After Mexico City, Oaxaca, Antigua, Acatenango, and Lake Atitlán, I headed on to Caye Caulker, Belize. The beginning of the end.
During the last few days I had spent in Guatemala, I contracted an intense fever and mysterious stomach problems. I was feeling better, but still couldn’t keep down food and was losing energy fast.
However, that didn’t stop me from at least trying to enjoy the end of my trip as planned! On Saturday, August 6, I arrived in Belize.
Upon arrival at the Belize City airport, I had to go through customs and immigration. I made it through fairly seamlessly, other than being laughed at when I attempted to declare my box of clif bars at the border.
Then, I took a taxi to the city’s ferry dock. The water taxi from here to Caye Caulker, the Caribbean island I had planned to stay at, took about 45 minutes.
Once I arrived at Caye Caulker, I was super excited to finally get settled. I grabbed my bag, hiked over to my hostel, and arrived drenched in sweat but with a positive outlook. It was so cool to pass the many different beaches and local businesses on the way!
I had booked five nights at Bella’s Backpackers, a chill, beachy, social hostel on the island. The complex was fairly simple, with a few dorm-style rooms and a few private rooms that each opened up to the outdoors. The kitchen and common area were also essentially outdoors. I’m sure it would have been super fun if I had been feeling better, but in my state, all I could see was the doors with no locks and muddy sand coating every surface.
Still feeling sick, all I wanted to do was relax. Unfortunately, my “air-conditioned” room I paid extra for was super hot and they did not turn on the AC until 6 PM daily. The hostel volunteers and some travelers invited me to a dinner and party that night, but I politely declined and gave them a rain check until I was feeling better.
I grabbed some water, Powerade, and crackers from a nearby convenience store before resting for the rest of the evening, hoping that I would feel better the next day.
I wanted so badly to participate in “Sunday Funday,” but within a couple of hours after waking up, I knew that it wasn’t going to happen. I took things easy and even made some ramen. Finally, some food!
My main event for the day was a leisurely walk to The Split, the beach area where tourists and locals gather to drink rum punch and jump into the ocean.
Because of the humidity, however, I didn’t stay out for long. The weather was the perfect definition of tropical: hot and humid with a side of rain.
I met some people in the hostel who invited me to hang out with them, but had to turn them down because I was still so exhausted and ill. I was sweating so much, either from the humidity or my sickness or both, that some people couldn’t even recognize me once I had cooled off. Yikes.
So that was my Sunday funday. At least I joined in on the “go slow” culture of the island, even if it was through sitting in my bed resting all day long.
Another day. Still sick. Still can hardy eat anything. This was getting ridiculous, and my patience was quickly running out. When my mom suggested I cut my trip short and come home, I said she was overreacting; but the more I thought about it, the more I was tempted.
I spent Monday deep in deliberation. Do I give up the chance to go snorkeling and cave tubing? Everyone gets sick while traveling, am I just overreacting?
As much as I wanted to push through, I also realized that I had never felt this sick in my life, and it didn’t seem to be getting any better. I decided to pull the trigger and book an overpriced but necessary flight directly home.
In order to appease the insurance company, I attempted to see a doctor. Just my luck, the only doctor on the island did not answer my phone calls, and the office was locked and empty despite the “OPEN” sign and business hours clearly printed on the door. Well, at least I tried!
I did what I needed to do – packed up, checked out early, and made my plan for how to get from Caye Caulker, to Belize City, to the Belize City airport, to the Atlanta Airport, to the Roanoke airport, to home. Sounds like a fabulous day of travel while sick, right? Here goes nothing…
Tuesday: The Journey Home
So on Tuesday, I woke up before anyone else at my hostel and made my way over to the dock to catch the 7:30 AM ferry. It was so crowded that I almost didn’t make it on, but you bet I pushed my way up to the top of the boat and found a seat.
From the Belize City dock, I then made my way to the airport. I had given myself plenty of time – maybe even too much time – but I was so decisively ready to get on the plane and get home that it didn’t even bother me.
The flight from Belize to Atlanta was smooth enough, but the line for customs and immigration was brutal. I listened to podcasts in an attempt to distract myself, but once I finally got through, I felt incredibly weak from all the standing. I was barely able to drag my bag over to re-check it before finding a bathroom and place to sit and relax.
As I waited for my flight to Roanoke, I snacked on a few crackers, water, and Powerade, while those around me devoured Chickfila and Chipotle meals. Once we finally boarded, we sat around for at least an hour, then finally took off for one final piece of the trip home.
When I finally escaped through the Roanoke airport’s security gates and saw my mom and sister, I was bawling. I gave them each a big hug, cried that I was so relieved to have made it home, and then ran to the bathroom to vomit.
And that’s where my journey ended. 2.5 weeks of adventures in Central America, interrupted by some mystery illness. When I visited the doctor the next morning, they ran a series of tests, but everything came back negative. I’ll never know for sure what caused me to be so unbelievably sick for so long, but my mom and I guess that it may have been some sort of parasite that I contracted while traveling but is not tested in this region of the world.
I spent the next few weeks (yes, WEEKS) in recovery. Broth, Saltines, and rice cakes eventually turned into my beloved Starbucks cold brew. Staying at home all day and sleeping a minimum of 20/24 hours was replaced by reviving my travel writing career and traveling to visit friends around Virginia.
No trip is perfect, and this one definitely turned out to be more painful than perfect by the end. This being said, I’m still immensely grateful for the opportunity I had to see such beautiful places, meet such friendly people, and partake in such incredible experiences.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I’ve learned some important lessons from this trip, and believe it or not, I can’t wait to use them to travel again in the near future.
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