Day 1 – Off to Central America!

It was a little over 15 years ago since I made my first trip to Central America. It was my first trip outside the United States and I dived right in, a full immersion study abroad living with a Spanish speaking family in a rural town in Costa Rica. I fell in love. Following the trip, I strapped on my clunky old metal backpack from the 1970’s and took chicken buses up through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and on to Belize. It’s the trip that fueled my passions for travel. Here I was, going back to where it all began.

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I’d love to say I chose to revisit for this lovely nostalgic and romantic reason, though the reality is I had been craving a break from my non-stop work hours and it was the only vacation I could afford. Flight + Hotels for 7 days for $500. Off I went. If you’ve read my blogs you’ll know I’m a diehard United fan, which meant a connection through Houston before embarking on the short hop down to Central America. I realize I often skip over the travel related details and instead get lost in the love and lust of the experience, so I’ve decided to take a different spin for this trip blog out of curiosity if it will provide more value to you, my dear readers.

When it came to packing for the trip, my philosophy is always to detail out the days, consider the activity options, and put together a wardrobe set that is both versatile for what the days will bring as well as versatile for how it could be paired/re-worn during the trip. I’ve been blessed with a body that barely sweats, which I realize gives me more options to recycle items during the trip. I’m a firm believer in not wasting time if time doesn’t need to be wasted, which means no checking luggage. This trip I chose to use the same PacSafe duffel as I’d taken on my round the world trip last year along with the same Eagle Creek half cubes that fit perfectly in the duffel.

Off to the airport I went. While all the checked luggage people were standing in line, I just walked on past. While all the people needing tickets stood in lines for kiosks, I continued walking. While many people stood in the super long line for security, I continued through the TSA pre-check lane with my mobile boarding pass. In and to the gate in 10 minutes. Then popped up to the United lounge to enjoy my free breakfast and juices in a quiet atmosphere where I could stare out the window at the planes while charging up my cell phone. If you travel often the things that I’ve found make a huge difference – TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, Lounge Access, No Checked-Luggage, and Airline Loyalty.

Having woke up at 3:30am to catch my plane, the first flight was spent staring out the window contemplating and processing the meaning of life. I am at my best in the morning, it’s when all the juices are flowing and I can get my most insightful revelations. The layover in Houston wasn’t long enough for anything other than grabbing more free food and water in the United lounge. Though being a heavy traveler with United, much like other airlines, they had already cleared me on the upgrade list for the last leg, which meant I didn’t want to fill up on free snacks in the lounge so I could save room for my full meal (and United does good meals so it’s worth it).

The flight from Houston to Belize City is just about 2 hours in the air, so not bad at all. The flight left on time, and shortly after we were served lunch. The blue oceans of the gulf below us with little pockets of puffy clouds. For lunch, I chose the beef brisket with rice and a side salad. I’ve fallen in love with United’s Mosco Mule’s that they do on the Caribbean legs, so I happily indulged. The flight was just long enough to watch Keeping Up With the Joneses. Great selection of actors and the movie was quite entertaining. Life was good in the front of the plane.

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The plane landed in Belize around 1:30pm. The hotel shuttle didn’t run on Sunday’s, frankly, most of Belize City didn’t run on Sunday’s. The taxi cabs charged $25 USD from the airport into the city, seemed a bit steep given the cost of living, but it is what it is, a fixed rate. I’m a huge believer in booking all the hotels online in advance so no time on the trip is wasted on logistics. I’d chosen the Ramada Princess Hotel exclusively because of the price point. It was a good 20 minute walk to downtown, though the price was rock bottom. The hotel is clearly dated and has a sad cheesy worn down feel. Inside was a casino, restaurant, and movie theatre. It lived up to it’s price and for that, I’d certainly choose it again if on a tight budget.

Wanting to maximize the time in Belize City, I quickly got out of my airplane clothes and into something more suited for the 90 degree heat. Then off to explore the town. I didn’t remember much from 15 years ago, only that I didn’t remember doing anything of touristic value. Given it was a Sunday the entire town was pretty shut down. Most the storefronts were closed, restaurants were closed, it felt a bit like a ghost town. There was a sadness about the city, one that felt of despair and poverty. It’s too bad they don’t have the funds to really make something of the city, add in some museums or sights, brighten things up, to drive more tourism dollars as so many people pass through, but that’s what they do, pass, not stay. I guess it’s the chicken and the egg, if you aren’t getting the funds, how can you invest them to get more funds. As an entrepreneur, it’s a quandary I face regularly so can totally relate.

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If you’ve followed my travel blogs, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet’s food recommendations and have found it so good over the years I don’t waste time with other mediums. Meaning you won’t find me checking trip advisor reading reviews from people that don’t have the same values for food as me and basing my decision off of it. Lonely Planet knows food, they love food like I love food, and it shows in their recommendations. Easy peasy. Though with the city practically on hiatus, the options were very limited for places open on Sunday.

Not having many options led me to Hour Bar, it was a short couple block walk from the Ramada Princess (north, away from town), also right on the ocean. The restaurant is open air so the ocean breeze fills the place with a cool comfortable feel. I didn’t have a problem with mosquitos though I heard others complain, so if the bugs love you, the spray might be a good idea. The food was decent, got the fish of the day grilled with veggies. Drinks were pretty basic, typical of low-to-middle end tropical restaurants. All in all, not a bad meal, definitely a great view of the ocean.

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Overall a great, very long day, and with an intense exhaustion I crashed to bed.

Cheers,
Sara

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