Waking up at 6:30am to the sounds of cockerels calling, walking in the misty morning air to the village and being greeted by the three most gorgeous horses was the make up of my four weeks volunteering in Belize, and I loved it. I experienced the kindest hospitality by the locals and expats and felt part of a family that I didn’t want to leave. I also managed to get some great architectural experience which was a lucky bonus, and for me, this workaway ended up being the perfect way to spend a month.
As I was finishing up my workaway, over a month ago, I wrote about all of the comical experiences I had within the first week. I promised I would level this with a truthful post about the rest of my workaway and my overall experience, which I’m now getting around to.
Firstly, if you didn’t read about my first week, here it is: Workaway in San Ignacio: how much can go wrong in the first week?
The Horses (and Oreo the sheep)
By far my favourite thing about my workaway placement was the amazing horses I got to take care of. They arrived the same time I did as timid animals that wouldn’t dare let anyone near them. A month later, after hours spent in their paddock each day and lots of carrots, both horses would let me cuddle and brush them, and the young foal would finally let me pet her, whilst still keeping me at arms length. Every day they would see me coming and run over, even if they weren’t that comfortable with me, and would stand and let me brush them without a rope on. It felt so good to have gained their trust and I felt like I had really achieved something.
A lot of workaways are in remote locations often on farms with animals, so there’s a high chance you could bag a workaway involving animal care. For me it can’t get better than that and I will definitely search for horse-related workaways when I’m travelling in the future.
Not only were there lovely horses and a sheep for me to spend my days with, the community was full of lovely people who I grew very fond of. Most of the people living in the eco-village were ex-pats, either from the States, Canada or the UK, and they were incredibly welcoming. On my daily chores they would stop me for a conversation, ask me about home or teach me about their passions in the village – like the one of the residents who had a thing for trees and loved telling everyone. I learnt a lot actually, and was invited out to visit a tree nursery and have lunch in the local Mennonite community which was very eye opening. I also got the chance to volunteer alongside a few very interesting individuals. We had a great time navigating the quirks of our house and sharing the pain of the Belizean sun on our northern European skin.
I also got to know the lovely locals very well. As it’s customary in Belize to speak to every single person you see, you get to know people quickly. From the lovely family living next door to the local barber with a gorgeous puppy, and the gardener at the village to the bus conductor who always made sure I was on the right bus. Even when living practically alone for a month, I never felt lonely because it was so easy to go and find someone to talk to. You just have to get on a bus and you’re sure to find out the life story of the person next to you.
Lastly, the developer behind the whole community who was so keen for me to use my architectural skills and get as much experience as possible. He is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met and I did learn a lot from him. Even back home we are still in contact as I continue to work on drawings for him. It made the whole experience all the better.
Cayo, Belize, is one of the most beautiful regions of the country, full of rivers, forests and pretty villages. Being in the heart of Cayo was amazing. I got very lucky with my workaway that it was within easy reach of San Ignacio town, where I made some more lovely friends who I could see on weekends, as well as being a little piece of paradise on the river with everything I needed close by. I spent my time of lazing by the water, playing with the horses or chilling at the volunteer house. At the weekends I could go into town or even get away for a few days in Guatemala which is pretty special (you can read about that here).
I mentioned in the last post some of the work we were tasked with in the first week, most of it hard, heavy work in the blazing sun. We spent most of the first week painting a very long fence in the hottest heat I’ve ever experienced – it was not fun. Then we were given yet more physical outdoor tasks which almost killed us. Luckily, as the weather let up, it became more bearable.
As the weeks went on, the work changed for the better and we really started enjoying ourselves. We developed a menu for 30 tour guests and then spent a week cooking for them which was great fun. It felt great to be given such a big responsibility and it all went completely perfectly. We also got the chance to help in the garden and learn about the produce, and of course I took care of the animals every day.
One of the jobs I was most excited to do was the design project, which unfortunately I didn’t get much chance to do when I was there, but am now continuing with it at home – which is great for long days in isolation. Overall, my short daily shifts were filled with mostly fun tasks, great people and a gorgeous place. What’s not to like?
Doing a workaway in Belize was a great decision for me. It allowed me to stay put and get to know San Ignacio really well for a month, I saved a lot of money as my accommodation and food were paid for in exchange for my work and I got to do some fun and crazy things on the weekends which I really enjoyed. I loved the whole experience and wouldn’t hesitate to do another workaway. I know they’re not all going to be amazing, but I think it’s worth a try anyway!
Next up: San Ignacio
PS. I hope everyone is surviving this strange time of social distancing – finding things to keep you busy and happy each day. I’m going to be using some of the free time to get the rest of my Belize and Mexico blogs written and enjoy reminiscing about the trip.
Today also marks 4 years of this blog so I’ll be silently celebrating that!