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Digital Nomad Life Month 78

Month Seventy-Eight started in the U.S. with some chilled family time in Colorado and ended with traveling in Colombia – big life contrasts, like usual.

The first week of the month saw us housesitting and looking after two dogs in a quiet suburb of Denver, followed by another six nights staying with family in Aurora and Wheat Ridge before flying to Miami.

The original plan once the housesit ended had been to spend five nights visiting a friend in Long Beach but unfortunately, I had to cancel that trip last minute – more on that in the lowlights.

Hiking south of Denver

I enjoyed my downtime in Colorado and snuck in a few day trips to some of my favorite mountain towns near Denver including Boulder, Golden, and Central City. I also got to catch up with friends and family before we leave the country for a few months.

Our last stop in the U.S. was Miami where we spent three days exploring the beach and a couple of different neighborhoods before flying to Medellin, Colombia!

We only had one quick night on the outskirts of Medellin before flying to the Caribbean island of San Andres for a week. Our friend Rachel met us there and we spent five days together exploring the island by golf cart, chilling at different beaches, and hanging out with some new local friends we met on a night out before Rachel flew out. 

Johnny Cay

From San Andres, Toby and I flew to Cartagena, a city we have both been to before – albeit almost ten years ago. I remember liking Cartagena when I first visited but I only spent a short time there and didn’t fall in love with it. This time around I LOVED it, and thoroughly enjoyed our four days there, just wandering around the Old Town and hip Getsemani.

Our last stop of the month was the sleepy beach town of Taganga, which is a little rough around the edges with not the nicest beach, but is super relaxed with a pretty setting backed by mountains.

Now on to the stats!

Taganga Beach

Countries Visited: USA, Colombia

Places Visited:

  • Colorado: Denver, Central City, Boulder, Golden
  • Florida: Miami
  • Colombia: Rionegro, San Andres Island, Cartagena, Taganga

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: None this month.

Islands Visited: San Andres, Johnny Cay, and Rocky Cay in Colombia.

Best Meals: Fried Green Tomato Biscuit Sandwich and Apple Fritters from Mama Jo’s Biscuits & BBQ Food Truck in Denver; Thanksgiving dinner!; Korean BBQ Veggie “Wings” from Vital Root in Denver; Pulled chicken sandwich with mac and cheese from JK BBQ in Central City; Breakfast Burrito with hashbrowns, eggs, and green chile from Bonfire Burritos in Golden; Margherita pizza from La Leggenda Pizzeria in Miami; Bubble waffle with chocolate gelato, cream and strawberry sauce in San Andres; and all the fresh fruit juices (maracuja and lulo are my faves), garlic fish fillets, breadfruit, and sweet plantains in Colombia.

Worst Meals: Nothing really bad – an Arepa con huevo with some meat sneaked in is all that comes to mind.

Best Craft Beer: Against the Currant Gose from New Terrain Brewing Co. in Golden; Ginger Radler from FlyteCo Brewing in Denver; Pink Guava Bomber from Golden City Brewery; Dominga Paloma Sour by New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins.

Street art in Getsemani

Hikes/Walks:

  • Peak to Plains and Welch Gulch loop trail in Golden, CO – 4.3 miles
  • Boulder Creek trail in Boulder, CO – 4.5 miles
  • Coyote Song and Swallow trail loop in South Valley Park, CO – 3 miles
  • Sloan Lake loop trail in Denver, CO – 3.7 miles
  • Toll Gate trail in Aurora, CO – 4.4 miles
  • Lakes and Tennyson walk in Denver, CO – 5.8 miles
  • Section of Clear Creek trail in Wheat Ridge, CO – 3 miles

Watching: Like last month, lots of great shows this month too – I loved Squid Game, Only Murders in the Building, And Just Like That…, Yellow Jackets, and the new Dexter. I also got started with Christmas Movies watching a few of my faves already – A Christmas Carol, Gremlins, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Reading: I’m back in the swing of things, reading seven books this month! The standouts that I recommend are American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah, and Write My Name Across the Sky by Barbara O’Neal.

Highlights

Walks and Meetups in Golden

Anyone who has been following me for a while knows how much I love Golden, the closest mountain town to Denver so the more time I get to spend there when I am back in Denver, the better.

Welch Ditch trail

During my two weeks in Denver this month, I ended up in Golden four times, eating out with friends, hiking, and hitting up some of my favorite shops and breweries.

