It’s Thursday and I am off to Belize again! This tiny country changed my life in 1993. It was the first country I visited that required a passport. Before that, all my travels had been in North America. By my 12th birthday my family had already camped in all 48 continental US states, at least 7 Canadian provinces and northern Mexico… all with car and tent — no hotels. We were always on a budget. (I see many great stories forming for future posts!) On my 30th birthday while backpacking through the Rocky Mountains for a month, I decided that it was about time to explore beyond my continent!
I returned from that 1992 backpacking trip and sent for my passport, still with no particular destination in mind. That changed quickly, however, as friends at the Mill Grove Audubon Sanctuary, where I volunteered regularly, repeatedly mentioned in conversation how great their Belize trip had been. Why not, English speaking, easy flights, diverse habitats and over 500 species of birds in an area about the same size as the state of New Hampshire. It sounded like the the perfect -first- out of country experience.
April 1993 I left Philadelphia and arrived in Belize, with my friend Alan from the Mill Grove Sanctuary, over-prepared for our two week adventure. All situations covered, we hiked, we camped, we stayed in cheap hotels and nice ones. We met many wonderful people who taught us about their country and wildlife.
At one point we called the Belize Audubon Society to help arrange a home-stay in Crooked Tree Village, as we was told there were still no lodges there as yet. When we arrived Crooked Tree, no one knew what we were talking about, but in the darkness we were eventually led to the new Paradise Inn that had recently been completed.
My stay at this little family run lodge was really where the spark ignited. Although I was treated very well throughout my travels in Belize, it was here in Crooked Tree… at the Paradise Inn*… where I realized that I needed to share this amazing country with others. Crooked Tree Village had opened its arms to us, and the Crawford family treated us as though we were long lost relatives. I had to return. I came home from that trip and began designing my first tour, and in January 1994 I was back in Belize with a group of six. Wildside Tours had begun!
During this upcoming trip I hope to be able to have Internet access so I can continue to post images while in Belize. However, access is often limited so it may not be often.
*Note: Paradise Inn was recently sold to relatives of the Crawfords’ and was closed for renovation. This season the lodge has re-opened as Crooked Tree Lodge. I am excited to visit and stay at the new place in the same wonderful setting along the lagoon!
images © Kevin Loughlin