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When I was thirteen, I carefully ripped a page out of a magazine I’d found at the orthodontists’ office. Wanderlust had begun to take hold on my psyche, and I’d forgone the gossip rags and fashion fluff in favor of an old issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Something in it had caught my eye. And so, glancing up to make sure that no one was watching me vandalize a piece of waiting room property, I plucked the page. With that tear, an obsession was born. Forget braces. (I mean really, forget braces. Seriously, anyone who knows me, forget that horrible, awkward phase ever happened.) I wanted Belize.

Magazine clipping in hand, I presented my proposal. My parents hesitated — we mostly traveled to Florida or Illinois to visit family, or drove to Martha’s Vineyard for vacation. Aside from a family reunion trip to Spain to visit my cousin Kirsten who’d been studying abroad there and a few brief overland trips into Canada, we hadn’t traveled internationally. But they didn’t nickname me The Bulldozer for nothing. Soon, we were booking flights to Central America. It was my first stint as family travel agent, a role I’ve embraced in the decade since.

Belize Scrapbook

We spent four nights by the beach, and four nights in the jungle. We rode horses to secret waterfalls, kayaked through caves, clamored over Mayan ruins, and marveled at the open-air bathrooms in our resort. We went snorkeling and my sister and I saw coral reefs for the first time. It was the best trip we’d ever taken.

It was also, as my extensive scrapbook of the trip reminds us, a terrible era for sunglass fashions.

Belize Scrapbook

So it felt deliriously full circle when, in the midst of planning a massive Central America trip twelve years later, I was invited back to Belize by a pair of two sister resorts; one by the beach, one in the jungle. I hadn’t planned to return to Belize on this trip; so crystallized it was in my mind as a group destination. Can I bring my family, I asked?

Sure, they said.

Belize Family Vacation

A lot had changed since Belizean immigration had first slapped a stamp in my passport. I grew up and started my own business, which led to this very invitation. We all became exponentially more travel obsessed, and I’ve felt blessed that my family frequently comes to me while I’m living this nomadic lifestyle — I’ve visited Cambodia with my dad, Turkey with my mom, Thailand with my little sister. And my parents long ago separated, which would have made a return trip with just the four of us a tad awkward.

But my dad, having recently moved to Los Angeles to start a new job, wouldn’t have been able to make it anyway. So instead, we decided to make it a girls’ trip — my mom, my little sister, and our lone female cousin Kirsten. With both Olivia and Kirsten being teachers, spring break was the perfect excuse to get away. I planned a trip very similar to the one that preceded it, a perfect balance of sandy beaches and lush rain forests.

Belize Family Vacation

First, we’d head to the to soak up some small-town Coastal Belize vibes for three nights. Twelve years ago we’d visited the nearby Placencia, and I looked forward to comparing the two, especially since we had similar activities on the agenda — namely, a boat trip out to the world’s second largest barrier reef. Next up, we’d return to San Ignacio for three nights at , where we’d take a private cooking class, practice yoga at a Mayan ruin, and lounge by the lush jungle pool. Finally, the kids would head to Caye Caulker as my mom returned back to the US. While my mother was extremely generous throughout the trip, I felt proud that through my hard work I was able to provide a significant contribution to our family vacation.

My excitement levels for this trip were peaking out at maximum levels, which can be a dangerous place to be — high expectations leave lots of room for disappointment. These two weeks in Belize were one of the three anchors around which I planned the entire second half of my year — Batabano in Grand Cayman, Equilibrio in El Salvador, and Easter with my family.

And it didn’t disappoint. While things got off to a comically bad start (my bus from Guatemala was late, my cab to the airport literally caught on fire, and I had to walk across the border in a torrential downpour that insisted on plaguing us throughout the week), one of the happiest moments of my months in Central America was standing in the arrivals terminal waiting for the three women – on flights from three different US cities that I’d carefully culled for similar arrival times, of course – that would soon walk through dragging oversized suitcases.

Belize Family Vacation

The night before, I’d been so filled with giddy excitement, I did what any reasonable person would do. I wrote a parody poem based on I tend to buzz with anticipation. Yup, it’s true — when you roll with the Baackes-Allens, you better pack your spontaneous poetry game.

So, on the evening before I begin my trip coverage of our nostalgic return trip to Belize, I leave you with a Wanderland original, penned the evening before we began our journey. Because what’s more inspiring than the absolute gift of being able to travel with the people most important to you?

