travel

The thing about layovers

On our way to and from Calí, Colombia, one of our layovers was in Panama City. They call themselves the gateway to the Americas, as the airport is a major hub.

I always get a tinge of sadness whenever I have a mere layover in a new city, especially when it it’s in country I’ve never been to.

You don’t have time to leave the airport because you only have a few hours. You get to know that city’s airport’s bathrooms and gate waiting areas. You learn where to find the cheapest meal in said airport. You learn if the airport has good or spotty WiFi.

What cities have I wanted to visit after having a quick airport layover?

When going to New York City during spring break with two of my girlfriends our junior year of college, we had a layover at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. It wasn’t until five years later that I got to visit the windy city. It was to run the Chicago Marathon, so naturally the whole thing was a blur. I really should properly visit Chicago again so I can actually enjoy the city — and remember what I saw!

When I was in elementary school, my mom and younger brother and I had an overnight layover in Seoul, Korea on our way to Japan. We pretty much always fly directly from Seattle to Japan when visiting relatives so this was a new experience. We spent just one night in a nearby hotel and all I remember was that my brother was probably 4 or 5 and fell asleep on the bus ride to the hotel and forgot his backpack on the bus. My mom didn’t realize until the bus had left and she frantically somehow tracked it down. I love Korean food. I think I would like Korea and would love to make more memories of it other than my brother almost losing a backpack.

I have also been to the Amsterdam airport a handful of times to and from various destinations in Europe. I’d like to actually visit Amsterdam and explore it one day. (I mean, their airport is great so I bet the outside is even better!)

It was the same thing with Panama City. Panama would be a neat place to visit, right?

Are layover cities layovers for that reason? They could be fun or interesting to visit but you are always going to visit somewhere else that is just a little bit more fun or interesting?

I’ll keep you posted.

colombia, travel

Like a scene from Narcos

We arrived in Panama City, our first layover (out of three) on our way home to Seattle from Colombia.

It was a Sunday morning and I was hungry.

Why was it taking us “so long” to get off of the plane?

Bryce and I were seated in the middle of the plane and finally the passengers in front of us started moving. We stepped off the plane and started walking through the ramp-way, you know, the one in between the plane and the gate at the airport.

But there was a backup.

Why are we having to wait to get into the airport? 

I’m a pretty patient person but sometimes seeing people struggle with their rolling suitcase, which holds up the line, really irritates me. (I have nothing against rolling suitcases, I own one, too!)

This wasn’t the case this time though.

Up ahead, I could see two men checking passengers’ ID and ticket.

Why are we doing this now? We’ve already arrived at our destination!

Bryce and I got out our passports out and waited for the line to move. Finally it was our turn and one of the men checked Bryce’s passport and in really stern Spanish asked where he was going. Bryce responded and the man motioned that he could proceed.

I next showed the man my passport but he didn’t even glance at it. He waved his hand and was more interested in the person behind me.

That was weird, right?

No, it was intentional. We quickly realized that the men were only checking passports of the male passengers. These undercover cops were clearly looking for someone specific. (They were dressed in regular street clothes so we just assumed they were undercover cops).

As we walked away — to look for breakfast -— we turned back around towards the gate we just left and noticed that a handful of passengers were pulled to the side. We guessed for more questioning.

This is like a scene straight out of Narcos!

Well, maybe. I’ve never actually seen the show but whenever I told people I was going to Calí, Colombia before the trip, they would respond with “Ohhhh, like from Narcos — the Calí Cartel!”

So, it was like an alleged scene straight out of Narcos.

colombia, travel

What 26+ hours of travel looks like

It took us more than 26 hours of travel to get from Seattle, Washington, USA to Calí, Colombia.

From house to house, it took about 30 hours of travel!

We left our place in Seattle around 5:30 am the Saturday morning before Christmas. We arrived at Bryce’s grandma’s house in Calí around 11:30 am Sunday morning.

