I’m Moving! Welcome to my own personal #Brexit

You want the tea, the whole tea, and nothing but the tea, so help you gawd? (*tea* has never been more appropriate, haha, UK I’m READY for ya!)

Hello friends! A Facebook status wasn’t enough to capture all of this, so here we are. First, let’s get the Q&A out of the way, based on FAQ I’ve received as I’ve told people about my move:

  1. Omg you’re moving to London? Why?
    • I’ve been thinking about moving away and having that experience of starting over for the past six years, and just didn’t get a concrete plan that made sense until now. I almost went to France to get a Master’s… until I remembered I didn’t like school.
  2. What are you going to do for work?
    • Just as I was looking into my move, Nytro Marketing (the company I work for) was looking for talent. It just so happens that my desire to move perfectly fit with the fact that all Nytronians work remotely so I could do my job from anywhere AND there was demand for support from customers in the UK, so it all fell into place seamlessly.
  3. Where are you going to live?
    • I don’t know. I have never been to London before, which makes this move all the more awesome/crazier. I have only acquaintances there, no one I feel comfortable reaching out to. Anyway, you can’t rent a place without a bank account. My plan is to get there, stay at an Air B&B type of place for a bit until I find an area I like and then get myself a *flat*. (ready I tell ya)
  4. How long are you going for?
    • I don’t know. I’m leaving, I have no concrete plans to return or stay within a set timeline. Depending on work and how I feel once I’ve been there for some time, I’ll decide.

Now that the basics are out of the way, I can share a little more about what it’s been like to make this happen. I made the decision to leave back in September of 2017. At the time, I didn’t know where I was going, all I knew is that I had the support and encouragement of my parents. My top choices were: Bogota (most of my family is in Colombia, I love the weather, and I felt it was enough of a move yet still close, so it wasn’t completely terrifying), Canada (love the healthcare, and I have been before so it seemed familiar and close geographically), Europe (the only two places I considered moving to in Europe were France and England. France is one of my favorite places in the world and I’ve dreamt of going back ever since I lived there in 2005, but my French is RUSTY AF, so I didn’t want to add a language barrier to the difficulty of the move. That made England the European top contender), and Australia. Australia was the most far-fetched, literally because it’s so far, but I genuinely thought about it because 1. English and 2. It seems like they have a great quality of life, so why not? My dad was keen on Europe from the beginning, but I didn’t want him to sway me. I forget sometimes parents know you better than you know yourself…

As the months went by, I went through a roller coaster of emotions, mind-changes, mood swings, and action plans. At one point, I actually found a company that had offices in a few countries including Colombia & England, I loved what they stood for. They had an opening in Bogota that perfectly encompassed my experience and strengths, and I thought this would be the ideal slingshot to get to London, kind of like a slow move towards what I wanted, but paced out and it made me feel less fearful of the prospect of moving. I interviewed with them and moved along in the process… and that’s when I realized I was cheating myself and extending the inevitable. I wanted to be in London, and I knew it deep down, but I resisted it. It took a looooot of talking through with the best sounding boards to ever be – my mom and dad – but I finally faced myself and withdrew from the candidate selection process for this company. I was honest about my why, and they told me to keep them in mind if I made it to London.

Why London? Well, there’s no specific answer. I have never been, but there are two places in the world that always called to me before visiting and for no particular reason: Chicago and London. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Chicago twice now, and I still don’t know what draws me to it, but it’s there. London I have a little bit more of a connection with. Though these are by no means qualifiers for a reason to move, I have always been mesmerized by UK artists. Ed Sheeran is my favorite singer. I have a very deep obsession with Amy Winehouse that I share with my dad, and of course Adele reigns supreme. JK Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise. My favorite actor is James McAvoy, and don’t get me started on what Idris Elba does to my hormones. I worship Kate Beckinsale. Seems all my favorites come from the other side of the pond. But I digress…

Back to square one, I started looking at job postings in the UK, blogs about how moving there is so hard (so discouraging, I would read a blog, close my computer, get in the fetal position and wrap myself in my blankets and doubts of how I would make this happen). But life works in funny ways and sometimes what you want can work its way to you while you’re lost in the search. As I mentioned in the Q&A, Nytro had its needs and I had mine, and they just so happened to fit perfectly and we found each other in that intersection. We were both honest from the beginning, and it’s been a dream to work for and with these amazing professionals that encouraged me every step of the way, offered more help than I could’ve asked for, and constantly proved that things happen how and when they’re meant to.