‘Twas the night before Belize, when all through the Americas,
Baackes-Allens were stirring, with full pre-trip hysterias.
Frantic FaceTiming from Target was performed on the run,
In hopes that the packing soon would be done.

The ladies were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of duty free danced in their heads.
And mom and her credit card, and I and my itinerary;
Each stowed away Xanax, a precaution preliminary.

On beach time! On jungle!
To Central America we tumble!
Now fly away! Fly away! Fly away all!

I dust off my passport, to my girls shoot a final group text;
Indeed, palm tree emoji use was certainly flexed.
Chicas, it promised, we’ll toast with fruity cocktails by tomorrow night.
So happy travels to all, and to all a good flight!

Belize Family Vacation

Do you have a destination you associate with family? What part of my Belize coverage are you most excited to read about? And most importantly, whatever did happen to the fine art of satirical travel poetry?

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58 Comments...
  • becky hutner
    July 8 2015

    From your amazing scrapbooking, it is clear you were ALWAYS on the path to travel blogging. And now we can add poet to your list of talents! Gawd, how about a post on something you’re terrible at?
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Science, prioritizing, estimation, and cooking are a few of the big ones 😀

  • This is too cute! Our family holidays consisted of caravans or Canary Islands when flights became affordable for the working class.

    My parents are due to arrive in Vancouver next week then up to us on The Sunshine Coast a few days later, stoked!
    Gemma Two Scots Abroad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      That sounds awesome Gemma! How exciting — I love when my family visits me abroad.

  • Whitney
    July 8 2015

    Family vacations for me usually consisted of summers camping in the Okanagan Valley (British Columbia). Every time I get on a speed boat on a lake, I feel 10 years old again!

    Shout out to my fellow scrapbooker! Not sure that I’m happy that my poor fashion choices are immortalized but the memories are worth it right?

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Haha, I know, right? No deleting a bad picture from a virtual album here — you’d have to take an exacto knife to the thing to remove any wayward memories!

  • Oh the sunglasses haha! Was that the late naughties (2000s)?

    I was pretty lucky, my dad insisting on some exotic international holiday once a year. I don’t think I appreciated it as much though, being so young and having all that travel at my fingertips… I travel less with them now, but I enjoy it more being an adult and being financially independent on our travels together!
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      ’04 🙂 That’s awesome that your dad brought you so many places! I definitely don’t mind that my parents started our more exotic vacationing later in life, as I definitely do think I appreciate it so much more now. My parents always roll their eyes now when I tell them I don’t even remember all our side trips to Disney World when we were in Florida visiting family. Youth is wasted on the young, right? 🙂

  • Justine
    July 8 2015

    I love reading about your early wanderlust! Those magazines sure had a way of influencing me too. But man, you must have been a very persuasive kid to convince your family to go on a Belizian vacation! That’s quite impressive (as is your scrapbooking!). As far as family vacations go, my mom, sister and I used to travel to the Cayman Islands all the time. Those trips were the very best and now that I think about it, I miss them a lot. But other than that there has been very little international travel. I’m trying my hardest to convince them to come visit me in Cambodia…and I think it’s working 🙂
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Ah, I convinced both my mom and my dad to visit me the summer I spent in Cayman — it was so awesome having them down there. That’s another great spot for some family time. Good luck getting them to Cambodia! I went with my dad first and it’s one of my favorite memories.

  • Sonja Riemenschneider
    July 8 2015

    Love the scrapbooks! I was a scrapbooker too when I was young. Bloggers in the making maybe? The trip that really got my travel bug started was my family’s trip to Maui when I was around the same age. A little beach, a little jungle, and lots of sun!
    Sonja Riemenschneider recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      I definitely think scrapbooking is a pre-cursor to blogging! It’s that same impulse to document and to create, no? Love how many scrapbookers there are in the comments here 🙂

  • Chris
    July 8 2015

    Oh, it’s with sadness and envy that I see your photo of some Mayan ruins in Belize.

    We had grand plans to visit Caracol, however the ruins were closed indefinitely after a local tourist police officer had been recently gunned down (at the site, in broad daylight, as tourists wandered about).

    It was a horrible time, and a sad note on which we departed this beautiful little country…
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Wow, I didn’t even hear about that story. I’ll have to go look it up. We visited Caracol on our first trip to Belize (as documented in my scrapbook…) and I have very fond memories of doing so.

