Welcome, Tense Traveler.

Thank you for choosing High Anxiety Tours (HAT) to arrange your trip. We’ll take care of everything. Take a deep breath and relax. We understand that as a first-time international traveler, you may be a tad nervous about venturing into the unknown. At HAT, our mission is to ensure you have a 100% stress-free experience.

So, this is your first visit to Colombia. As travel experts, trust us when we say there is (almost) nothing to worry about. Word has it that the Colombian drug lords have no documented plans to kidnap or torture American tourists in the foreseeable future. Of course, their plans are subject to change without notice.

Before you leave for the airport, remember to go through a departure checklist so you can R-E-L-A-X while away. Did you …

  • Bring your passport?
  • Pack sunscreen?
  • Turn off the stove?
  • Get a sitter for your cats?
  • Refill your Xanax?
  • Are you 100% sure you turned off the stove?

You are now ready for a calm, peaceful holiday in tranquil Colombia– that is, if you make your flight. It is imperative to be at the airport a minimum of four hours before departure, in case of unforeseen glitches such as highway construction or a wildcat strike by baggage handlers. In rare instances, flights do take off a day or so early, to adjust for the time differences. The odds TSA Security will mistake your traveler’s trepidation for drug-smuggling jitters are 3-1, at best. So, don’t sweat. No, seriously, do NOT sweat! If they see you sweat, they’ll get suspicious and probably conduct a full body cavity search.

When you arrive in the capital, Bogota, there is every reason to believe your luggage will arrive with you. We at HAT feel it is important to believe in something – no matter how misguided. Enjoy basking in the warm sunshine – assuming you’re not detained in customs because of something you forgot to declare – in which case you might want to learn this handy Spanish expression: Deseo ver un abogado (“I wish to see a lawyer.”)

But don’t worry. As long as you don’t mention anything about Colombia paying for the border wall (since Mexico bailed on that one), the chances of a prolonged detention by Colombian police are less than 50%. And if your passport was confiscated, no problema. You can buy it back for only a slight mark-up when you exit Colombia. Once you are out of police custody, try looking for one of our guides. Go ahead – try. We dare you. We didn’t provide our toll-free hotline for nothin’.

If you ever make it to the resort, just kick off your shoes and let us help put your worries to bed. Speaking of beds, the resort has graciously informed us of a mild bedbug outbreak – which they promise will be completely under control before the season is over. We advise you purchase head lice shampoo in the hotel gift shop while supplies last.

On a related note, it’s high season for snakes, which means those pesky rattlers will be slithering through your sandals whether they are off or on your feet. They rarely can scale walls beyond the fifth floor, but we’d still recommend a quick peek under your bed covers just to be on the safe side. Those rascals love hiding in warm, dark places.

The food in Colombia is some of the best in the world. Just don’t eat it. Don’t even bathe in the water. But if you do succumb to the allures of freshly squeezed mango juice, our affiliate hospitals are at your service (if you remembered to purchase our travel health insurance, that is). Still, if you like tacos (without anything inside), you’re in for a treat.

Please note that the sun in Colombia is much more powerful than here in the States. Why let a painful sunburn ruin your vacation when food poisoning can accomplish it in far less time? We recommend a sunscreen protection factor of 240 or above. Or just stay inside your hotel room, to play it safe – assuming the snakes aren’t bothering you.

Normally for this tour, we offer a wide variety of exciting outdoor activities. However, a recent wave of tsunamis has temporarily obliterated our activity desk and put the kibosh on Shuffleboard Mania. But that won’t stop our plans for a thrilling whale watch escapade. [Note: Life jackets and Survival in the High Seas training costs extra.] Hopefully, the recent cold snap that has pushed the whales further south will be over before your trip is done. But just in case it isn’t, don’t forget to pack a parka!

A reminder to stick with the rest of the tour group at all times. Colombia is a safe country, so long as you are never spotted alone at night… or in the daytime. Bandits prey on American tourists like an eagle preys on a field mouse. The mouse never wins. Stay with the group STAY WITH THE GROUP! And perhaps leave your “Make America Great Again” hat at home.

If by some miracle you do make it to the beach, you’ll be warmly welcomed by throngs of Colombia’s future gang members. These young cherubs will happily sell you gum, a clay bird whistle, or even an authentic hand-carved Mayan jewelry box (manufactured in Taiwan). As you pull out your Gucci wallet and unfold a few crisp George Washington’s, you may feel a prickly sensation of being watched. Don’t worry – you are – by the pickpocketing cohorts of the sales crew. They’re such entrepreneurs, those kids.

Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and it will be time to fly home. Don’t forget your passport (if it wasn’t snatched at the beach) and your precious souvenirs. The last hurdle will be US Customs. They rarely detain travelers longer than two hours – unless, of course, they come across a hand-carved Mayan jewelry box – like the one you got for a song from those darling kids. “Isn’t it lovely, officer? I wish I’d bought more” is not what you want to be saying when they pop open the fake bottom and out rolls half a kilo of cocaine. Restrain yourself from muttering that Spanish phrase you picked up: Deseo ver un abogado (“I wish to see a lawyer.”)

Just relax. You’ll have a wonderful time in Colombia, compliments of High Anxiety Tours (HAT). We’ll take care of everything. Trust us.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017

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