My 2016 travel calendar was haphazardly put together for a couple of reasons. First, work (period). And secondly, I chase travel deals. Two out of the 3 international trips last year were the result of "glitch fares". Basically, if someone asked me last January where I'd be traveling, I would have had no idea. Ultimately, I had great trips to Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Colombia.
Dates: 3/11/2016- 3/16/2016
Inspiration: "glitch fare", and to refresh my Spanish game
I was nervous about this trip. Afterall, I had no plans to visit the country until I saw a $125 roundtrip deal that was too good to pass up (I live in Washington DC, where one can spend that much in a weekend between clubbing and brunch alone) It was my first adventure trip since I'd returned from Peace Corps in 2011 (I don't count a 2015 trip to the Dominican Republic because I stay on a resort the entire time). I pre-planned very little for this trip. My guidebook was key to my every move. I hung out in the capital city Guatemala City for a couple of days and stayed in a non-touristy hotel right in the heart of the business district. After a couple of days hanging around museums, the main plaza, and market, I headed to Lago Atitlan about 4 hours away by bus. The lake is flanked by volcanoes, and is ringed by small villages with strong indigenous and Mayan presence. I stayed in the village of San Pedro, and jetted across the lake to visit tourist hotspot Panjachel. After two nights, I bussed it over to Antigua, the beautifully preserved former capital. I met up with some locals and ate well, admired the 2 nearby volcanos and took a ton of photos of the colonial ruins.
I'd go back to Guatemala in a heartbeat and attempt to do more travel out to the ancient Mayan temple ruins and up to the Caribbean coastal communities home to an Afro-descendant population.
Purpose: Annual adult party
I got\ to the Dominican Republic every year to attend an adults only party. Its full out beach parties, costumes, drinking, and relaxation. This is my hands-off trip. I let the resort and party planners do the work. The event is held at an all-inclusive resort---so it's not a budget conscious trip for me, but I get a lot of value from not having to plan or think about anything besides having fun while I am there. And I don't interact with the locals like I do on my other trips. Hell---I don't even leave the resort unless it's to go on a dune buggying excursion. This trip is for purely letting go and enjoying paradise.
Dates: November 11-18
Purpose: Find black communities in Cali and surrounds
I have wanted to come to Colombia since I read about it in high school. When I learned in college that it is home to millions of Afro-descendants, I was enamored and intent or getting there.
Another travel deal solidified the chance of me getting to Colombia. I chose to head to Cali, located in the southwest region because its home to a large black community.
I got my bearings in Cali over two days visiting its cultural institutions, plazas, shopping districts, and public art installations. Though I am not a fan of hostels, I ended up staying in in a couple on two separate nights. It was a good starting point and I was able to gather some good information about where my next stop should be. From Cali, I went to the city of Buenaventura (a very black port city) to take a 2-hour boat ride to Juanchaco, a beach community inhabited by Afro-Colombians. That night I got to watch school children put on a showcase where they acted and sang about their pride in being black (that performance inspired this blog and helped me recognize my passion for traveling to Afro-Latin communities). After 2 nights there, I headed back to Buenaventura then on to San Cipriano, a black town nestled in the forest and home to beautiful lagoons and river beaches. I opted to enjoy the location for a couple of hours then head to Buga to see the Black Christ. After a night there, I trekked back to Cali to end my stay in Cali by connecting with a fellow Chicagoan and expat that lived nearby.
A Look Ahead to 2017
My travel in 2017 will be a lot more focused. I put intention into the Universe to visit Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Last year's spontaneous and unplanned travel calendar slowly reawakened my passion for great travel experiences. In my mind, a great travel experience happens due to a mix of planned things going right, and unplanned things going even better. Like in Colombia, I realized that not only do I have a love of travel---but after I made a split second decision to take a 2 hour ride on a small boat thru choppy high-tide sea to reach a remote village, and ended up witnessing local children acting and singing about their blackness with pride-- I more clearly understood that my passion is travel that puts me in direct contact with black communities in Latin America.