Our time in Roatan

First of all the view coming into the island is absolutely gorgeous… I mean check this out:

This was one of those trips that just ended up being meant to be. I really wanted to take the girls to Iceland but, they weren’t allowing US Passport holders in at the time due to their Covid restrictions. So the girls and I came up with 3 options. Roatan, Hawaii or Nicaragua. Lily really wanted Hawaii or Roatan. I just wanted somewhere warm. Last minute flights to Hawaii were not reasonable, but doable. I posted a poll on IG and a friend of mine said that her childhood friend goes to Roatan every year and loved it. So we connected via DMs and she said “well the place I stay at is this little dive resort called Bananarama. You probably wouldn’t like it” I was all OMG!!! I was just looking at that place earlier today! So I called them. They were running a special where if you spent $350 at the dive shop you got your room for $40/night. I upgraded because they were 3 of us but we got an entire villa on the beach for $140/night. And the woman on the phone kept calling me darling! It was meant to be! So I booked it. Then… later that night I was booking flights and I realized… the girls’ passports were expiring!! It totally escaped my mind that their passports are only good for 5 years and it didn’t even dawn on my to check because their Global Entry cards were good for a whole other year. I PANICKED.

I spent the next couple days trying to get an appointment at the passport office in DC. They told me it was too far out from our trip (we were 3 weeks out) and I’d need to call back when we were 14 days out from the trip. In the meantime I had been trying to make an appointment online to no avail. So a week later I called and they wouldn’t even look for an appointment for me because we were 12 hours too early. I almost lost my mind. I called the next day and they didn’t have any appointments available. I was heartbroken. I had been checking every single day online for an appointment. I checked the Atlanta office, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago and Houston. ALL booked solid. I called Bananarama and pushed our trip out 2 months. I couldn’t get through to the airline to rebook. A couple days later I checked online and there was an appointment for the following Monday. I booked it!!

So then I was gathering our docs to take to the PP office and I realized my final custody order just said “The order from 8/2017” is now final. Didn’t have the decision or my name on it at all. I went back through my papers and found the 8/2017 order for Lily but not Mira. I figured I could just go have the clerk’s office reprint the order. I went down and they printed it no problem. I got to the car and realized the date on Mira’s order was from 5/2017. I went back in the courthouse. Spoke to a different person and they said there was no order in the computer. She had to go pull our hard file. Looked through the hard file and she said there is no such thing as an order for 8/2017… that was supposed to just be a motion and my final order was wrong. She’d put it on the desk for the judge to amend. A week later I picked up the amended order and the following day we headed to DC. We left at 5AM and were the first ones through security. 10 minutes later there were 60 people deep behind us. We went up to the counter gave her our forms, she gave us a number… went to a different counter. Signed more forms. Gave our photos, paid our fee and were told to sit down. 2.5 hours later people who came in after us were getting called for their Passports. I started to panic again. At the 3rd hour we finally got called up and were handed a big packet. WE HAD THEIR PASSPORTS!!! I was so relieved. I called Bananarama again and moved our trip back.

Fast forward another week and we were sitting on flights before dawn on the way to Roatan. We connected through Dallas which was a shit show but the flight to ROA only have 10, maybe 15 people on it. Our driver picked us up from the airport and we stopped at a grocery store and fruit stand on the way from Coxen Hole to West Bay.

At first I didn’t think I was going to like the island. Apparently Easter weekend is the BUSIEST weekend of the year. Everyone in Honduras is on holiday and the beach was packed. There were beach vendors everywhere trying to braid your hair or give you massages. The one massage person was relentless. It was a little awkward when she pushed me on the lounge chair and took off my bikini top. Once we got used to saying no to the 83837638 vendors we saw everyday (the banana bread guy was my favorite) and all the Easter traffic left it was lovely.

Before we left a girl I work with overheard me saying we were heading to Roatan… her sister lives there!!! Megan gave us Desiree’s phone number and we started texting. She gave me Juan Carlos’ phone number and I’m so glad she did!! We texted before we left and talked about all the things the girls wanted to see while we were there and he volunteered to be our island GPS. He ended up becoming a close friend. He probably got more than he bargained for!! He was phenomenal and I can’t wait to return the favor when he comes to Virginia this summer. We saw him almost every day. We took him and his family out for dinner, talked about life and how Covid affected the island.

