Santa Marta, or the one where I have some thoughts about group travel

So I don’t really know what this blog post is going to be. Mainly ramble inspired by my time in Santa Marta (coloured a bit by my current thoughts in Medellin which I’ll write more about another time), interspersed with a few pictures and probably plenty more of my usual ‘what we did’ blah.

Since our room of 6 in Cartagena (myself, Rav, fellow Brit Amber, Canada dwelling Emma, German Luca, and Alaskan Brianna), and the subsequent reunion of that group in the same hostel in Santa Marta, I’ve been thinking a lot about the size of groups people travel in, especially for long term travel. Up until San Blas over Christmas, 99.9% of the time it has just been myself and Rav, meeting the occasional person along the way and bumping into people a few times on similar paths.

Travel posse minus Brianna

I love travelling as a pair. When I first pictured myself doing this trip (before we’d realised we wanted to do the same thing) I’d always pictured myself doing it alone. I can see the benefits of this – complete freedom, no compromises, only making decisions for yourself. But on the flip side I know I’d find it so difficult. At the very least I know I feel safer having someone with me who knows where I am and what I’m doing. If one of us got into trouble, we could rely on the other to help us out. As a fairly introverted person, I also appreciate not always having the need to go out and meet people – if I want I always have someone there to do things with. Sometimes it has probably held us back from meeting people, but especially recently we have got better at being a bit more social which is probably to a benefit. For the most part though I just enjoy travelling with Rav because she is great, and we get on well. I don’t think there are many people I could have been spending all day every day with for 3 months and not want to murder, and we still have plenty of fun even when we don’t always want to do the same things.

Flashback to day 1 Haz and Rav

Bigger groups have their pros and cons. Pros are plentiful, especially in the short run. Much as Rav and I get on, it’s great for us to speak to some other people for some variety, and spending a bit longer with other people means you properly start to make friends rather than just passing acquaintances. In Santa Marta the bunch of us still on the same route (plus cool people we met there too) spent a lot of time just hanging out, going to restaurants, drinking on the roof terrace etc. etc. It takes away some of the pressure of individual decision and lets you go with the flow a bit. Plus, if different people want to do different things, you can often split up rather than compromise. I have spent some really great days with some really great people in the past few weeks.

Santa Marta beach trip

There are cons though. In a bigger group, because there is so much interesting within the group I think it can be easy not to push yourself to go and actually do things, beyond just hanging out. Luckily there’s not really a ton to do in Santa Marta, so I didn’t feel I was missing out on much, but there are some times when you’re with other people and you are desperate for some space and to go and just do something, but then you just don’t and end up getting into a bit of a samey routine. Also, obviously not everyone wants to do the same thing. If you’re like me, you’re likely to end up compromising what you want to do for the sake of convenience or lack of conviction, which I’m then likely to regret later. Again this is a weird worry for me to have, because I don’t think I’ve not done things I’ve wanted to, but I think maybe sometimes I don’t put the time into thinking what it is I want to do because I’m happy to follow the flow.

Santa Marta by night
Not tons to do in town apart from shop

The only thing I really wanted to do near Santa Marta was to go to the Tayrona national park. Which we did. And it was great, despite a bunch of problems from getting there too late to actually get in the park the first day (although this led to us actually having a really fun night sleeping under the stars in a cool campsite nearby).

What a view to wake up to
I woke up in the morning to this chicken pecking my head, true story

The park itself was great – we saw monkeys, lizards and huge insects, walked through some Attenborough worthy jungle, and looked out at some beautiful beaches. Again though there were some strains from the three of us who were there wanting to do different things. Luca and I wanted to head back to Santa Marta thay afternoon; I was knackered and wanted to sleep in a bed, and Luca had the nearby lost city trek coming up and wanted a day to sort things out. Rav wanted to stay another night, to have time to do a longer trek the next day. I had a guilt crisis where I didn’t want to leave her to do something alone where I’d have no idea what was going on. It feels pretty silly now, as I know Rav is perfectly competent and able to do things alone (and I would be annoyed if someone thought I wasn’t), but at the time I felt bad leaving. But of course everything was fine. Obviously.

Photos do not show how beautiful this was
As well as jungle there were some fab beaches
Rav and Luca playing on the rocks

Another thing I struggle with in group travel, or actually even meeting cool people at all travelling, is the splitting away. Again as someone who isn’t overly confident, it’s great getting to know someone,  or finding a person that you click with. I’ve met lots of people I’ve really liked these past couple of weeks, but I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily want to get too close to people I know I’m going to have to leave soon. All the comings and goings are a new kind of socialising for me, and it’s something that is difficult to adjust to, but equally it is a chance to meet loads of interesting and varied people and thay is something I’ve really loved.

It's sometimes just nice to have some familiar faces

We said quite a few goodbyes before moving on to Medellin. Our group has shrunk back down to myself and Rav, with the addition of our lovely UK buddy Amber who no doubt we will see plenty of on our route, as our plans are quite similar. I wasn’t too sad to say goodbye to Santa Marta though. It’s a fun city to spend a few days in, and our hostel was great, but it wasn’t somewhere I felt any great pull to. Medellin held far more attraction, and I’ll try and write a but about it once we leave here 🙂

Just tacking this on because I thought it was funny

Love to all at home, hope that the January weather isn’t bringing you down.


5 thoughts on “Santa Marta, or the one where I have some thoughts about group travel

  1. Great post. I’ll be travelling alone as none of my mates want to take a year off to travel – so tbh I had no option. But I don’t think I would want to travel with anyone else as I want to be really selfish and not compromise anything I want to do.That said, I’m sure I’ll meet loads of people along the way – hopefully being solo will make it easy to make new friends. That beach looks stunning btw. S xx


  2. Hi Girls – I did detect a change in the mood when you met the group and it must have made Christmas really special. I have the same feeling when I go on my walking weekends – so many like minded people to talk too! Remember that some of these people that you meet will become lifelong friends and you will meetup again and again in the future in so amazing locations. Us mums met up and had a lovely evening and plan to do some walks before coming over to join you. Make everyday special and enjoy every moment

    PS Ravina is very funny but I know she can get moody too 🙂


  3. Great post! One of the things that I remember from my travelling days was a high degree of introspection (for me it didn’t necessarily need travelling). It’s great to meet like minded people (or even diametrically opposite people) and talk long and hard about stuff. The thing I realised in the end was that you can travel to the other side of the world and do amazing stuff but the thing that took longest to change (or didn’t change much at all) is yourself. I think Charlene put it best when she revealed that she’d ‘never been to me’ (


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