So here we are. I’m writing this to help me process it all, because I don’t think I have. It’s been close to a year since I knew where I was going and how I would get there, to the point where some of my friends don’t believe that I’m leaving and said they’d stop asking until I booked my flight. Well, cha ching y’all. It’s booked.

Some things I’m excited about/I’ve focused on to reassure myself I’ll be fine:

  1. I truly hate being hot, so I’m happy about getting to experience a predominantly colder climate. I got an awesome winter-appropriate puffer jacket last Black Friday, part of the little by little move.
  2. I’ve heard that the lack of sunshine can trigger depression a bit and since I’m definitely a sensitive human, I’ve looked into SAD Lamps, especially for the winter time. Hopefully since I’m arriving in “summer,” I’ll have time to acclimate slowly.
  3. You know when you’re aware of something, you see it everywhere? Ever since I knew London was “it,” I feel like London is mentioned in every song/movie/show, it’s INSANE. Even when I was looking for the puffer jackets, the one I bought was from London Fog. I couldn’t avoid it if I tried. On my most recent trip as I was going through the security line, I ended up striking conversations with the people around me, they were all visiting or living in London and telling me how much I’d love it. It felt like the universe reassuring me.
  4. Zumba. You better believe I’ve been following London studios and instructors for months and one of the things I want to take into consideration when finding where to live is the proximity to gyms that offer classes. This plus my work will be the only familiar things I get to take with me, so I’m hyper aware of making that a central point to my search.
  5. UK TV! I am OBSESSED with all the content the BBC puts out, and I just can’t wait to be exposed to that programming 24/7.

I want to make a point that throughout this journey, one of the most important factors that contributed to it was honesty. I had to be honest with myself, with the companies I interviewed with, and with the people closest to me in order for things to fall into place. And I wouldn’t have made it this far without it.

I think this post is already long enough, so I’m ending this by saying: I’m ecstatic and terrified, all at once. It feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to, and what matters is that I’m open to whatever this experience brings me, which I assume will be a lot of personal and professional growth. With that, I say cheerio to you all and will leave you with one request: I am TERRIBLE at reaching out to people and staying in touch. If you ever think of me, please say hi! I promise I probably have thought about it but won’t do it for some odd psychological reason…

If you’d like me to document big moments of my journey here, any challenges, setbacks, etc. beyond what one would normally share in social media, let me know!

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#TravelTuesdays: Five Tips To Traveling Light as a Feather

Ladies and gentlemen. It’s about to be 2019 and there is literally zero excuse to be lugging insane amounts of baggage. Traveling light is the way to go because:

  1. You don’t need three outfit changes and a full shoe selection abroad
  2. TSA and fellow passengers appreciate one less bag in the mix
  3. There’s no feeling like walking into the airport like you own the place because you checked in online and you’re only taking a carry-on so you can move straight through to security!

Trust me, I understand wanting to be stylish and having cute outfits for those pictures that will last you a lifetime, but seriously, if that’s what you’re investing the most time/thought into for your trip (and you’re not a stylist or influencer getting paid for your trip pictures), then, like Ron Weasley wisely said – you need to sort out your priorities.

I come from a family of hoarders that packs like we’re starting a new life over, every single trip. I don’t remember a single travel experience with my parents that didn’t require at least one gigantic suitcase per person, an airport cart to carry them, and sometimes even calling over the airport personnel to help with the load. UNNECESSARY! So please know that I understand the struggle, but I’m here on the other side of the fence, after a victorious nine-day trip to Europe with different daily outfits on a carry-on, to tell you: YOU CAN DO IT! And here are five tips to help you accomplish it:

