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I write the title Beginners Guide like I hold the instruction manual on what is it to be an introvert. The reality is, I don’t have all the answers. I only have my answers. I only know what it is like for me to be an introvert. So instead, perhaps I should rename this post to My Subjective Guide to Introvertism.
I always knew I was different from many people. Not just in the everyone-is-different-everyone-is-unique way, I mean, there was something within myself that made me feel un-alike to the people around me. My brothers were always extremely outgoing. They always had countless friends, joined all the clubs at school, and were liked by everybody they ever met. They were popular in grade-school and high-school, they were always well-known at their universities, they were textbook extroverts. It was always so easy for them to make friends and fit in. Honestly, it made me mad. I was the polar opposite. I still am. I didn’t have hundreds of friends growing up, I didn’t belong to any clubs, and by no means did I get along with everybody I knew. And I was perfectly OK with that. I preferred having less friends. I didn’t find pleasure joining social clubs. I certainly didn’t mind that there was people in this world who didn’t like me (lets face it, you have people you don’t like, why expect anything else in return). My family thought this was odd. More specifically, they thought it was odd that at a young age of 19 years old, I preferred to stay in, enjoy my music than go out with my friends and party till the sun came up. They found it odd that I was attending a university with over 5000 students, that I could not and was not interested in making any friends. As it turns out, this is much more common than they thought.
Introvert: Opposite of extrovert. A person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.
Introvertism is not about the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re introduced to new people, or expected to speak in front of a large audience, or even order a meal at your local McDonald’s. That is social anxiety (I have plenty of that too). Typically, social anxiety and introvertism goes hand in hand. People become introverted because they find themselves experiencing large amounts of anxiety when in social settings. As a result, they spend less time placing themselves in social situations and spend more time alone. It is important to note however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that only novel social settings can create feelings of discomfort. More often than not, I find myself preferring to be alone after a long day of school, after a day out with my friends, or even after a day out grocery shopping with my dad. To me, social interaction has its limits. I can only participate in so many social situations before I feel the need to isolate myself in my room and become antisocial. Social interaction is exhausting and usually makes me quite irritable, it’s safer for both parties if I just have my alone time.
Keep in mind, there is a common misconception about introverts. We are apparently “incapable” of maintaining friends, making plans to go out, or interacting socially with another individual without getting antsy. I can’t speak for all introverts, but for many this is not the case. We are more than capable of making friends and maintaining long-term friendships, we just simply prefer to have a small group of friends rather than hundreds. We are perfectly content knowing we can rely on a single person and that single person will be our moon and stars. We have more energy to exert on their friendship because we don’t waste our energy with meeting new people. Us introverts take our few friendships to heart. Secondly, we introverts are more than capable of calling up our few friends and asking them to go to the movies to see the newest Blade Runner. However as I mentioned before, social interaction is exhausting and has its limits. When we go out, we enjoy every minute of it and have a blast but we know when enough is enough and prefer to stay at home (don’t take it personally!). Lastly, we are capable of social interaction, we do it on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of you. We interact with our families, our coworkers, public service workers, the cashier at Wal-Mart, and the drive through representative at Wendy’s. Sure some of us may be nervous when we approach novel people, but that is a whole new problem within itself. So before you tell me to have some fun outside in the social world, consider this: I am my social world and I am perfectly OK with that.
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As per the title, yes, this is the final day of our trip out here in Colombia. We have a long day ahead. From Santa Marta, we must drive back to the city of Cartagena as that is where our plane departs. Much like the drive to Santa Marta, the drive back was long (although we managed to shave off one hour), the drive was beautiful, and the drive was relaxing. We made a few stops here and there.
Our first stop was at a beautiful beach town of Rodadero. Although we could not stop and walk along the beach, we managed to drive by slow enough to enjoy the beautiful view of this new town. Parking was impossible to find, which was the main reason we didn’t stop. Instead, we admired from a distance and continued along our journey back to Cartagena.
