the norm, I developed a wide-eyed curiosity about travel from a young age. When it came to travel, fear didn’t register in my brain like it does when I think of some of the things that do frighten me. I realize for some people the opposite may be true.

Despite what the media tries to present about the world around us I wanted to share some reasons that you should get out and see the world. This list also serves to inspire those that maybe haven’t been bitten by the travel bug yet.

“We wander for distraction but we travel for fulfillment” – Hilaire Belloc

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy

“People don’t take trips… trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Travel fulfills our curiosity and adds something to our life that can never be bought and can never be taken away. When you travel you have the opportunity to visit and see these destinations you’ve glimpsed so vividly in Technicolor on your TV screens. You get to breathe the air and smell the flavors that punctuate the air, take in the beauty. The whole rest of your life you’ll have those memories that you can pull from and savor and know how sweet life can be. Travel gives you something to look forward to. Pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to before they are going on a trip has been excited and enthusiastic about what is to come. Travel began shaping my life when I was young. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it still continues to enhance my life by improving the quality of it.

How has travel enriched your life?


“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” – Chinese Proverb

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” – Aldous Huxley

While books can provide a vast knowledge and wealth of information about other cultures and their history, there is nothing that can compare to actually visiting a country and experiencing it all, firsthand. Seeing, touching, tasting, hearing and immersing yourself in something is how you come to learn about a culture. What may be a cultural norm in one country will differ in another, but you won’t always know why or understand it until you’ve spent time there. Getting to experience another culture’s customs, beliefs and history in person builds a respect for that culture that allows you to understand why that person or people gets upset when their culture or identity gets appropriated or misrepresented.

Travel allows us to become part of the landmarks, monuments and hallowed ground we’ve heard so much about. Even though we may feel removed from it, we are all a part of history. Standing in the places where history was made makes it come alive for you. I remember visiting Robben Island and seeing the tiny cell Nelson Mandela spent eighteen of his twenty-seven years incarcerated in and thinking how did it not break his spirit. Touring the Auschwitz concentration camps is an experience that still resonates and affects me. Travel has made this history a part of me.

What cultures or history did you learn about while traveling that became a part of you or affected you in some way?


“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” — Maya Angelou

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, but for most people that have had exposure to other places, cultures and people, it can help breach the divide that many have erected out of fear of the unknown. But, you have to want to genuinely get to know and understand another culture and be open to learning and realizing that many of the things you thought you knew of said culture and people, may not be the truth or the reality that many would have you believe.

Travel allows you to form your own opinion, make up your own mind and hopefully embrace learning something different that may be new to you, not just rely on what you’ve heard, or what someone’s told you or even what you’ve seen on TV.

You have to be open to engaging with local people and cultures, sitting down and sharing a meal, experiencing their lifestyle and having conversations. I’ve found that when I travel and most people learn I’m an American, they have an open curiosity to learn or talk about America. Sometimes they even have questions about Black culture. If you’re willing to sit at the table and open up the discussion for dialogue and be willing to listen and learn from them also, not only do you walk away with a rich and unforgettable experience, you also have a better and deeper understanding of someone you didn’t know before.

Eating a meal in a local’s home and getting to interact with them and see how they live with your own eyes will show you that we’re not that different. I often think fondly of the night I spent in Moscow at a Russian lawyer’s house, eating and talking about guys and dating to the wee hours of the morning, few years ago. We’re still Facebook friends. I wouldn’t have had that experience if I didn’t decide to travel.

What was an experience you had where you traveled and had preconceived notions about a people, a place or culture and it was changed or altered by the time you left?


“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

“I dislike feeling at home when I’m abroad.” – George Bernard Shaw

I know it’s easy to stay in our comfort zone because it’s where we feel safe and unchallenged, but that’s what’s so great about travel. It pushes you out of the boat and forces you to sink, swim or ask for a life preserver. It pushes you to the edge and sometimes over it and forces you to try something new and different, and that’s not a bad thing. Change and unfamiliarity isn’t always easy, but it can grow us in new ways. Travel does just that when it forces you to deal with the unknown, the other, the foreign: whether it’s new people, new foods, new environments, new cultures, new situations or new choices. Sometimes some of us need to be shoved out of the boat to get a wake up call that maybe our life could be headed in a better or more satisfying direction. Breaking out of your comfort zone can get you off your routine and show you things in your life you may have been blind to before. Travel helps you be more open to getting knocked out of the boat every now and then.