  1. Plan to wear your bulkier items on you during the flight: if you’re traveling to or from winter, keep your coat on you. If you need boots during the trip, wear them to fly. If you have a bulky sweater or dress, put it in your purse or “personal item” if you can. Free up your carry-on space for what matters.
  2. Pick clothes that are timeless, easy to match, and that complement other pieces you’re bringing: whether you’re picking from your closet or shopping before the trip, make sure the clothes you’re choosing are easy to mix and match with other articles of clothing to make new outfits during the trip. For example, a pair of jeans goes with any type of top, and you only need one pair of jeans. If you stay away from specific patterns or prints, it will be easier to look like you didn’t repeat outfits during the trip.
  3. Plan your outfits ahead of time: this one was a huge help for me in the last trip. I didn’t plan what I’d wear each day, but I mapped out the possible outfit combinations so that I would be sure not to underpack…. (as if!). For example: for nine days in Europe during a cold and rainy fall, I packed: 4 pairs of bottoms (1 jean, 2 jeggings, 1 leggings), 7 knit sweaters, 4 tank tops (for layering), 3 dresses, 2 booties, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 PJs, 12 underwear, 2 bras, 10 pairs of socks, 4 scarves, 2 gloves, 2 hats + hygiene stuff and everything else I carried on me, like the coats. Yes, ALL of that fit in a carry-on bag and personal item! And because I mapped out what I could match with what, I had peace of mind and took less time making outfits each morning. The colors of the clothes were all easy to match and interchangeable and it felt kind of like a clothing line collection that felt cohesive – and chic! Here’s the proof of the outfit variety for the non-believers (and this isn’t even all of them!):

4. Go small (or even solid) with the toiletries: listen, I don’t like wasting time on styling my mane of hair when I travel, so you *know* I needed my dry shampoo, but I took two small canisters instead of one big one that 1. complied with TSA regulations and 2. allowed me to distribute the space better. Now, every airport security has different regulations when it comes to what can go on a carry-on, and even though most are on board with items that contain less than 3 fluid ounces, sometimes you need separate Ziploc bags, or they make you take it out of the plastic bag completely (which when you pack your bag like a game of Tetris can be a real bummer). So when you want to avoid those worries altogether, consider packing solid toiletries! I was shook when I read about these, but seriously – shampoo, lotion, bug repellent, almost anything you can think of has a solid presentation to make your life EASY PEASY at the airport!

5. ROLL, ROLL, ROLL!: I remember my very first attempt to travel on a carry-on like it was yesterday. My friend kept making fun of me for the amount of things I packed for a work trip that was less than a week long, so that fueled my desire to try and do better for my next travel adventure, which was a six-day trip to San Francisco and Napa. I bought a ton of new clothes, had my outfits pre-planned, and when I started packing my folded clothes I realized… they weren’t going to fit. Before the panic set in, I remembered seeing a video where someone rolled the clothes and OH MY GOD. Not only did everything fit, but I even had extra space now! It’s the best thing ever! Except you need to keep your destination/airline regulations in mind because they sometimes do have weight limits on carry-on bags, but when that’s not a concern, hooray!

You could very well say, this is how I roll ::badum tsssss::

Also, can you make out how there are socks coming out of my shoes? Let this be bonus tip #6: shoes make GREAT storage places so pack them to the brim and make their passage useful!

I’m telling you, as far as I’ve come, I still could massively improve on my light traveling skills. I have friends that travel 3-4 weeks on a carry-on + personal item, and one in particular that travels for months on a backpack, and though I worship them, I’m not sure I can get to that level of expertise.

The only downside to traveling light is that you probably don’t have space for many souvenirs, or if you’d like to bring back a bottle of wine or any other liquid, it’s not allowed on board; however, since airlines have gotten so strict and selfish with their space, many stores in touristic destinations have wonderful shipping options you can ask about!

Do you find it easy to pack light for your trips? Please share any and all tips below, I love to find new ways to make my travel as hassle-free and focused on the important stuff, so by all means, flood the comments below 🙂

#TravelTuesdays – 24 Hours With Kathy in Miami: My First Blog for Nytro!

As part of my introduction as a new Nytro team member, I was asked to write a blog-style guide to living in Miami, and I really like how it turned out! Please check it out and give it a like 🙂 Here’s an excerpt to get you excited:

Home of the three-oh-five (305) area code, the strongest coffee known to man, and millions of Latin-American expats, Miami has also been home to me for the past 15 years, so I think I can give you a good virtual tour of the city. I’d say “Shall we?” but this also happens to be the birthplace of Pitbull, so a more fitting “Dale!” is in order.