Our second stop along the way was the beautiful Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. La Quinta is a gorgeous estate famous for being the place of death of Simon Bolivar. Simon Bolivar was a Venezuelan military and political leader famously known for the establishment of many countries, including Colombia, from the Spanish rule. Part of this estate is also a museum of modern art.
Our third and final stop along the journey was to the well-known Volcan Del Totumo. This particular volcano is mostly visited by tourists staying near Cartagena, but also has many Colombian locals that visit it. The Volcano is in fact still active and contains mud baths that are said to have “healing” properties. Back in the day, the volcano was known to spew lava and ash but was turned into mud by the work of a priest who claimed the volcano was the sign of the devil.
We finally made it back to Cartagena, oh how I’ve missed this beautiful city. We went back to our hotel, showered, and were off yet again to the beautiful Historic Downtown. We stopped at a very high-class (very touristic) restaurant to celebrate a grand day (Happy Birthday Mom!). For starters, we ordered a delicious muscles plate with a white wine sauce and my mother had an octopus a la Colombiana. For our main course, a delicious grilled fish topped with equally tasty shrimp. As for myself, an incredibly savoury beef Wellington. For dessert, a dark chocolate cake on the outside, with delicious hot creamy fudge on the inside, with a side of vanilla ice cream. Of course, we also treated ourselves to some cocktails (we’re celebrating, give me a break).
As we finished our meal and made our way out of the restaurant, my mother and I took one last walk around the Historic Downtown. We said our goodbyes to the beautiful city of Cartagena. Although goodbyes are hard, we know it’s not forever. Next Trip: Medellin.
Hasta La Proxima
Another bright and early morning for the traveling duo. We woke up at an unreasonable 7:45 am, ate a very delicious breakfast of tropical fruit, and made our way out to the beautiful Parque Tayrona. The trip there was smooth sailing. Like the Colombians say sigue derechito derechito (just go straight). The National Park was about one hour from where we were staying in Santa Marta. The route was through the mountains. Curve after curve, mountain after mountain, pueblo after pueblo. The Pueblo’s (neighborhoods) were small, homey, and gorgeous. Every house was painted a different color, there were fruit stands every 100 meters, and they even had little kiosks selling shark oil (what that is, we have no idea). At every neighborhood center, there was a large speed bump that practically forced you to stop. Once stopped, a group of 5 Colombians would approach your vehicle to sell you something. Whether it was a selfie stick, some corn on the cob, a few bottles of water, or a car wash service, it was interesting to see a day in the life of an average Colombian del pueblo. To us, it was nothing more than a vendor trying to earn some extra money, but to them, this was their livelihood. They were trying to make ends meat. It was quite a culture shock.
We eventually made it to the beautiful Parque Tayrona. The beach was quite far from where we had parked the car, so we opted to be taken by horseback (by foot would have taken 2 hours just to get there). The lift up to the beach was beautiful and scenic. The vegetation was to die for. All kinds of bird species had flown out and sang us their beautiful songs. Some parts of the route even looked like it was taken right out of the grand canyon. With towering boulders to each side, it was a surprise the horses could even make it through. There were stretches of flat land in which the horses could gallop freely (my butt was not happy, ouch!). After about an hour on horseback, we finally arrived at the beautiful beach area. It wasn’t just any beach, however. Before you actually made it to the beach, there was a patch of land filled with tents. Either you could bring your own tent, or the national park provided one that you could rent out for a few nights. It seemed the national park was actually a tourist “hotel” of sorts. If tents aren’t really your style, they also offered hammocks for you to rent and hang up wherever your heart desired.
The beach itself was gorgeous, the water was transparent, the sand was coarse but comfortable. It was also incredibly crowded. It became obvious that this particular park was strictly for tourists, as no Colombian visitor was seen. The crowd was young, what seemed like people in their mid-twenties that were out vacationing and backpacking throughout Colombia to pass the summer. Since the beach was so crowded, my mother and I decided to walk to another beach, just 10 minutes from the main park. To our surprise, very few people chose to venture out to the other beaches, which provided an opportunity for visitors to strip. Yes. That’s right. We were at the nude part of the beach. Let me tell you something about nude beaches. They are awesome. The freedom of not having to cover up or the ability to even out your tan, it was worth it. Of course, there were the odd stragglers that would walk by, but they were naked too. No room for judgment at a nude beach.
