Today I have an extra special treat – an interesting guest post from Peter Bragiel who does In Transit site. He has a delightful and interesting take on how we measure travel experience and shares what he knew of Belize before coming here – his path to get here and how he felt during his time here in various parts of Belize. He has also provided some video footage for your viewing pleasure. Thanks Peter.
How do you measure a travel experience? Does it depend on the place, your state of mind, the people you meet, what you learned, or all of the above? No two experiences are alike, and I can attest to that. Here is my brief story of how I got to Belize, and fell in love with the place.
All I knew about this country called Belize before I visited was that it was small, it was home to the second largest barrier reef, and the people speak English there.
Rewind to last year. I’ll try to make a really long story short, my name is Peter, I grew up outside of Chicago, currently live in LA and produce/host an independent travel web series called inTransit. My web series focuses on taking long distance journeys and highlighting the destinations we visit along the way, on a budget.
So, last year I was gearing up for my overland trip from Los Angeles to the Panama Canal via Public Transportation. The concept of the show is to travel on a whim with no plans or itinerary. Just pack up and go, figure it out as it comes. Just after Valentines Day, we packed our bags and hopped on a greyhound bus to Tijuana, Mexico. I had no idea what we started, but I was determined to finish whatever mission it is we set. Our mission was simple, take busses, boats, whatever means possible all the way down to Panama and shoot good footage along the way. Starting off in the ghost town of Tijuana, a shadow of its glory years, down to the unexpected street celebration of Carnival in Mazatlan, I had already lost my wallet with my driver’s license and credit cards in a dusty town called Caborca. Lost? Who am I kidding? It was probably stolen. No worries though, I still had my passport, cash, and my cameraman’s debit card to transfer funds into. Cool.
At this point my Spanish is horrible or in Spanish, “horrible.” I took a couple courses in high school, but was confident enough that if you make the attempt, people will appreciate it. Instead of staying “Puedo” I’d say “es possible” over and over. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I tried. So you can imagine a gringo like me with expensive equipment and a gringo buddy traveling through Mexico pointing at things with our fingers and camera trying to get by. We actually became accustomed to it. We went on our journey doing just that, it was rhythmic. Every day was the same, wake up in an unusual place, and try to get by, film, and make the best of it.
18 days go by, and we’re now in Chetumal on the border of Mexico and Belize. By this time I’d have already taken 2nd class transportation all the way down here, dodged getting arrested by the federales in Mexico City by bribing them a couple hundred bucks, picked up my girlfriend, shot about 20 hours of tape, developed a nice tan, and started to grasp the Espanol. We cross the border into Belize on an old converted school bus painted a faint green. Exhausted from the overnight bus from San Cristobal, we’re dropped off in the town of Corozal. As always, we’re standing around like idiots trying to figure out how to get to the Cayes. Overhearing us was a local gentleman who came up to us and said, “you missed the boat, and the next one leaves this afternoon. I recommend taking a bus to Belize City and then take a water Taxi to the islands!” “Oh ok, Gracias, I mean, ummm, thank you.” We were so shocked. Oh yea, they speak English here. “Thank You!” It was so easy but so hard to say. I trained myself for a couple weeks to not answer in English. This transition was so slow but happened so quickly. It took us 18 days to get here, I finally accepted Spanish, and BOOM, just like that; we’re speaking our native tongue. It was a great moment. I wanted to talk to everyone about everything. Funny thing, the locals wanted to do the same. It was so easy to meet people, and we did just that.
It only got better from that day on. The people, the weather, the food; it was great. Oh, by the way, Claudias Kitchen in Belize City is probably where I ate the best meal of my life. I’ve been talking about it ever since. The Stewed Conch over rice and beans with the house Habanero hot sauce is so good! If you’re there, it’s right across the street from the water taxi terminal in Belize City. I could go on and on and constantly distract myself with all of the positive memories Belize gave us, but I won’t.
If you haven’t been, then you should. It’s one of the few places I’ve visited in my life where I can see myself living. I met so many great people who are now friends for life. Instead of putting it down in words, I would like to share my Belize experience with the videos we shot during our stay.
Text and Video clips by Peter Bragiel
Here are the links to the videos from San Pedro to San Ignacio.