Caye Caulker Island
Shayla Hunter - italktravel Rutherford
A little about Shayla - How long have you been a travel agent?
I have been a travel agent for 5 months now and absolutely loving it! I previously worked for AAT Kings, an Australian Tour Company however I was ready to have face to face relationships with my clients and plan their special holidays all over the world.
Where was your first overseas trip?
My first overseas trip was the South Pacific on a P&O cruise ship with my family. Ticking off a cruise and the islands in one trip was fantastic. As a first time cruiser I would definitely recommend P&O.
What is your favourite place to travel to?
So far my favourite place has been Caye Caulker Island – it is just stunning and the people are wonderful. I look forward to going back!
What is your bucket list place?
My bucket list place is Antarctica. I can not wait to have the opportunity to explore the ice. Before heading to Antarctica I plan on climbing Machu Picchu and exploring South America!
Mexico, Belize and Guatemala
Shayla visited too may cities to name individually! Her major stays were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Cancun, Caye Caulker, Antigua and San Cristobal.
Flew with Virgin Australia International to LAX - great airline, fantastic service and surprisingly good food on board, I would definitely fly with them again!
Then on Delta Airlines and Aero Mexico to and from the United States, and flew with Delta International home to Sydney.
Throughout Mexico, Guatemala and Belize Shayla was on many forms of transportation - little domestic airlines, coaches, taxis, mini-vans, speed boat taxis, ferries and cruises.
Contiki Tour - Mayan Heat | 24 Day Tour - Discovery Contiki.
I was on the the very first new Contiki ever, so I was pretty much a test dummy with my fellow Contiki travellers.
The tour was actually broken up into 7 different tours so by the end of my trip I had became friends with over 80 new and exciting people within a month!
Throughout the whole month in three different countries I experienced so many different levels of accommodation and different areas.
Chichen Itza – Me standing in front of one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
In Mexico, I stayed in all-inclusive resorts with amazing pools and great food, high rise hotels with beautiful city views, hotels that are beautifully designed with culture and history as well as lower rated hotels that offered all that was needed for 1 nights stay.
Spending 3 weeks in Mexico was the best experience, the culture, the food and the people inspire me to be happy and embrace each day with a smile on your face. Travelling throughout fortunate cities and the less fortunate villages really opened my eyes to not only how others live, but how happy they all are with not much at all.
Each day I climbed a different pyramid and visited a different archaeological site learning so so much about the history of the Mayan and Aztec heritage. If I was to name each city I loved, the list would go for pages so narrowing down to my favourite places is very difficult.
I loved Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Tequila and Yucatan. Yucatan was a highlight of the trip, which in one day I visited Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil as well as arriving in Cancun. Standing on top of the historical site of Monte Alban in Oaxaca where I was able to see the whole district of Oaxaca was just breathtaking.
I was in Belize for 4 days which just was not enough time which of course means I need to plan a trip back. I stayed on the beautiful Caye Caulker Island - a island that is 8km long by 2km wide.
Belize, Caye Caulker Island – Me riding a bike around the island
On this island there is no cars, just golf buggy's and bicycles! I hired a bicycle for the day and rode my way around the island exploring what such a secret destination has to offer - beautiful people, amazing waters, great food and very tasty cocktails!
Guatemala was a 6 day stay where I had the experience of a lifetime, staying in a rain forest lodge! Waking up under the mosquito net and to the sound of rain forest animal life was an night I would never forget.
I also stayed in a beautiful hotel that was right in front of the two active volcano's in Guatemala. Seeing the pink sunset hide away the volcano's was just picture perfect view! The country is so enriched with history and culture.
What I loved
It is too easy to say I loved the whole month I was away. I loved how happy and positive everyone is, and I always felt so safe!
I loved learning about the culture, trying the local food and drink and eating guacamole with each meal!
Pictures can not do any justice for what I actually saw - beaches, pyramids, historical sites, cactus's, churches, town squares and clean cities!
What was just OK
I guess adapting to the different way of living falls under the category just OK, but it was fun and a good laugh as well.
I loved embracing it all - of course travelling in any country their is a unfamiliar language and slight differences which I did expect. It was great fun speaking, learning and developing my Spanish and having the littlest knowledge of it really did help in speaking with the locals.
I was surprised how much Spanish I did learn and how often I used it at the shopping centres and when ordering food, even reading menus.
One very culturally different aspect I did find a bit weird at first was not flushing toilet paper. The pipes in Central America are so old that no paper waste can be flushed down them.
To be honest, I was so used to not flushing toilet paper that when I landed back in LAX I freaked out for a second!
What was awful
I would not say it was awful at all, I had the time of my life however in Cancun it was very different to the rest of the Mexican experience.
Cancun is very commercial, unless you travel further into the town centre where the locals live you will not feel a cultural experience of local food and local people.
The accommodation in Cancun was just OK. For myself and my fellow Contiki travelers we found that we stayed too far away from the night life, the shopping centers and the main beaches of Cancun.
I recommend staying closer to the main strip of Cancun, if I was to go back to Cancun (it does not bother me to) I would ensure I am in an all inclusive resort closer to the bus stops and closer to the port of little cruise ships to venture to the islands.
Tell us about your favourite meal, what, where, when & why
My favourite meal was in Guanajuato! I had a beautiful steak with a side of cactus, as well as an amazing margarita.
As much as the food was great, this whole city experience was beautiful - and I got to share it with my new friends.
Top tip for someone doing this trip
My top tip for someone travelling to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala is to be open minded and do not create expectations of where you are going because it will absolutely blow you away.
Ik Kil Cenote – Me standing in the Cenote, just after jumping metres into the water.
Each and every city has different aspects which makes each and every day a different experience, a different story to tell.
Try all cuisine - I have now eaten cactus, crickets and ants as well as many different fruits and so many different local drinks and local made tequila. The three countries are so so safe and I can not stress that enough!
For people travelling for the first time, I would recommend doing a tour whether it is short or long just to get rough boundaries, learn respectful ways of traveling in the countries and attempt and embrace new things - the languages, the food and the culture differences.
Anything you would do differently next time
Next time I would be comfortable to go travel independently with a few friends, however I would ensure that I have learnt much more Spanish.
I would spend more time in the places I loved, and now that I have traveled to so many cities and towns throughout the three countries there is a few places I would not need to visit again.
Guatemala Volcano Sunset – as storm clouds rolled in.
Would you go back?
Yes! In a heart beat.
I would definitely love to spend more time in Mexico and Belize, however it would not bother me to travel back to Guatemala.
I look forward to exploring more - I would love to do more Central America in general.
Have you got another trip planned and where to?
I am in the process of planning my next trip which is on the total opposite side of the world - Europe!
I want to spend 4 weeks exploring and making my way through most countries and sailing in Croatia.
After that trip I plan on travelling back to Central America and South America! I just would be happy to do a round the world trip - I can only dream.
How can I find out more?
Call italktravel Rutherford on (02) 4932 9244
Oaxaca – Me standing above the whole district of Oaxaca on top of an historical site.