I recently returned from my trip abroad to Belize! It was such an incredible adventure that combined elements of volunteering and vacationing! I spent a week teaching financial literacy lessons at local schools, but left feeling like I learned more than I ever could have contributed. The hope, determination, and will to persevere that I saw through the eyes of young children in Belize was inspiring beyond anything that I’ve experienced in my life. After a week of being covered in dirt, sweat, and unreal amounts of bug spray, I was sad to leave the kids for a tropical vacation (which was, needless to say, amazing).
The students in my class lived in the conditions pictured below. Their homes were dirty and often devoid of AC or running water. To provide some added context, most students would choose not to eat the lunches we provided, instead saving the contents to share with their families when they got home. They would return to school the next day, beaming with pride knowing that they were providing for their loved ones. Ahem, what!? Take my food too!!
While I provided students with the technical resources to create budgets and design business plans, my Belizian teens knew more about life and survival than I could teach them. By the end of the week, each group had created their own entrepreneurial business plan that was showcased at our Community Fair. Street skills, diverse talents, and financial literacy concepts were brought together as students manned booths promoting their own unique products. Read on, and be inspired:
Kareema is an elementary school girl with a passion for fashion and couture. With the right planning, she realized that she could sell her goods at a profit, reinvest her earnings, and continue designing new fashions. Her dream is to attend fashion school in the US in the hopes of one day having a career — something no woman in her family has ever had. You go girl! She made me cry by giving me a hand-crafted cosmetic bag before I left.
Another group of talented boys combined elements of fashion and recycling by reusing old forks, bedazzling them, and turning them into real style statements! How fab do I look in that fork bracelet?
Other entrepreneurial ideas included selling Sweet N Hot Mango Sauce (SO GOOD), crafting jewelry, and using colorful textiles to make backpacks, purses, and reusable shopping satchels.
One of the cutest parts of the Community Fair? Seeing the children get really excited! People from all over the community showed up and dressed up (as super random things… I’m still trying to figure it out).
When all was said and done, I felt that I really did make a difference in Belize. The hardest thing was leaving these students after spending such a meaningful week together. I have memories that will last a lifetime, and can only hope that we’ll be able to stay in touch and cross paths again in the future. Little do they know how much they’ve impacted me, kept me grounded, and made me reevaluate my life ♥
Post being a volunteer do-gooder, I headed to the beautiful Ambergris Caye island to spend a weekend in paradise. Find my reviews and must-dos below!
1. Coco Beach Resort
Coco Beach resort is the finest on the island, and was full of tan, island-hopping tourists. It’s beautiful beyond belief and well stocked with all the luxuries that vacationers yearn for. Get a private massage on the beach for only $50, or enjoy the resort’s free amenities like paddle boards, kayaks, snorkeling, pool volleyball, water slides, jumping rocks, and MORE! (Can I stay here forever?)
◊ Just hangin’ in my hammock… hakuna matata! ◊
◊ How pretty is this!? Private kayack / snorkeling launch pad? Thanks Coco Beach! ◊
◊ Did some damage at the pool vball court after a few too many dark n’ stormies. Sorry we’re not sorry Coco Beach ◊
2. Fishing / snorkeling / boating excursions
These excursions all launch out of San Pedro. Make sure to sign up ahead of time and you’ll get VIP access to the Caribbean’s most pristine turquoise waters. An extra bonus? Enjoy water taxi service to destinations all over the island and you feel like you never leave the beach!
◊ Who wants to go fishing here!? So pretty. Sign me up ◊
◊ Sailing adventure ◊
◊ Take me away!!!! Yacht dinner cruises forever ◊
◊ This water park is badass. Hit up Old Belize for $10 all day entry. Cheapest day of all day fun ever! ◊
Other travel tips:
♥The water taxi is the best method of getting from the main land to the islands, and if you can get a seat outdoors, it’s a beautiful and scenic ride!
♥The city of San Pedro is where it all goes down with bars, dancing, and shopping.
♥If you’re looking to hit the bar and chill, just stay pool-side, or hit up Palapa bar, a super sweet setup that lowers beer down over the pier as you sit in floating inner tubes. I could have sat there all day! (oh wait… I did!)
♥Wild Mangos is known as the must-go-to restaurant, and has killer pina coladas!
♥Side note… my fave drinks from the trip, pictured below (Pina Colada, Water out of a bag — thats how they drink it?!, and Belikin Beer)
Overall conclusion? Vacationing in the Carribbean is amazing, but it feels that much better after impacting the world, even just a tiny bit.
Lesson: be the change ♥