Every trip I go on, I feel as though it isn’t complete without the perfect music. But the perfect music changes for every trip. In Ireland, it could be Mumford and Sons and Katie Herzig and in Guatemala it could be Fun. or Explosions In The Sky. It honestly depends on my mood. (For a full length post on what makes me make my music choices, go here.)
So, this year will be my second time back to Belize but my first time exploring some of the ruins that we haven’t had the chance to venture to yet. I’m excited for new opportunities and even more excited to revisit some of the places I thought I had grown so familiar with.
I bring an Ipod Shuffle with me because I like to load and re-load my music pretty frequently. I don’t need hundreds and hundreds of songs on my player. They’re only $49 so if it gets lost or stolen, while heartbreaking, it won’t break your bank or wreak havoc on your budget.
For this trip, I’ve been feeling pretty mellow with some South American influences and definitely some more upbeat tunes. Here’s what my Belize 2013 Playlist looks like!
Only two more weeks until I’m off on my next adventure and I have to say, I absolutely can’t wait. There’s so many things I want to try that I didn’t have the courage to try the first time and that got me thinking, is it better to visit somewhere twice? Are there things I would do differently if I had the chance to go back? Is that place better served as a memory as is?
I know I will definitely go back to Ireland and take my time wandering that country but there are some places like Alaska that I feel I’ve seen most of. Although I know there are things to be done and sights to be seen, I feel content that I got the most from that place. If I were to go back, the magic I felt the first time might not be the same.
We had spectacular weather for the week in Alaska, clear skies all day, every day. I think we had one “misty” day in Denali. That’s it. If I were to go back, fate would hand me severe weather and torrential downpours the entire stay.
But, I digress.
In Belize, I was pushed so far out of my comfort zone the first time that I’m wanting to take more risks this time. I want to go cliff jumping, I want to snorkel with the sharks, I want to free-dive, I want to get a closer shot of the howler monkeys that live within the ancient ruins.
As to whether or not I actually go through with all these things will remain a mystery until I get there but, I’m hoping that I take those chances and open myself up for new opportunities.
I’m a college student. I love to travel. So naturally, I took advantage of the study abroad programs offered at my college. There’s about 9 to choose from, ranging from places like Costa Rica to Ireland. Every trip has a course tied to it that you take while in country. I’ve been on two and will be going on my third in three weeks time.
The first study abroad trip I went on was to Derry, Ireland. I left in early May of 2012 and spent 15 days in country for the class. I then stayed a week and a half later traveling on my own and then my mom met me for a trip to London and Paris.
Let me say this; I LOVED my study abroad experience. Granted, every college is different and every trip within that college is different but I have yet to experience or even hear of a trip that wasn’t amazing.
Ireland was fantastic, a place I’ve always wanted to visit and the group that ended up going was 14 girls. Nuts. We all had serious apprehension before leaving but it was actually one of the better experiences of my life. We grew to be very close, albeit a few cat fights, and actually still keep in very close contact to this day. Two of the girls I went to Ireland with are now some of my best “traveling buddies”.
The way in which the trip was set up was easy to understand. We stayed at a local bed and breakfast, went to class three times a week for four hours a day and then had the rest of our nights free. We had planned “excursions” to places like Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Belfast and the Titanic Museum, and only one guided tour of the city (thank goodness).
What was awesome about this planned trips was that we were still able to see things as tourists even though we were there for school. It also allowed gave us more of Ireland for our money.
Speaking of money; in total I spent $2300 for 15 days in Ireland. This included airfare, the program fee, food and souvenirs. The program fee included hotel, entrance fees, the cost of the class and transportation. Not too shabby.
I mean, I’ve never claimed to be a “thrifty traveler” but I like to save money where I can. Yes, I could have traveled throughout Ireland on my own for cheaper but I was gaining credits while abroad. I think that’s awesome.
Ireland was awe-inspiring. The history was rich and the people seemed to have this unabashed pride for their country. The greenness of it all is almost overwhelming and there are times where you’re silent, for there are no words to accurately describe the beauty of this country.
My next adventure was to Belize. Belize kind of fell in my lap.
Two weeks before I left for Ireland, one of my professors told me about a scholarship they were giving away to go study abroad in Belize. I figured why not and filled out an application. As luck would have it, I won. All expenses paid (minus airfare) to Belize. SWEET.
