Honduras

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Walking the Streets of Utila,  Honduras

After breakfast we decide to see if we can catch a ferry to the Cays. The sun is sweltering.

“Its about 80 something degrees,” a girl says to her mother on the phone.

An older man who calls himself Papi tells me to stay away from barrio anglais.

“It’s dangerous there, lots of drugs.”

His skin is very dark. Four wheelers zoom by us. Palm trees with unripe coconuts surround us. One palm tree is very oddly shaped, it’s flat. A bag of onions sits on the sidewalk. We duck into a store, grab a bottle of water. Some tuktuks have very loud Reggaeton music blasting. Two old men ride by on motor bikes, discussing their plans to go to San Pedro Sula. That’s where my flight leaves out of in two weeks. A beautiful picture of Ganesha, one that i’ve not seen before, hangs on the wall behind the front desk of our hotel. I agonize out-loud whether to buy a milkshake or not. Alan is annoyed. His nose is sweating. Artisans litter the sides of the street. They host beautiful necklaces with stones and dream-catchers in the center. I take off my sunglasses, the world is suddenly brighter. The bar tender pours someone a glass of white wine. Shadows crawl along the sidewalk. The island is outlined by an artificial coral reef, according to Alan. A small crab crawls around his palm. He places it back in the water. There are no waves, except for those caused by the boats. The sea is calm, making a gentle swish sound when you near the coast. People are sitting on their porches, watching the street activity. An abandoned building watches us. A church stands with the windows open, featuring loud singing. Shirtless gringos playing pool to American dance music. A guy sits on a couch, tattoos all over his legs. We pass an abandoned lot that smells like death. Signs are everywhere. Hotels, hot water, TV, Wi-Fi, microwave, VACANCY, restaurants, chicken spinach, crème Brule, French toast, bacon corn hash, gazpacho and egg salad sandwich, street food, baleadas, licuados, milkshakes, fish burgers, shrimp, motor bikes, children playing with sticks, hitting one another, gardens with beautiful tropical flowers, plants, old tires, trash, a handsome man on a motorbike, no wait, two handsome men, I smile, sand, concrete, signs advertising the whale shark.

 

Two dark skin men tell us that you can charter a boat out to the Keys, 400 dollars for a two way cruise to Roatan, food and drink covered. One of them has an angel tattoo. There’s hair under the bottle cap of Alan’s water, he buys another. I purchase razor blades. Everyone’s wearing sunglasses – well not everyone, mostly just the gringos. I have on bright colors – red and white shorts and a tropical sleeveless shirt. I blend into the scenery. Little yellow flowers, people dressed for church, Alan scowls, chewing gum, a beautiful blonde walks by, head held high, a girl sits in a four wheeler waiting for her driver. She is dressed for church. She’s playing with her cell phone, gigantic green leaves, a big fat rottweiler lays down outside someone’s front porch, we throw him a bit of food, he follows us briefly, then stops and chills some more. A yellow lab mix chained to a porch sniffs me out of nowhere, I yelp, startled, “May I see some identification?” he asks. We sit and look at the water. I surrender to the scenery.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

 

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Bravery is too often confused with adventure and action. Too often, people diminish their own bravery because it might lack the drama of scenery. Bravery is in fact a simple notion: you show bravery when you do something you thought you couldn’t do.

For many, bravery is tapped into when limits are pushed, which of course could mean traveling and putting yourself into an unfamiliar situation. Traveling forces you to question yourself, to see through a new perspective, to feel uncomfortable and to find comfort in the unknown. New places and cultures awaken something inside of us.

But bravery is not only demonstrated by someone who travels somewhere new – it can be found in the simple daily actions of life. A young child learning how to ride a bicycle shows bravery. A teenager asking a crush out on a date shows bravery. A grandparent learning to use new technology to keep up with the grandkids shows bravery. These are all small acts – mere moments in a life – yet they truly demonstrate bravery. They prove to a person that perceived limits can be exceded.

The moment in my life when I felt the need to summon courage and strength, the moment I searched for whatever cape I could possibly don, was in fact the result of travel. But it wasn’t because of travel itself.

It wasn’t when I moved to Ecuador by myself. I didn’t feel the need for bravery when – on my first day of classes as the only American in the entire university – my professor ranted about American policies and foreign relations to a classroom filled with angry youth planning city-wide demonstrations for that very afternoon. This was March of 2008, the day after Colombian military forces armed and trained by the U.S. military had bombed a FARC camp inside Ecuadorian borders.

He finally cut himself off mid-rant when he realized a Gringa had actually infiltrated his classroom.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m your new student, Professor. Here to study for the semester,” I replied in my still-nascent Spanish.

“Where are you from?” his face was still red from his rant; perspiration shone on his balding head.

I looked around quickly, knowing that I could lie and then have to maintain that lie for the remainder of the semester, or I could answer truthfully and hope the room didn’t erupt and string me up by my thumbs. I opted for honesty.