Want to read more? The full blog is here. Come check out Miami with me! This is how fun I am 😀

Kathy at PAMM

#MyBestFriendsWedding Chapter 7 Part 2 – Nola Bach Weekend Activities (#TravelTuesdays)

You guys know by now that I can write for days on end, which is why I put the bach items in a separate post. Ready to dive right in to the day-by-day itinerary of the bachelorette I planned for my biff Michelle? Buckle up!

Oh, one thing. Michelle had one request: no strippers. Disclaimer: it wasn’t me!

*If you want a version of the plain hourly itinerary without my schpeal, here you go!*

Thursday, March 1st: Arrivals, Set-up, Welcome! 

I flew out early on Thursday morning to set up the apartment. Vanessa (Michelle’s future SIL) and Stephanie (day of coordinator) were also flying in early for a meeting with a client, and Ashtine (bridesmaid) would land in the afternoon. The bride and the rest of the crew would arrive at night. I headed to our HomeAway rental (Michelle wanted us all together, so a hotel was not an option) as soon as I landed. The location was PERFECT, near Bourbon and Frenchmen but not in the midst of the party craze. Stephanie put together the welcome boxes for the girls before heading out to her meeting (thank you Steph!), and I had lunch at Cafe Envie across the street while I waited for Ashtine to land. When she got to the apartment, we went to Walmart (the one on Tchoupitulas, which has a full Liquor Store inside) to stock up on supplies for the apartment. Here’s our shopping list. I ordered Uber Eats from Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for dinner to be ready at the apartment while we got the girls at the airport. Caro (bridesmaid) had this awesome idea to get picked up at the airport in a party bus, so we booked with Luxe Limousine, and our driver Darrow was AWESOME! He was there early, and even accommodated our request to stop for a drink before dropping us off. Thanks Darrow! Once we got to the apartment, we quickly changed, ate, and headed out to party on Bourbon! The best stop of the night was undoubtedly Cats Meow, which is always a great time with karaoke and consistently great MCs running the show! We even got on stage for a rendition of single ladies 😉 (video at the end!)

 

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Friday, March 2nd: NON-STOP Activities! 

We started off our morning with light breakfast in the apartment, and surprised Michelle with the Panty Line Poem. We caught her totally off guard and she loved it! For brunch, we headed to the most memorable meal of the whole trip – Atchafalaya. Then, it was time for the Gray Line Original Walking Cocktail Tour, where the group got to try Absinthe, Sazeracs, Sidecars (my favorite), Hurricanes (the good kind, stay away from the Pat O’Brien’s blend), and more! After the tour we headed back to the apartment to get ready for the nighttime activity: a Diva Royale “Real Housewives of New Orleans” Drag Show! They actually called us earlier in the day to let us know that they were merging the drag show with a Hunk-O-Mania… aka male strippers (remember, not my fault?!). We just rolled with it. When we got to Mags 940 (show bar), I was approached by the owner of the drag show to ask if we wanted to put Michelle in the hot seat. With Michelle’s consent, I said it was fine as long as she was only in a drag segment and not with a stripper. They respected our wishes and Michelle had an awesome experience on stage with a gorgeous, funny and great queen (video at the end!). The brides from other groups in attendance got the full Hunk-O-Mania treatment and we had A LOT of fun watching it, but Michelle (or her fiance) definitely would not have been ok with that lol! The show ran long and we were INCREDIBLY late for our dinner reservation at Three Muses, but they were SUPER accommodating and accepted our rescheduling needs. The food was delicious and the night ended partying on Frenchmen Street!

 

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Saturday, March 3rd: Sisters, Beignets & Aphrodisiacs! 

