Category Archives: Belize

Volunteering in Belize: Holy Cross Anglican School

Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize
Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize

Traveling to Belize again (first time was on a cruise) was super exciting, but volunteering made it totally worthwhile and memorable.

My friend who was born and partially raised in Belize, created a daily itinerary for me and 6 other voyagers a month in advance of our trip. Not only did she schedule days of fellowship, fun and connecting with her family, she made sure to include volunteer work.  This would be my first time volunteering in another country and I was super excited, especially after speaking via email  with Lydia, the school’s volunteer  coordinator, about their needs and her expectation of us during our time there.

 

Me and Lydia
Me and Lydia

 

On the day of our visit, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel we were staying in and met our bus driver who transported us to the school.  Despite my hands being full with donations, my camera and oh yea, my umbrella thanks to the rain (read more about that here), I made it into the office accident free, ha ha.  Lydia warmly greeted us and began to explain the school’s history and concept while guiding us throughout the school.  Once the tour was over, we were able to interact with the children and assist the teachers accordingly. We were warmly greeted with hugs, requests to read books, chats, questions and the children were happy to pose for the camera!

Reading Time
Reading Time

holycross7holycross4

My Hair's Always a Hit!
My Hair’s Always a Hit!

We decided to leave right before school ended to avoid the ‘yay, we’re going home!’ rush and the children were not happy!!! They wanted us to stay and we wanted to stay longer too, but the bus was there to take us back to the hotel.

Honestly, I was not expecting the ‘noooo, please stay longer!!!’ reactions from the children at all. In my mind, I felt that our short amount of time there didn’t make that much of an impact, but it proved quality over quantity can be significantly meaningful. Since that day, I have kept in touch with Lydia because whenever I go back to Belize, I will spend more time at the school with the staff and children, helping out wherever I can. Matter of fact, I am making plans now to revisit. :)

*If you’d like to learn more about Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, Belize, click the link here: http://holycrossbelize.org/  

To see more of the school in action, check out the video below:

 

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Why Did You Stay There? That Place Looked Expensive!

At The Phoenix Resort, Belize
At The Phoenix Resort, Belize

When people view my videos or pictures of my experiences overseas, a question I tend to answer a lot is why I chose to stay at a certain resort/hotel.  Right after I am asked this, the comment that typically follows is ‘that place looked expensive! I can’t afford that.’

Of course, expensive is relative as one person may believe $150.00 per night is a steal while another may view it as if their money’s being stolen. It all boils down to what are important preferences to you.

Sooo…Why Did I Stay There?

I visit www.tripadvisor.com to help me narrow my lodging options down based on user reviews, pictures, and videos.  I purposefully choose the top rated accommodations for my initial visits to a particular country and I try not to stay over a week. Once I become more acquainted with the area, I then scope out cheaper options for my future travels , making sure I don’t skimp on quality and safety. For example, for my first visit to Roatan, I stayed at a luxury resort called Barefoot Cay (read here). The next time I visited I opted for the cheaper accommodation of Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel (read here). By me preferring to travel alone, I believe this is a smart move on my part. On top of this, traveling’s a treat for me and where I choose to lie my head reflects this. After preparing for my voyage, flying hundreds of miles to my destination and braving customs (whew!) the last thing I need is the headache of canceling reservations on the spot and trying to figure out where else I could stay.

 Question: How do you choose your lodging options?

 

 

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How I Am Paying For My Voyages…Now

Financial Wisdom from Caye Caulker, Belize
Financial Wisdom from Caye Caulker, Belize

As I ponder on the $15,379.53 credit card debt I eliminated in June 2012, I can honestly conclude that 50% of it was due to my travels in and out of the country.  During my psycho spending days, I did waiver between the feelings of uneasiness for charging my trips to the mindset of ‘WHATEVER!!! I DESERVE this, no matter the cost.’ As I found out later, arrogance is costly…literally. Back in the day,  looking at my credit card balances would make me feel defeated even before charging so much on them.  My mentality then was ‘oh well, I already have $1,000 on the card, what’s $200 more?’
Well, those of you who are familiar with your own debt can predict what happens with that stinkin’ thinkin’- $200 turns into $250 which leads to $1,000 until finally, in my case $15,379.53.

