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15 Things You May Not Know About Belize

by Monday, December 28, 2015

I just returned from my first solo trip to Belize last week. It was a whole new experience for me in so many ways. I am in the process of writing a few blog posts about it, but with the holidays and working in dental for the next few weeks, I’m sure I won’t get it out until the New Year. In the meantime however, I came up with a post about 15 things you may not know about Belize.

I sure didn’t have any clue about most of these fun facts until I visited myself. How I discovered this information was by means of; accidentally on my own, by locals, by research, by expats, and by other tourists. If you are ever planning on visiting Belize, specifically the islands of Belize, as I did ( Ambergris Caye to be exact) then these facts may be useful to you.


1.Belize’s barrier reef is amazingly gorgeous with vast amounts of marine life and the second largest in the world. The largest being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I went kayaking and snorkeling to it. The magnificent coral formations and tropical fish appeared so eye-popping and brilliant with color, through the crystal clear, 84 degree Caribbean sea, it almost didn’t look real! It is definitely worth seeing.

Please note: (something that our kayak rental place didn’t warn us about, but locals and frequent divers of the area told us, after-the-fact) If you go out to the reef, you must not bring your boat into the reef for the purpose of protecting it. Also, be extremely careful while swimming and snorkeling in it. You can easily get cut or reef rash from the tall spiny coral. I did. It was very shallow and the waves made it hard to avoid large areas of coral. Also, and MOST IMPORTANT, by all means, don’t try to swim past it. The drop in depth creates an undertow that can sweep you out to sea. Many tourists have gone missing that way. 

Finding this out after totally freaked me out! I really wish we were told this before going out there. My kayak mate wanted me to swim out past it with him. Thank goodness my gut told me not to. He ended up turning back too. It was so choppy and difficult to maneuver around it.  Yikes!thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net


2.Belizeans love their hot sauce made by the famous Marie Sharp. They put this shit on everything!  Seriously!(my favorite version is the “smokin” Habanero. It’s so hot, but so good!) I even brought some back with me.

thewanderlustyogi.net


3.The Great Blue Hole is here, a giant sink hole that is circular in shape, over 984 feet across and 407 feet deep.  This may be a super cool natural wonder, but according to the divers I met, they said it was overrated. They claim the marine life is so much better closer to the surface and by the reef, not to mention the Great Blue Hole is so deep, that once you get to the depth you are allowed to dive to, you only have a total of eight minutes to explore, which they feel is a waste of a dive and it’s super expensive. Something to consider if you are a diver. I only snorkel and I can say first hand that it was beautiful at the surface!

thewanderlustyogi.net

Aerial of Blue Hole.


4.Bug bites are on a whole new level in Belize. I’ll say it again. Bug bites are on a whole new level in Belize.  Yes, it’s really that bad! If you forget bug spray, I encourage you to get it as soon as possible (like at the airport!!). I didn’t bring any and I was bitten alive by the, well-known to Belizeans, no see-ums (aka sand flies). They are exactly what they are called, you can’t see them, so you don’t even realize you are getting bit.  Then all of a sudden you are bit from head to toe, with swelling and itching you have never experienced before. I felt like I had chicken pox. I’m actually still extremely itchy today and my legs are a mess. Be prepared!

PS If your lodging has a mosquito net covering your bed-absolutely use it!

thewanderlustyogi.net

My leg after over a week later. I’ve never had worse bug bites before this. I know. Bogus! Also peeling. (this is embarrassing, but I’m sharing to help) I still wake up scratching myself. It’s not fun.

thewanderlustyogi.net


5.How about this one. I bet you didn’t know that Mennonites have made Belize their home? Yep, it’s true!thewanderlustyogi.net


6.Here is another good one: Leo DiCaprio bought a private island in Belize, called Blackadore Caye. He plans on building an eco-lodge for the rich and famous and is adding a private airport right on the island. Man I wish I could see that place. Or maybe it’s just him that I want to see? In any case, how awesome!thewanderlustyogi.net


7.Taking a yoga class with Kirsten at Akbol Yoga Retreat and Eco Resort will literally rock your chakras. Kirsten and her husband, Milio (expats from Chicago, USA), own and built this resort themselves.