So, a month and a half after I got back from Ireland, I began the paperwork for Belize and left two weeks later.
Belize was a complete 180 from Ireland. I frequently get asked about which trip I liked better and there is literally no way to compare the two.
We saw Guatemala, we saw Mayan ruins of all kinds, we stayed in local villages, we went spelunking in an ancient Mayan Offering cave, we jumped from cliffs and rode waterfalls.
The class for this trip was Tropical Ecology and instead of sitting in a classroom for a few hours a day we would go into the jungle and learn from locals how different plants interacted with the environment, their medicinal uses, their spiritual properties. All of it. So if you’re a hands on learner, look for a trip like this.
I can honestly say, wholeheartedly, these trips changed my life. They opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that the world offers us that we’re sometimes too afraid to take advantage of. We’re in this world that most people know very little about and studying abroad gave me a chance to completely shift my world view. If you’re thinking about going, do it.
I will forever be grateful I went and I will always value the memories that I have from my time studying abroad.
My true passion in life has always been traveling.
It doesn’t matter how small or large. A midnight roadtrip to see snow, a transatlantic to the Emerald Isle, an empty flight to see Mayan ruins.
I’ve always had this intense feeling of wanderlust that I usually can’t put into words. It’s this pushing feeling against my chest screaming in the smallest voice, “Go. Be. Do.” At times this voice is a faint whisper and at times, like tonight, it’s this roaring and deafening battle cry. It’s my calling, truly and literally.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m only truly happy when I’m away. I’m constantly fighting the piece of me that feels like it’s too small for Florida. I sit in classrooms that teach me history of ancient lands and I’m chomping at the bit. I sit at tables and listen to stories of others who have gotten lost and I’m intrigued beyond recognition.
I’ve made plans as of late to fuel my fire.
I’m just recently went to Costa Rica with one of the girls I met in Belize. We were in the cloud forest, surrounded by volcanoes and jungle. It was paradise.
Also, my lead professor has offered me a spot on this year’s Belize trip again. And I’m seriously thinking of taking it. I’ve never pushed myself further out of my comfort zone than I did on that trip. God only knows how much more potential I can actualize while there a second time.
I know that I’m blessed for these opportunities. I know and I’m grateful.
I also know that if I don’t take these opportunities, someone else will. Someone else will get to to experience the passion and fervor and all consuming love I have for the world that we live in. And to be honest, that doesn’t really fly with me. I live for that feeling and I plan on taking it with me wherever I go.
People have told me that it’s too much.
People have said that I’m too lucky, I need to stay grounded.
People have whispered that I had too much fun for one lifetime, time to take a break.
To those people;
It’s not too much. I’m exploring the world I was placed in. There are millions and millions of things and people and sights to be gazed upon. I plan on doing so.
I can’t be grounded. I was born to fly. I’ve always been a dreamer, sometimes too much of one. But my parents raised me right, they gave me the best gift of all; creativity, imagination, love, passion and drive. They pushed me out of the nest. They knew I could fly. And for that I can’t disappoint them.
And for those who said I had too much fun. Is there really such a thing? Imagine for a moment the happiest you’ve ever been. Emulsify that into a tangible object. Would you put that object on a shelf because it was good enough? Would you let it sit there and collect dust? I wouldn’t. If I’ve had “too much fun”, then there’s much more fun to be had.
I was in a relationship for years that stifled me. It sucked me dry. I lost my lust for life.
He hated to travel. He hated when I brought it up. He hated when I went on trips. And slowly, very slowly, I started hating myself.
Then one day, I broke free.
I can’t look back to that. I can’t be that girl who depended on someone else for my self worth. Because I’m better than that.
This world is far too grand and great to not be appreciated. That’s what I’m here for.
Belize is a country of differences, culture, and deep-rooted beliefs that astound even the faintest believers. Arriving in Belize, I was a skeptic on many of the traditions practiced and found myself curious yet non-committal. Our first day consisted of visiting the Belize Zoo, which was an entity in of itself. The animals aren’t given cages that Americans are used to seeing but rather wire wrapped into small squares that encircle their given space. The animals seemed to have all the behaviors recognized in zoo boredom but oddly enough, when viewing them, I seemed to think they were happier than some animals I have seen at American zoos.