While I knew I wasn’t going to stop traveling, I also knew I had to be smarter about my financial decisions before and ESPECIALLY during my voyages. So, I decided to implement these two simple techniques and I must say, my budget has definitely benefited from them both!

-The Travel Fund Fund
Gone are the days of my mind deceivingly convincing me to rely solely on my ‘weak willpower’ to set aside funds from my paycheck for my travels. That deceit ran its course after seeing my credit card balances! I now have my employer deposit a set amount every pay period into a bank account I call ‘The Travel Fund’ Fund. Flights, lodging options, and spending money comes strictly out of it. It truly determines if I stay home or go on.

-The Envelope Method
Those of you who are familiar with financial no-nonsense guru Dave Ramsey probably practice this method or know someone who does. I decided to extend this technique from my everyday spending to my travels. The pictures of the envelopes below are from my voyage to Belize. I stashed money into each of these envelopes based on what I planned on doing while there. I even took it a bit further and estimated how much I could spend on transportation, food, and even tips while there. It really kept me financially focused from overspending and relying on credit.

moneyplan
So tell me, what financially savvy techniques to do you follow when paying for your trips?


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Llueve, Llueve Go Away!!! Come Back to Belize Some Other Day!!!

rainyKnowledge trinket for the day: Llueve is rain in Spanish

I knew that ‘rainy season’ in Belize started from June to mid-November,  but all I could focus on was finally revisiting the country that caused me to start pondering about relocating from the U.S. in the future. Plus, I’ve visited other countries during their supposed ‘rainy season’ and the worst that happened was a downpour spurt. Nothing that caused me to seek shelter, at least not for the entire day. Definitely nothing that caused me to reschedule and cancel planned excursions . Based on this history, I just knew Mama Nature would look out for her special one (ME!) and hold back her crocodile tears during my one week stay in San Pedro in June.

She quickly drenched my ego.

*random convo alert*

Mama Nature, I thought we were cool. I recycle (when I remember) and I don’t litter (well, yesterday I didn’t). Doesn’t this count for something? Why did you cry so much during my stay in Belize???

Her response? Silence. Absolute silence. Her actions spoke louder than words by showing me no llueve leniency.

It rained on day one,
It rained on day two.
I had to cancel several excursions,
Oh, Mama Nature, what did I do to you?
-SistaVoyage

So, no, I didn’t explore the Mayan Temples. I didn’t visit the zoo nor Belmopan, the capital of Belize. I didn’t snorkel, scuba, snuba, zip line, kite surf, go cave tubing…

I bet you are wondering, ‘well dang SistaVoyage, what DID you do?’ I am glad you asked.  Although my main plans didn’t go as planned, I did:

Sail the blue Caribbean Sea on a catamaran

sailing
setsail

Eat great grub!
stewchicken

Encounter interesting non-humans
what is thisherelizardMeet good people

Annie from Annie's Pastries in San Pedro
Annie from Annie’s Pastries in San Pedro

fire

Witness the chicken Drop

chickendropchickendrop1

Tour San Pedro and Caye Caulker

sanpedro

Get a great massage at a great deal.

massage copy

Volunteer

holycross

The latter made up for all of plans I had to cancel due to the weather :)

Question: Have you ever had to reschedule or cancel plans for your trip during your visit due to weather? If not for weather, what was the reason? How did you handle the disappointment?


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Closer to My Expatriate Dream

Financial Wisdom from Caye Caulker, Belize

Proverbs 22:7 (The Bible) – The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

“A man in debt is so far a slave.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I always knew debt was a psycho, but who likes to wait and actually pay cash for something they could get now? I don’t and sometimes I struggle with delayed gratification.
No, scratch that, many times I struggle with it.
Okay, honestly, ALL the time I struggle with it. There, you got the truth out of me. Happy?
In 2010, I got serious about eliminating credit card debt. In 2012, that seriousness was rewarded and I paid off a total of $15,379.52!!! While I should be rejoicing, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness. Why you ask? The answer is… I CAN’T FOR THE LIFE OF ME REMEMBER WHAT I SPENT $15K ON!!! Stupid, pitiful, embarrassing, but hey, I am in good company, right? I am a typical American. *Pats self on the back.*

Well, at this point in my life, I say screw the comfort of company and certainly screw being typical. I wanna be Atypical. Let me give you an example of how desperately I long for Atypicality (I know, I know).

