One of the great treats of long term adventure travel is that I usually have more time than money. Unlike the two week warriors who have the option to put it all on their credit card and deal with the ramifications later.
I basically look for however I can reach my goal while enjoying the adventures for the cheapest way possible. This currently landed me on a plane ride from Panama City to Cartagena the slowest god damn way imaginable.
I had to make three plane stops on a route that could easily be done directly. Why? Because it was the cheapest ticket and well I wasn’t really in a rush. As a little thank you from the universe I was treated to the emergency row of the last plane ride. The spot where one must be able to help everyone in need in the event of an emergency. Being the only obvious gringo they came and explained the routine to me to ensured I understood and spoke Spanish. I seemed to answer all the right questions at the right time and was allowed to keep my seat.
Well I woke up just before touchdown and to my surprise the kid in the seat behind me was puking his face off and the row adjacent to us had been cleared for a lady to lie down who had her family and the staff attending to her pressing needs. She was by all accounts in the midst of a medical emergency. Glad they were on top of things, as really I could do nothing.
I asked the guy next to me what was up? He explained “Thermales”. I have no idea, maybe hot flashes? We landed and a scooted away from the puking kid and the hot flashing lady in the hopes no one would ask me what happened. Ahh welcome to Colombia!
I had set myself a goal to scare the pants off of myself, sort of like a big personal stretch. I try to do this often enough to know I’m still alive. Before leaving Panama I decided I had enough time to pick up basic Spanish and I would challenge myself to give a presentation about my trip to anyone who’d listen.
As a member to the Rotary Club of Canada, district 5360, I emailed the Rotary Club of Cartagena and asked them. They we’re a welcome bunch and said to show up Wednesday night and they would be happy to have me. I asked to present, however I put in a clause that my Spanish was mediocre. I felt I could make it up in enthusiasm.
I would spend the previous two weeks rehearsing an introduction in Spanish and putting together some slides to help work more on the picture side and less on the talking side. I even enlisted a lady I met at the hostel to help my work on the pronunciation. I was more or less as stressed as one could be when giving a presentation to a group of business people in a language that he really didn’t know.
To top it all off, my bike still had not arrived and all I had was one shirt, one socks, one boxers and one extremely sweaty pair of pants. So naturally I showed up to my self booked self promoted event unshaven for four days and looking homeless.
Unlike the dingy hotel conference room with lukewarm buffet lunch our Rotary group in Canada met at, this was located on the upper floor of a condo building. A pool set out front the window and it overlooked the crashing ocean. I was so wound up over my crap Spanish when I arrived & the that fact I looked like a dirt bag, I wasn’t as convinced this was still a great idea.
Once everyone arrived I was surprised to be met by a small group as ours is roughly eighty. This group was made up of half Americans and half locals who all spoke English and handed me a nice cold craft beer followed by another. I explained they were getting an authentic travelers experience as some days this is how we looked and the whole presentation turned into more an interactive conversation about how I got here.
My big stretch turned into more of a big meet and greet social! Hell one guy even invited me to a party at his place on the ocean that weekend (I went) and the president Jaime had me and Philipe over to his twelfth floor office in the city center for a panoramic view of Cartagena.
Note to self, never let the imagined predetermined result of your fears dictate the actual out come.