I paid money to get the opportunity to feed a jaguar, which was such an extravagant experience but one that I was a little heartbroken about. The jaguar was so tame that it knew how to somersault and would allow multiple humans to pet it. In my opinion, wild animals should be just that, wild and free to roam. We finished our animal experiences at the zoo and headed for our home for the next five days, Crystal Paradise. I was taken aback by the setting in which we were surrounded; the lush landscape, the selfless family, the river that seemed to wander in its glory, and the leaf cutter ants in abundance. I situated myself in my room, one with a loft, and explored the grounds with a wild curiosity that seemingly came out of nowhere. As a group, we made our way down to the river to cool off after a day of traveling and it was an experience that brought everyone together. We bonded as a group and tentatively asked the questions we were dying to know about each other.
The next few days seem to blur together, not because they were boring or not filled with enough activities to make any particular one memorable, but rather because there was so much done in those few days that it literally runs together in my mind. I have to say with brutal honesty that one of my favorite experiences on the trip was the Offering Cave. I’ve never done anything remotely close to that in any way, shape or form. But what truly astounded me in the social psychology aspect was the way in which the group bonded and helped each other through even the hardest moments. We became a unit and acted as such, helping people rappel, carrying someone across a ledge, pushing someone to go even further when they thought they couldn’t give anymore.
Aside from how we acted, the cave itself was something of mysterious wonder. As we reached the sacrifice stone, the presence of those who had passed was almost palpable. We all turned off our headlamps and completely immersed ourselves in darkness. Nothing can truly compare to the silence and calm that ensued, the darkness seemed to lovingly embrace you in the way that only family can do and the quiet was beckoning you to listen closely, as if it had something to say. We all seemed to be completely content in the pit of that cave, as if we had all belonged there. Even as we pushed further into the darkness, we became comfortable with turning our lights off at random just to feel what was so readily available.
We visited many bodies of water such as the Rio Frio Pools, the Five Lady Falls, the Macal River, and the other side of the Gulf of Mexico. What I didn’t expect to happen was the ease in which we were able to navigate through the waters, the way we all wanted to try new things and push ourselves even further out of our comfort zone. We jumped off of 2 story tall cliffs, we scooted down little waterfalls, we climbed higher and higher looking for that new adventure that seemed to greet us at every turn.
What was truly unexpected though was the way in which the culture embraced us. We were tourists, but we were welcome, we were accepted, and we were asked questions. The best example I can give is the home stay. I stayed with the Tzib family that consisted of 11 people in the main house and 5 in the smaller house. What made the experience something I will honestly never forget was they way they conducted their lives, the way they treated me like royalty while maintaining their pride and dignity. What I consider poverty would be a lavish lifestyle for them but they were truly happy in their culture and their town. They chose to live like that because anything more would be wasted.
I know I’ve talked consistently about the family and the experience I had with them but I speak of them so feverishly because I don’t ever want to forget their faces, their characteristics, their family and their absolute kindness in the rawest form. I see them as something of a novelty, a family submerged in a culture that values men, subjugates women, and thrives off of the land but they navigate their lives to accommodate every person’s need, no matter how small.
The matriarch, Christina, was something out of fiction. She truly cared for everyone but herself; watching all of the children while everyone else went away to work, slaving over the kitchen, washing the children, making beds, and laughing at even the most terrible jokes I made. She asked me about my travels and when I returned to ask her, the furthest she had traveled was to the next town over, but she seemed to be completely content with that. I told her about the magic of Ireland, the mystique of Scotland and the beaches in Florida but nothing seemed to impress her. She was impressed by my thoughts about her land, though. She wanted to listen for hours about the way I talked about the ruins and the jungle and all things Belize.
Looking back on the experience, I am thankful. Not only for all of the things I am able to come home to, but also the people I met along the way in this journey called life. I took away so much from the trip as a whole but mostly from little moments along the way that truly made the trip worthwhile; looking out over Guatemala on top of an ancient temple surrounded by howler monkeys, night hikes where I could distinctly see the Milky Way, and the people who participated in this trip with me.
I will always remember my time in Belize to be something of a distant memory, a fast and furious two weeks filled with laughter, bumpy roads, and the most incredible people in a land that knows no bounds. Belize will always be close to my heart forever on.