I need a new car and if it’s hot outside or if I make so many stops in a day, my 2000 Honda lets me know this. It tells me ‘hey Sista, I need to rest a bit, so yeah, you can crank me up, but I won’t start until my 30 minute nap is over.’ This definitely makes me wanna run to the dealership, but then I remember- my goal’s to pay cash for my next car. Since I am familiar with her quirks, I adjust my driving tasks around them. Whenever I explain this to people, their instant response is, ‘you need to buy another car now!  What if this happens or that happens?’ Now what they say is true, but then I think about how previous doomsday comments from well meaning individuals caused me to fear and actually lead me into debt! Yes, it’s an inconvenience to have a fair weather (literally) car, but so is a monthly car note.

Then there’s the student loan (hey Sallie!) and the mortgage (hey Sallie’s sister, Fannie!). They seem insurmountable to me, but I know with patience, diligence, and some temporary suffering, they will encounter my ‘debt annihilation wrath’ just like the credit cards did.

My focus is to live as an expatriate and there’s no way I can freely do so if I have crazy debt pressuring me. Absolutely no way.

I know I am on the right track and I would like to show you my progress. Check out the videos below (a few are corny, but just blame it on my then inexperience with technology) of my credit card elimination and my ‘gotta-get-out-debt’ realization journey and tell me what you think.

Heads up- I am also known as ‘ChakaKhanian’ on You Tube :)

The start of it all
Almost there!
So close I am tasting it!
All Gone! (Part 2 of me explaining how I got in debt)
Part one of how I got in debt



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Do You Purposefully Travel?

 

Banner at Holy Cross School in Belize

My first time out of the country was for my wedding in 2006 to Jamaica and I didn’t do much at all (mainly because of compromising, ya know). Matter of fact, I didn’t take any authority over planning the trip. I gladly gave that responsibility to a travel agency. Me and my now ex-husband traveled back to Jamaica in 2007 and once again, we didn’t do much. We stayed on a couple’s centered resort called Sandals and felt there wasn’t a need to venture out for exploration. It was comforting to be in a structured environment such as a resort. Everything desired was right at my fingertips and I was treated like royalty. I thought that was what traveling was all about, nothing more and definitely nothing less.

From there, I kept traveling, but I was still operating as a ‘typical tourist,’ mainly traveling as a form of relaxation up until, yes people, the turning point as many of you all know- my 2011 visit to Honduras. In June 2012, I went a step further and actually volunteered at Holy Cross Anglican School in San Pedro, Belize and that’s when it all made sense.

My purpose for traveling now is to provide others that same comfort Sandals extended to me. I want to serve and make people feel like royalty. I want to gain more cultural awareness and stop limiting myself to what I’ve been taught is the ‘right way to live.’  Will I get my relax and fun on? Of course, but that’s no longer my drive. For the first time, I am excited about purposefully traveling- are you?

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San Pedro- Seeing is BELIZEing

  • Round trip plane ticket to Belize City, Belize- $750.00
  • Water taxi to San Pedro/Ambergis Caye, Belize- $17.50
  • Full plate of rice and beans, stew chicken, split pea soup, and plantains- $10.00

Getting a full body massage on the beach in front of the Caribbean Sea… PRICELESS!

More about my UnBELIZEable experience coming soon!!!  :)

 


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And The Winner Is… (Donde Estoy? Contest/Giveaway)

Congratulations to Crystal Collier who answered the question to my ‘Donde Estoy’ contest video on youtube, which was BELIZE!!!

I will be sharing my 6 day experience with you all soon.

Thanks to all who participated. There will be more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned.

http://youtu.be/SkSU-HYMWZo

 

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