In 2013, I was 23 years old, had never left the country, and didn’t even know how to go about getting a passport. I never thought much about needing one or where I would even go if I left America. I was pretty content visiting a new state or two each year. Then my best friend, Katie, told me that I absolutely needed to go with her to Belize. She had visited the year before, fell in love with the country, and would tell anyone who listened how great it was. I had been working four jobs and figured I had enough money and had earned a vacation. It’s not like one week in Belize could change my life, right? Wrong.
Getting my passport was an absolute nightmare. I learned you could do it at the local post office but when I visited they told me it was by appointment only and they didn’t have any appointments during times when I wasn’t working. So I had to hunt and hunt for a place a that was available to do so and by the time I actually got around to it I had to have it expedited because I was only a few weeks away from my trip. Oops. Luckily, I had my brand new passport in my hand about 6 days before my flight took off. After all that work, I figured I needed to get the most use out of it that I could in the next 10 years.
Flying to Belize was a completely different obstacle. I had never been on a plane. Ever. In my life. I despise heights. I even cried once in university because I couldn’t stand looking out of my 12th story window. Here I was though; sitting on a runaway about to take not just one flight, but three. I was petrified but I survived and after the first two I figured the third would be a piece of cake. However, when I saw the tiny 12 seater plane that I was told “made multiple stops” I almost turned around and just waited for my big plane back home. This one was more of a bus than a plane. It went up in the air, almost immediately went back down, some people got off, some people and a dog got on, rinse and repeat about 4 times. Finally though, I was in Placencia, Belize. A tiny little peninsula that is all beach with a population that grows exponentially during their Lobster Fest, which I would get to experience later that week.
The euphoria lasted all of two days until I was stirred awake by the sounds of someone in our guest house. Half asleep, I thought Nick (Katie’s boyfriend) was trying to find something in the dark and started asking him what he was doing. That’s when I realized Nick was actually asleep in the next bed and the man went bolting out of the room. Luckily, the only thing lost was my tablet but I wasn’t too upset about that. The real problem was our cabana owner was so angry that a security guard helped us report it at the tourism office that she said she would have to charge us double for our room. This went over well with none of us and we spent our third day in Belize deciding to leave our cabana and trying to hunt down a new one in what is easily Placencia’s busiest season. Great. Luckily, Nick had already spent a total of two months in this area and knew a few of the locals well. One guy, Chino, even went around knocking on doors trying to find us a new place to stay. All while barefoot and insisting he carry our luggage. I cannot imagine what we would have done without him to help get our trip back on track.
The rest of the trip went a bit smoother. We booked a boat with Chino who drove us around the Caribbean to snorkel while he speared some lobsters and fish which he later cooked for us on private island. We even got to watch him feed a shark with one of the fish he had speared. We were also joined by a curious pack of dolphins as we boating back in during sunset. It was easily the best day I had ever had on a holiday and we followed it up with local Belikin beers (go to Belize, try the stout, and have your life changed forever) and Caribbean rum.
The following day we went with another of Nick’s friends, Nyal, to explore some of the Mayan ruins located nearby. Belize is definitely not know for its great roads so we spent the next hour speeding down the bumpy, pot hole filled streets (stopping for some Belikin once our hangovers subsided) and eventually found ourself in the middle of some amazing ruins. Concrete steps mixed with foliage and it was absolutely breathtaking. We continued our inland tour with the hunt for a waterfall which turned out to be a giant natural water slide that dropped you ten feet into the pool below. Obviously I had to do this! I was definitely going to do this. I was absolutely terrified to do this. After walking up to the top of the waterfall, that ten feet looked a lot further down than I anticipated and as I mentioned before, I despise heights. But I was ready to start facing some fears (after about 20 minutes of coaxing from my friends) and I took the plunge. I hit the bottom and was so proud of myself. I was in a foreign country, experiencing a different culture, and facing one of my biggest fears (two if you count almost trending on a scorpion). It felt amazing.
The rest of our trip passed far two quickly. It continued with a theme of waking up to get some amazing iced coffee, walks along the beach, consuming Belikin and rum, and eating all the fresh seafood we could find at Lobster Fest where they serve everything from lobster fritters to lobster pizza to giant, whole lobsters. I was heartbroken when it was time for me to leave. I got one last cup of iced coffee from my favourite cafe and prepared to board the 12 seat airplane/bus back to main airport. I was leaving Belize but I left a large part of my heart there. Before I ever made it home, the only thing I could think about was when I would be back and where I would be going back. Placencia sparked a travel addiction and I was ready to put that passport I struggled to get to good use.