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When I experience a dry spell of invitations and/or opportunities, I spin the globe, so to speak, pick a spot, collect minimal information about the locale and find a cheap flight. A particularly memorable trip of mine that falls into the Globe Spinning Category is my visit to beloved Belize. I knew very little about this Central American gem. I booked a flight (American Airlines, $500 roundtrip through DFW Dallas) ten days before leaving. A friend gave me a travel guide. I packed a backpack. I had no place to stay. I knew no one there, and I set out on this adventure alone.

Within ten minutes of catching a water taxi to an island, or caye (pronounced key), I had met another solo traveler, and we struck up a friendly conversation. We became travel buddies. In no time we had found a $15/night hotel, The Tropics, across the street from the beach. No, it was not four, three or even two star accommodations; however, it had screens in the windows, hot water in the bathroom and a ceiling fan. Bingo! Pay dirt, or pay sand in this case! I don’t go to other countries to stay in my room, so it served its purpose of cheap storage for my belongings whilst I sought a journey of excitement in a strange land.

First stop, The Lazy Lizard, for a drink. This entertaining watering hole is located at the southern end of The Split — a spot that was created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. For dinner, I’d urge you to visit Wish Willy’s (name of a type of iguana in Belize & nickname of the creative, feisty owner) for a $17 mouth-watering lobster dinner (http://www.wish-willy.com/). This eccentric world-travelling chef is a character and kind soul, as he let me borrow his kayak to search for stunning yellow seahorses near the mangrove trees that grow around Caye Caulker, one of the most popular of the cayes. Be duly warned though, tiny predators hunt exposed human flesh when the sun goes down. After the first evening, my legs were chicken-poxed with itchy, red sand fly bites that only hemp oil seemed to soothe.

Other recommended Belize points of interest include diving the crystal-clear Caribbean waters of The Great Blue Hole, a limestone sinkhole made famous by Jacques Cousteau; Lamanai (which means submerged crocodile), a Mayan ruins boat & jungle tour where you can spot a crazy Jesus Christ lizard skating across the water and brilliant Blue Morpho butterflies who are infamous for the lovemaking longevity; and an unparalleled, challenging cave adventure (pictured at right) called Actun Tunichil Muknal outside of San Ignacio (known locally as ATM cave, which makes it easy to remember since it is money).

The unbelievable stories that trip granted me still seem overwhelming when I conjure a memory or hear anyone speak of Belize. In fact, one of the most amazing and mind-boggling photos from any of my travels was taken on that tropical excursion. I was on an all-day boating trip to see local sights and seek out various marine creatures. Something in the middle of the vast sea caught my eye, and I asked the captain of our tiny water taxi type vessel to slow and subsequently head back to investigate the strange and inexplicable spectacle. There was a small dresser, with drawers askew, clothes dangling, but standing upright on a small sandbar in the middle of nowhere. All six passengers were awestruck, as was the captain.

What is that? I inquired.

The jovial captain with the bail bond T-shirt shrugged, I don’t know. It wasn’t there yesterday. I snapped a shot; we toasted cups of rum punch and were off to find more magical moments.

Whatever comes my way
Wherever the wind takes me
On a Whim and a Prayer

Contributor: Gena Kay

If you want to know how Gena travels on such a small budget:

“Must be nice. Must be nice to be able to go on so many vacations, so many places, whenever you want.” Those are phrases I hear more often than I can say. In fact, as the cliché goes, if I had a dime for every time I heard those statements, I could, well I could afford trips around the world. Resort-style trips. Nevertheless, yep, I gotta agree. As a matter of fact, it is nice, thank you ever so much.

However, when I begin citing the reasons I’m able to do so, divulging the secret information of the lifestyle choices that put me in the position to dare to embark on aforementioned Must Be Nice Travel, most people realize that yeah, maybe THEIR lives are nice for them. They usually choose to stick to their own travel mantras, their — in my opinion — stale, white bread, ho-hum travel doctrines of planned cruises and predictable, all-inclusive resort visits to cookie cutter places that cost a months salary.

So, how do I do it? And on such a small salary, at that? I don’t own a big screen TV, an Ipod, an Iphone, an Ianything. I don’t have a car payment. Haven’t had one in about 13 years. I slept on a couch for four years. Yes, you read that correctly, no misprint, four years.
I don’t have expensive furniture or much furniture at all, to be honest. (see previous lack of bed/slept on a couch statement).If there’s a designer label on any article of clothing in my wardrobe, rest assured, it was a gift, hand-me-downs, or it was purchased at a second-hand store. I don’t have cable TV. I haven’t watched TV for over ten years on a TV set. I’ll catch things online if necessary. I don’t stay at extravagant hotels or eat at fancy restaurants. I don’t go to tarbucks.Or malls.The 99 cent Store is my bastion.

I don’t have a husband. I dont have children. I don’t have pets.

I don’t have credit card debt. None.They are paid off each month, always. I am allergic to paying finance charges and interest.
Besides my house, I don’t have any debt. (The previously mentioned allergy is mildly tolerated for an investment of this stature.)
Until recently, I have had very few finance-depleting health problems.

See what I mean? I probably lost you after, I don’t have cable TV. Or perhaps even before that, at I dont OWN a big screen TV.

I know people in many corners of the world, and I visit them. This simple statement is not intended to sound boastful. It is an explanation, a clarification, one of dire importance to my type of traveling. Many of my friends and family members live and/or visit fascinating and exotic parts of the globe, places that may not necessarily be on my Top Ten Places I Need to Go Before I Die list. But that makes it even more exciting, out of the ordinary and story-worthy. Furthermore, I meet people who invite me places, and I go. Why not? Countless times, a trip I’ve taken has been something that just came up, someone mentioned a desire for a travel companion, someone else was visiting a friend in a country I’d never traveled to, perhaps someone was headed out on a mission or a job that was taking them to some island paradise, and I happily joined in, invited by him or her or I invited myself. I just made it happen.

Stats on Belize:
Belize is an English speaking country
They drive on the right
Central Time (UTC-6)
Calling code 501
One U.S. dollar equals two Belize dollars
The capital of Belize is Belmopan, formerly Belize City
Belize is slightly smaller than Massachusettes
Belize borders Mexico, north, Guatemala, west/south & the Carribean, east
Travelers can only bring a maximum of $5,000

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