Talking to Strangers: Backpacking in Colombia
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
By Pha Lo
Are you single?
No, I have a girlfriend. I met her on a ski trip from work.
Is your girlfriend cool with you traveling solo?
Not always. She has trouble with it. The objection is that she's back home while I'm having a good time, and she's stuck and a bit depressed in the cold weather. She's come with me here and there. She came with me in the beginning until December and then she came with me again in March.
Do you have any vacation romances you can tell us about?
On this trip, no. I haven't got anyone besides my girlfriend. On previous trips, I've been single, so yeah. Traveling is better single, definitely. Right now it's definitely not as much fun.
What are your impressions of Colombian women?
My first impression is that they seem pretty open-minded and they all have very big butts. I'm not a big fan of these huge butts, myself. You could make a fruit salad on top of one of these, that's how big it is.
You might be the first male I've talked to who isn't a fan of the big butts.
These butts are bigger than my body, some of them. I generally like slim women. Petite. Over here it's not really like petite. It's big, round, very voluptuous bottoms.
What about personality? What generally attracts you?
A fun-loving-criminal type of person. Someone who is happy and bouncy and fun to be around and enjoys traveling and music. Those kinds of things interest me.
Who do you think has the most casual attitude toward sex?
When traveling, Scandinavian and English people are both quite open-minded. In-country, I would say Cuba. I would guess, and this is based on very little, that Colombia is pretty open-minded as well.
If I go to Holland, how do I pick up a Dutch man?
The Dutch as a whole are very open-minded people. The close-mindedness of some Americans, like not even having a passport, pretty much mind-boggles the Dutch people. But then, you're talking about a country where ninety-eight percent of the population has a passport. I think one-hundred percent of the country speaks at least two languages and probably sixty percent speaks three or four.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak three fluently. English, Dutch, and Spanish.
Does that impress the ladies?
It's actually not a lot of languages in Holland. My folks speak five languages and I have friends who speak seven languages, so it's not a big deal.
How would this trip be different if you were single?
Right now I have to get a phone number for every country I'm in so I can have a conversation every single day with my girlfriend. If I were single, I'd have no attachment with home at all. I wouldn't need a phone.
No regrets though? Still having fun?
No regrets, but it can't last much longer because it's very tough on a relationship. It definitely strains a lot. I've met a lot of people from Australia, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina. They've all broken off their relationships to travel.
What's the toughest thing about making a connection with someone these days?
The world has gone onto the internet, and it's very cool. It breaks boundaries and widens the possibilities. But it also makes things very impersonal. And in a lot of countries, you see people who don't like it when a random person comes by and talks to them — they're not used to that because more and more they're used to doing things through friends or through the internet. Still, when you're traveling, you don't get that much. A person you meet while you're traveling might not give you the time of day back at home, but when you travel it's like, hey, everything goes.
Why did you choose to come to Colombia?
Actually, my husband and my girlfriend wanted to come here. I was fine with Brazil or wherever, but they really wanted to come to Colombia.
You're married. How long have you been married?
What's married sex like?
Good. Still good. You just have to make time for it. Sometimes you have to make an appointment, because we're both working full-time. Wednesday evening, that's our night. Most of the time it's spontaneous, but sometimes you have this period when you notice you have to make time for each other. Not just for sex but to talk to each other about what's going on in your mind and what keeps you busy.
Do you have any dating advice for people who are still single?
A lot of my friends who are single are really critical. They say, "That guy hasn't got the right shoes, so he's not good enough," and I think you have to look further. The outside is not always the only thing, so give it a chance.
Do you have any good hookup stories from your traveling days?
Actually, yeah. I went to America, to a national park, on a hippie bus from San Francisco, and I met a really nice English guy, so we spent three nights together on the bus, and we had sex on this bus where there were like ten people. That was quite fun. The only thing you need is eye contact. If you really like somebody, then it doesn't really matter if you're in a dorm or whatever, it's eye contact.
What attracts you to the opposite sex?
Sometimes arrogance. Also, just having fun and a little bit of mystery. What I don't like is last week, we met a few guys from San Diego, and they were only talking about going out and drinking too much. There were a few guys in the group who were a little more quiet, and we both thought they were more attractive.
Compare the Dutch dating scene with some of the other places you've been.
I think Dutch people talk a lot about sex. They are quite open. I don't know how it is in America, but I know Belgian people or French people aren't so open about it. I think Dutch girls are really progressive in what they want. There's a statistic that only twenty percent of women get orgasms with sex, but I don't believe that. I think Dutch girls are more like, "I'm going to have my orgasm, so you do what I want." I guess French girls or Belgium girls are more polite and say, "Yes, that's good."
