Colombia is a vast country that can boast of all sort of things. It’s a magical place, like his best author, Gabriel García Márquez, would suggest in his many chronicles and novels, archetypes of realismo mágico. The landscape of the country that connects South America with Central and North America goes from breathtaking mountains to stunning beaches. What doesn’t change in these landscapes is the people: keen, boisterous, and happy despite misfortunes and miseries. Having both the Andes and the Caribbean is quite an accomplishment, even if it’s only a given and natural gift. It’s also a good combination for forming the populations’ character.

The realisation of how great Colombia is came for me in my last stop in the south of the country, en route to Ecuador. And in a place where there is literally nothing, the Tatacoa Desert. Its landscape suggests we’ve finally landed in Mars, yet I was still in the same place I landed three weeks ago to start off my South American experience. Having visited 22 countries in the last year, the feeling of amazement or surprise gets somewhat misplaced: another waterfall? Not exciting anymore. But this desert was / is something else.

I was alone on my first morning there. I didn’t come across a single other human being from 6am to 10am, only a dog entertained itself by following me a couple of times. Rising early to beat the heat, the non-existent crowds and the charm of a good sunrise, a pleasure best learned while traveling, I enjoyed views that rather transported me to a Hollywood movie –and its recurrent Westerns imaginary, or lately, space and science-fiction fables.

From Mars to Me

In all honesty, there is little to nothing to do in Tatacoa. That’s precisely good. Alone in its immensity (not literal, but mentally it feels like that), one has time to reflect on inner feelings, future plans and true being. Many times I’ve been walking around this kind of places and thought to myself: how lucky am I? All my friends would jump at me. “Of course, motherfucker, you’ve been traveling the world without working for a year”.

They’re right. But they forget too. I chose to do this, I freed myself from our imaginary chains and just threw myself into the unknown, into the vastness of our universe. Or what’s reachable for us (not astronauts), planet Earth. The benefits of my decision I see very clear, and all those doubts and ‘what ifs’ have disappeared into oblivion. When I was walking around the emptiness of Tatacoa desert, I was less than a week away from my year around the world.

Jobless as I have been, I think I’ve worked a lot. Worked on relevant things: on me, on others. Learning how we all are: new cultures, unknown countries, good and bad situation in foreign places. My world has expanded exponentially with every passing day. I feel I know myself better, who I want to be and what I want to accomplish here. I want to know more, read more, write more. My year away, which I gave myself by working my ass off and by randomly being very fortunate –you know, not being born in the third world, having a supporting family or by having been able to study and work for many years, amongst other reasons– has shaped me as a more real version of me.

I had no restrictions, I could do whatever I pleased. In Tatacoa, after a year of travel, my mind was already skipping to new possible futures: this job, this city, my girlfriend. Maybe write a book? Become a digital nomad (for real)? Buy a van and travel more? Become a volunteer?

There are so many aspects of this complex decision I took: quitting my job, giving myself all the time I wanted to enjoy other places and other people, living an alternative life. Give myself a chance to sit back and reflect. I can’t put them all into words, it’s just impossible, the same when everyone asks me to highlight the best place of my travels. You cannot simply choose one, but you can always go yourself and find out, then you’ll get me.

See, I was gonna write about the desert, about Tatacoa and its emptiness. About its local population of, probably, 30 or 40 people. Crazy place. But emptiness has these things… my thoughts drove me here, to a rather unordered reflection. Today I just wanted to write something to complement my other enlarged passion during this voyage of self-discovery: the art and pleasure of photography.

I think the desert speaks for itself, so let’s leave it here.