COVID LIFE: for a little island whos entire economy relies on tourism a global pandemic has been crippling. They haven’t had a cruise ship in over a year. Jobs were lost. They were in total lockdown for 9 months; only allowed to go to the bank and the grocery store on their assigned day during their assigned hours every 3 weeks. The government gave each household 1 check, once for what equates to $100 for food. We passed a guy selling 1lb bags of dried beans and I said I can’t wrap my head around earning a living selling beans. Juan Carlos said… “I did that” he said yoy could make $20 off a 50lb bag of beans you but from the mainland. He also sold limes and rice. It was tough for them to get by. He said they learned a huge lesson about relying on one source of income. They were worried about running out of gas so they stopped using the drier and started using a clothesline. They googled how to make a brick oven outside from mud and used wood to heat their stove. His story was just one with a recurring theme that we heard while we were there.

Then we met Pablo. Lily wanted to go horseback riding, so we stopped at some stables to check prices and that’s where we met him. This dirty barefoot kid working with these horses. I didn’t think too much of it at the time until a couple days later we stopped at a gas station for baleadas. There he had walked and was waiting for someone to hitch a ride with. Lily’s heart broke and she said Mom I feel so bad for him just standing out there with his fog. I said well go ask him if he’s hungry. She came back and said he wants a cheeseburger. I said well get him that and fries and the biggest coke you can find. We sat outside with him while he ate and fed his dog Alex my leftovers. I couldn’t stop thinking about this kid. Fast forward a few more days and I was driving through Flowers Bay on the way to my shark dive and he was just hanging out sitting by the side of the road with some other shoeless friends. I asked JC what we could do to help so the following day we went to look for Pablo. We picked him and his friend Olson up and took them to the biggest store on the island, which in our terms is a thrift store. They were so cute looking for shoes and clothes and zipping through the store on tiny bikes meant for toddlers. When we picked them up Pablo said they were brothers. JC thought they weren’t telling the whole truth and was asking questions about where they lived and school. He said what’s your dad’s name? And Pablo and Olson yelled in unison MARK! DWAYNE!! HAHA it was really funny but then they got a lecture on the importance of honesty. I mean can you blame them? I’m sure they were afraid we wouldn’t help them if they weren’t brothers. Pablo lives in the back of a friend of a friend’s house because she doesn’t charge him money for food. He can’t live at home with his Dad and his 6 brothers and sisters because his dad says their house is too small for him and his mom passed away a couple years ago. He’s 11. Buying him and a friend a few things was the least we could do and the best $100 I’ve ever spent.

The 10 days we spent in Roatan was lovely. We loved the people and fell in love with the island. I’d seriously consider buying some property there. Here’s just a few things we did while we were there:

  • I got my scuba Certification
  • Did a Shark Dive
  • The girls went snorkeling
  • Horseback riding
  • Deep Sea Fishing
  • Shopping in West End
  • LOTS of beach time
  • We drove all over the island which is actually 2 different towns. Roatan and Santos Guardiola
  • We saw the Garifuna people
  • We went ziplining… updside down
  • We saw Sloths and Monkeys and Iguanas
  • We ate Iguana from a roadside vendor
  • We went to the grocery store shopping for food
  • Trying to figure out how much 4,000 Lempiras is in USD at the ATM was fun… the exchange rate is 24.5 to $1
  • Walked around and explored which is our favorite thing to do
  • Took a water taxi between West Bay and West End
  • Mangrove tour in Jonestown
  • The Hole in the Wall restaurant was probably one of our favorites!

Mira was so adventurous this trip! She did not want to snorkel or horseback ride but she did it anyway. Ended up loving to ride which makes Lily and I so so happy! Now she wants to take riding lessons. She read signs in English and Spanish which is a HUGE deal because she was diagnosed with ADHD before we left and has really been struggling with learning to read. It was her idea to go deep sea fishing… we didn’t catch anything. But Bay Island Fishing Charters was so so great to us and offered to take us out again for free when we go back! Juan Carlos was our amazing island GPS! Bananarama Dive Center were the best instructor for my dive certification. Yami promised to come dive with us in the Maldives when we go! Mariel was the very best instructor! Wild Roatan delivered handmade soaps and lotions and coconut oil to us (twice) and Sealorn Jewelry made the coolest Lionfish earrings. We met her in West End and she promised to go with us to the mainland when we come back!

These are the amazing moments that only travel blesses your life with. This was more than vacation. This was filling our souls, appreciating the earth around us and touching the lives of others with friendship. THIS is what our little family needs more of.

