Travel Thoughts

Peter at Mayan Ruins I recently traveled to Belize with my friend's family. While we were there, we hiked to a series of limestone caves that stretched out to be approximately one mile long. The guide who was there was of Mayan descent. While we stood there covered in DEET, he told us that Belize was one of the more prosperous Central American countries. This was somewhat surprising to me as the town where we were staying, Hopkins, seemed to be very poor.

There was no infrastructure to speak of. Trash riddled the streets. Stray dogs prowled around, their ribs showing prominently. Hopkins itself was divided into different sections, there was the local population of Belizeans on one side of the town. This was essentially the poor section. After driving down a rough dirt road, there was the tourist section of town. This was essentially the rich section. The contrast was striking. The houses here were sturdy and some had swimming pools. In the local section of town, the houses were roughly constructed out of wood and dirt.

I've always had mixed feelings about travelling. On the one hand, it's great to experience new places and things. On the other hand, it's a sobering experience to see how fortunate we are. In the case of Belize, we were part of a population that was absurdly wealthy as compared to the local population. Is traveling authentic in those situations? Is it morally a worthwhile thing? There is the argument that as a tourist, you're pushing money into a starving economy. While that may be true, it inherently takes away from an authentic experience. I'm pretty conflicted about where I stand on the subject.