During my first trip to Nola in 2014, I had Sunday brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. Envisioning a floral brunch outside in the courtyard with a live jazz band, I pulled the trigger and made the reservation. The said they couldn’t guarantee courtyard seating but they made it happen and it was GORGEOUS. We couldn’t have asked for better weather that entire weekend, and the brunch was  whimsically beautiful AND delicious. After brunch, we had free time to walk around, try Cafe Du Monde/Cafe Beignet, visit the French Market, and have a lax afternoon until our 4:00pm Aphrodisiac Tour from Witches Brew Tours. Our tour guide Marillyn was just a delight, so funny and knowledgeable and she had a blast with our group. She gave us background stories on aphrodisiacs and then took us to experience them first-hand – chocolates from Sucré, hot sauces from the Pepper Palace, a quick look at toys and other fun items at Mr. Binky’s Boutique, oyster shooters from honestly I can’t remember where, and if the group is up for it, you can also fit in a quick visit to a Voodoo shop which is part of the Nola charm. For our last Nawlins supper, I booked us dinner at Criollo inside the Monteleone hotel, so we could pass by the Carousel Bar. I told the girls even before the trip not to get excited about the bar as it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get a seat on it, no matter the time of the day, so they knew it was more of a picture opp than anything else. To our huge surprise because of our party size, the Criollo staff welcomed us in one of their private rooms. We felt like the Real Housewives of all the cities rolled into one, getting VIP treatment! It really was the perfect closing to the trip. We actually sang happy birthday to Michelle here because her birthday was coming up that following week, so we got those festivities started. After dinner, we headed out to enjoy our last night in Bourbon and then made our way back to the apartment for a few hours of sleep, before catching our flights back home.

 

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I hope you enjoyed my endless recount of this weekend that I will forever cherish as I hope Michelle and the rest of the girls do. New Orleans is a very fun city, and a top choice destination for bachelor/bachelorette parties because of their chill party scene, yummy food (seriously, you have to make an effort to find bad food in Nola), and cheap drinks!

Made it this far? You unlocked our FINAL RECAP VIDEO! 😉  

#TravelTuesdays – Hamilton AND Dear Evan Hansen in ONE WEEKEND? FOR FREE?!?!?

Yes, dear reader. You read that right. “But how did you manage to get into two of the hottest Broadway shows in a single weekend? And for free?” you ask? Sit tight, patience got me these experiences, and it shall get you the answer.

I read a daily newsletter that covers U.S. and world events in an engaging tone called TheSkimm, and I have referred enough people to it to become a Skimm’bassador. One of the perks of being an “SB” is being part of a Facebook group with over 12,000 other SBs, and it’s a group many of us are fond of due to the sharing nature of many of its members. In November of 2016, an SB posted on the group that a new wave of Hamilton Tickets for shows from May to October of 2017 had gone on sale in their regular Ticketmaster pricing. Normally, these tickets are gone within minutes thanks to bots and regular thirsty people like myself who really want to get their hands on tickets, but, this was November 9th, which was the day after the election in the U.S. and many people were too enthralled watching (or reeling from) the news to care about anything else. Because of this, I managed to go in and snatch myself 2 sets of tickets for shows in the weekend before my birthday in October. I figured, I’ll go to one and sell the other, and depending on how much I sell them for, I just might be able to cover the whole trip! That was wishful thinking at its best. At the time, ticket resales were going for much, much higher than now, since demand is not as crazy with shows opening up across the country and now even in London. So, that was that. I purchased my tickets, and waited patiently until it was time to put them up for sale.

Then, on March 6th of this year, I was on the phone with my brother, who had originally told me he wanted to come to the show with me, and I went on Ticketmaster to check my seats to see which of the two shows was better, when I saw a little message saying that a new wave of tickets was going on sale the next day at 10:00 am. OMG. Ticketmaster does not notify people when tickets go on sale, because they’d never be able to deal with the servers crashing from the volume of visitors, so it’s up to random humans to keep checking until they know when the sale day will be, and they spread the word. By chance, I found out just in time. I tell my brother the news, and he tells me he’s going to buy a set the next day, and I can’t resist the urge and end up buying a third set of tickets, in a very good section, this time for a show on November 10th. At this point I have in my hands 3 sets of tickets for shows on the 19th and 21st of October, and for November 10th. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to see Hamilton in 2017! All I had to do was pick a date and sell the other two sets.

Fast-forward to the Tony Awards, which took place on June 11th. By this point, I had already heard of Dear Evan Hansen and I was a fan of the few songs I’d heard, and of course I loved Ben Platt from Pitch Perfect… but I had looked at tickets recently and everything was pretty much gone except for the price-hiked “preferred seating” section… and I just didn’t want to drop that kind of money. Until I watched the Tonys and in the heat of the moment, I said eff it, and bought myself a pair of tickets to go see Dear Evan Hansen on the same weekend in October that I had two pairs of Hamilton tickets for.

At this point, I had spent $1,200 in all 3 sets of Hamilton Tickets, and $700 for 1 pair for Dear Evan Hansen. Someone needs to hide my wallet during award shows. JK, I know my credit card number by heart.