She is an experienced yogi who teaches B K S Iyengar inspired yoga, that emphasizes on detail, precision, alignment and pranayama (breath control), as well as including the eight limbs of the yoga sutras in her class.  People from all over come to join her world-renowned yoga retreat. With her classes being taught on a papala atop the ocean, accompanied by the waves beneath, and the the tropical breezes kissing your skin above, its no wonder that the students all feel a sense of surrealism. You really can’t get much more zen than that.

Her classes are open to the public and is well worth the $15.00 USD (almost 2 hours in length). Many students like to stay and eat breakfast at their restaurant after practice. I not only stayed here for most of my visit in Ambergris Caye, but I took her classes and was downright blissed out!

thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net

papaya smoothie at Akbol’s Soul Kitchen after yoga class


8. Did you know that John McAfee, millionaire and the inventor of the computer anti-virus software, lived in a mansion in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize with seven, much younger girlfriends? Well, he used to anyway.  This eccentric and paranoid man had an ongoing feud with his neighbor about his barking dogs, and is thought to be the one responsible for the shooting murder of him in November of 2012, in revenge for thinking the neighbor poisoned his dogs. While the investigation was underway by the Belize authorities, McAfee fled to Guatemala, to later be deported back to America. He is a free man today, living in Lexington, Tennessee and is still considered a “person of interest” by Belize officials in regards to the murder of 52-year-old, Gregory Faull. (I included a Dateline episode of this twisted story for your enjoyment)


9.Taking the San Pedro Express water taxi is an experience in itself. You either can take the water taxi or a small airplane with Tropic Airlines, to get to the islands of Belize (Ambergris Caye and Caulker Caye). For $35.00 US each way, you can be packed in like sardines for the 90 minute ferry ride. However, locals and experienced Belize island travelers (mainly the divers), usually prefer the much less crowded, and quicker, 20 minute ride, by air, on Tropic Air, for around $80.00 per way. It may be a little more expensive, but from my experience on the ferry, I think it may be worth it?

In April last year, over Easter weekend, they overloaded the water taxi with far too many passengers, that the pier collapsed from the weight of all the people. I took the water taxi, not knowing all of this and already bought a round trip ticket. You live and learn.

thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net

Even if you are nervous about small planes, I highly suggest you take Tropic Airlines to the Belize Islands


 

10.Belize gained independence from Great Britain in 1981, but is still a protectorate. Also, making this the only English-speaking country in Central America.

thewanderlustyogi.net


11.Forgot to exchange currency at the airport? No worries. The US dollar is accepted everywhere in Belize. It’s also very easy to figure out the exchange. USD is double the Belize dollar. This tip is a very convenient one I’d say. thewanderlustyogi.net


12.Every Thursday night at 7:00 pm, the Wahoo Lounge in San Pedro, hosts the chicken drop. Sort of like bingo, you pick a square with a number from 1-100 for $1.00 and if the chicken poops on your number, you win $100.00! It seems pretty silly, but the locals and tourists for some reason, love it!thewanderlustyogi.net


13.Belize is home of one of the loudest animals in the world, the back howler monkey. Hearing one of them at night while sleeping in a eco-hut in the jungle can be sort of scary.thewanderlustyogi.net


14.Flushing toilet paper or anything else in the toilet in Belize is frowned upon. Belize is a very eco-friendly place, so be mindful of this when visiting. It seemed pretty gross, but when in Belize, be like the Belizeans. 

thewanderlustyogi.net


15.When in Belize (mainly the islands), don’t rent a car. The roads are very narrow and crowded and many are only dirt roads. What you should do is rent a golf cart. It’s easier to access cramped streets and parking and it is kind of fun. Renting a bicycle is also a great way to get around the island.  It will cost you around $60-80 USD/day to rent a golf cart and around $8.00 USD/day to rent a bicycle (depending on the company and if you rent it for a longer period).

thewanderlustyogi.net

 


Belize is a beautiful country with friendly people, but may have a few challenges for some travelers. I enjoyed my time in the warm and tropical island of Ambergris Caye, in San Pedro, (otherwise known as La Isla Bonita from the popular Madonna song). I was especially fond of spending time on the ocean, with kayaking, snorkeling, and stand-up paddle boarding, the yoga, the food; fry jacks, salbutes, pupusas, panades, rice and beans, and of course Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, and I can’t forget to mention the kind locals that I met.

