Sunset over the Sea on the Royal Caribbean

How to remain optimistic in winter: Head South

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”. – Albert Camus

Here in Minnesota we are in the midst of winter. The days are short and cold and in January it rarely gets above freezing. Winter can last anywhere from 4-5 months depending on the year. This year, we have been fortunate as we had an incredibly mild November and December, and despite a sub-zero week it has been mostly in the 20s and 30s. For me, that is almost tropical after last week’s -20.

“So how do you do it” many people ask me in bewilderment and shock when I tell them where I’m from. Simple. I embrace it, and I take a break.

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Silver Lining

silver lining (noun)

a consoling aspect of an otherwise desperate or difficult situation; “every dark rain cloud has a silver edge or lining”; “look on the bright side of it.”

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Arriving into dark rain clouds in Honduras. January 2013.

Roughly a year ago I was in Honduras doing volunteer work and taking Spanish classes for a week.  It was my fourth volunteer trip, third one to a Central American country, and was fulfilling the promise I made to myself years ago to give back to those in need.

For a place of so much beauty, there is also so much pain.

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The stilted homes of Roatan

Author’s note: This is my last piece on my recent trip to Honduras. To read more posts in this series  click here. The post below is a continuation of my day tour of the Garifuna villages on the island of Roatan).

After our visit to Punta Gorda, we drove to the other side of narrow Roatan to visit another beautiful traditional Garifuna Village, the community of Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is quite unique as the entire village is built around a large bay and is a fishing community. It has been termed “The Venice of Roatan” which I find a little humorous however it is definitely worth a visit to this picturesque town.

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It was raining and there was no way I could ever have gotten a better shot of Oak Bridge than this one that I found on www.2backpackers.com (which is an awesome blog by the way).

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A taste of Machuca in Punta Gorda

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

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Image credit: www.orangesmile.com

On my last day in Roatan, one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, I took a half day private island tour. I decided to take the tour as opposed to lounging around on the beach because I truly wanted to learn more about the unique Garifuna culture and heritage that makes this island so fascinating.  As much as my body and soul wanted to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the resort at Barefoot Cay, a stronger inherent urge within my mind was begging me to do something more cultural than laying in the sun. Thus, despite my longing to do absolutely nothing for a day, my active mind got the best of me and I booked a five hour private tour with one of the island’s best locals, Ray Anthony.

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Staying on my own little Cay

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Not all of life is work and no play. Sometimes you have to reward yourself and celebrate the fruits of your labor. This is at least how I presented it to my loving husband as I booked myself two days at the Barefoot Cay in Roatan, Honduras.

I had just left the mainland after a week of volunteering and living like the locals. I had researched options on the internet and discovered the luxurious, secluded Barefoot Cay and knew I’d have to check it out. It was a bit more expensive than where I’d usually stay, however, it had a lot of fabulous amenities for a solo traveler.  When I read the front page of Barefoot Caye’s website, I was enticed and realized I had to give it a try.

Otro mundo aparte – A world apart.

The pace is unhurried…  The beaches white…  The water azure blue. 
Barefoot Cay Resort creates a feeling of calm and closeness with nature to a level few have experienced.

I arrived just as the sun was setting on Friday night and was instantly welcomed with an icy cold local beer at check in.  I couldn’t think of a better greeting than this after the bumpy rough ride on the ferry.

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The Bays of Roatan

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Jakesprinter’s Sunday post theme is “Bay“. I realized that most of my travels are to mountains or other locales that do not typically include bays. Then as I glanced over at my copy of Lonely Planet: Honduras, I realized the cover said “Honduras and The Bay Islands“. Silly me, Roatan could be included in this challenge and I spent an entire morning touring her lovely bays and remote villages, way off the beaten tourist path.

