On Friday, May 24th at 5:00am my dad and I finished loading my luggage into his car and we headed for Columbia College. In a few short hours, I would be boarding a plane to Belize, and my life didn’t feel like my own. For months I had been anticipating this trip, but it always seemed to be far away in the back of my mind. The whole car ride to Columbia College I had butterflies in my stomach and I was so nervous. This trip to Belize and Guatemala was my first time out of the United States and my first time away from my dad, and I was extremely excited, but apprehensive and cautious at the same time. However, once I pulled into the Columbia College parking lot and I saw some of my travel companions, my nerves immediately went away. I remember meeting Bob and Patti and they were so kind and I think they could tell that I was just a little nervous. I gave my dad a long hug goodbye and I was ready to depart to Kansas City. The car ride to Kansas City gave me another opportunity to talk to Bob, Patti, and Ann, who were all so friendly and welcoming. We arrived in Kansas City, boarded a flight to Dallas, and from there we were finally headed to Belize City. As soon as I boarded the three hour flight to Belize I remember telling myself, “there’s no going back now.” Finally, my dream of seeing the world was coming true and I quickly found out that the next ten days would be unforgettable.
Arriving in Belize City and stepping into their airport was an extremely surreal experience. I felt like I was walking around in a daze and I couldn’t believe where I was. Life just seemed too good to be true! The first night in Belize was fun, and I became better acquainted with the other Columbia College travelers and I remember feeling at ease with everyone around me, despite the fact that I was the youngest person on the trip. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, open, and some people were just downright hilarious and outrageous. In the beginning, I was very shy and introverted, but throughout the trip I opened up to the other travelers and I began to feel like I really belonged with everyone there. The bonds and little moments I shared with everyone on the trip I will hold in my heart forever and I hope that I remain close with many of my travel companions. These people were truly gorgeous, wonderful, and lovely, and I couldn't have asked to travel with better people.
The next day is when our adventures began! Our tour guide, Jake, was not only extremely knowledgeable about Belize, but he was a great guy who knew how to handle our crazy group. He was so passionate about his job, which made it all the more enjoyable for everyone else and he always kept us entertained. The boat ride on the Belize River was gorgeous and stopping to look at all the wildlife was amazing. When we arrived at Lamanai, a ruin site, I really started to feel like I was in Belize. Seeing a Maya ruin for the first time is an experience I cannot even describe. Many of these ruins have been around before Christ, and they will continue to be around after I’ve passed, which is incredible. Standing in front of a massively tall ruin or standing atop a temple and looking out over the treetops at the river below me are life changing moments I will never forget. Viewing these ruins made me aware of how small I really am, compared to the thousands of years of history right in front of me. Touching those ruins was surreal, powerful, and so emotional.
Throughout the trip we saw dozens of different ruins, but never once did I wish Jake would take us somewhere else. Each ruin site was beautiful and unique and stood apart from the last. My favorite ruins were at Tikal and climbing the steep steps to Temple 5 was a tough feat, but the miraculous view from the top can’t even be captured in a photograph. It was spiritual, peaceful, and breathtaking, to say the very least.
My favorite part about the trip was the all day excursion to the Great Blue Hole. Snorkeling in a massive sinkhole four hundred feet across and seven hundred feet deep is not only terrifying and exciting, but I was fully aware what a once in a lifetime opportunity it was. I swam next to stingrays, Nurse sharks, many different schools of fish, and sea turtles. The water was a brilliant shade of turquoise and deep navy, and while I felt vulnerable and small in the massive Caribbean Sea, never once did I feel afraid or apprehensive. I floated peacefully on the choppy waters and I wanted to fully embrace this amazing opportunity.
I could write pages and pages more of memories, stories, and anecdotes, but I’ll leave the reader with these last few thoughts. This trip was so much more than I could have ever expected, and I will treasure this trip with me forever. While I was only gone for ten days, it felt like I lived a lifetime, and even more than a month later I still find happiness in looking through my photos and reminiscing with my Belize friends. I can’t believe that I have been back in Missouri for over a month, and strangely, I feel like a different person than I was before the trip. I was a different person before the trip, I was a different person on the trip, and I am not the same as I was now that I am back. It may be difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what is different about me, but it is undoubtedly a positive change and I am thankful every day that I got to experience the beauty that was Belize.