I do plan on visiting again someday, probably spending some time on the less built up island, Caulker Caye. If I do, I will be sure to:

  1. book a flight on Tropic Air
  2. bring bug spray (tons of it!)
  3. be more cautious around the reef
  4. buy a square for the chicken drop
  5. keep my eyes peeled for Leo (you never know?)

 

 

 

Sober Vacations, an Alternative Way to Travel

by Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When you day-dream about a vacation, most times you envision laying on a tropical beach, sipping some exotic alcohol beverage. Right? But what happens if you don’t drink? How could you possibly have fun? I used to think that too, but for the last three years I have done just that.  Sober vacations, an alternative way to travel, has many benefits that people may have never considered. thewanderlustyogi.net

Let me elaborate a bit.  Three years ago, actually closer to four now, I made a decision to eliminate alcohol from my life.  It was a choice I made for many reasons; health, lifestyle, past history alcoholism in my family and for clarity. When making that choice I didn’t really think about how this simple decision would trickle its way into every single aspect of my life.

Needless to say, it was a huge adjustment that I wasn’t aware of until things starting coming up. Little things such as not having wine at dinner, going out for drinks (seemed pointless), parties, holidays, concerts, Red Sox games, on vacations….and the list was endless. I didn’t notice until I stopped drinking on how much our society is completely focused around drinking. Before, my vacations would consist of nonstop binge drinking. “It’s okay, we are on vacation.” Well, at least that’s what I thought anyway.

I’d wake up with a mimosa, have drinks at lunch, drinks all day, wine at dinner and then even more drinks all night.  I’m not sure how I did it to be honest, but I do remember spending many days of my vacation nursing a hangover, canceling early morning excursions and just feeling foggy and cruddy during the days. Only to come back from vacation ending up sick from exhaustion and letting my immune system go to shit.

After all, this was what a fun vacation was all about! Until I realized how much more fun the experience could be taking sober vacations. Now I’m not writing this to convince anyone this is how you should vacation. Most of you will think I’m nuts for even considering this type of vacation, especially hard-core backpackers and the younger travelers, I get it. This is all you do on vacation, I know. I am however, older and have learned a lot through my years and found that experiencing my travels with a clear head and choosing a healthy lifestyle is what makes me happy now. I just wanted to share a different perspective of travel than you usually hear about.

So, are you intrigued? If so I’m sure you are thinking about what do I actually do then? I came up with a list of things I do instead of the usually drinking times, which was ALL times. This example is if I was at a tropical beach destination. (It varies depending on location, obviously.)thewanderlustyogi.net


MORNING

drinking vacation: wake up, usually late and feeling like crap, but ordered a mimosa or a bloody Mary with breakfast. “Hair of the dog always does the trick..NOT!” Oh yeah and tons of strong coffee…’gotta get myself up and going’. “Did anyone pack Advil?”

sober vacation: wake up, do yoga on the beach (if I was on one) or in my hotel/airbnb, take a walk or jog and probably be up at sunrise before everyone else catching a glimpse of the sun starting to peek out. “My pictures during this time of day are always so beautiful”, I think to myself. Plus I get to enjoy the peacefulness of some alone time, which is aways good for the soul.


MID-MORNING

drinking vacation: mid-morning- was supposed to go snorkeling, but felt a bit queasy and too tired, so I decide to sleep on the beach, with orders of Corona’s of coarse…keep them coming.

sober vacation: mid-morning-snorkeling and swimming and having a great time in the sun with my friends and family. I capture lots of great underwater pictures.


LUNCHTIME

drinking vacation: lunchtime yay, the food looks amazing, but the drinks look even better. I think I’ll get one of each. No room for food. I need a nap.

sober vacation: lunchtime yay, the food looks amazing. I want to order the most authentic food that is of this location. This is great and I love learning about a place through its food. “I think I’ll take some food porn photos and write about it, maybe even make it at home to remember this awesome place I was fortunate enough to visit? Yes, I am definitely going to do that.”


