By Flavia Cornejo | @LatinaTraveler
If you’re Latinx then you know we tend to do everything in groups. Even small tasks like grocery shopping are hardly ever done alone in a Latinx household. So why would traveling be any different? That is why bringing up the subject comes with a line of questions including, “What do you mean you’re going alone?”, “Are you meeting friends there?”, “You’re not scared to go alone?”, and “What if something happens?” A few of the questions I was asked by various family members and friends while planning a solo two month trip through Colombia and Panama. It felt as though since I am a woman, I just wouldn’t be able to travel successfully and safely by myself, that I would need someone, particularly a man, to keep me safe. However, I’ve always been a pretty independent person, and completely fine trying new things by myself whether in the US or abroad. My mentality is that I can’t wait for somebody to do something with me otherwise I may never do it. So why would I think any differently when it comes to travel? I don’t and won’t.
Of course, preparing for a new adventure to completely new places can still be a little daunting, even for the most daring of adventurers. I researched these countries on my own, making lists and asking family and friends for recommendations of places to visit, things to eat, and what not to miss. But all those previous questions did have me doubting myself at times. I’d go back and forth thinking, “maybe I should wait until someone can go with me” back to “Nah, I got this.” It was all very back and forth until I booked the one-way ticket to Medellin, Colombia about a month before I was set to leave. I think the most unexpected part for everyone, possibly also me, was that I did this all last minute. From booking the flight to researching and being asked these questions, it was all in about a month and a half. I had flight alerts on my phone for a while before purchasing but didn’t have a set date that I wanted to or needed to go, just an approximate date of when I needed to be back. When I bought that ticket, I didn’t even know when I’d be coming back or from what airport or country. My one main goal was to take the boat option from Colombia and Panama because I knew I’d be stopping and sleeping on the San Blas Islands. I left the United States with only a four-night stay booked in Medellin and everything else up in the air. I had my lists and screenshots and info, but nothing else booked, and not a single soul that I knew in either country.
A couple of weeks before leaving, I quit my job. It wasn’t a career and it had been one of those on-and-off kinds of jobs for when I needed quick money whenever I was in the U.S. Before putting in my notice, co-workers asked me about what my plans were and if I was scared about encountering any type of violence, particularly in Colombia due to its ugly past. Most of the people I worked with barely traveled and maybe a handful had ever left the country so I didn’t and couldn’t take their comments and advice so seriously because I have traveled previously to various other countries.
My dad, being the great man he is, drove me to the airport and as he sometimes does, slipped me a hundred-dollar bill when my mom wasn’t looking saying “Por si acaso.” Both my parents are very supportive of me, but sometimes they just worry which is normal. I think out of everyone I told about this solo experience before and after, my parents were the two to be less inquisitive on the what-ifs than others. I think if I had different parents then maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to go off alone to far and distant places. I’m grateful for my childhood experiences and what they’ve led me to. But in the end, it was still about what I wanted and what I was willing to do regardless of what others thought or said. I knew I couldn’t let those comments and questions affect me or maybe I wouldn’t have gone through with it.
I’m glad I went because those 7 weeks by myself gave me a lot of insight into myself. I learned how to quickly budget and prioritize what was important for me to see and do while there while knowing I had no income currently coming in and for a while after I got back. I had to plan for those weeks plus the time it would take me to get a job once I was back Stateside. The trip was completely worth it, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It gave me the chances I needed to learn more about myself and continue to grow into the person I had started becoming many years ago. It’s a wonderful feeling to learn more about yourself as you explore new places. I encourage everyone to try it at least once whether just for a weekend or in a new country. You find something within you completely unexpected.
About the author:
Flavia is the daughter of two Peruvian immigrants. She completed a Master’s in Urban Tourism and is currently finishing another program in International Relations in Barcelona, Spain. She is passionate about travel, budgeting, and social justice issues. Follow her adventures at https://www.instagram.com/latinatraveler/