Uncover Colombia October 29, 2013
Uncover Colombia Interview: Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl of the Trans-Americas Journey
This week we bring you another edition of our monthly interview. This time we talked to Karen and Eric from Trans-Americas Journey. They have travelled across North America and Central America since 2006 and are currently in Colombia.
We would like to thank Karen and Eric for taking the time to answer our questions and share their photos of Colombia with us and our readers. If you want to read more about Karen and Eric's adventures across the Americas, you can visit their website: http://trans-americas.com/blog/
The Uncover Colombia team
Tell us something about yourself (Where are you from? who you are and/or what you do?)
We are freelance travel journalists from New York City. Karen is a writer. Eric is a photographer. We're a married couple and in 2006 we quit our jobs, put our belongings in a storage space, jumped into our truck and embarked on the Trans-Americas Journey. Since 2006 we've driven about 150,000 miles through the US, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. You can learn more about us personally and about our Journey at his link from our website.
We freelance from the road for a range of high-circulation US and Canadian publications including Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Woman's Day, Afar magazine, RoadsandKingdoms.com, Slate.com, CNN.com, the Sunday travel sections of the Dallas Morning News, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune and the entire Sun newspaper group across Canada, the luxury online travel magazine Indagare.com, TheLatinKitchen.com (the food spin off of Latina magazine in the US), TravelandEscape.ca (the website for Canada's Travel Channel) and other outlets.
We've already published a number of stories about Colombia including a piece about Starbucks coming to Colombia, a piece about a sexy new tapas bar in Cartagena and this piece about the ways in which some Colombians are selling the legacy of Pablo Escobar.
We also produce our own highly regarded independent travel blog and we will be publishing dozens of posts about travel in Colombia, like this one about taking a controversial Escobar tour of Medellin and how our guide's amazing personal story helped us understand Colombian culture better.
Karen and Eric in Medellin - Colombia
The Trans-Americas Journey is an overland independent road trip exploration of the 23 mainland-based countries in North, Central and South America. Colombia is obviously a geographical part of that.
What sort of things did you like?
We spent the past three years or so in Central America where all of the countries are very small with very small populations. One of the things we're really enjoying about Colombia is its size and diversity. There are so many different places to visit, so many different types of people and many different foods and traditions.
What didn't you like?
The roads here suck.
What was your favourite experience?
We're not prepared to name a favorite experience yet because we still have many more months of travel in Colombia ahead of us. We move very, very slowly and thoroughly and we will spend more than 10 months in Colombia in total before we're done. At the moment we've been in Colombia for almost five months and that time has been spent in the north (Cartagena, Guajira, Cabo de la Vela, Minca, Aracataca, Mompos) and in Medellin where we have been for the past few months working on our travel blog, our freelance work and getting to know the city.
Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc?
The only problem has been the roads. Most are in poor condition, they are often blocked by protesters and up in the Guajira there are very, very expensive tolls as well. This is a problem not just for us but for all Colombians.
Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and How does Colombia compare with these countries?
See the list of countries we've visited in our answer to question #1.
Colombia is our first South American country and it's also the largest country we've been in since we left Mexico back in 2010. Colombia is more diverse than its neighbors to the north. More politically and socially complicated, more different cultures and foods to choose from. The Colombian people are also some of the friendliest and most generous that we've come across on our Trans-Americas Journey – right up there with the friendly, hospitable people from Mexico and El Salvador.
Which image did you have about Colombia before going there?
We didn't have a particular image of Colombia before we got here. We work hard to be educated about the countries we visit but not to form any pre-conceived ideas about the place. That only limits your ability to see the reality when you get there.
However, back in 2004 and 2005 when we were planning our Trans-Americas Journey it was not possible to drive freely around Colombia. Large cities could be visited but if you wanted to travel around the country safely you were advised to take part in military-lead convoys. At that time most overland travelers like us were skipping Colombia and shipping their vehicles from Panama straight to Ecuador. That's what we thought we'd have to do as well. However, in just the few short years since 2005 the situation in Colombia has obviously changed and improved greatly and Colombians and visitors can now travel around freely and safely. We're delighted that we didn't have to skip Colombia for safety reasons.
Would you like to come back?
Our current exploration of Colombia is far from over so we're not really thinking about coming back or not coming back. We're focused on making the most of our time here now! We still have a lot more to see and do.
What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination?
Work on your Spanish before you get here. Though English is widely spoken in most of the other Latin American countries we've traveled through, English speakers are hard to find in Colombia even within the tourism industry. Oh, and remember: it's Colombia NOT Columbia.
Karen Catchpole and Eric Mohl