This past weekend I packed my suitcase and allowed wanderlust to lead the way. Traveling has always been at the top of every bucket list and vision board I’ve ever created because I believe traveling does something for the soul that just can not be explained. It is the remedy to staying open minded, expanding horizons, and experiencing another’s culture hands on. Although I’ve had my fair share of girls trips, baecations, staycations, and family vacations, up until this point, I hadn’t experienced a FRIENDcation. What exactly is a friendcation? A friendcation is a vacay among a group of friends that travel, spend time, and share adventures together. But, this particular friendcation came with multiple twists that made it that more adventurous!
Trusting Mallory Hubbard-Whitley, founder of a new up and coming traveling service out of Florida, No Gravity Travel, I found myself standing in the country of Colombia, a country I had never been to, among a group of new friends I had never met all in the name of wanderlust. Sounds pretty scary right? Well, to be honest I was very nervous. Not for traveling itself but for the group of people I had yet to meet that I would be vacationing with for the next couple of days. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do is be on vacation around a group of people who has no common interests, who are too “cute” to live a little, or simply people who give off bad vibes. Who wants or needs that on vacation? No one. But, again I trusted Hubbard-Whitley and her expertise in creating a “An Elevated Travel Experience”, and she did not disappoint! It was by far one of the best travel decisions I have made!
Photo credit: Instagram @lucid_ell
As I grabbed my luggage and headed towards the taxi that would take me to where I would call home for the next couple of days, I couldn’t help but wonder just what exactly was in store for this new group I was a part of. My question was answered a thousand times over during this trip to Magic City! It all started with a white door with gold trim that read Santo Domingo 3-47 that would begin to open my eyes to a whole new level of luxury travel and keep my mind open to traveling with a group that I wasn’t entirely familiar with! Casa Santo Domingo, located in Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia, was nothing short of amazing! Staying true to their culture, this hotel was not only vibrantly decorated, but welcomed us with open arms and phenomenal hospitality. Stepping into the foyer of the hotel, we were finally ready to find our rooms, explore our new home for the weekend, and get settled in. As mentioned previously, No Gravity Travel did not disappoint as I learned during exploring the property that we in fact rented out the whole hotel! Yes! We rented out the entire hotel to ourselves for the duration of our stay which gave us a great chance to get to know each other. Throwing our bags down after finding our rooms, we all headed back downstairs for a couple of welcome cocktails and conversation ice breakers!
Breaking the ice lead me to realize this group was a melting pot! A melting pot of individuals that included Dr. Shari Calicker of Jacksonville, Florida, Taylor Moore, owner and baker of Grey Bird Baking Co. of New Orleans, Louisiana, Dania Frink, artist and owner of Pen+Frink, of Jacksonville, Florida, Tiffany Nichole, virtual CMO and business coach of Smyrna, Georgia, Jihan Hubbard, Toyota finance connoisseur of St. Louis, Missouri, Jared Newson, former professional European basketball player turned fitness coach of Indianapolis, Indiana and John Brown, welding instructor of St. Louis, Missouri, were just a few of the very talented and dope individuals that I had the pleasure of meeting during my stay in Colombia. After a long first night of drinks, entertainment, and local cuisine you would have thought that this group had known each other for years! We all clicked effortlessly and for a split second I understood why this place was referred to as Magic City! One of the best parts about the trip to me was breakfast. Crazy right? Breakfast was delicious but it was the gathering at the table and eating together that kept that good vibes and good times going. Not to mention, who doesn’t love to wake up to a good playlist and the aroma of breakfast following behind? Every morning we woke up to Good Morning by Kanye West blasting with no apologies throughout the whole hotel! It was from that day forward that Mr. West was at the top of the vacation playlist from now on! He definitely set the morning mood for us the whole trip.Video Player00:0000:08
To listen to the full song click here. Good Morning- Kanye West
Now that we were all familiar with each other and a little more relaxed it was time to see what adventures Magic City held in store for us! And oh, what an adventure it was! Our first group destination was to Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (Mud Volcano). This was a very new experience for most of us that left us all happy to have at least say that we tried it. It was different because it was actually an active mud volcano that when getting in no bottom could be felt. So, when I say different.. it was a mix between terrified and YOLO! After the mud bath we were walked down to the river where about 5 women were waiting to wash us off. It felt like we were in a new revamped scene from Coming To America when Prince Hakeem was being bathed. As I sat down in the river and allowed these friendly women to assist in what one could refer to as a “Royal Bath”, I thought to myself THIS is living. Wasting no time to overly bask in the moment, we moved on to the next adventure.
Renting out the boat for a day on the water was far better than I could have prepared for. Again, this was my first time laying eyes on this country and it was on the boat that I fell in love with the enchanting skyline. Along with the beauty of Colombia seen on the water, there were also very intriguing historical facts as well like Pablo Escobar’s history with the country. We also had the chance to visit his now vacant residence as well as the crashed plane underneath the water. It was very cool to be so up close and personal and being able to finally add what I was seeing with stories I heard about the infamous Pablo before arriving to the country. After hearing about Pablo’s history we grabbed lunch that was served fresh in knee deep water. Another cool experience I had yet to encounter before this trip.Video Player00:0000:14
I can not talk about my time in Colombia without talking about all the fresh and delicious food we had our hands on throughout the duration of the friendcation. I absolutely love how fresh foods are priority in countries like Jamaica and Colombia. I was not entirely accustomed to the culture when it came to breakfast, lunch, or dinner but I was open to at least give a try. It was all very delicious!
All in all Cartagena, Colombia was a one of a kind experience that I will not forget anytime soon! Traveling around the world with a group of strangers turned friends was not what I thought I’d walk away with. But, here I am anticipating to see what No Gravity Travel has in store for the next trip in 2021! If you are interested in gaining passport stamps, making a couple of new friends, and an unforgettable travel experience, I recommend following No Gravity Travel on Instagram @nogravitytravel for details coming soon for the next destination! For my fellow Colombian group I say to you #UDIBOSS!
What was your travel experience with a group? What did you love? What did you dislike? I would love to hear from you! Comment below or follow me on Instagram @amianamonik and let me know there!