Our route: Seattle > San Francisco > Los Angeles > Panama City > Cali

Dolores Mission Park
Dolores Mission Park

The first stop in San Francisco was the longest layover. We made the most out of it by actually leaving the airport and enjoying a good, real meal.

For so many flights, everything actually went smoothly. We didn’t miss any flights. Our longest wait in the TSA line was at Sea-Tac, our home airport. And even this wait was maybe 10-15 minutes at most, not bad at all!

Guess the travel gods were on our side.

We even had to wait on the tarmac for about an hour at SFO on our way to LAX. The pilot told us that LAX was experiencing “too many planes” so we’d have to wait a while before we’d be cleared to take off.

Bryce and I just put our headphones on and started season 2 of one of our favorite shows, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Panama City airport
I think leaving Panama City, your guess is as good as mine!

I like to think of myself as a having a lot of patience.

By flight #4, I really did not have much of it at all. I wanted to be done traveling.

When we boarded our final flight in Panama City, I was really ready to be done. The flight attendants only handed out immigration forms in Spanish and when I asked in my broken Spanish for a form in English, the flight attendant replied that they only had them in Spanish.

“OK, this should be interesting …” my sleep-deprived self thought to myself.

The woman seated in front of us asked us if we needed help translating. We kindly told her we were fine. After all, you just check “no” on all the little boxes, right??

When friends and family heard of this grand voyage to Colombia, everyone asked, “Isn’t there a faster way or direct way to get there?”

There is no direct from Seattle to Cali. Yes, there are options for three flights, or even two but we would have been paying at least a grand more — per ticket. No, thanks.

All the flying is just part of the travel experience.

And, I guess I shouldn’t complain because unlike some people, I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere. Funny how an airplane takeoff can just peacefully rock a grown adult to sleep.

 

pre travel

Just like that, from summer to winter

Within a week I went from being in upper 80 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures in Colombia to snowy trails in the Pacific Northwest. Just like that, from summer to winter.

No, it’s not snowing in Seattle.

Yesterday I dragged Bryce with me to go on a “short nature walk” that turned into a five-mile hike.

After all, I do need “to train” for our upcoming trail race in New Zealand. (I’ve put quotation marks around train because I’m a runner who will mostly be walking/hiking said race because I’m injured and am not cleared by PT to start running).

Even though I’ll be walking, I want to be able to enjoy the 8-mile trail race. I don’t want to be sore the rest of the trip because of this fun run!

There was snow throughout most of our hike along the Iron Goat Trail in the Central Cascades. It was a nice change from the hot and humid in Calí. There’s also something nice and magical about snow when it’s in the mountains and not in the city causing horrendous traffic and car accidents.

About five other cars were at the trail head when we arrived so we knew we wouldn’t be alone. However, we didn’t come across anyone else on our entire hike. I guess the others took different paths as there were a few junctions to turn off the main trail.

We only came across the remnants of a snowman — a large pile of snow with two sticks coming out of either end — and two squirrels.

It’s weird to transition to polar opposite climate, as well as returning from one trip just to prepare for the next in the same month. But, I’m not complaining.

I’ll just go from summer to winter back to summer — because it’ll be summer in New Zealand!

colombia

Strangers talking to strangers

There were a lot of qualities of Calí, Colombia that I appreciated and enjoyed. When I returned on New Year’s Eve, one of my coworkers asked me what my favorite part of my trip was.

That’s always such a hard question for me. I hate playing favorites. I like multiple things for different reasons.

Other than the gigantic, delicious avocados, I really appreciated the camaraderie between individuals that I noticed.

It’s a place where the milk delivery man will stop to chat with your aunt for a solid 10 minutes — or even more!

It’s where people make eye contact with you as you walk by, acknowledging your existence! Not like in Seattle where strangers will do anything and everything in their power to avoid you. Here in Seattle, we’re all just Zombies starring at our cell phone screens … texting our friend, or playing Pokemon GO. The Seattleite may have even faked a phone call just to act like he or she was too preoccupied to look at you.