There was a lot of back and forth on who’d be my date for the plays, but I’ll save you the story and jump to the part where it was decided my dad would join me. Since his birthday is October 24th (TODAY! Happy birthday dad! <3) and mine is October 26th, this was shaping up to be the best pre-birthday weekend, ever. My dad found a great hotel deal and we were all set for the weekend. Now all I had to do was sell my extra tickets…

In mid-September my brother texts me and tells me he sold his Hamilton tickets for a good chunk of money and he was super happy with the extra cash. I was so relieved, because Hamilton was much more accessible by now than when we first got the tickets, so I was starting to get paranoid that we weren’t going to be able to resell them, and I thought he was going to be so mad at me for the idea. So the sigh of relief when he got rid of his was HUGE! A few days after, I checked back on Ticketmaster to see why my tickets weren’t selling, and turns out the section all around me had dropped prices. So I extra dropped mine to where I was still making a good amount but lower than everyone else, and within minutes – BAM. Sold my tickets. These were for one of the October sets (I kept the one with better seats for myself and sold the other one), I still had the November ones to sell, but I let those do the work themselves. Then, while I was in New York, ready to catch Hamilton in its full glory, I get another e-mail – BAM BAM. The November tickets sold too. And those were really good seats, and I was able to make a good chunk off of those. Basically, between the two sales, I made back exactly what I had spent on all four (3 Hamilton + 1 Dear Evan Hansen) sets of tickets and completely broke even. To the cent. I actually got to see Hamilton AND Dear Evan Hansen, in one weekend, for free. Not to mention, just a month later Ben Platt was ending his show run, so I felt even luckier and had even less regrets about having bought those highly priced tickets.

My dad and I went to both musicals and words can’t express what it felt like to be able to take him and gift him this experience. He’s always been so gracious and has gifted us with countless trips and concerts and plays in the past, and to be able to take him to the biggest shows of the year and in some pretty good seats = PRICELESS.

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#TravelTuesdays – A Birthday Weekend in Cartagena!

For those who do not know, my mom is Colombian and my Colombian heritage is very strong and kept alive by constant visits to this beautiful land I’m blessed to call one of my homes. I was born in Venezuela, but I’ve spent a good chunk of my life and gone through some important milestones while on trips in Colombia. The only thing is that since 99% of my family is from and lives in Santa Marta (the oldest city in Colombia, a coastal town next to Barranquilla), that’s pretty much the only place I go to and truly know. So when my friend Iselle told me she wanted to celebrate her birthday in Cartagena, I was very excited for the opportunity to finally expand my horizons and see another part of this homeland of mine!

Trip logistics, really quickly for your amusement:

My friend Ashtine was having her engagement party in Miami on Friday, December 23rd. I booked my flight to leave on December 24th at 2:00 am, meaning I went straight from Ashtine’s party to the airport. Landed in Santa Marta on the 24th around 11:00am, minus my carry-on which they made me check at the door and they lost in Bogota, but it thankfully arrived in the afternoon! Stayed in Santa Marta until Friday, January 13th, when I went to Cartagena by car (it’s about a three-hour ride), and after spending the weekend there, flew from that airport back to Miami. So when I booked my flight, it was:

MIA-BOG-SMR — //– CTG-MIA  –> Thank you multi-city booking function!

Now, on to the action: Hola Cartagena! When I agreed to the trip, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard a lot about Cartagena’s “ciudad amurallada” or walled city, which is where the historic downtown festive area is, surrounded by a wall (hence the name), and because I’m so used to Santa Marta, I expected a similar vibe. The first thing that I will tell you I assumed and was DEAD wrong about was that Cartagena would have beautiful beaches. NOPE NOPE NOPE. Santa Marta has dozens of beautiful beach locations, reachable by car/boats/hikes, in every direction. Cartagena is surrounded by water, but the tide is very high and the wind makes tons of little sandstorms, and there really isn’t much “beach” space per se. You have to sail off to find a semi-decent beach, and even then, it’s just not good. More on this later. Let’s go day by day –

Friday, January 13th: 

