Into the Wild

Day 1 – Today kicks off my Belizean adventure. It started with a painfully early 3am wake-up, and ended with an amber sunset in the lush jungle of the Cayo District.

First off, why Belize? I’ll be real. Belize has never been on my bucket list. Not for any particular reason, as it’s always seemed (and now I can confirm that indeed it is) a lovely place. It’s just never been one of “those” places. The ones where the very thought of them stirs your soul and sparks your imagination. For me, those are places like Vietnam or Iceland or Mongolia (and New Zealand, of course). Belize always seemed swell, but not necessarily magical. I am eager to be proven wrong.

Whether it was top of my travel list or not, circumstances have bumped Belize up to be my latest travel spot. My dear college friend, Arielle, is getting married in this here land, which was reason enough for me to plan a visit. Part wedding celebration, part solo trip, my stay is bucketed into two quite distinct sections. First off, a jungle adventure filled to the brim with caving, visits to exotic waterfalls, and a dash of Mayan ruins here and there. I’m staying at a small resort nestled on a hilltop overlooking the village of Unitedville and neighboring a Mennonite community. Afterward, I’ll join up with my college crew and folks from the wedding party at Belize City. From there we’ll make our way to a water taxi and head over to San Pedro for the wedding festivities and some snorkeling and sea fun.

The lead-up to this trip has been… curious. The main feeling humming in my chest can be best described as fear, followed sometimes by deep dread. It’s been a year and a half since my solo trip to New Zealand, my very first go at being a solitary traveler. Though there was certainly some trepidation and worry before that adventure, it’s been nothing like this time around. I’ve wondered if it was safe for me to be traveling alone to the jungle. I’ve Googled all the potentially catastrophic mishaps that could befall me while I’m here (dumb, this is very dumb. This is like WebMDing a small and nagging pain and then convincing yourself you have cancer. So dumb). I’ve questioned if I was brave enough to do this by myself, and if it weren’t better to wait until I could go with company of some kind. My poor friends and family have been deluged by panicky texts from me, and I’ve just not given myself the freedom to daydream about all the great stuff, because I’ve been too distracted by the bad… the list of which includes things like venomous snakes, giant spiders, being strangled/murdered/kidnapped, and last, but certainly not least, bird-sized moths in my bedroom.

I hate that I let my mind go there. It starts with a small worry and tailspins into a full on panic. I also hate that because I’m a woman, the fear is ratcheted up that much higher. And the sad but true fact is that I do have to be more careful. It’s a fact. One that makes me boil with rage sometimes, but a fact nonetheless. I can’t venture into the jungle to hike by myself. I can’t explore cities on foot late at night. It sometimes feels like the can’ts outweigh the cans, and bury me under a stifling mound of societal truths.

All of this, though, is further proof of why travel is so necessary. You get so used to your sphere of safety that venturing outside seems unthinkable. The truth of matter is there are a hell of a lot of things I can and will do. The truth of the matter is that when your number is up, your number is up. Trying to control your destiny by sticking to what’s comfortable and familiar is not only a fool’s errand but a practice in some pretty impressive self-delusion. So, still filled with this stupid fear, I’ve ventured into the wild. Here I am, in the middle of the Belizean jungle, and I will get over myself and enjoy every gosh darned minute of this trip that I’m so beyond privileged to have.

Ok. Side thought over. Back to the trip. I arrived in Belize around 1pm. Cleared immigration slowly but seamlessly, and hopped into my ride that had been prearranged through the resort. The drive to the hotel took about an hour and a half, mostly through bland scenery, though we did drive by a prison which looked fascinating. I got to the Amber Sunset Jungle Resort just shy of 3pm, and discovered that I’m the only guest… all weekend. Is that good? Is that bad? I suppose I’m about to find out.

The grounds are lovely. There is no question about that. They have five different treetop treehouses (they’re not really treehouses), of varying sizes. The resort is meant to accommodate a small number of guests, though there’s plenty of space and jungle terrain. The idea is to make you feel like you’re isolated and in the jungle. As the only guest in this place, for me that’s very much the case. Each of the houses is named after a Belizean culture. I’m staying in the Garifuna house, but there’s also the Creole house, Mennonite house, Mestizo house… and one more that I’m forgetting. Belize is crazy diverse, and the number of languages and dialects the people speak here is insane. I’ve been peppering the staff with questions, and they are blessedly indulgent of my endless curiosity. I will report on my findings, of course, as the trip goes on.

After settling into my treehouse, I spent some time by the pool reading and writing. I also set up my tours for the next three days: cave, cave tubing, waterfalls/ruins, in that order. Then I went for a quick nap, missed most of my first amber sunset, and went over for some scrummy vegetarian gnoms at the on-site restaurant. Where I was the sole customer. #celebrityliving

I’m typing this from my hanging bed, whose set-up I was, at first, confused by, but now see the tremendous value. There was a handful of ants crawling around my toilet this evening (actually trying to use the toilet was a brave adventure in and of itself), and I now understand the reasoning behind this weird bed contraption. Less bugs. But I kinda like the bugs. Outside that is. The euphony out there is incredible. It really is a symphony of bugs. There are so many layers to it, and random hoots, and trilling and… it’s just delightful (if a little scary too). Everything is so alive and buzzing out in the wild. Tomorrow I get to do some alive-ness and buzzing myself. But first, I gotta quell this stupid fear, rediscover my bravado, and step into my b.a. adventurer woman’s skin. I’ll channel some Lyra, with a bit of Daenerys, and a spot of Lizzie, and all will be well and wild and wonderful.

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