But Colombia is where a driver will pull over and ask the young boy doing chores, or the woman selling snacks from a street-side cart, directions to the next destination. Yes, they all have cell phones and use them for navigation, but sometimes the quickest way is to ask a fellow human. I think it’s also just in their nature to stop and ask a person, calling out “Hello, friend!” to a complete stranger. (And by “Hello, friend!” I obviously mean, “Hola, amigo!”)

In Colombia, it’s strangers helping strangers. Strangers actually talk to strangers.

Or, maybe they don’t consider anyone a stranger at all. They’re all maybe just one friend away to arriving at their intended destination.

 

colombia, travel

Travel blogging while traveling

How do you do it? Travel blog while traveling?

Even on days when we aren’t out doing things all day, I am either too tired, eating or spending time with family (as this trip to Colombia was to mainly visit Bryce’s grandma).

So, how do you make time to blog while traveling? Do you just jot down notes and write posts when you are back home? Do you just “make the time” while traveling and crank out posts instead of sleeping? Do you do something in between the two? Or, something else?

This newbie travel blogger would like to know your secret!

I know there is no right or wrong answer, but it was something that I was thinking about as the days quickly have passed by and I have not written a new post.

And, while I’m here I guess I’ll give you a few Colombia travel updates:

  • The fruits and plants here are amazing! Both to look at and eat. I could eat avocados every day.
  • The people here are so nice and welcoming.
  • I have about a dozen mosquito bites — per leg.
  • Despite being only three hours ahead of home (Seattle), I feel like my sleep schedule is waaayyy off. But, I’m really “only” in East Coast time right now!

More things to say but I’ll probably have to write it all after the trip, as we are getting close to our departure … sigh …

colombia, travel

A Cali Christmas

First things first: It does not feel like Christmas here because I have a dozen mosquito bites up and down my legs and I can’t stop sweating!

This Pacific Northwest girl is not used to a hot Christmas.

Although, Bryce’s family has been telling us that it has “cooled off” this week. (My phone says that it is current 88 degrees Fahrenheit in Cali right now!)

Last night (Christmas Eve) the streets outside the house were “lively” with neighbors shooting fireworks and sparklers. It did not keep me up since I think I’m still making up for sleep deprivation from our 26+ hours of travel to get from Seattle to Cali, Colombia!

IMG_20181225_120340385

Bryce, his aunt and I went on a walk this morning. She said we needed to go before things got crazy in the afternoon for the fair. (It’s a big fair that starts on Christmas Day and goes until the 30th full of lots of dancing and fanfare).

I was actually surprised to see “so much activity”on the streets during our walk. I expected to see other people going on family walks as well. But, there were lots of street vendors out and restaurants opened, too.

Back home, it’s really just big chain grocery stores and Starbucks that are open for like half a day on Christmas. There seemed to be more going on here, but maybe it was just in preparation for the fair.

As we headed back to the house, Bryce’s aunt asked if we wanted some water as we walked by a little convenience shop. The shop owner had the store gate closed but stood inside as a few people voiced out what they would like to buy — probably drinks as well.

“It’s closed, but opened,” Bryce said.

After buying the water bottles, we stopped in a grocery store that was opened and bought a few groceries. Knowing that I love avocados, his aunt said she knew a better place to buy fresh avocados than the grocery store we were at.

Just around the corner from the grocery store was a stand that solely sold avocados.

“This is my heaven,” I told Bryce as his aunt consulted with the stand vendor to make sure we were buying the best ripe avocados he had to offer.

And, these avocados put all the avocados I see back home to shame. These ones are like the size of what I think a papaya to be!

Merry Christmas from me and the avocados (not pictured, but I’ll need to upload the photos later!)

FYI: I have yet to sync my Instagram to the blog but for those wanting to see more photos and videos (in my stories), feel free to follow along at @ottertravelmore