The roar of the boat’s engines finally dies down, signaling to us that we’ve arrived at our destination. Before us, the turquoise sea meets a white sandy beach that, from where I am sitting, seems to stretch on forever. It is dotted all along its length by colorful wooden structures. And though I have visited before, the island of Caye Caulker seems new, unfamiliar, and just a little bit daunting. The difference? This time, I was all by myself.
I’ve had the privilege of traveling halfway across the world on my own before, but I’ve never traveled alone in Belize. Not until now.
In an article published by Forbes Magazine, solo travel is regarded as being representative of freedom, independence, and, of course, wanderlust. And after embracing solo travel in Belize myself, I am tempted to agree.
Traveling alone doesn’t mean you’ll be bored, lonely all the time, or riddled with anxiety. Quite the contrary, it has been found to be good for mental health, as well as a great way to connect both with others and with the self.
Going Solo in Belize
There used to be a certain stigma around solo vacations, with cruises charging extra for single occupancy and waiters frowning at the words “table for one.” But we’re happy to report that the times are a’changing.”
Apparently, solo-travel is a growing sub-sector of the travel industry, predicted to be one of the fastest growing travel trends between now and 2030. But despite more than 50% of travelers today opting for solo trips, the thought of actually considering myself a solo-traveler never really crossed my mind. Quite frankly, the thought made me anxious. But as I stepped off the boat and out into warm sunlight on the Caye Caulker pier earlier this year, all that anxiety seemed to vanish.
Walking along the white sand beach, spotting familiar locales like my favorite beach bar (Barrier Reef Sports Bar), I became aware of a new feeling washing over me: excitement. With newfound confidence, I made my way over to my hotel. But first, I stopped for a smoothie and some donuts at Ice N Beans Cafe. There, I took note of the array of travelers moving to and fro on the island. Families, friend groups, and yes even solo travelers – local and international alike.
At Barefoot Caye Caulker Hotel, I felt instantly welcomed. It was the perfect prelude to what the rest of my stay on the island would be like. In fact, by the time I left, I felt like I’d gotten a new lease on life. And with it, I’d discovered a newfound passion for traveling and a new way by which to do so.
Finding Liberation in Traveling Alone
In the words of Conde Nast Traveler contributor Caitlin Morton, If you have the will and the way, you can travel just about anywhere by yourself. And there are plenty of advantages that come with it. Quite often, taking solo trips allows us the chance to get to know ourselves better. When you solo travel, you get to ask yourself questions like “What am I comfortable doing?” and “What does a fulfilling trip look like to me?”
To me, that meant curling up with a good book, taking leisurely strolls along the beach, and sampling some of the best food, snacks, and drinks the island had to offer. The possibilities, though, are endless.
You also get to revel in being able to decide what to do and when to do it, without any objections. Spend time reading by the pool (like I did). Or, book a tour with a trusted and certified company.
Regardless of what you choose to do though, solo-travel is bound to give you a new perspective on life.
Tips for First Time Solo Travelers
Curious about solo travel but not sure where to start? Here are a few tips to help you out:
Do Your Research – A little bit of planning can definitely go a long way, especially when it comes to solo travel. Learn about your intended destination before getting there. That way, you can feel safer, more secure, and a bit more in the know when you arrive.
Take Baby Steps – You don’t have to do it all in one go. Traveling on your own can be daunting at first. Take your time and do what makes you feel comfortable. Then when you’re ready, feel free to push yourself to step out of your comfort zone.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings – Not just for the sake of enjoying the vibe of a new environment, but for safety as well. When it comes to solo-travel (especially solo-travel for women), ensuring that your trip is as safe as it is enjoyable is paramount. Bonus tip: let your friends or family know where you’re going.
Keep an Open Mind – Still, be open to trying new things. You’ll never know whether a decision to try a new food or have new experiences will lead to forever cherished memories.
Solo Travel in Caye Caulker: A Mini-Guide
Unhurried and unpretentious, Caye Caulker is every introvert’s dream. But it’s also a great place to let loose. A number of popular bars, dives, and eateries line the island’s two main streets.
Where to Stay: Located in the heart of the island and right near the water taxi, Barefoot Caye Caulker Hotel is a convenient location for the solo-traveler that doesn’t want to venture too far. Jan’s Hotel is also a great option. For a more isolated getaway, consider resorts on the northern half of the island like Blu Zen or El Ben Cabanas.
Where to Eat: There are lots of restaurants and bars right in the center of the island. Barrier Reef Sports Bar & Grill, Sip n Dip, and of course the Lazy Lizard are just some of your options. (For light meals and delicious smoothies, consider Nice n Beans).
Featured Image by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash