How to Heal Heartbreak in Cartagena, Colombia
I never meant to visit Cartagena, but I found myself knee-deep in the Caribbean Sea this past June after an abrupt and unexpected ghosting episode in Medellin.
The logistics of my relationship are messy and, ultimately, unimportant, but here are some of the basics: I was still in communication with a guy I’d had a fling with the previous spring during my semester abroad in Argentina. After a year of lusty messages and a promise to adore me forever, I booked a ticket to Colombia. I spent a day and a half in the City of Eternal Spring with my unreliable lover, and he ghosted me a mere 36 hours together.
I’d spent a year yearning to make the trip to Medellin, but after this staggering abandonment, I was desperate to leave the city. I booked the cheapest plane ticket I could find, and the following night, I found myself in Cartagena.
I knew nothing about the city aside from the tidbits I’d picked up from Caracol’s period-centric telenovela, La Esclava Blanca (which actually takes place in Cartagena’s neighbor, Santa Marta, during the 19th century, which means I truly knew nothing about contemporary Cartagena before hopping off the plane.) By a stroke of luck, I found a room in a hostel with a Czech woman I’d met briefly in Medellin, and she was very understanding of my random sobbing sprees and directionless diatribes about men and the universe as we explored the walled city.
After a year of lusty messages and a promise to adore me forever, I booked a ticket to Colombia. I spent a day and a half in the City of Eternal Spring with my unreliable lover, and he ghosted me a mere 36 hours together.
Despite the circumstances that brought me to Cartagena, I had an amazing experience there on the coast. Here are five things I that helped me relax and recover in this tranquil, historic town.
Get Lost in Cartagena’s Old Town
I began each of my three days in Cartagena by meandering through the city’s narrow streets. Cartagena’s triangular-shaped Old Town rides along the Caribbean shore, and the streets wind together like yarn. I found myself in new parts of the city every morning, but it was almost impossible to get permanently lost because I could follow the ocean back to my hostel. These relaxing walks allowed me to clear my mind and immerse myself in the local chatter and commerce around me.
Experience Colombian Pride Firsthand
With state flags hanging from most public buildings and locals who are eager to explain their country’s greatness to any foreigner, it was impossible for me to be in Cartagena and not feel proud of Colombia. Whether chatting with a street vendor or speaking with a shop owner about Colombia’s recent history, every conversation I had in this city was framed in a positive light. Furthermore, spending time in a city that inspired such pride from local residents allowed me to develop my own interest in the country, which I felt like I’d been lacking after my Medellin experience.
Self-Guided Walking Tours of Spanish Colonial Architecture
The buildings are stunning, and they look at home amid the sun and sand. Since this was my first time in the Caribbean, Cartagena’s architecture was new to me, and I found the soft arches and cool, neutral colors to be relaxing. I was still quite sad in Cartagena, but it was a little harder to be so upset when I was surrounded by such beauty.
Appreciating Public Artwork
This seems to be Colombia’s strong suit in general, but in Cartagena, public artwork greeted me around every corner. Whether it took the form of statues or sculptures, Cartagena’s history is readily displayed on street corners and plazas. Considering I knew little about the city before arriving, these pieces helped me to gain a sense of Cartagena’s past and present.
The Beach (of Course)
I’m not usually a huge beach-goer, but in Cartagena, I was quick to change my tune. I chose to stay on the mainland where the beaches were not over-populated, and I could easily alternate between napping on the sand and floating in the warm water. As a solo female traveler, I never once felt unsafe during my time on the beach, and I left the city with all my possessions in tow.
A drastic, last-minute change in plans brought me to Cartagena, but the calming scenery and hospitable locals taught me to adore the city. Cartagena is now one of my favorite places to visit, and my experiences along the coast effectively replaced my negative Colombian memories with fresh, positive ones.