Iselle, Ian and I were the three amigos embarking on this trip. Ian and Iselle were flying in separately, and I was driving in. They both arrived at the hotel before me, and went off to wander around. Iselle found a deal for us to stay at Casa Cordoba Roman (or Casa Roman, it has a few different names), a house type of place. Our room had a nice balcony, two stories, and space for about 4 people to sleep comfortably in a king bed, and two twin-size mattresses. Iselle and Ian found a bar and some wifi and texted me so I went to meet them there. We had some drinks at Plaza Santa Teresa and kicked off the weekend festivities. Went off for some yummy dinner at Juan del Mar, went back to the room to drop our leftovers and then went to check out the bars and nightlife. The place that stood out the most to me was Alquimico. Perfect libations spot for some new and exciting drinks! Went to a bunch of random bars all within the walled city, and since I was still not tired when we got back, we went up to the rooftop of Casa Roman to take a night/morning swim before bed. Just what the doctor ordered!

Saturday, January 14th: 

We woke up “early” (8ish) with the goal of checking out Islas del Rosario (Rosary Islands), which I’d heard very little about, other than you got there by boat, which I was very used to doing in Santa Marta. When we got to the information spot, it was like 9:30, by which time the boats are gone. It’s also a 45 minute-1 hour boat ride, so it was not what I was used to or expecting at all. But now with our newfound information, we knew to come prepared tomorrow. We ended up meeting up with one of Ian’s friends who is a local in Cartagena, and he took us on a walk outside of the Walled City for us to see more of the Cartagena every day life. We decided to go to the Castillo San Felipe – one of the oldest structures in Barranquilla, built to defend the city from a siege – and then ended up at the Boca Grande mall for some yummy desserts. Went back to the hotel to change, and then did a Chiva Loca tour at night (“crazy goat” party bus, no actual goats involved) which was super fun. I’d always wanted to do one in Santa Marta, but it never panned out, so this was my first Chiva experience, and it was a great introduction. We went out in Getsemani, which is the neighborhood across from the Walled City, where college students and locals typically go out the most. It’s less of a tourist trap than inside the Walled City. We hit up a few bars and after we had our fill, we went back to the hotel, ready to get up early (really early this time) for our Islas del Rosario adventure.

Sunday, January 15th: 

As I mentioned earlier, I have lots of experience riding boats to beaches in Santa Marta from before I could even speak. It’s normal, chill and totally not scary, even though the boats are super dingy and old, I know the drill. Those are my people. Cartagena though, is a whole other animal. Santa Marta’s 5-10 minute coastal boat rides have nothing on this open water hour-long business. First, you have to outsmart the people trying to hustle money out of tourists around and outside of the Walled City. Being from Colombia and having our local friend there was huge in not letting these people screw us over (they still kinda did, but it would’ve been so much worse if we weren’t aware of their tactics). So, the trip works like this: you leave at 9:00 am on a speedboat that takes you outside of Cartagena’s water limits, into the open water of the Mar Caribe. The ride to the first stop is about 45 minutes. My friend Iselle and I were not big fans of this speedboat, as you can tell the drivers are a little reckless and just wanna get to the islands fast. We were holding on to the poles for dear life, and the waves were very high so the boat bumps were no fun. Ian, on the other hand, loved it and felt he was being rocked to sleep… different strokes! When you’re sold on the tour, you’re told you’re going to make 2-3 stops. Playa Blanca (white beach), the Aquarium, and another beach on the way back. As soon as we boarded the boat, they told us we wouldn’t be able to go to Playa Blanca because of the tide, so we’d go to the Aquarium instead, and if we didn’t want to go in there, we could swim elsewhere. Once we made it alive to the islands, the story changed and they wanted to charge us to do the aquarium or another snorkeling activity. Jesus (our local friend) and I fought these guys and did not let them screw us over, until they took us to a nearby spot where we could swim as we were promised. After that, we started heading back towards Cartagena for our second stop, when the boat died mid-ride, in the middle of the open sea, with a lottttttt of waves. Thank God I’m not one to get seasick, because that was enough rocking to make anyone throw up. The crew managed to get the boat running just enough to get us to the next stop, which wasn’t the pretty beach we were promised, but rather a murky shallow stop in a small town. Kids are coming up to you constantly begging for coins, it’s honestly so sad. We had lunch there, which was included in the price of our boat ticket, and after an hour or so, we headed back and I’ve NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY to be done with a tour, and ALIVE! I legitimately feared for my life, and it wasn’t just paranoia. A couple of weeks before we were there, a boat tipped over and at least one passenger died. It’s not uncommon for those accidents to happen, as those boat drivers seem like they’re actively auditioning for Fast & Furious, Cartagena Drift… Anyway, after this adventure, we went back to the hotel to shower and change, and then headed to a restaurant that was recommended to Iselle by her coworkers called La Vitrola. So, so good. We were almost turned away because the place gets packed and requires reservations, but we managed to make it in. The food was delicious and the service stellar, couldn’t have asked for a better last night in Cartagena. Afterwards, we went out to hit up all the random bars we hadn’t visited during the first two nights, and went back to pack and get ready for our return home. Ian would be flying out at 5 am, I was flying out at 7, and Iselle at 11.