  • This post is adorable! I can’t wait for the in depth info, Belize looks incredible.
    Francesca @ Cheskie’s Gap Life recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Thanks Francesca 🙂 So much more to come!

  • Emma
    July 9 2015

    I love your scrapbook pictures! My dad always used to scrapbook our family holidays when we were little (even if it was just a week camping in Devon!) And it’s something I’ve continued as I’ve grown up. It’s such a great way to look back over memories 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      I do kind of miss it! But I guess I still get a fair amount of crafting in 🙂 Long live the corner-rounder punch!

  • Sarah
    July 9 2015

    I just have to say, I’m so jealous that you have got to do this with your close family members.

    I wish I could do this with close female members but health restricts it. It’s a great opportunity and I’m so happy you grabbed it with both hands 🙂
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      I am so grateful for this time I had with all my closest ladies — we definitely appreciate every moment. I’m sorry to hear about your family’s health issues :-/ My heart goes out to you!

  • Janice Stringer
    July 9 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,
    It does seem we could chart your progression from scrapbooker to Blogger. What fantastic memories you hold from your family trip and I love the way your passion, love and excitement pulled out the poetry…brilliant!

    For me – I travelled across the globe with my husband and our two children in 2007. We learnt to scuba dive as a family,visited the Great Barrier Reef. Spent way toooooo many hours in each others company, driving across the outback in Australia. Spent four days on a train in the USA and I can honestly say that I have never been happier in my life or more content. I will hold it in my heart forever. 🙂
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      That sounds magical Janice! I’m sure those are memories you and your kids will never forget. What a fantastic gift you gave them.

  • Woops, I justed giggled out loud at work with your poem! I love your scrapbooks, I suppose your blog is your digital scrapbook for your travels right now 🙂
    Lotte – scratchingmymap recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Indeed it is! One with far less paper cuts 😀

  • Maria del mar
    July 9 2015

    You were meant to be a storyteller for travel. Lovely post.
    Maria del mar recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Thank you Maria! What a lovely compliment <3

  • Julie
    July 9 2015

    So hilarious. My family is so into writing rhyming poems for basically everything. Toast to give at a wedding? Expect a poem from us. My sisters’ speech at my wedding was a poem, of course. Cheers!
    Julie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Ha, I love that Julie! We had a very close family friend who always threw elaborate themed Christmas parties. He passed away last year — I wrote a memorial post here — and one of my favorite memories of him is the year he did a poetry themed Christmas, and wrote an individual limerick for every single guest. I still remember mine years later!

  • Tiina
    July 9 2015

    Sounds like a start of an awesome family trip! For whole my childhood we headed to Italy for the summer holidays. To Rimini to be exact. That’s where the other half of my famiglia is located. And we did basically exactly the same things every year :D. Now still some of those things are a must when we travel there.

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      I love the sense of routine and tradition! We are the same way on Martha’s Vineyard. It never gets old 🙂

  • tammyonthemove
    July 9 2015

    Love your scrapbook. I used to have exactly the same type of sunglasses and I still look back in horror when I see photos of me wearing them.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      Haha. They are really terrible, no? It makes me terrified for how I’ll feel looking back at my current photos in ten years!

  • Martha
    July 9 2015

    My lil sister and I almost went to Belize a few years back, but because it was during the recession I felt like it was my American duty to spend my vacation dollars in the states so we went to the Big Island instead. Though the Big Island was incredible I have been thinking about Belize ever since, especially as more and more friends travel there. I like the idea of travel poetry, those long layovers provide ample time to get creative.
    Martha recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 9 2015

      The Big Island is indeed pretty magical! I think Belize is indeed becoming a trendy place to travel from the US, as they speak English, the US dollar is commonly used and it feels safe and comfortable for tourists. Maybe it’s time to start planning your next trip 🙂

      • Martha
        July 9 2015

        Most of my travels are in Asia now, I’m off on my next trip in just 4 days. I’ll be volunteering in Nepal for 5 weeks.
        Martha recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          July 10 2015

          Awesome! That sounds fantastic — have a safe trip.

  • Joy to the world, all flights are free
    I’ve never… been… so.. HAPP-YEEE!

