Several years ago my husband Rob and I had the good fortune to take a last-minute spot on a small catamaran (otherwise filled with Rob’s parents and their longtime friends) chartered for 10 days in Belize. Though my husband and his family are fairly seaworthy and had taken other such trips in the Caribbean in earlier years this was my first time on a boat charter and I was extremely excited. It was a near perfect trip weatherwise and we spent our days snorkeling, exploring the cayes, grilling, napping, reading and achieving a level of relaxation unfathomable anywhere else but at sea surrounded by tropical beauty, good friends and plenty of local beer.
On one of our hazy days at sea we happened upon a particularly beautiful and deserted caye with a gorgeous, untouched reef surrounding it. We happily anchored up and jumped in, ready to explore. After an hour or so we noted a small boat approaching the island and watched as a crew hopped out and began setting up tables, gear, and a bar… Huh? We carried on, popping in and out of the water, gleeful in our freedom and soon observed the approach of another larger vessel, apparently dispatched from some out of sight cruiseship, which anchored on the opposite side of the caye. Within moments a bizarre exodus began. One by one sun-burnt tourists plopped themselves into the water, each sporting a matching set of goggles, snorkel and of course a bright neon orange lifejacket. They formed a line in the water behind a guide with a flag attached to his head and began to circulate around the reef, single file, with barely two inches between fins of one to the snorkel of the next.
The sight of this was not only jarring to the scruffy vagabonds aboard our ship staring wild-eyed through the laundry hanging from the boat lines, but it was comical beyond belief. It was also a travel epiphany for me. Having slept under the stars, cooked fish caught off the boat and enjoyed the quiet peace of my few companions, I had found a delicious freedom and joy. I could not see myself returning to the travel life of those poor souls in their orange lifejackets.
Thus this is the standard I apply when researching and planning my adventures. I am not opposed to organized travel or to guides or even to cruiseships in theory, but with most of us having limited time to see the great world around us I believe in investing in personal experiences which produce unique memories that we can draw on through dark winter days for years to come. I hope while reading through these pages that I might inspire you and give you confidence to take the road less traveled, to try new experiences, to seek beauty and fulfill your travel dreams.