LATE AFTERNOON

 drinking vacation: late-afternoon- more napping, with interval periods of drinks. The view looks pretty but I’m too out of it to take it all in, nevermind capture the moment by taking a photo. “Where is my pina colada?”

sober vacation: late-afternoon- “I’m pretty full from my amazing lunch, I think I’ll go for a hike and then a swim, maybe even take in some footage or photos of this beautiful place.” After that I’ll relax on the beach reading and enjoy a smoothie.  So refreshing and rehydrating.


DINNERTIME

drinking vacation: dinnertime-Getting ready is a major chore. I fell asleep on the beach and now have a weird-looking sunburn on only one side of my body. Great! I also feel very dehydrated and bloated. “Do we really have to get all ready to go for dinner?” Seems like too much effort.“Yes, we do.” Dinner looks good, but I’m not really hungry. I think I’ll order some more yummy drinks, That should make me feel better. Yup, “I’m on a second wind..I can’t wait to go out tonight, my sunburn doesn’t even hurt anymore!”

sober vacation: dinnertime -I’m excited to try out one of the many dining options. “Lets go to the hibachi sushi place!” That sounds like fun. I get ready, feeling a little glow from being kissed by the sun. I go to the sushi place, meet and talk to a bunch of new folks from all over the world and have a blast.


EVENING

drinking vacations: drinks, drinks and more drinks. “Let’s go dancing”.… I don’t remember the rest.

sober vacation: We go shopping a little in the local markets and then see a live show. After that, we go for a cappuccino and walk on the beach at sunset.  I sit and do a mini-meditation thinking about the gratitude I feel for being where I am, trying to take it all in. ” I am so thankful for this great day, I can’t wait for tomorrow!”


That scenario is just an example of  typical, tropical vacation of mine, both ways; drinking and non-drinking. I know it sounds pretty extreme. Evidentially, I  guess I really drank a lot?  I didn’t even notice how much I drank on vacation until writing it all on paper (well, you know what I mean?) and what it did to me physically and emotionally. I’m actually a bit embarrassed. I’m sure not all people drink like that on vacation, but I did, and many that I have traveled with did too.  I thought that this is what you are supposed to do to enjoy yourself, when in reality, it was to excess. It dampened my experience and dulled every aspect of my vacation.thewanderlustyogi.net

The first time I experienced a sober vacation, I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I was so out of my element and didn’t even know what to do with myself. It was so foreign to me to not go find the swim up bar or order a drink the second I got to my destination. After readjusting my ways, I found it very empowering almost. I was able to enjoy just being somewhere without having to have a frosty beverage in hand to have fun, where many others couldn’t dream of doing that. I became very aware that most vacations are designed for drinking (isn’t that where they make all their money?), and almost everything revolves around it.

It really does take a conscious effort to live an alternative lifestyle and you have to be able to handle the comments and awkward encounters when you tell people you don’t drink.  I’m not sure why this makes people so uncomfortable? What do they care if I don’t drink? That doesn’t mean they can’t. It’s a weird thing, but I get more and more used to it.thewanderlustyogi.net

This post wasn’t written as a “don’t drink on vacation post”. If that’s what you like to do on vacation, by all means, cheers to you. I just wanted to show that there are alternatives to vacationing styles that people may not even considered before.  As a travel blogger I noticed that this subject is kind of overlooked and I’d like to shine some light on it, especially for those who perhaps, have just became sober and are looking for a way to adjust to their new lifestyle, vacations included.

The best thing that I can can say about sober vacations is not just that I feel happier, healthier, fully present, and I get to see things in a whole new perspective, but I save so much money, it is ridiculous! I can literally do two vacations now, at the same cost as one before. And to me, that is priceless!

Have you ever gone on a sober vacation?

Here are a few links for sober travel:

www.sobervacations.com

www.sobertravelers.org

www.sobercelebrations.com

www.travelsober.com

 

 

 

 

Traveling Through Terror

by Monday, November 30, 2015

Over the last few days, due to the horrific events that has happened in Paris and Beirut, my normally excited, cheerful wander-lusting, women’s travel group https://www.facebook.com/groups/girlswhotravel/, has now become scared. Many sharing their condolences, some stories of first hand accounts, and others now considering rerouting or canceling, all together, future travel plans. Traveling through terror is something that many women, or men for that matter, are afraid to do.

