A Solo Birthday On the Road

Friday, September 3rd, was my birthday. I turned the big 25. To tell the truth, my birthdays normally aren’t great. When I do try to plan an event or get-together, it pretty much always ends up being a substandard affair. The only super reliable people in my life are my family – thanks guys :). I always seem to focus on who forgets to call, who doesn’t post a message on my Facebook wall, who neglects to send me an email. Not that it’s a day I dread, but I never expect anything spectacular either.

The Plan

chessboard Marsella Colombia cultural center
giant chessboard in Marsella's cultural center

I thought it would be interesting to try a birthday alone. I imagined myself wandering through the cobble-stoned streets of a cute village, being stared at by the townspeople like I just hopped out of the mother ship (damn, guess I won’t be robbing any banks today!). So the day before, I went to Marsella, which is a pueblo about two hours away from Pereira that I heard was pretty. It was actually pretty unremarkable, except for their cultural center, a huge three-story building off the corner of their central park. Inside was a library, dance classes, ping pong tables, a life-sized chess set, museum exhibits on the walls, and a kids orchestra practicing a classical piece. The community seems to really support the arts, which is pretty awesome.

I contemplated my next move while eating dinner at one of the outdoor tables lining the central plaza. My meal activities seemed to be noteworthy in some way, as I attracted the attention of a couple of local boys who stopped kicking a ball to stand within two feet of my table and analyze my every move. Maybe I wasn’t holding my fork properly? Anyway, I decided I didn’t want to spend my birthday here, so I woke up early on my birthday to get to Salamina.

Salamina is another pueblo about two to three hours from Manizales, which I heard was really pretty. I was quoted my bus price ticket, and tried to talk the lady down by telling her it was my birthday. Trying desperately to supress giggles, she says, “Que cumplas mucho mas,” basically meaning and many more. Biotch.

Salamina was prettier than Marsella, but still doesn’t compare to the gorgeous Antioquian pueblos I’ve been passing through. I think I’m spoiled :) I lugged my backpack five blocks from the bus terminal uphill to a hotel a block from the central park, drawing the ogling eyes of every resident I passed. Great, at least everyone knows I’m here!

So What Did You Actually Do?

central park Salamina Colombia
the central park in Salamina... I love the trees :)

What did I actually do… not much really. The hills off Salamina are seriously intense, which deterred me from wandering around as much as I normally do. So I took a few pictures of the central park lined with really cool big trees and treated myself to a birthday brownie. It was a pretty regular travel day.

The Truth

The truth is, it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. But it wasn’t horrible either. It was just a normal day. I didn’t manage to avoid feeling a little hurt by the people who didn’t tell me happy birthday. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by a few surprising people who did acknowledge it. Would I have done something different if I had known how my birthday would have turned out? Probably not.

Have you been traveling solo and had a birthday? What did you do?

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