Thanks for the memories, Cartagena!

My life revolves around maps… Canvas Travel Map DIY

I think at this point it’s pretty clear I have a thing for maps and lists, right? But since pretty much all of this obsession has yielded multiple DIY projects I’ve accomplished with massive discounts, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back and call it a day. Cool? Cool.

Do you remember WAYYYYY back in the day when Facebook had a map functionality (which I’m sure it still does, it’s just not “trending” right now) where you could input all the places in the world where you had been and also see what percentage of the world you friends had traveled? Well, this definitely sparked my interest in having a more tangible version of this that I could look at to inspire my wanderlust bucket list, and also would make me feel happy bringing back memories while looking at the places I had been before.

Making this happen took quite a while because as usual, when you have such a strong vision of something you want it’s either super expensive, or it doesn’t exist. In my case, I really wasn’t keen on paying more than a certain amount for something I knew I could make happen for a much lower cost, so I started the hunt!

THE MAP

The first item I was looking for was an actual canvas map of decent size. It’s funny because this was actually MY VERY FIRST GROUPON PURCHASE!! Throwback! #TBT… Now I don’t know about you, but Groupon is definitely one of my top go-to sites/apps when I’m doing research on an item because it usually has some pretty good offers, and this was a great deal to this day from what I’ve seen. Anyways, at the time, Groupon was offering this great deal on canvas maps that were originally close to $80 for just $19.99 + free shipping. I chose the earth-toned unframed map (no longer available) because I wanted the map to be on a cork board so I could stick pins on the places I’d visited. The Groupon was as easy as buy, choose, order! I was very excited when my map came in, and it absolutely fit the vintage-y vibe I was going for.

THE FRAME

After finding the map, it spent a couple of years rolled up waiting for a cork board that fit the size, had the right framing, and of course, was pocket-friendly. One day while I was at Jo-Ann looking for god knows what, I stumbled upon this cork board that looked like it would be a good fit for the map, and it was on clearance! I wasn’t sure about the measurements, but I took the plunge and bought it. To my great delight, it fit it ALMOST perfectly. Isn’t it the best when you stumble upon what you need when you’re not looking for it? YES! Yes it is! Now for the “almost” perfect fit part – the map actually has a cute border design, but it went a little over the frame on the cork board. Not to worry though – pair of scissors enter stage right and bam! I cut off the bottom border and glued it on top of the canvas so it’s still there and now the map fit perfectly! You can’t even tell it’s cut & glued unless I told you.

THE REST

I glued the edges of the map (not the middle so it wouldn’t make the canvas too hard for the pins) to the cork board with some Beacon 527 Multi-Purpose Glue , which is literally my life and soul. I love that freaking glue! And then I wanted the map to kind of look like “dropping a pin” in real life, so I bought some red Loops & Threads Long Pearlized Pins at Michael’s, and started pinning away my prior travels. My map looks like it got chicken pox all over North & South America (and a tiny bit in Europe) and I love it! I’m doing my best to keep spreading the red all over 😉

WCB DIY Travel Map 1

Chicken pox hitting hard in the western hemisphere!

THE MATH 

Map = $19.99

Frame = $11.99

Pins = $4.99

Glue = $2.50 (coupons!)

TOTAL: $39.47

The WHOLE project is up and running for under $40! And it will of course be a beautiful addition to my beloved Craft Room 🙂

WCB DIY Travel Map 2

Dropping a pin on my most recent and unforgettably amazing trip to the beautiful city of San Francisco ❤