I’m sure that at some point in their lives, everyone has thought about what it would be like to leave everything behind, move to a remote tropical beach and let all your cares just drift away, right? Well, after college I wanted to do just that… move to Belize, forgo the real world/working for the man, and just BE. Needless to say though, that never really panned out. But, with PARALLAXploration, I was able to live the life that never was, and come back to the safety and security of my normal 9-5
My PARALLAXploration wasn’t all beaches and relaxation like my original idea was though – in fact it was far from it (only the last 2 days were really spent at the beach). My personal goal for my trip was to see and experience the unexpected Belize. I think most people associate Belize with the amazing diving, reefs and beach life it has to offer – but there is so much more!
I gave myself a week to explore – and because of its size (only 68 miles wide and 180 miles long) I was able to see a good portion of the country. I started at the far western edge of the country in San Ignacio and worked my way east to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
Belize as a whole was so much different than I ever expected. Sure, they’ve got beaches & reefs I had always heard about, but there’s also the rainforest, historical sites, endangered jaguar preserves, rivers, and so much more. To say the least… Belize is a magical place.
Some of the top things I learned on my trip:
- The colors, oh the colors: The vibrant green jungle, the crystal clear teal waters, the rainbow bright flowers and produce. Every color in Belize is out of this world – my pictures do not do it any justice.’
- Sometimes, the tourist traps are worth it: For the most part, I tried to steer clear of some of the more touristy things and areas, but one I kept hearing about was the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. If you go to Belize and don’t do this, you’re missing out. Hands down, this was probably one of my favorite experiences. The tour is a ½ mile hike into a cave in the middle of the rainforest. You traverse through deep caverns, swim through flowing rivers, climb over boulders, duck between rocks and hike deeper and deeper into an ancient Mayan archaeological site that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. Not only is the cave itself an unreal experience (the stunning crystal-like stalagmite/stalactite formations, the terrifying pitch-black if you turn your light out and the sheer scale of it all) – the guides are experts on Mayan history, and help to really bring to life the story of the ancient Mayans who traversed these caves back in 250-1000AD.
- Belize is a melting pot of cultures: The influences in Belize are seemingly endless — Mayan, Spanish, British, Creole, Mennonite and Caribbean – there’s a little bit of everything. This is noticeable not only with the people you meet and talk with, but the cuisine as well. You can find everything from Mayan chocolate, to Belizean Rice & Beans, or El Salvadorian Pupusas – and all of it is delicious!
- Public transportation, while seemingly chaotic – is super efficient and cheap: I was told by the folks at my first location that I could get anywhere I wanted to just by walking down to the main road, standing on the side of the street and just wait for either a bus or a cab to drive by, wave them down and hop in. And just like that, I would be on my way. Without fail… it worked like a charm. With just a dollar I was able to get into town, and for just a few dollars more, all the way across the country. The bus may have felt a little like being jammed into a can of sardines – but you can’t beat a cheap ride and a good story!
- Kids are Kids no matter where you are, or what your life situation is: I spent my “do good” portion of the trip volunteering at Liberty Children’s Home. I got to spend a day and a half playing with, teaching and enjoying the company of some of the most wonderful kids I’ve ever met. Despite the realities that many of these kids have faced in their very short lives (things I cannot even begin to comprehend), I was humbled by their positive outlook on life, and their ability to enjoy every minute of just being a kid. I walked away from my time there with a new appreciation for the things I have, and those around me.
- DEET is your friend: No joke, I probably walked away with over 75 mosquito bites from my weeklong excursion. I did my best to douse myself in “Belizean Cologne” – the sweet mixture of sunscreen and bug spray – but lesson learned, there is no way around it. They will get you. Probably didn’t help that I went during the rainy season, and with each afternoon downpour – the mosquitos came out in droves.
- Marie Sharp’s is a way of life: A staple on every table, and served with every helping of Beans & Rice, Gibnut or Stewed Chicken — Marie Sharps is Belize’s answer to Tapatio, Cholula or Tabasco. Just like the saying for Frank’s Red Hot goes…. They put that s*it on everything!
Of course with any travel there is never enough time to do it all, and there are definitely places I wish I had been able to fit into my plans, but hey – that’s what return trips are for, right?