Here I sit on a dock off Isla Grande, part of Islas de Rosarios, 40 kilometers off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. It’s midday. I’ve spent the day (going backwards): reading, snorkeling, getting a massage, and running around the island. A perfectly perfect day up to this moment in which I am writing. So many things I love.
Most of what I’ve done today is typical travel to an island activities. The run, though, is where most people might give pause to the description of perfect.
I left the hotel around 7, maybe 7:30 (I didn’t look at the time). Going out the back gate, an old, weighty ship door (literally), you enter a green mess of bushes and trees; a jungle. And a trail. The island, maybe 1.5 miles end to end, has no motorized vehicles and, as such, no roads. Just trails. But I didn’t know this before arriving.
I just wanted to go for a walk when we got here on Friday. We ambled around a little, making our way towards the puebla that homes most of the Afro-caribbean community of the island. My heart exploded when we got back upon seeing this on Gaia:
And now we’re on day 3 here (day 2 was a dive day). I woke up this morning and couldn’t contain my excitement to explore so I geared up and left with my phone (and Gaia).
Maybe half a mile after starting, I came across a few dogs. I stopped to walk and looked around for a stick; I should have had it from the get-go as protection. But they’re island dogs; instead of being vicious, they smile and wag their tails. One ran ahead of me and turned his head. I guess we were going together.
We zig zagged trails to one side of the island, then sat on the beach. We zig zagged different ones back, sometimes him leading, sometimes me. We ended up in the puebla and took a beat to walk. A Sunday morning, there were a lot of people around. Church was in service, though it appeared to just be kids singing in a small covered area. Other little ones played in the streets – one followed us running and laughing. I chatted with a parent, somehow, managing to have a light conversation in Spanish. “He’s your friend now!” I laughed back about how he had run cinco kilometrias with me already. My new local friend was shocked and pointed towards another trail suggestion. Derecha, izquierda, derecha. Away we went.
We kept going until we could go no further; unfortunately, a gate blocked our way to the playa. So we turned around, ran along mangroves, and back to the hotel. I told my perrito friend, “Espere!” in an effort to get him to wait as I got him water he needed. He was gone when I returned, but that’s because he was sneaking his way around the gated entrance to find me. He’s probably around here somewhere, but between everything else today has been, I’ve lost track of him.
And, despite the sheer joy he brought me, he’s not the primary point of this story. The running is.
Some people travel to run. Some people struggle to detach from training when they leave. They “must” keep their routine. This couldn’t be further from my experience of running around the world.
When I set out this morning and when I set a few days ago for a run in Cartagena, there was one goal. To explore the areas with my own eyes and discover how my persona fits in those places.
It’s really easy to have your perception of a place guided by hotels, guides, and internet write ups. Or even by the heavy door at the back that turns my hotel into a fortress of tourism (for the record, I also research the safety of where I travel). But I need to see for myself. I need to make up my own mind. I need to earn my own idea of what a place is. So I run when I travel. I explore by foot. I open my eyes and close the judgements and simply experience.
Do I keep running when I travel? Yes. Do I go out for a run? No. I’m just using my truest eyes to see my surroundings and learn more about my place in the world.
What have I learned doing this all these years? That our world and the people in it are incredible and deserve to be experienced to understand what they’re really like.