03 December 2014

Apparently I’m an island girl

Pooch attack!
I arrived at La Isla Bonita, aka Ambergris Caye, Belize, in late August intending to stay 7.5 weeks, the length of my house/cat sitting gig. Despite the gorgeous setting, I honestly thought my first few days there that being there for several weeks would be  l o n g.  After all, this is the city gal slash world traveler, and here I was in a small town with lots of dirt roads on an *island*!!

As mid-October rolled around, I decided the relaxed lifestyle wasn’t so bad after all….I was enjoying the volunteering (mainly tutoring at the schools--liked being back teaching--& walking the shelter dogs—they are not exactly “leash trained”, but it was a great workout & a blast, plus social time with friends at breakfast on the beach afterwards!). I was becoming more & more knowledgeable about Ambergris Caye in order to help the guests I was booking for Sunset Beach Resort. And if I took off to travel, I’d have to *plan* that!

My high school after school group (one camera shy :)
So, when the homeowners returned, I moved into a little apartment in another area of the island for a month. I figured I’d travel the last couple of weeks in November before my return flight to the U.S. and that would be fine. BUT I actually put off my departure from the island TWO more times until it finally happened—I have a flight to catch from Cancun back to the U.S. tomorrow so must get there!! (Although I was asked by an islander: “Couldn’t you change that flight?” :)

What kept me on the island?

*I haven’t worn anything but flip flops & sand shoes for three months — although wearing anything on my feet at all made me “dressed up” in comparison to the locals, who often don’t wear shoes (even the national Minister of Tourism & Culture was barefoot at a presentation on a national holiday). Tonight I will put on sneakers and see how I fare.

*The people are also the nicest around: expats (& there are many of them) and locals alike.
Biking the beach with Iain

*Biking on the beach! I’ve been a cyclist for many years & at first was annoyed at the road conditions (not all are paved and even those that are leave a bit to be desired), but thought it was better than the sandy beach. But then what’s a beach cruiser for if not to roll along and admire the sea with one eye while watching out for driftwood, dogs & kids with the other? So what if it was the rainy season & that often meant mud/sand splattered legs, clothing, & day pack — little badges of honor!! Loved it & may miss that the most.

Bad photo, but croc holding will likely not happen again!

*I learned & got *slightly* less freaked out about critters, and there were many that came closer to me than I might normally have liked: little lizards on the kitchen counter, crab crawling up my screen door, scorpion in my shoe, tarantula by my kitchen table…on the other hand, I willingly went on an educational crocodile boat tour & held a 2 foot croc in my hands! (Plus saw some AMAZING critters while snorkeling the barrier reef, including sea turtles, octopus, rays, not to mention swimming with sharks!)

Mobile produce store!
*At the last place I stayed, despite the muddy road, there were entrepreneurial folks delivering “take out” & offering home grocery service: the golf cart (main form of motorized transport on these small island roads) beeping outside at 8 am had breakfast burritos for you; the one at 11 am was a rolling produce stand—veggies, fruit, fresh herbs, eggs!!; and then at noon you had a hot meal of your choice — would you like fish, chicken or pork today with your rice & beans and salad?

I did make one day trip to the mainland in my three months of island living, the goal being to see the Maya ruin of Lamanai. Incredible structures those guys made! (Of course I watched Mel Gibson’s
Atop a Maya temple!
Apocalypto, based on the Maya just before the Spanish arrived here; ok so not totally accurate but still gives an idea of what things may have been like?) There is still lots more to be seen here about the Maya, so I will be back. (And TONS more to see & learn about in Belize!)

And yes, I am also making strides work-wise! My Ambergris Caye vacation rentals site is long last up & running, yet always a work in progress. I’ve also been able to combine my non-profit background with the accommodation booking work, and have connected both the Belize & Colombia vacation rentals to an organization called Pack for a Purpose (which I wish I had thought to create--what a great idea, combining travel with easily helping the destination community!). Our guests now easily have the opportunity to support a community organization in an impoverished area of Cartagena and the humane society in San Pedro. I am working on more of “meaningful travel” opportunities for the future--there will be more blogging associated with that & the vacation rentals.

With a few of the great people I met here (& dining right on the beach!)
And now, I am off the island and heading back to the U.S. shortly. I’ll be there through the holidays & am not yet sure what 2015 will bring. However, keeping my "homeless" status for now! I’ll be back on La Isla Bonita for more pet sitting next year (house/pet sitting is now obviously fully on my list as a way to travel & live among the locals, so let me know if you’re ever in need of a sitter, no matter where you are! :) & figuring out the rest. Will keep you posted....!!

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