This is understandable, but also very sad. The normally, bubbly and enthusiastic globetrotting girls, are,  instead of talking about upcoming trips, and sharing amazing photos of exotic locations, are now asking advice on if they should go on their previously planned trip to Paris or anywhere in Europe at all.  Many are talking about all of the deaths and some are discussing the bigotry that has now, and sadly, not surprising, that has spiked against Muslims.thewanderlustyogi.net

One girl shared that she was in the club when the attacks happened and laid on top of dead bodies, pretending she was dead to save herself. It was very scary to hear about and we were all so happy that she was okay. Another Muslim girl shared that since the attacks, she has been kicked out of another travel group because of her race[religion]. It was awful to hear and we all gave her words of comfort and acceptance.

thewanderlustyogi.net

shirt worn by a girl who was at the nightclub in Paris when the terrorists attacked (she played dead, lying on dead bodies)

Now these women, are in reality, strangers. I don’t think I’ve met any of them personally, all except the four girls that I encouraged to join the group, but we all feel like sisters.

It’s a very weird and beautiful thing. There are  over 20,000 active members worldwide in the girls who travel group; coming from all races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, belief systems, etc,  yet this group has that common bond of the love of travel. We give each other travel advice, inspire each other that we can travel solo, support each other during breakups or hardships, and come together during a crisis, like we did when a girl was mugged at knife-point in Sri Lanka and came to us for help.  The outpouring of assistance made me so proud to be a member of this group. We were able to give her the phone numbers and address of her Embassy and contacted her mother. Thankfully she is totally fine and after her return home, updated us that she was okay, and how appreciative she was from all of our support.thewanderlustyogi.net

Many of these girls have since joining the group, have done meet-ups and some became long-term travel partners. I hope to someday, through my travels, end up meeting one of these lovely ladies. This group has something magical about it. Most of us can’t go a day without popping in just to say hello or read some advice or a story that one of us has shared.

Through this group, I have been inspired to  finally get the courage to take my first solo trip, which is coming in just two short weeks, to Belize.  This group also helped me find an amazing travel steal, where I got tickets from Boston to San Jose, Costa Rica, roundtrip for $150.00!!  This group also gave me insight on places I my have never considered visiting before, such as Tel Aviv or places I have never heard of, like Seychelles. I also felt a connection when girls would share their heartfelt break up stories and how travel gave them a new lease on life.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Seychelles, Africa

Since I started writing this post a few weeks ago, I stopped it altogether, midway. I was at a point where my social media was a constant stream of bigotry, anger and hatred. I literally needed to just get away from it all. I decided it was best for me to go on a social media detox for a few weeks, to reset and regroup my emotional state and disconnect a bit.thewanderlustyogi.net

This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.  I was in tune with my body enough to notice that the emotional distress I was having, due to all of the upsetting things I was reading, was actually taking a toll on my health. I couldn’t sleep, I had trouble eating, I felt teary at times, out of the blue, I felt agitated and extremely stressed.thewanderlustyogi.net

In my absence from social media; I read, spent quality time with my family and friends, where I was actually completely present, I meditated, did yoga and through this I felt a subtle change happening in my body. It was a cleansing and it was exactly what I needed.

 

 

thewanderlustyogi.net

The Ultimate Yogi DVD collection by Travis Elliot-my favorite go to yoga/mediation fix

http://www.theultimateyogi.com/

Now that I am back, I am happy to report that although things in the media are still heated and distressing, my girls who travel group is back to its old self again. I was so relieved and happy to see, that the massive posts of asking if people should cancel their trips, were now filled with stories and pictures of girls on their travels all over the world, some even in Paris. This made me smile.

thewanderlustyogi.net

me in Paris at the “love lock bridge” near Notre Dame last August (2014)

This world can sometimes be a very cruel and scary place, but when you think about all the good it has, you realize that the world can continue to hold beauty and love if you choose to seek it out.thewanderlustyogi.net

 

 

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