Caribbean Coasts of Colombia


This past summer I had the unique opportunity to combine a couple of my favorite things- traveling solo and practicing yoga. Colombia has been on my travel list for some time now as I heard countless stories about the warmth and kindness of the people and the breathtaking beauty of the country. When my Colombian-born, Los Angeles-based yoga instructor, Andres Salcedo of Power Soul Yoga announced a yoga retreat alongside the Caribbean coast of Colombia, I signed right up!  Cartagena buildings   The beautiful, historic port city of Cartagena is less than 200 miles outside of Tayrona, a lush, coastal National Park along the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. I tacked on four extra days to my trip for some solo exploration of the old Spanish colonial city. Cartagena de Indias is a true gem, bursting with vibrant colors, pulsating with live music, and lined with romantic cobble-stoned streets with balconies spilling over with bougainvillea.   Getsemani   I stayed in the lively, bohemian neighborhood of Getsemaní despite some outdated safety warnings on travel sites. I could not have been happier with my decision to stay in this hip, art-filled part of town rather than within the walls of the Old City. The cobble-stoned alleys teemed with friendly locals. Old men sitting outside playing a game of chess, young boys kicking around a soccer ball, and women hanging out laundry to dry.   Cartagena - Getsemani   The seafood in Cartagena is simply fantastic. Ceviche reigns supreme with an abundance of access to local seafood, tropical fruits, and fresh herbs. La Cevicheria located within the San Diego district of Cartagena quickly became my go-to spot following an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Another popular dish is seafood paella, packed with shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, and often times served with coconut rice.   ceviche   The five and a half hour bus ride from Cartagena to the northern beachside city of Santa Marta was quite easily the most trying part of my trip. With stifling ninety degree humidity and a less than desirable seatmate, the ride demanded utmost patience. Yet these are the moments of travel, especially solo travel, that teach us so much about ourselves and serve as a transformative experience. Lacking a companion in that moment to vocalize my grievances required me to sit with that discomfort, using only the mental tools in my arsenal to handle my distress. You eventually emerge from that solitary emotional spiral with a fresh understanding that all things shall pass, and ultimately what matters the most in those times is the grace and dexterity with which you approach the unavoidable valleys of life.   img_0429   The next leg of my journey on the yoga retreat in Tayrona National Park was a stark contrast to my time in the city. Gone were the wide-open, breezy days spent indulging on ceviche, mojitos, and poolside cervezas. Instead came 6am meditations, a complete hour of silence, twice daily yoga classes, light, healthy vegetarian meals, and absolutely zero connectivity to the outside world. Admittedly, the initial adjustment period was rough; struggling to reign in my overstimulated mind. As I attempted to settle into a truly deep state of relaxation in this yogic sanctuary, I felt the constant craving for a dopamine hit from social media or to have that endless deluge of information at my fingertips.   Yoga Tayrona   During a particularly gorgeous day spent soaking in the warm, turquoise waters of Playa del Amor, it dawned upon a couple of my fellow yogis and I that any number of events could be occurring in the outside world, but here we were, far-removed, utterly disconnected, reveling in a little piece of Mother Nature's paradise. In the days to come, I experienced some of the deepest calm and most restorative relaxation of my life. My mind felt spacious, quiet, and sharp. Those moments spent lounging around in a hammock, reading engrossing literature were utterly free of distractions; not a single nagging desire to "check-in" on the world.   Colombia meditation   Each day concluded with Andres leading kirtan under the stars. Kirtan is a Sanskrit musical and spiritual tradition with its roots in Bhakti or devotional yoga. It is a joyous practice of call and response style singing, accompanied by classical Indian instruments like the harmonium and sitar. The intention of kirtan is to quiet the mind and open the heart. During one particularly memorable evening the collective frequency of the group sent powerful vibrations through the balmy, summer night air. Waves crashed down loudly upon the shore and the leaves of palo santo trees rustled gleefully in the wind. It was then I encountered an extraordinary sensation that the gentle night sky had simply opened up and swallowed me whole.   Tayrona, Colombia   Check out Andres Salcedo's soulful, One With All kirtan album via Spotify!

TravelStephanie Drazich