After a few hours of relaxing at the beach, it was starting to get late and the horses were desperate to get back. We hopped back on the saddles and ventured back to the entrance of the national park. In a desperate attempt to get back to the entrance for a refreshing drink of water, the horses raced back like their life depended on it. Fun for us, but not for our butts.
We made it back to the car and enjoyed the last view of the beautiful scenery back to Santa Marta. We arrived at the hotel, enjoyed a delicious dinner, and packed our luggage for the second last time.
Today is the day we are free. No longer held back by work and conferences, our vacation truly begins. Bright and early this Sunday morning (I’m talking 7:00 am), we ventured out into the real Colombia. We rented a car from the airport and made our way towards sunny Santa Marta. The drive was long, four hours total. The journey was stressful, to say the least. Many Colombians throughout have given us pointers about driving to Santa Marta:
- Drive during the day, be sure not to be out during the night
- Don’t drive down any unpaved roads
- The trip to Santa Marta is one straight highway
Since we left incredibly early in the morning (I’m talking 8:00 am), the first pointer was followed to a tee. With the car, we rented a GPS, since our phones don’t work (data usage would have been expensive). On our way to Santa Marta, there is a beautiful tourist attraction, an active volcano on the coast of Santa Catalina. They call it El Volcan de Lodo el Totumo. Since it was en route, we decided to head towards it on our journey to Santa Marta (mistake number one). For some reason, the designated route to the volcano was not exactly a paved highway. By the first 20 minutes of being on the road, my mother and I found ourselves on a very flooded, pot-hole ridden, dirt road that was located on the outskirts of town. In all honesty, it was quite nerve-wracking. Although we’ve been told by every person we’ve met that the people of Colombia are incredibly nice and humble people, you can’t help but feel a little cautious considering their history (also consider living your entire life in too-nice-to-handle Canada). We seemed a little out of place and quickly turned the car around, made it back on the paved highway and completely disregarded the volcano.
The rest of the trip towards Santa Marta went straight and smoothly. No really, they weren’t kidding about the trip being one straight highway adjacent to the coast. The landscape was incredible. Even once passed the beautiful sight of the ocean shoreline, we were graced with the view of the neighborhoods. Most of these neighborhoods reminded me of back home (and by back home I mean Argentina, not Canada). The houses were small, attached to one another, gated by small fences, and were only just a few steps from the sidewalk. At every intersection, there a vendor selling fruits from their carts. It was a beautiful sight, different from your typical resort-stay lifestyle.
We arrived at the beautiful city of Santa Marta after four long and stressful hours of driving the streets of Colombia. After checking into the hotel, leaving our luggage behind, and cleaning ourselves up, we went out for lunch. Just around the corner of the hotel, we found a small little patio restaurant to enjoy a delicious meal. My mother chose a shrimp platter (as per usual) and I chose a chicken rice dish. Both platters came with a salad and fries. As we sat there devouring our meals, a little boy, not older than 7 years of age, approached our table. What I witnessed at this very moment, will live with me for the rest of my life.
This little boy was a child of the streets. Although standing right beside me, so close we were in contact, I did not exist to the little boy. The only thing that mattered in that moment, to that little boy, was the plate of food in front of us. The large plate of golden, crunchy, salty-smelling fries. The rest of the world was at a standstill while this little boy looked at this plate of fries. I had finished with my portion of the meal and decided to give the boy what his heart so longed for: food. With desperation motivating every inch of his body, he reached without hesitation and grabbed as many fries as his tiny hands could carry. He looked up at me, for the first time in this entire encounter, with a look of relief and hope. Perhaps, with my help, this young boy can sleep with food in his belly.