Money Matters

So I think one of the biggest detractors to traveling (especially Internationally) is the cost associated with it. I used to work for Allianz which is a travel insurance company based here in Richmond Virginia. The almost decade that I spent with them taught me one important lesson. Always set a budget… then double it. Also, always take out travel insurance! I guess that’s 2 lessons. Point is you never know what can happen. Covid is a perfect example. So many travels got stuck for MONTHS. That could potentially be financially damaging.

There is so much planning that we need to do for this epic experience but I feel very strongly that the first thing is money management. In order to make this happen I have to sell the house. It actually goes on the market in 2 DAYS!!! (I’m sad and nervous and excited at the same time) but I need to have a plan with what to do with the equity from the house. I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to keep my job and work as we travel so I have to separate my money into buckets.

Bucket 1 Travel

Bucket 2 Living Expenses (before and after our year)

Bucket 3 Dream Bucket … Money that I need to put toward making other dreams (like owning a beach condo) come true

Bucket 4 College Funds

Bucket 5 Retirement

I read an article years ago that talked about the “envelope” method for your money. This is similar but for long term goals. I met with a Financial Planner who is going to help me invest in myself, my children, my future and my dreams. I’ve worked with financial advisors and investors before… played in the stock market myself but this was the first one that really was supportive of my dreams and goals and took those into account with helping me set up a plan. It’s early days yet in the planning and investing phase but it’s never too early to start managing your money. If you are in the RVA area and need a great resource I highly recommend Ben Page. He was recommended to me by some friends of mine whos dreams of owning a Mountain home are coming true with Ben’s help!

The Plan

So at a VERY high level… here’s the plan. The girls and I are going to quit jobs, homeschool… take the dogs and travel for a year. In order to do this we’ll have to sell the house we love so much here in Hanover, Virginia. We’ll miss it… but we don’t want to miss this opportunity. This truly is a once in a lifetime experience and we are so blessed that we are able to do this. I might never be able to retire… but it will be worth it!! Honestly I couldn’t even consider this if I didn’t have the support of some really special people in my life… who get excited for us when I’m terrified. Their excitement convinces me that this really is a good idea long enough to get stoked for it again.

So… Itinerary… we’re still making our list of things we want to see and do but. We’re thinking it will look something like this:

Virginia > Mexico

Mexico > Central America

Central America > South America

Chile > Antarctica

Antarctica > Chile

Chile > Virginia

*** This is where we pick up the dogs

Virginia > Europe

*** We’ll use Europe as our base… I think this is where we’ll spend the bulk of our time.

Europe > Asia

Asia > Europe

Europe > Africa

Africa > Europe

Europe > Australia (with the dogs)

Then…. Well… we haven’t thought that far ahead yet! Still so very much to plan but this is the thought process so far. If you have any bucket list destinations we should check out, volunteer opportunities with local communities, homeschooling ideas, packing lists (I’m a serial over-packer) or just want to say Hey! … We’d love to hear from you!

The Idea

I have no idea what made me think of it. I’ve always had a little bit of Wanderlust. Maybe it was the septic that broke for the 4958408 time in my “almost” brand new house. Maybe it was the job I felt like was going nowhere. Maybe it was the relationship that came to a screeching halt. I can’t pinpoint exactly but something inside of me said: “There’s got to be more than this”. Like so many other American families… we were stuck on a hamster wheel. Constantly “working for the weekend”; Surviving instead of Thriving. I missed feeling free… and happy for no particular reason. I was tired of keeping up with the Jones’… trying to fit in with women who’s values didn’t align with my own. One day out of nowhere I got the bright idea to sell the house and travel for a year. I wish y’all could have seen the panic on Lily’s face when I mentioned it. I think for sure she thought I was speeding towards a mental breakdown. It took an entire year… 365+ days to talk her into the idea. So here we are… 11PM at night… Making a blog, so we can make a plan and embark on the adventure of a lifetime. We’re doing this.

Travel Tips

There are millions of tips out there on how to travel. For me the #1 thing that is sure to set me off is having too much stuff. I HATE carryon items. All I want is my backpack… that’s it. I don’t want to stow anything in the overhead compartments. I don’t want to be running through the airports or train stations with giant suitcases that has wheels which always get stuck on something. I STRESSES me out. My type-A perfectionist, maybe a little OCD self cannot handle it. And when I can’t deal… I get snappy and frustrated.

How best to combat it? I don’t know… honestly I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll let you know the minute I do. No matter how many times I pack, unpack and repack… I always bring exactly twice the amount of stuff I will ever use. Someone please tell me how to pack minimalistic-ally (is that a word?) !!! Oh… and travel pillows… THE WORST~

Check bag for Travel Tips as we stumble upon what works for us… I’ll keep it updated!