Lauren's Travel Blog: The Soul of a Journey

My first apartment!

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I’m so looking forward to a week in an idyllic hostel with my son… but I can’t continue to live in a $40/night room after he goes home, so I set to work finding a cheaper place to stay.

I checked all my favorite sources for furnished short-term apartments. Homeaway.com, TripAdvisor vacation rentals, Craigslist. I finally found what I was looking for on Airbnb.com: A room in a penthouse apartment on the beach for $415 per month, with wifi and kitchen access. (guests can visit me there for about $30/week)

Why so cheap? Because it’s on the 5th floor of an apartment building with no elevator and it doesn’t have air conditioning. I can live with those things in exchange for the view and the superhelpful English-speaking hosts. The reviews are all enthusiastically top-notch, the views from the spacious balcony are incredible, Cartagena has a pleasant Caribbean climate (though warm and humid) and hey, I wanted buns of steel anyway.

I found a second choice as well, a charming room closer to the ground in a really nice neighborhood close to the coastline. No view, but no stairs, and air conditioning. About $200 a month more. With a little dog and a beautifully landscaped garden, and clean and neat as a pin.

I had a good gut feeling about both spaces, and I’ve learned over the years to trust my gut. The property owners in both cases will be my roommates and hosts, so it’s important to find the right fit. I sent a quick message to each.

The penthouse owner (who is a native English speaker) wrote back immediately with lots of helpful answers to my questions, even offering to help carry my bags up the stairs and giving me advice on extending my Colombian visa. The house owner got back with me several hours later. His message was prompt and polite, but not as effusively helpful as the penthouse owner. And my heart cries out to spend my evenings working on a book or article while sitting on that balcony watching the sun set over the Caribbean.

I’ve booked the penthouse from late May through mid-July! I may stay longer if I love it there and can extend my tourist visa. But if it doesn’t work out, the house could offer a backup plan.

$415-650 per month is about my price range. That includes rent, all utilities, and internet. It’s much less than I pay at home (my house is paid for, but my taxes, utilities, maintenance & insurance come to more than that) plus there’s no need for homeowner’s insurance or, as long as I stay in the city, a car.

This is going to work out just fine.

Lauren Haas is a nomadic freelance writer. She has been traveling the world, living out of a backpack, since May of 2013. She loves to travel on a budget, learning about different cultures and cuisines.

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