Home Is Where the Suitcase Is: The Tropics

After traveling around the world, this article will take us to our final destination(s). This week, I’ll talk about Australia, as well as Mexico, Belize and Tahiti.

Good times down under

I went to Australia when I was only 4 years old, so I don’t remember much. However, I do remember it to be a very extraordinary and wild place. My mom and I went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef while my dad scuba-dived. There were so many colors; it was like I was swimming inside of a coloring book. Everything was so bright and vivid, and all of the fish were wonderfully exotic. We also went to a zoo where I got to hold a koala! However, the real standout for our trip was going to a crocodile sanctuary. This was at the time when Steve Irwin was my idol - although who am I kidding, he still is - so going into a crocodile sanctuary was amazing. My dad always talks about how the crocodiles’ eyes would follow me as I walked. I actually got to hold a little baby crocodile whose mouth was taped shut. It was so amazing, and I would love to go back to Australia in general, but specially to see the crocodiles again.

Excursions in Mexico

The first time I went to Mexico, I was six weeks old, and we went every year up until I entered high school. Mexico has a very special place in my heart, as do the people there. When I was around 5 years old, I went with my friend Matthew Davis, and we stayed in a really nice house that had its own pool. We would get up to all sorts of shenanigans, including trying to escape the compound via the rainforest and capturing geckos.

One of the most standout times in Mexico to me, however, was the year we went for Christmas. I still think about this trip sometimes, and how the experiences and people I met have impacted my life. We went for Christmas in 2008, and I was 10 years old. We were staying in a community with other people who frequented Baja California, and most people knew each other. That year, our family friends had their grandson Matthew with them. I remember I was so nervous to meet another person my age that I actually ran down the beach and then jogged over to meet him, so I would seem cool and casual. Surely enough, Matthew and I became best friends. My favorite movie at the time (and to this day) was Bridge to Terabithia, so following in the footsteps of the story, Matthew and I made up our own world. We called it "Gandarfia" after my dog, Gandalf. Every day, he and I would pack a PB&J and go off on adventures to save our kingdom.

On Christmas day, we snuck away from our parents - who didn’t realize we were gone until four hours later - on the most epic adventure I’ve ever had. There was sinking mud, bubbling sulfuric pits, stingrays, miles of walking around the estuary, and all we had to show for our adventure were two matching cuts in the shape of a crescent moon on our toes. We ended up getting rescued and got back, barely in trouble, but it was one of the best times I ever had. We really did defeat evil that day.

Tahitian times

Tahiti is one of my favorite places in the world, mostly just because of the people I met. The first island we went to was called Moorea, and we were there over Christmas. It was the first time I ever went scuba-diving in the ocean, and we saw lemon sharks our first time down. I also met a family there with three boys of varying ages, Jake, Josh and Luke. As an only child, it is really exciting for me to make friends on my trips; it makes me feel like I have a companion for a little while. I remember that whole pack of boys very fondly, especially Jake, who is to this day, the biggest crush I’ve ever had. I would go to wild lengths to get him to like me. One time, I climbed a tree with his brothers and wedged my foot into a notch so it seemed stuck, and when Josh and Luke tried to pull it out, I pushed so hard it actually got stuck. When Jake eventually got it out, it was swollen and bloody. Not a huge turn on. We also all saved a baby bird together; we all built him a nest and named the little guy Deathro since he kept falling out of his tree. Jake was my first kiss, and I will therefore always remember Tahiti, the tree, Deathro, and those three special boys very fondly.

Next, we went to Bora Bora where the diving was significantly better, but I was sad because I had just said goodbye to Jake, Josh and Luke. It was pathetic. The only thing I would eat was food that had the name “Texas” in it, because they were from Texas. Pitiful. We stayed in a bungalow previously owned by Marlon Brando, and there was great snorkeling if you jumped off the back porch. When we went diving, we saw a huge manta ray on one of the days, and it was probably the highlight of my time diving in Tahiti. My dad and I also rescued two puppies we saw on the side of the street. Also, word to the wise: if you ever go to Bora Bora, load up on the mosquito repellent, because there were nights I went to bed crying because of all my bug bites.

Lastly was Rangaroa, which I personally had the worst time at, but my parents loved it because of the beautiful diving. The island was about a mile long and maybe half a mile wide. During my second and last dive, I went up too fast and ending up rupturing my eardrum. The pain was enormous. My parents continued on their dives per my insistence, and I stayed at our room crying. And then they told me that dolphins had approached them during their dive, and they got to play with them. The nerve! The next day, they went diving yet again while I had to drive to town to pick up medication for my ear. All around, it was uneventful and rather boring, but I would love to go back again.

You better Belize it

Belize is my most recent trip, taking place during January of 2017. First, we went to a small beach town and just relaxed for a few days. We went ziplining, which was fantastic and thrilling, and then we went cave tubing which was relaxing but adventurous. I would highly recommend both. Next, we stayed in the rainforest and drove into San Ignacio every day. San Ignacio is a rather typical, up-and-coming town where you ought to have someone who makes you feel safe, just in case. However, my family and I had the best dining experience we’ve ever had in San Ignacio, at a small restaurant with decent prices and phenomenal food. We also ventured over to Guatemala and hiked around Tekal, a Mayan city, for a day. The ruins were = fantastic and were definitely a great workout. The culture was fascinating and factual, and I left with a strange desire to become an archaeologist.

After San Ignacio, we went to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, two lovely islands. Ambergris Caye was more of a party island, somewhere I’d want to go with friends. Caye Caulker was affordable and fun, a tiny little island with a lot of heart. We went scuba diving a couple times, and the diving was fantastic. We got to go to the Blue Hole, a very famous diving spot that is essentially a cavern that just goes down into the ocean. We also went on a manatee tour and got to see cute little manatees swimming through their cove. I loved both of the islands and would totally love to return with friends just because of the welcoming nature of the people and the good vibes that come with island life.