“I’m from the United States, Professor.”

I have never seen a man laugh so hard in all my life.

His already purple-tinged face turned scarlet and his features contorted so much that the entire room laughed with him. He finally stopped laughing long enough to demand that I join him at the front of the room to introduce myself and answer questions about my country. I didn’t feel the need for bravery here, only the need to connect with strangers and to demonstrate understanding and empathy.

I didn’t feel the need for bravery when I traveled to Costa Rica to try surfing, nor when I traveled to Jamaica to run a marathon, and certainly not when I traveled to Italy to try to drink my weight in wine.

I didn’t feel the need for bravery when I decided to backpack through Honduras and Guatemala by myself. For me, following my wanderlust was easy, not brave. But it was in Honduras that I was finally faced with a moment that required me to be brave. That moment was when I allowed someone else to impact my life. The moment when I finally felt the need to be brave was the moment I realized I’d fallen in love.

Bravery is neither for the boldest nor wildest among us, it is for each of us to employ as needed.

I had pushed away relationships for so long, fearing that they would hold me back from a life of adventures. I actively chose not to fall in love for years. My first act of true bravery was taking down those fearfully constructed walls and allowing someone to share all of those adventures with me.

Many claim that I was brave to come to Honduras by myself; they say that I was brave to travel alone and to seek adventure and new challenges. What truly happened was that I selfishly wanted adventure and instead learned a lesson in vulnerability. Falling in love requires a vulnerability that can make even the bravest of all adventurous explorers weak in the knees.

Falling in love is the confluence of bravery and vulnerability, a river I am still happily floating down today.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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When our cruise ship docked at Roatan—a small island off the coast of Honduras—I naively assumed my five coworkers and I were about to put on our explorer hats, don our khakis proudly, and head out on an adventure full of slithering, poisonous snakes, hikes up serpentine trails to ancient ruins, and run-ins with shrewd and slinky vendors who drove a hard bargain. Instead, they hopped in a cab and I begrudgingly joined. For a few bucks, our cab driver took us to the birth of a shoddy, war-torn, hungry street and dropped us off with our “tour guide”—his seemingly-mute daughter, Gabriela. She quietly led the way down the road, ignoring with each of her flip-flopping steps that this can’t have been what Norwegian Cruise Lines had in mind. Chunks of powdery pavement crumpled beneath our feet, windows seemed armed and at the ready for trespassers, and wooden boards that presumably once kept out the vermin of the city were now littering the street like some exhausted, overworked interior decorator had called it quits and stalked off in a violent, explosive rage.

A quarter of a mile or so down the road, the likes of the ghetto unchanging and still not a peep out of Gabriela, she stopped and pointed at our obvious, almost glaringly-offensive and out-of-place destination: a three-walled tiki bar. The counters were lined with grass skirts and margarita mugs, though not a tourist was in sight. With the sun still well in the East, the 6 of us hunkered down at the bar, one by one. Gabriela sat by herself at a corner table, barely making eye contact with the paper toucans decorating the walls.

It had to be some sort of new-age torture, spending your limited hours in Honduras confined to a bamboo stool. To top things off, the six of us had settled down with six margaritas carefully concocted by some runaway ex-pat from St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis. We were a bunch of kids from Iowa sitting at a bar in exotic, toasty warm, eye-opening Honduras talking to a pale, lonely Midwestern boy from Missouri. We were pathetic. Maybe it was the sugar high from my excuse for a margarita, but I had had enough. I wasn’t the travelling solo type until that very moment.

So, I gobbled up the remains of the jam at the bottom of my margarita, popped up off my fake-bamboo prison, and made a bee-line for the only worthwhile conversation partner I might be able to find that day: Gabriela. She couldn’t’ve been more than 12 years old, 80 pounds sopping wet, and seemed like she had a handful of older, more glamorous siblings whose shadows she slept in at night. It’s a feeling I understood, in both English and Spanish. I walked up to her a little nervous myself, but it couldn’t be worse than what I had left 10 feet behind.

“…Hola, Gabriela. Me llamo Jackie. Uhh…te gustaría…una bebida?”

I saw her hide a slight smile, obviously amused by my subpar Spanish skills. But it jetted away like someone might catch her in trouble, and she just shook her head.

“Aww, c’mon. Te gustaría…una coca-cola?”

Another head shake.

“Uva?”

Nope.

“…Anaranjada? Wait. Crap! Naranja?”

A little smile, but nope, nope.

“…Sprite?”

And finally I saw a glimmer. I latched onto it like it was a golden ticket out of hell, which it was, in a way. “Okay! Una Sprite por mi amiga nueva!” and never gave her a chance to stop me. I saw another smile, this time accompanied by a small giggle. I was always afraid to speak foreign languages to my classmates and professors even after years of study, but she gave making an ass out of myself purpose, as if my neurons were firing slowly for some grander reason I didn’t understand.

