For the first time in my life I voluntarily decide to leave the comfort of hotelrooms behind and try my luck at backpacking. Together with my girlfriend we fly from my homecountry Curacao to Baranquilla, Colombia from where our fourteen day adventure begins. Traveling along the Caribbean coast we first settle down in Cartagena, where we explore the colonial streets and I have my first encounter with South American life. Sounds and smells seem amplified, my inability to speak Spanish quickly proves to be a handicap and I feel a bit anxious of what's to come. In the next couple of days our level of comfort will get less and less as we travel further up the coast.
Thumping reaggaton music wakes me up after the worst power nap of my life and I see a small Colombian girl staring me right in the face. I give her a smile as I try to move in my cramped seat, but she just keeps staring me down. Veerle, my world travelling girlfriend, laughs as she sees my awkward exchange. "Strange thing to be the one being stared at, isn't?" This is her second time traveling around Colombia, falling in love with it after four months of salsa parties and margaritas. Our experience of the last couple of hours could not have been more different. The loud and passionate conversations fill the tiny bus, making me feel trapped, but only strengthen Veerle her conviction that this is the only way one should travel.
As I hear the beats of Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" for the third time in an hour, our driver steers the bus to the side of the road and yells "Necocli!" We jump out and our feet land on a dirt road in the middle of the main street, the heat of the late afternoon sun crashing down on us. I lose my left flip flop while I stumble under the wait of my backpack and I feel the stares of a couple of boys as if I have a huge neon sign above my head that says: TOURIST!