I’m a person that likes to be in control and travel has slowly and sometimes painfully taught me that I control nothing. I’ve been lost enough, missed a few flights and dealt with situations where I’ve had to rely on others, all things outside my level of comfort. When I’ve let go, relinquished control and just went with the flow, a situation that started off as a crisis usually turned into something good.

What was an experience you had while traveling that pushed you out of your comfort zone?


“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself” -David Mitchell

“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” – Pico Iyer

Travel will teach you a lot about yourself. Especially when it comes to dealing with situations you have absolutely no control over. How you handle a long-haul flight fraught with long layovers and having to deal with other things outside your control can be very telling. I’ve been in airports where I have seen people some trying situations bring out the good or the worst in people. It’s in these moments that we get a glimpse at ourselves. Either you’re going to like what you see or you’re going to realize that maybe you could do with some improvement. Travel will definitely teach you how to relax and go with the flow. You’ll go places where buses don’t always come when they say they will; you’ll make plans just to have nothing go right and you either and then you’ll have those quiet moments of introspection where you’re sitting in a desert some place and it’s so quiet and something is revealed to you. I love travel for the discoveries you make about yourself.

When I started long-term travel, I remember having this ‘aha’ moment when I was ordering ice cream and they asked me if I wanted a cone or a cup. At that point, I couldn’t have told you the last time I ate ice cream from a cone, because I was always busy, working. The ice cream usually melted away in a cup before I could finish because a call came in I had to take. I discovered that I was burned out and hadn’t been practicing self-care. From that day on, I made it a point that I would take better care of myself.

While traveling what was a discovery you made about yourself?


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

When you see the pyramids in Egypt, the Taj Mahal, Petra, the Grand Canyon, Colosseum and the list goes on, you will marvel and be awestruck. In your mind, you will try and fathom how all this beauty and splendor is even possible. Seeing these wonders inspires you to want to do something amazing, conquer something or even just see other magnificent things. Travel awakens things within us that encourage us to reach for something bigger than ourselves. It opens up your mind to new possibilities, ideas, ways of thinking. It provides these incredible experiences that grow us, shape us, mold us, change us and ensure that we don’t leave the same person we were when we arrived. When I made the decision to travel for a year travel inspired me to write and now I’ve put out a travel book and will publish a fiction novel later this year.

How did travel inspire you?


“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” – Charles Horton Cooley

When we’re able to get time away from work the first thing most people think about is going on a vacation or seeing a new place. That’s because traveling can be fun and relaxing. For some it’s an escape from their everyday and for others travel is a way of life.

Then there are the people that I hear say they will travel when they have more money, when the kids leave the house, when they don’t have so much responsibility. The thing is that tomorrow that you keep talking about may never come. Each day is a gift that we have and you need to live your life to the fullest. Yes, we all have responsibilities, obligations, bills to pay, etc., those things shouldn’t take away from you enjoying your life right now.

Maybe for some people it’s the getting to a destination that’s holding you back. I know isn’t always fun, especially if you’re someone that hates or has a fear of flying or you’re prone to seasickness; but once you arrive, what a time you will have. Whether you’re the adventure seeker or the type that just enjoys relaxing by the pool or on the beach, travel offers some very fun experiences. Travel is a way for me to enjoy my friends and family. My family and I still talk about an amazing Hawaiian cruise we took back in 2009. While Hawaii is beautiful, what made it amazing was getting to share that experience with the people I cared about the most.

What’s the most fun, memorable travel experience you’ve ever had?


As you can see, I believe there are many reasons that travel is necessary and important to leading a life filled with joy, inspiration and fun. Travel has given me so many rich and meaningful experiences that I cherish. It’s taught me about myself and kicked me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to grow. I hope that travel provides you the same thing.