A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to leave my quiet life in Ohio to travel to San Pedro, Belize to write. One thing that should be noted is that I’ve never left the country or even flown before, so I obviously said yes without hesitation. I’d do anything to get out of the northeast Ohio winter weather and onto the Caribbean Sea. Not many people I know have left the country for the first time by going straight to Central America without any family, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I rarely left more than a sixty-mile radius from my house for more than a few weeks at a time, so I thought leaving the country for three months was going to be hard to convince my family was a good idea. Surprisingly everyone was enthusiastic about the trip, which may be my parents’ eagerness to get their post-graduate son out of the house. After accepting the opportunity, it hit me that I would be leaving my small town Ohio home for Central America, which equally excited me and terrified me. I had so much to do.
The first thing I had to do was get my passport. This was a small adventure on its own because nothing seemed to go right. I’ve never needed a passport before, but I’ve heard that it can take a good amount of time and can be a bit costly to get it from the beginning of the process to the end of the process. I immediately went to the local post office, which promised a one-stop passport application process, picture and all. When I arrived, birth certificate and driver’s license in hand, I was told the printer was not working and I would have to go to CVS, but I would also have to be back before the post office closed in an hour. I hurried to CVS. I was surprisingly too tall for the white backdrop. I’m only 6-foot-even on a good day but had to do a mini split so my head didn’t go over the border. After three tries, we got a usable picture. Back at the post office everything went quickly and efficiently. I paid for expedited service, which meant I would get my passport book in two to three weeks from the time of application to delivery. About a week later I got a letter saying I needed to send another version of my birth certificate, because the one I sent wasn’t an original. I panicked. I thought there was no way I was going to get my passport in time to leave. I was happy to find out that only a week and a half after I sent my birth certificate, my passport arrived – still within the three weeks promised to me. Luckily, getting my passport was the most stressful part of my journey.
I said my goodbyes to friends and family and left. Fortunately, a good college friend of mine also got an internship and was traveling with me. I had no idea what to do when entering an airport, let alone attempting to leave the country. I don’t think I could’ve made it here without her help. My flying experiences went very smoothly, despite all of my anxieties about canceled flights, lost baggage, or the variety of other mishaps people experience when traveling. Our first flight was out of Columbus at 6 a.m. and landed in Miami. I was so excited about my first time in the air and insisted I get the window seat so I could look out and watch as we left the ground. I would periodically look over at my friend who returned a look of confusion each time, because I’m sure I had the expression of a person who had just seen one of the seven wonders of the world for the first time. I was leaving the country. I was in Ohio, and in a matter of hours I would be in Central America! My emotions got the best of me and my eyes welled up a little. I put my head back and somehow managed to fall asleep for a short period of time. I had been up since 4 a.m., after all.
We arrived in Miami twenty minutes early, which was great news for my friend who was suffering from a bout of motion sickness in the seat behind me. I should mention that our flight attendant was very accommodating when she informed him she was not feeling well, offering to lower the temperature of the cabin and giving her a can of ginger ale and a bottle of water to leave with. After a short layover in Miami, we were off to Belize City. This flight was short and smooth, and it was easily digested by my travel partner’s stomach. This time I let her have the window seat, since I was now an experienced flyer. The flight was on time and the mini pretzels really hit the spot. I would like to accredit our smooth travels to nice weather and organization, and having my passport and boarding pass in hand was the key to making sure we knew where we were going and when. After the adventure I went through to get the passport, I wasn’t going to let it out of my sight on this trip.
We landed in Belize City with all of our luggage, greeted by the warmth we were excitedly anticipating. After going through customs, we were quickly led to our final flight to Ambergris Caye. Tropic Air had us on a plane and on our way within ten minutes. This flight was a short puddle jumper and it was a tight fit. If you weren’t friends with your co-passengers to begin with, you would be after landing. This flight was my favorite because I got to see the pilot operating the controls, and we were very close to the beautiful water. I enjoyed the experience, despite sitting next to a gentleman whose mother informed us was prone to motion sickness.
After a fifteen-minute flight, we were met by our coworker, at which point we were treated to our first taxi ride and taken to our condos at the Grand Baymen Resort. I was excited about the pool because I promised my friend I’d teach her how to swim, which I insisted on doing because I plan on snorkeling while in Belize.
Next we were given a tour of San Pedro. I was entranced by the colors of the town and the variety of businesses and people. I was surrounded by golf carts and bikes bustling from place to place. School had just let out, so there were kids and teens on their way home. As I sat in the back of the golf cart, I couldn’t believe (or dare I say Belize) I was here. Even after our tour, I still have no idea where anything is, but I look forward to walking to the hardware store to buy my bike so I can explore the three main streets of town. Being away from my home back in Ohio is going to take some getting used to, but I think the beautiful blue water, the palm trees, culture, and people are going to make it an easy transition.
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