What keeps a relationship going?
I don't know how you say it English, but just that the other person can be honest with me. They say how they really are, so it makes me think about how I really am. Am I the person I want to be? We always say if we're with friends and he's telling our friends something I didn't know, it's time to talk with each other, because it means we don't know what's going on in each other's lives.
What's the most romantic thing your husband has ever done for you?
A lot of things. He asked me to marry him on the beach with a ring inside a chocolate cake.
Brownie points. How did he snag you, or did you approach him?
I traveled for a half year and I had no job, and he was doing his internship in a school, and a friend of ours told the director of the school that I was free to do some small jobs for a few months. So I came to the school and the kids were already saying "Oh, you're in love," when he came into the classroom. "Oh, you're getting red!" And we're both saying, "Oh, no, it's nothing." After three weeks, we were kissing in the... how do you say it? Like a closet with all the school supplies, so nobody noticed.
Any last words of advice?
Have fun. Make sex happen and don't be selfish. I met this girl who said, "I don't like to give blowjobs," but I think it's really fun. I love it. It gives power. You can tease a little bit. Also, you can't expect — how do you say in English, a blowjob for a girl? You can't expect that if you don't do blowjobs.
What do you do for a living?
Snowboard technician by day, sushi server by night.
Awesome, and do either of those jobs get you a lot of dates?
Yeah, definitely. Well, actually, I'm not a "dater." Dating is a bit old-fashioned. I mean, I've never approached a woman and said "You want to go on a movie, dinner, dancing type thing?"
So then how does it normally happen for you?
"Let's go snowboarding."
And that works?
Yeah. So I guess that's dating right?
Have you started any relationships with that line?
My current relationship. I met this beautiful woman through my shop five months ago.
So why did you come to Colombia?
Because they have mountains. I love mountains. I was in Central America and the beaches were nice, but I thrive off the mountain energy.
Is your girlfriend cool with you traveling solo?
Uh, I wouldn't necessarily call her my girlfriend. It's very complicated.
What are your thoughts about Colombian women?
Probably some of the best in Latin America. They're beautiful and they're more approachable and they'll even approach you as well. In general, they're more warm, especially if you're a foreigner. They want to meet foreigners. A rare thing, I'd say.
Do you have any cool hook-up stories from trips you've taken in the past?
Well, that's what's fun about traveling. A whole bunch of butterflies out there, right? Love 'em and leave 'em. All on good terms, you know?
Any love-'em-and-leave-'em stories?
Next question. That's a little personal.
Okay, got any crazy exes?
Crazy exes... um, Southeast Asian women.
I won't take offense to that. Tell me about it.
Don't get on their bad side. You'll get whooped around. They're very nice, beautiful. I've had great relationships, but Cambodian women specifically, man. They switch like that [snaps fingers]. I've definitely been punched in the face many times.
Tell me what happened.
Okay, it's kind of a long story. I was working at a bar in Phnom Penh, and the woman who hired me, we moved on to have a little fun.
Sleeping with the boss? I like it.
Yeah, sleeping with the boss. But eventually I kind of needed space. You know, we'd go dancing, and she'd dance with other guys, and I'd dance with other girls, but when she'd get a few in her, she was unpredictable. One time she came up to me and said, "Why are you dancing with this woman?" and took off. I went to try to talk to her. Next thing I knew she grabbed a glass and threw it at me, and it missed and shattered. This was at a place called The Heart of Darkness. Anyone who's gone to Phnom Penh knows The Heart of Darkness. She's chasing me around this place.
How did people react?
They kind of watched. They didn't mind so much. I think they're used to that at The Heart of Darkness.
What's the most unusual place you've hooked up?
Cemetery. That was different. That was a mistake. Drugs do funny things to an individual. I was taking her for a walk toward a beautiful cemetery and I guess it's kind of strange to take a lady into a cemetery, but we were walking through there, and eventually...
What's your advice to fellow travelers looking to get laid?
Choose your country wisely. Colombia is a great place for that. I think sexual relations here are a bit more liberal. Many Colombian men have wives and multiple girlfriends on the side.
Anything else you want to tell fellow travelers about sex on the road?
I feel like sex is a lot of the reason that why people travel.
Is there a particular nationality of traveler you're attracted to?
Australians, actually because there's an easier connection there.
And the accent, right? You've got to love the accent.
Love the accent!
Any last tips for dating?
Don't listen to anything I say.