You’ve been sitting in the airport for a couple hours by now and your flight should be boarding any minute. After months of planning and getting all of your gear together, you finally find yourself on the verge of leaving for your new adventure. They call out your flight number. Your heart is racing. In the back of your mind you know that you still have about 6 hours of sitting on a plane, but you don’t care because you are on your way.
We’ve all been there, so excited for our upcoming trip that we can’t think straight. And after reading through the tour book five times and looking at the vibrant pictures over and over, we begin to build up a few too many expectations. I just went on a three-week adventure through Mexico and Belize and it was an incredible trip. Mexico far exceeded my expectations, but I had built up Belize in my mind so much that I forgot about the economic hardships the country is facing.
For being such a small country, Belize has incredibly diverse ecosystems and wildlife, from beaches to jungle. They have animals and creatures that I have only seen in movies including 590 species of birds (two of which are globally endangered), conch, stingrays, sharks, howler monkeys, iguanas, and the list goes on. You could spelunk through caves, hike through jungles, scuba dive in any of the 190 mile-long barrier reef, fish…the possibilities never end.
So naturally, I imagined Belize to be this sparkling picturesque country. Don’t get me wrong, I had a extraordinary experience; but it was also eye-opening.
My adventures in Belize began on Caye Caulker, which is like a fairy tale island and naturally built up my false expectations even more. After a couple days of backpacker paradise, I took a water taxi inland to Belize City and then a bus across the country to San Ignacio. This is where my fantasy delusions were shattered. Belize City and the bulk of the country are incredibly poor.
Their public buses are old school buses that come from the U.S. and after speaking with a few locals, I learned that the education system needs a lot of help. Their unemployment rate is up around 11% compared to the US’ 5.5%. The country comes from a very different background: their history books teach about being colonized rather than colonizing others and the country did not have complete independence until 1981. So imagine that for a second. How would your ideals change if you grew up in a country on the other side of history?
This adventure was unlike any trip I have taken before. I have been to “third-world countries” in the past but Belize was unique in a way that is difficult to explain. The Belizean people are different than any other nationality because of how welcoming and accepting they are. After meeting many of the locals, I noticed that the people as a whole are unbelievably appreciative for what they have despite the hardships they face. And that realization is what made my trip.
I don’t know if I could see myself living in Belize, but it is definitely a country that I will return to. I can’t seem to get enough of the diverse environment and remarkable culture.