Doing workaway programmes is a great way to travel cheaply by staying somewhere for longer, getting to know local life and learning new things. They are often described as cultural exchanges between locals and travellers. When I arrived at mine, I firstly met the lovely people I'd be working for, and was then unceremoniously dropped of at the volunteer house, on my own, to then find no wifi and a large ant infestation. It's all cultural, right? This preceded a week of bugs, no water and working in 35 degree heat.
If you head down south, away from the Caribbean vibes and backpacker hotspots of the islands, you'll find the petite village of Hopkins. This string of local houses, beachfront cabanas and vibrant bars and restaurants is lined with a long sandy beach and crystal clear water. With access to nearby national parks, a serene river trail and an abundance of diving and snorkeling, it's a brilliant place to visit.
Something that was high on my Belize Bucket List was diving on the reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. I definitely ticked it off and completed my Open Water PADI training throughout six dives on this stunning reef. I completely fell in love with diving, and with the small, characterful island of Caye Caulker, where I spent almost a week. I filled the rest of my days with hammocks, puppies and yoga and I loved it.
Sarteneja is affectionately known as the place where the sun sets on the water. It's the only place in Belize where you can witness this and it gave me some of the best sunsets I've ever seen. Not only that, this small fishing village, visited by few tourists, is a quiet respite from the bustling islands and vibrant towns around the country. There are only boats, animals and jungle here, and it was perfect.
San Pedro gave me my first impressions of Belize, ahead of spending almost 2 months in the country. Snorkeling in the area is well worth it for the abundance of life you'll see, mixed with the gorgeous clear water and a few cups of rum punch on board the boat.
Bacalar is a really unique spot in southern Mexico, just an hour from the border to Belize. It's a standard stop off point for all backpackers traversing Belize and Mexico and unbelievably beautiful. Known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, it's crystal clear, shallow freshwater invites everybody to jump in or relax on the swings dangling above the surface. At sunrise, it becomes a whole new place was by far my favourite time on the lake.
Valladolid is a colourful city with gorgeous architecture and a Spanish feel to it. The streets are laid out on an easy grid and culminate in impressive plazas surrounded by pretty restaurants and live music any time of day. It feels bright and happy through the day and comes alive with salsa music and street food in the evening. Staying in this lovely little city is only the start of it though as it's surrounded by magical cenotes, is close to the sprawling Rio Lagartos and is the gateway to the famous Chichen Itza.
Isla Holbox felt like true paradise from the moment I stepped off the ferry. Colourful fishing boats bobbing at the harbour, golf carts trundling along the sandy roads lined with wooden buildings and murals, and powered white sand along the whole shore of the small island. To me, it was perfect.
In the past four and a half years I have been incredibly lucky and travelled to a number of different countries, enjoying so many brilliant experiences. My trips have ranged from a few days to three months and I have never found it difficult to pack my bag and leave home for the next adventure. The only troubles I've had were on my return when it pained me to leave a country I had so desperately fallen in love with. This time felt a little different.
Letter 172 At this precise moment, I feel so many things, I don't exactly know how to explain it. Friday was my last day at my first proper job and I honestly can't believe it's started and ended so quickly. The job... 18 months has flown by in a flash and yet it also feels … Continue reading The end of a marvellous chapter