Cristina and I met up at Empanada Mama, a Colombian restaurant in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a few months before Covid-19 made in-person gatherings impossible. It was the perfect spot for an early morning conversation: Cristina, whose family is Colombian, ordered us Desayuno Colombiano and two coffees. “Because,” she said, “what Colombian meal exists without a good cup of Colombian coffee?”
Cristina is an avid and avowed traveler, and we had gotten together so she could share some of her favorite stories. Specifically, I hoped to hear about numerous death-defying bike tours she has taken with her partner Tom. “It’s foggy,” she began, a grin on her face, as I hit record on my Tascam 4 track. “We’ve clearly taken a wrong turn—.” And with that she was off, recounting past adventures and joyously showcasing her passion for a life of exploration.
Cristina’s love of travel stems from her childhood experience spending summers in Colombia. Her family would fly hours after school let out and stay, splitting time between her father’s family and mother’s family until the last moments before school began again in the US. She loved visiting her extended family but knows she also gained a much wider perspective on the world through that youthful travel. “Traveling,” she said, “it’s showing you different sides of life and people, and that’s what we saw at a very young age. It exposes you to things; it’s not just about us, not just about our home and how we live and that unit, but it’s much bigger.”
Our conversation was rich with this perspective, with Cristina pulling in fragments of politics, pop culture, history and more into her stories. As the café filled up the din began to make our recording difficult, so I put away the mic. Circling back to her bike adventures over a second cup of Colombian coffee, she pulled up some pictures on her phone for me to see, laughing again at the memories of bear traps, haunted shacks, and rogue sheep.
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