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Roatan, Honduras

Sunset ferry to Roatan

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

I left the mainland of Honduras on the four o’clock ferry, just in time to catch the glorious sunset over the Caribbean Sea. Although the hour and a half ride was exceedingly rough (I noticed something was going on when the ferry employees handed out plastic vomit bags as soon as we set sail), I still was thrilled to be out at sea as the sun set and cast brilliant hues of saffron yellows, golds and pale pinks across the sky and water. It was utterly brilliant.

I stood the entire way as I was concerned I’d get seasick. Standing seemed to help as I was able to allow my body to sway and move with the motion of the waves. Many people were not so lucky so I was happy when the ferry finally pulled into the shore of Roatan right as I was starting to feel a little green.

Here are some of my favorite shots along the way, as the sun began to set and cast her magic upon all those who could see.

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La Ceiba, Honduras

Leaving La Ceiba

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

I often find that a week is not enough time to experience a new country or volunteer abroad. There is way too much to learn, and the experience is often a bit overwhelming and intense. However, in my humble opinion a week is better than nothing so I normally do whatever I can to get as much out of my time abroad as possible, even if it means running myself rampant.

Friday came before I knew it. Just as my Spanish was beginning to pick up once again and I had finally began to feel comfortable in my surroundings, it was time to go. The hardest part leaving La Ceiba was leaving its people, both the children I had worked with at the day care center and my lovely host family. I felt really sad leaving the kids knowing how poorly they were treated and understanding that my presence as a volunteer at the center was the highlight of their day. I knew another volunteer was still there yet it wasn’t enough. In a center with over 60 young children and uninspiring employees, one volunteer could simply not make up for the lack of care, attention and love that the children required. It was heartbreaking to leave.

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I also felt sad leaving my warm, caring host family. I was amazed how easily they welcomed me into their home with open arms, compassion, patience (with my lack of Spanish) and love. After only a few days I felt like an extended member of the family and it was hard to leave.  It is rare to develop this kind of friendship with anyone in such a short period of time yet I came to understand that most Hondurans are incredibly warm and compassionate people. They may not have much, but they do have happiness and an overall acceptance of the hardship of their lives. Something many of us could learn from.

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A five year old girl takes care of her one year old sister all day long at the day care center as there is no one else to help her.

Here are a few of my last photos that I took before I left. I purposely chose photos that depict the sharp contrast I felt in Honduras between beauty and poverty. I felt it so intensely during my trip.

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The Banana Republic

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

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A young boy selling fruit on a Monday morning (Shouldn’t he be in school?).

In order to get a clear understanding of where Honduras is today, it is important to take a brief look at the history. Below is a brief historical summary that I have paraphrased from Lonely Planet’s Honduras and The Bay Islands, Written by Greg Benchwick, 2010):

Like many countries in Central America, Honduras has a difficult history of her share of coups, rebellions, power seizures, foreign invasion and darn right meddling in her internal affairs. Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of Honduras (which means “depths” and was named by Columbus in reference to the deep water) on August 14, 1502. It was the first time a European had set foot on the American mainland, a historic landing that ended up being basically ignored for the next two decades until the discovery of gold and silver in 1530.

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Finding beauty in La Ceiba, Honduras

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

La Ceiba is not known as the most beautiful city in the world. In fact, it is known for being well, rather ugly. I had been warned about the unattractiveness of the city several times through my research in Lonely Planet and other noteworthy travel sites. But La Ceiba was where my volunteer project was based so I was going to make the best of it and be sure to use that good old “third-eye” (i.e. open-minded approach). Ugly or not, I would find the beauty of it.

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Honduras is a diverse country with lots of jungle and mountains. La Ceiba is located on the Caribbean Sea not far from the famous Bay Islands. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Love and Heartbreak in a Honduran daycare

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

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The main reason why I went to Honduras was to volunteer and give back. A month before leaving I found out my volunteer placement would be at a Honduran daycare center for poor single mothers to send their children to the day while they tried to earn a living. As a mother myself who adores children and an advocate for fighting poverty, I couldn’t think of a better placement. I could hardly wait.

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