I nabbed a fresh bottle from the bar and set it down in front of her. At that moment, it felt like a band of Care Bears could not have made any child happier. Though I was only capable of asking her very simple questions, like what music she liked or what she was studying in school, it was still the best conversation I had had all week. After her last grateful drink, she looked back at my three-margarita-deep companions, looked at me, sized me up momentarily, and whispered in a hopeful, innocent-but-scheming air,

“Quieres ir de compras? Las tiendas están cerca de aquí.”

 

I couldn’t help but get excited. “Claro, Gabriela. Me encantaría.” And we walked out the door, two bandits on the loose, running away from our shadows.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

honduras coffee beansHonduras- Simply Rich with Beauty and Laughter

October 31, 2010. My family and I climb onto the giant-sized steps of the bus. Dusk is descending onto the dimly-lit street. We know that we will not return to the United States for seven days. The week ahead of us is packed with fun and adventure.

Brisas Del Volcan is perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the world. A spectacular volcano brims the skyline. The rolling hills are filled with coffee bean fields and plantain tree orchards. Everything is green and alive with nature and beauty. Sometimes I wish I could just stand at the very top of the tallest hill in Honduras and marvel at the beauty below me. Even in late fall months, it is still humid.

The strange thing about Honduras is that it is the 6th most dangerous place for Americans to visit. I am proud to say that I have visited there. My family and I went on a mission trip through an organization called Agros in 2010. Agros finds struggling villages in third world countries and buys the land from the landowner. The money they use to do this is funded by American families that are willing to jump on board. My family was one of those families. The people living in the village are then taught by Agros how to farm crops like coffee and plantains. They farm the land and sell their goods. Some of this money goes to pay off their loan from Agros. After ten years, the people have paid off their loan, learned how to farm their land, and established a consistent way to make a living.

Every day during our visit, we would wake up and eat a delicious breakfast at our hotel. It was one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at. Wild turkeys roamed the premises. My family and I always joked about the turkeys because they would wake us up at 4:00 am with their loud squawking. Each hotel “room” was a separate little hut. There was no soap in the bathrooms or glass on the windows, but I loved the hotel. It was like a breath of fresh air from what normal hotels are like. It didn’t have to be white and ironed crisp to be beautiful and fun.

After our breakfast, we all piled in our rented, dingy vehicles and drove the hour-long ride to the village. The streets were unpaved and dusty. We would have to slow down sometimes for the occasional cow or goat crossing the street. Yes, cow or goat! We would wave and smile to small children standing outside of their huts.

When we reached the village, we would all pile out of the car and say our hellos to the village children. All of them were beautiful- tanned skin, brown hair, and brown eyes. They were all so nice. One day, we made salsa and corn tortillas with the women. We took the ground up corn in our hands and beat it into patties. We placed the patties onto a griddle to cook them. After this, we cup up fragrant limes and other delicious-smelling ingredients and mixed them in a bowl. We scooped the salsa onto the corn tortillas and ate it. It was bursting with flavor. That was the best salsa I have ever had in my life.

I view my life and certain things around me as “simply rich”. Honduras is so “simply rich” with its rolling hills, beautiful landscape, and adventure in the air. I want to just spend all of my time there, making salsa and corn tortillas, playing with the village children, and picking coffee beans until my fingers go numb. Being in Honduras makes me love life. I love the joy and laughter of it all. Honduras leaves me with no regrets, because the breathtaking landscape takes your focus before you can worry about anything in life.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter our next Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

Our year journey in South East Asia started July 2, 2012. When we were gone for eleven months in 2008, one of the common questions was, “How can you spend so much time together?”

We were recently  interviewed about Traveling as a Couple by Travelinksites:

Today we have the fine pair behind the super blog We Said Go Travel.  With well over 100 countries tucked away in Lisa and George’s repetoire, these guys are experts!  Their blog is full of videos, info and tales from far flung places so make sure you check them out. But first, let’s hear how they travel successfully as a married couple…

 

1.  Could you briefly introduce yourselves and your site?

Hello! We are a traveling couple. I worked for seven years at sea for Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Renaissance Cruises in the youth program and as cruise staff and went scuba diving and traveling on six continents. My husband George lived in Paraguay as part of the Peace Corps Program and traveled around South America. Both of us had been to nearly 100 countries (by Traveler’s Century Club count) before we met.

2. Tell us the story!  How did you guys meet and what made you choose to write a travel blog?

George found me online—and we started traveling together almost immediately. Our first journey was to Fiji and Vanuatu. In Vanuatu, we went to a village, met a Peace Corps worker and I had my first bucket bath. When we started our first year-long journey, we wrote a newsletter every month. After we got married, we went from our “He Said, She Said” to our website: We said Go Travel.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW

Thank you to Travelinksites.com for choosing us as a Traveling Couple for their site! We hope to share more about how we do it while we are gone this year!

Happy Independence Day! We hope you find a way to make all your dreams come true and feel INDEPENDENT this year!