In a recent video put out by the folks at Duct Tape Then Beer and Brendan Leonard from Semi-rad.com in collaboration with REI, they touch on the ever too familiar “being too busy” to do the things that we love. If you haven’t watched it, check it out below.
One of my favorite lines from it is, “Been awhile since you’ve made an appointment with nature, hasn’t it?” Well, until a few weeks ago, that line couldn’t have been more true in mt case. In trying to start and run a business, I had simply gotten bogged down to the point where I had forgotten about my own passions. The irony is, Bunsun Designs is supposed to be all about being active. Needless to say, I needed a break. So. I bought a plane ticket. The destination? Belize.
Now, I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up going with their family to Mexico and Europe and, “like, this cute little bungalow in the British Virgin Islands” so this was a big deal for me. Yes, I like adventure and traveling but this was something altogether new. I was excited, and admittedly, a little scared. International travel is a pretty intimidating thing especially when you are doing it alone.
The purpose of this trip was for what I call “The Three F’s” – fly fishing, food, and photography. The perfect trifecta. When I set out on this adventure, I knew I would learn some things, I just didn’t know what. This article is not just an account of my experiences, but also a guide to overcoming some of the challenges I faced.
1. Air BNBs are great options for solo-travelers…most of the time
When traveling internationally by yourself, safety is a pretty big concern. Knowing how to get around and where you can and can’t go become much more serious when you are alone. Nothing can ease a paranoid and worried mind like having a comfortable place to rest your head at night. It all depends on what your needs are when you sleep, but traveling internationally can be physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, so I like something that has a comfortable bed, isn’t too expensive and where I can feel safe. Hotels are too expensive and you never know what you are going to get with hostels. My suggestion is that you find a nice Air BNB – the happy medium.
However, DO be picky. The difference between a 5-star rated host and a 3.5-star rated host can be HUGE. For instance, my first host, located in Belize City was rated at about 3.5 stars. I saw a few pictures and it looked not too bad. I am not one for anything fancy so for the price, it seemed awesome. However, the place was located out of town with no direct access to transportation, it was not close to food, my bed was infested with sand fleas, and my door didn’t lock. All of this led to a pretty disappointing experience and a knowledge that being picky with your housing is a must.
Feel free to use my Air BNB link if you want a discount on your first room.
2. Pack lightly when traveling alone
For me, I always pack lightly. While most of the time I think it works in my favor, there have definitely been a few times where I would be kicking myself 7 days into trip wishing I’d brought more that 1 pair of undies. For traveling internationally, I couldn’t have been more happy that I only brought two small backpacks. My choice? The Patagonia Ascenionist 45 L Pack and the Patagonia Stormfront 30 L Pack served me perfectly. I wanted something lightweight, something where I could carry everything I owned on my back, and, knowing I was going to be doing some photography out in the ocean, I absolutely needed something waterproof. These are now my two favorite bags.
Given some of the woes of my living situation, nothing was more helpful that knowing I could just pack up my gear, sling it all on my back, and walk to wherever I needed to go. Especially, for example, not having a locking door to my room, it proved useful to be able to take all of my belongings to dinner with me and not have to worry. Pack smart. Pack light.
3. Trying to take photos by yourself in another country is hard
Doing anything by yourself in the realm of photography definitely becomes trickier. It would be awesome to always have any assistant to lug around gear or clean your lenses at the end of a long day shooting but that simply isn’t the case for most people including me.
I knew that I needed to be cautious wearing a nice camera around my neck, walking around like every other tourist. I mean, we stick out like sore thumbs. The hardest part was not taking photos, caring for the gear, hauling it around, or even getting access to shots. The most difficult part of shooting abroad was trying to be low key about carrying around a $3,000 camera setup. It was hard enough to pretend like what I had was of little value but then constantly being hassled by people on the streets and passersby all saying things like, “Hey nice camera, man!” or “Can I get that thing?” made me much more cautious. I highly suggest planning out where you want to shoot, what you want to shoot, and at what time of day. Knowing the best route, position for the shot, and details about who hangs out there can be the difference between getting mugged and getting an unforgettable shot.
4. Saltwater fly fishing is incredible
Having spent most of my life in Michigan, fly fishing always meant chasing freshwater species like trout, bass, carp, and pike. When I first learned of saltwater fly fishing, I wasn’t that enticed. Sure it looked cool, but what could beat trout on my home rivers? Well, after many years of writing it off, I decided to give it a try.
I booked a trip with Tres Pescados Fly Shop based out of San Pedro. My guide, Mario, and I, chased bonefish for about seven hours up and down the shorelines of the southern most islands. Once I hooked into my first bonefish I was sold.
Like all good trips, this one started out with a preconceived notion of what adventure really was. Adventure was traveling. Adventure was doing something you’ve never done before. Adventure was being out of your element. While all those things are true, I found out that, above all, adventure is really just committing to the things that make you happy. Me? I think I’ll stick to the “three F’s.”