72 hours as a guidebook writer

72 hours into my adventures as a guidebook writer in Belize and whoa!

I’m already enjoying every minute–meeting wonderful folks, making new friends and finding the latest and greatest in lodging, eateries, activities and more. I’m used to doing the latter for my blog and even for myself, but it’s hard to describe the joy that comes from knowing that I’m doing this for an even bigger purpose.

It’s also been interesting to see just how much changes in a place in two to three years’ time.

I flew in on an absolutely weather-perfect, glorious day. I took the domestic airline, Tropic Air, to one of the northern cayes or offshore islands (the most visited area in Belize). How pretty is the water? It never ceases to amaze me.

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Good thing I had the forethought of asking the pilot at the airport if I could sit up front with him.  Thanks, Brendan! I’ve also captured daily footage and will be putting together one-minute videos of different parts of the country as I move along. I may even try to put myself in those videos, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that, yet (haha).

What else?

I arrived on day one of the conch season opening in Belize. Some of the fishermen let me hang out with them on the back of the island for a few minutes to watch and shoot, while they told me of the latest–from conservation efforts to how a trio of Australian tourists were caught last week snorkeling the local, protected marine reserve solo sans licensed tour guide (illegal by the way).

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I met two talented artists by pure serendipity; one of them makes and sells beautiful Garifuna drums of all sizes (more later).

I found the best homemade fry jacks on the island (you’ll have to get the book to find out, ha!) – as well as the cheapest Belizean breakfast plate at just US$1.50 (US$2.50 with a mug of coffee).

It’s still the rainy (shhh, hurricane) season and on a stormy Tuesday I witnessed a waterspout for the first time ever. Good thing I had my camera, even if not my telephoto lens.

I’m pulling super, duper long hours already–as I anticipated. I’m up and working from 7 a.m. up all the way until midnight with few breaks in between other than eating and showering–hitting the pavement, meeting folks, taking notes and then writing it all up. But with views like this throughout my day? It’s all pretty bearable.  All I need now is  for the sand flies to stop loving me so much!

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller. Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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  1. Monica 4 October, 2012 at 1:08 PM #

    Glad you made it there safely. Sounds sooo much fun. I’m so psyched (and jealous) that you sat up front with the pilot!

  2. Monica 4 October, 2012 at 1:39 PM #

    Oh, and the photos are great!

  3. Andrea 4 October, 2012 at 1:49 PM #

    Have fun and enjoy your time, Lily !!!

  4. Chyrisse 4 October, 2012 at 2:37 PM #

    Enjoy….. Keep us cubicle prisoners posted.

  5. Robin 4 October, 2012 at 4:13 PM #

    I’m so thrilled for you, Lilly! I’d love to read your impressions of Dangriga and Tobacco Caye. I was in Belize many years ago and I visited the Garifuna Museum in Belize which was pretty cool. Someone suggested we check out Tobacco Caye which turned out to be the worst part of our trip. We stayed at a place that served Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for dinner and had cartoon bed sheets. Wish I could remember the name. But we absolutely loved our stay at Mountain Equestrian Trails. The cutest bungalows and best family style meals. Check that out, if you haven’t already. Have a blast.

  6. Staci Allison 4 October, 2012 at 4:17 PM #

    Hi Lily,

    I am making my first trip to Ambergis Caye. Staying at the Indigo for three months. I will be alone and that is just an adventure in itself. To travel Central America as a single woman. I am either very brave or insane. (possibly both). When will your book be available? And if I can ask, any does or don’ts from the female perspective?

    Happy trails.

  7. Lebawit Lily Girma 4 October, 2012 at 4:41 PM #

    Monica – thanks!! Yes it’s a blast! I try and sit up front every single time I fly them. But I highly recommend doing that when going over to San Pedro or Punta Gorda especially – fantastic views.
    (I forgot to say in the post, that was not a plug for Tropic – I paid for my own ticket and even if I hadn’t, all my reviews will be 100% as transparent and genuine as always. ;))

    Thank you Andrea! I’m enjoying every minute.

    Robin, thanks lady! I have been to both Dangriga and Tobacco Caye before and loved it. I have a weak spot for the south. Sorry to hear of what happened, I can’t imagine who would serve you that mess, oh gosh… I’ll definitely keep in mind the spot you mention as well, thank you!

    Hi Stacy, thanks for your note! San Pedro is completely safe for solo travelers – the first time I went to Belize it was also there and Cayo, and I was alone! It was 100% fun. Precautions are just the same here as anywhere else – don’t walk alone at night for long distances, don’t walk the beach after dark alone etc… have a reliable taxi driver you can call to pick you up after partying (your hotel can get you one, unless you’re renting a cart).
    My edition of Moon Belize will be available in stores in early Fall 2013.

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