    Let every onnnnne, get on a Thai beach in the suuuuun
    and shot by a water gun! You’ll get wet and have to run.
    Annnnnd Everyonnnne, will have a ton of fun.

    coming soon: siiiiiilent flight… sloooooowly write…
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      I’m howling. We need to make this a into a contest next holiday season, methinks…

  • Kacy
    July 9 2015

    I love that you were able to recreate such a memorable trip. My wanderlust started around the same age, when my parents decided we would forego Christmas gifts in lieu of a trip to Mexico. I couldn’t believe that we woke up somewhere cold and went to bed somewhere warm, and I was hooked forever. And I love the poem. You’re truly doing the medium justice 🙂
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      That’s awesome Kacy. What a great idea from your parents! I love Christmas and all the trimmings, but I’d be up for trading a year of it for an awesome family trip!

  • Marni
    July 9 2015

    It’s not a very exotic location, but North Carolina is somewhere I will forever associate with family, since we’ve had at least three large family get-togethers there. I think it would feel extremely alien to go there alone. Your scrapbook photos are awesome, and I think it’s so cool you were able to recreate one of your first major trips!

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      Thanks Marni! Yeah, I know how you feel, and that’s why I wasn’t planning to return to Belize originally. I think I Would have just felt nostalgic, and a bit lonely! So happy I got to experience it with family again.

  • Polly
    July 9 2015

    Joining the chorus to say, I love your scrapbook pages! As time-intensive as it was, I kind of miss doing elaborate scrapbooks. (Though I suppose editing in Photoshop, uploading to Facebook, and someday – hopefully – getting some photo books printed takes even more effort!)
    Polly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      I agree Polly, I miss it too! Such a fun creative outlet, and I still love flipping through them.

  • Visions of duty free…ha, this is too good! What an awesome opportunity for you to celebrate with your family! Can’t wait to read more soon.
    Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      Thanks Beth! It was indeed awesome. A trip to remember!

  • Kat
    July 9 2015

    I’m most interested to know what you thought of Caye Caulker. I didn’t really enjoy it there (incessant harassment from local men and a hostel full of bedbugs) and I’d like to think you had a different experience.

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2015

      You know I read a LOT about the street harassment in Caye Caulker and I was semi-dreading it based on my experience in Nicaragua. Also, we were going over Easter which is the most crowded week of the year and so I was even more concerned. But strangely I think the crowds kind of dissipated the unwanted attention in a way, ha. Like, there were just so many women they couldn’t pick one to harass!

  • Susan
    July 10 2015

    Road-tripping all over the United States automatically makes me think of my family. We. Drove. Everywhere! Cheers to parents that are brave enough to travel with babies, toddlers, middle-schoolers, and teenagers. My brother and I were probably not always the easiest travel companions!

    Also? I’m so excited to see your Belize coverage! You and I were there just about the same time, although I was on Ambergris Caye while you were at Caye Caulker. I think we Shark-Ray-Alley-ed a day or two apart from each other (so said Instagram)!
    Susan recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 13 2015

      Aw, fun! Yeah, my parents loved Martha’s Vineyard as our vacation destination because they could throw us and all our crap in the car and not fuss with an airplane. Seeing how difficult it can be to fly with children, I don’t blame them!

  • What a lovely poem, Meihoukai 🙂 I’m really excited to read more from Belize since I missed it on my trip to Central America. Would love to revisit Mexico & Guatemala and then add Belize into the mix.

    Ps. And that yoga photo… one of my all-time favorites on your blog <3
    Miriam of Adventurous Miriam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 13 2015

      Isn’t it dreamy?! It was a challenging morning for lighting but I do have more where that one came from!

  • Amy M
    July 12 2015

    I literally feel excited for you, reading this!
    I’m pretty excited to see what you get up to, I’ve been following along Adventurous Kate’s trip to Belize and the surroundings look stunning so it will be interesting to see what you get up to and to see more of the place! xo
    Amy M recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 13 2015

      Yeah, it’s quite funny how Kate and I did similar trips at similar times — we got to swap plenty of tips and tricks along the way.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    July 13 2015

    Can I make that last photo my screensaver, please? =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

  • Camille
    July 15 2015

    Nice rhymes! Always appreciate a bit of poetry! How cool that you scrapbooked your early trips and saved them all, they look awesome 🙂
    Camille recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 16 2015

      I also have one for my first trip to Costa Rica with a student exchange program 🙂 Now THAT would be a fun one to pull out…