Thanksgiving With Family

This was only the second Thanksgiving that I have spent with my American family – the first time (and last time) being in 2016. We are very rarely in the U.S. for Thanksgiving and Christmas because winter is when we usually travel internationally so I am really pleased we could make it work this year and we had such a lovely time hanging out with family, playing board games, and eating delicious food. 

A Day Out in Boulder

I love Boulder so when my nomadic friend Sarah said she was in Colorado and staying in Boulder, it was the perfect excuse to visit Boulder for the day. We had lunch at the gorgeous Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse then I went for a long walk in Boulder Creek Canyon before checking out the shops along Pearl Street.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

I’m hoping we can do another housesit in Boulder next year because it is another one of my happy places in Colorado.

An Impromptu Central City Visit

I have been meaning to go back to Central City, a historic mountain town near Denver, since my first visit a few years back. I had a few hours spare after doing a hike with a friend before I had to pick another friend up from the airport so I decided to drive up there via Clear Creek Canyon.

Central City

It was a beautiful day, the town was decorated for Christmas and there was even a Christmas market on the day I was there so it was a successful Christmassy half-day trip.

Getting My Fitness Goals Back on Track

After working lots and not having much time to get my 10,000+ steps in per day, I gained some weight and lost some tone (all those gyros and pastries in Greece didn’t help either).

In December I have got back into a good rhythm, doing situps and other exercises most evenings as well as doing 10,000 or more steps per day. I already feel firmer and I am going to definitely try to keep it up.

Exploring Miami

As much as I was pissed off about the extra charges at our hotel (see lowlights below), I still had a mostly nice time exploring Miami and really enjoyed the beach and Art Deco buildings in South Beach, Wynwood with its street art and hip boutiques, and lively and colorful Little Havana. 

South Beach Miami

Next time I want to visit the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Vizcay Museum and Gardens, and rent a car to visit Everglades National Park and the Keys.

Beach and Friend Time on San Andres

Although San Andres was dirtier and a lot more built-up than I imagined it would be, I still enjoyed my time there, driving around the island in a golf cart, exploring different beaches, visiting beautiful Johnny Cay by boat, and hanging out with our friend Rachel, her friend Daniel, and a couple of new friends we met while drinking and dancing outside a convenience store one night (it is a thing there).

San Andres friends

I don’t feel the need to come back to San Andres again – other than to visit nearby Providencia sometime in the future – but I did enjoy my time on Colombia’s busiest island. 

Shopping in San Andres

Other than what I mentioned above, I also LOVED the shopping on San Andres – turns out my style is the same as middle-class Colombian women! I had been struggling to find dresses I like in the U.S. that are also not super overpriced for a while but I liked SO MANY dresses in different stores in San Andres.

I ended up buying five dresses, a bikini top, and a cute pair of boho shorts and I love all of them. They are well-made and reasonably priced too so I am very happy. 

One of the stores I like – Tennis – is a nationwide chain so I am hoping to buy some more dresses in Medellin or Bogota just before we leave the country.

Beach on San Andres

Falling Hard For Cartagena the Second Time Around

The first time I visited Cartagena I was recovering from food poisoning and exhaustion from the harrowing boat journey from Panama to Colombia so I didn’t really vibe with the city. I could see it was pretty but I just wasn’t feeling it.

Square in Cartagena

This time around, I adored this lively, charming city. Over the four days we were there we did a couple of walking tours – of Getsemani and the walled city – and visited the San Felipe Fort, but I most enjoyed just wandering the streets of the old town and Getsemani for hours. I couldn’t get enough. 

We are heading back for three nights over New Year, and then again for a couple of days after staying on the Rosario Islands and I am looking forward to returning to the colorful, tropical city that stole my heart.

Colorful Cartagena Street

Lowlights

Missing Out on Going To Long Beach

I had planned to spend five nights staying with my friend Dani at a housesit she was doing in Long Beach but unfortunately the morning I was planning to fly we found out she had COVID.

Luckily she didn’t get too sick as it was a breakthrough case but I was bummed I didn’t get to go see her as it has been two years now since we have seen each other because of COVID. Hopefully we can schedule something early next summer.

Heavy Rain on San Andres

My heart dropped when I saw the weather forecast for San Andres for the week we were there – rain and thunderstorms every day. Luckily it didn’t turn out to be quite as bad as predicted – we had sun for at least half the day except for one day – but it did rain heavily most evenings and it always felt like I was damp.

Annoyingly our basic hostel only had shared bathrooms and we had to go out in the rain to get to them so that was not ideal either.

San Andres Beach

Providencia Not Open To Tourism Yet

I was so bummed that the paradise island of Providencia isn’t open to tourism again until at least April 2022 due to serious damage from the November 2020 hurricane that ripped through the tiny island and destroyed most of the infrastructure.

I had wanted to visit Providencia much more than the busier and more built-up San Andres so hopefully I can do so sometime in the future when they are back on their feet again.

Miami Hotel Rip-Off

I was very annoyed that when we arrived at our Miami hotel we were made to pay a resort fee when there was no mention anywhere on the Priceline profile for the hotel that there would be an additional $25 per night fee.

The resort fee didn’t get us much either – only beach towels and beach chairs on the beach, not even a beach umbrella which was an extra charge. I spoke to Priceline customer service but they refused to refund me because they said that in their super vague wording in the generic small print that there may be extra charges by the hotel. Apparently, I needed to be a mind reader and know that we would have to pay more and how much.

I won’t be using Priceline anymore because I don’t feel like I can trust them to do right by me after this experience. It’s a shame because I used to use them a lot.

Lifeguard Tower in Miami

Feeling Down in the Dumps

I’m not exactly sure why but I was feeling out of sorts during our time in Miami and the first few days in San Andres, it was like a mild depression leaving me with no energy or motivation. It happens sometimes and luckily it has mostly passed now.

Worry About the Rising Cases of COVID

All this Omicron news is freaking me out a bit, with so many more breakthrough cases and lots of countries starting to shut down again. I was toying with the idea of coming back to New Zealand for a month in mid February when the border was going to open to New Zealanders again without having to do managed isolation, but the New Zealand government has already pushed the opening back to the end of February.

I don’t think I can make the timings work now, and who is to say they won’t push it back further. I hate to think that I might not get to go home again until the end of next year as I will be traveling in Latin America till May, and working festivals and events over summer. 

Spending

A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.

Total: USD$2120

More than I would like to spend in a month but with inflation being at an all-time high in the U.S. as well as splurging in Miami a bit, I went a little over budget. It should definitely be less next month as I will be spending the full month in Colombia.

Accommodation $424

My 17 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of three nights in a hotel in Miami, one night at a hotel in Rionegro near Medellin Airport, seven nights in a private room at a hostel on San Andres Island, four nights in a private room at a hostel in Cartagena, and two nights in a private room in a hostel in Taganga.

My 13 nights of unpaid accommodation for the rest of the month included seven nights of housesitting in Denver, and six nights of staying with family in Denver.

San Andres Island

Food and Drink $797

I spent most of this the first couple of weeks in the U.S. as food got infinitely cheaper once I flew to Colombia. This should be way down next month because we will be spending the whole month in Colombia.

Clothing $265

  • 5 x summer dresses $200
  • 2 x shorts $19
  • Bikini Top $37
  • Singlet top $9

I went a bit nuts in San Andres but it was so worth it! I love all my new clothes and I want to buy more before I leave Colombia.

Transport $292

  • Gas $28
  • Parking $15
  • Flight from Denver to Miami $123
  • Uber and Lyft in Miami $63
  • Flight from San Andres to Cartagena $43
  • Taxis in Cartagena $3
  • Bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta $15
  • Taxi from Santa Marta to Taganga $2

Activities $120

  • Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol play in Miami $57.50
  • Entry Fee to San Andres $30
  • Return boat to Johnny Cay $13
  • Tip for Free Tour in Cartagena Old Town $8
  • Tip for Free Tour in Getsemani, Cartagena $5
  • Entry for Castillo de San Felipe Fort in Cartagena $6.50

Other $185

  • Hulu $7.50
  • Phone plan $35
  • Toiletries $79
  • Headphones $10
  • Sticker $4.50
  • Earrings $5
  • Souvenirs $2
  • One Month Travel Insurance $42

Website Costs $12

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $12

Van/RV Costs $25

  • Van Insurance $25

Getsemani Street

What’s in Store for Next Month

For the first couple of weeks of month seventy-nine I will be hanging out on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, starting in the dusty beach town of Taganga before heading into the mountains to one of my favorite places in Colombia – Minca – for Christmas.

From Minca we will be spending a couple of days in chilled Palomino then we will be back in Cartagena for New Year before heading to Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands for a few days. 

After the islands, we will be flying to Medellin and spending some time there, then exploring some of the small towns around there including Guatape, Jardin, and Jericho.

After that we aren’t sure what we will do next – we will either fly down to Leticia to explore the Amazon, fly to the Pacific Coast to see a more offbeat part of Colombia, or spend some time in the coffee region then visit new friends in Bogota – we will see how we are feeling.

It should be a fun time!

To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here

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