The Journey From Broke Backpacker to Flashpacker

There was a time when I thought that the real way to travel was on a shoestring budget. That used to be me, sticking to the suggested daily spend in Lonely Planet (always a stretch, by the way), eating at dirt cheap local stands and restaurants, and staying in guest houses in Asia and Central America.

I used to look at resort guests with disdain as they tanned on their private beaches, thinking to myself that they will never see the “real side of a place like I could.

Then, as my income grew and I got a little older, I started craving creature comforts. A TV in my hotel room. A ride on a vehicle in which the number of chickens didn’t outnumber the people. Even, dare I say it, a pizza or other international meal from time to time.

Now, I can’t call myself a backpacker any longer. It’s been a couple of years since I even shoved my entire wardrobe inside of one.

People usually adopt some kind of traveler identity when they’re on the road, myself included. There have been oodles of articles written outlining these funny stereotypes.

Giving up the “backpacker” label was not easy. But those days are long gone. In fact, I have a dirty little secret to reveal.

Horseback riding in Santa Fe Every so often, my boyfriend and I travel to Santa Fe de Antioquia, a pueblo about an hour north of Medellin. Not because the pueblo is that fun or interesting, but because of a hotel.

They have a big tropical oasis kind of a pool with luxurious tanning chairs and mountain views. There is a bar open all day and night next to it.

They have a pool table, a ping pong table, and a little spa where you can get a massage.

You don’t have to leave the hotel to eat – there are buffets three times a day.

Sure we leave the premises sometimes, to go horseback riding or to watch a Nacional game in the central park.

But mostly, I just lay there on one of the deck chairs, letting the sun bake the daily stresses right out of my brain. It’s heavenly.

Even though this new style of travel is more relaxing, I definitely don’t feel as cool as I used to. Can I still talk about that time I rode a 20-year-old van through 9 hours’ worth of unpaved roads in the Laotian countryside with the same kind of road warrior edge I once had?

Maybe not.

But I’ve paid my dues – and then some. And I won’t lie. This easier, softer way of traveling is pretty nice.

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  • Backpacking is hard business! If you get to a point where you can afford to enjoy some luxuries here and there, why not? Growth is good.

  • Exactly!

  • fab

    whats the name of that hotel ?thanks!

  • I think you’re right, a mix of budget adventure and some comfort/relaxing days it the way to go!

  • It’s called Mariscal Robledo. I love it there.

  • Mike

    Jasmine, I have been thinking about moving to Colombia and the issue I am finding is the 90 day tourist visa for US Citizens. How does it work in Colombia. I know in Costa Rica for instance a person just needs to leave the country for 72 hours and then they get another 90 day tourist visa in Costa Rica. Are there any creative ways expats are finding to extend there stays in Colombia? Thanks, Mike

  • Hi Mike, you can stay in Colombia for 6 months per calendar year on a tourist visa. Just go to the immigration office close to the end of your time here and you can renew.

  • That’s a very very interesting bridge! That photo caught me :)

  • This is a great article – love it! It’s perfect to have a mix of luxury and that sweaty satisfaction that comes with “true backpacking,” and it sounds like you’ve found your perfect mix.

    Love your blog!


  • travellingforfun

    I know exactly the change. I was the same, eeking out every last cent so I could go that little bit further. But now I am older but also have a little more money, on week long holidays I justify renting a car as it is more convenient and you get there quicker rather than getting the bus and all the hassle and delays that involves. I just ignore that the bus is waay cheaper.