Sustainability is something that I search for whenever I want to stay in one place for a while. I think it’s an important aspect of any community I choose to be a part of, as well as a responsibility of educated travelers the world over. I mean, what’s the point in visiting some pristine place if we’re only going to destroy it later on, right?
In addition to finding a community that’s already contributing to the cause, there are also always little ways to give back while living in a new land yourself. Some of us may consider them basic examples of common sense, but sometimes—especially when we’re wrapped up in vacation mode—they can be a bit tricky to recognize.
A few things I find helpful when visiting countries that are still developing include things like packing as many reusable items as you can. Bringing your own water bottle is a great example. Especially in places where the tap water is not suitable for drinking. Often people can go through 10 or more plastic bottles in a day just trying to stay hydrated. And even more often, proper recycling procedures are not really in place. So, having just one refillable bottle can already do a lot to cut down on your carbon footprint. The same theory applies to plastic bags. Nowadays, there are plenty of reusable bags that fold up so small they fit right inside your purse or your pocket. Visiting fruit stands, farmer’s markets, and supermarkets with your own carry-all can help prevent a lot of waste from winding up in our environment as well.
But, I digress… and possibly I soapbox. I trust most travel-savvy readers are already intelligent and caring enough to do every bit they can to keep our gorgeous planet as pristine as possible.
My real point is that back when I decided to move to Belize and live on the island of Ambergris Caye, I assumed straight away that there would be a lot of green initiatives already going on there, based simply on how long the island has been home to tourists and the fact that it isn’t totally trashed after all these years.
And, as it turns out, I was correct. The community really is quite active in an environmental respect, as well as when it comes to supporting one another around the island. Much of the land here is already protected by national parks and marine reserves like Hol Chan or Bacalar Chico at either end of the island. Boats, cars, and golf carts are all emissions inspected, sustainable fishing practices are in place, and children learn to respect their surroundings right from grade school.
When Hurricane Earl came through back in August 2016, many homes and beach business establishments were flooded by rain and waves, or damaged from strong winds. For the most part, people did not have the money required to recreate what was lost. So, the people on the island banded together and have already raised an incredible amount of funds to fix what was broken.
One of the many places I’ve come across that has truly made incredible use of its space and the resources around it is the Truck Stop. Located just one mile north of San Pedro town (about 5 minutes via golf cart), the Truck Stop is a small community of recycled shipping container buildings. Each unit hosts a different cultural cuisine, from Caribbean and Southeast Asian to gourmet island ice cream and a big bountiful beer garden. Fairy lights twinkle in the trees above handmade picnic tables and along the dock. Behind the eating area is an open space filled with fun games, a fire pit, and an outdoor movie screen.
Every Thursday is free movie night at the Truck Stop. This past week, Office Space was showing and a crowd of all ages gathered to enjoy the show. The kind wait staff serve food and drinks directly to you during the film, and comfy deck chairs are available on a first come, first served basis. Mosquito coils are also in place so that pesky nibbles don’t distract from the entertainment, which is always a big plus in my book. In addition to these fun weekly shows, the establishment also puts on occasional documentary viewings that relate to environmental issues affecting the island and our earth.
One Saturday each month, the Truck Stop hosts a farmer’s market on its grounds. From 11 AM until 2 PM, people gather to get in on some rare homemade items from around the island.
One stand sells homemade pineapple, pumpkin, and carrot cream cheese cupcakes. Another offers fresh baked breads and a fan favorite—bacon jam. (It’s a favorite for a reason! Try it if you can get there early enough to get your hands on some before it sells out.) Free range eggs take up table space at a number of booths, along with fresh apple pie, salsa, hummus, handmade pierogies, meats, cheeses, and fresh spices of every kind.
An organic wine stand sells sweet home-brewed hibiscus libations, made with all local, organic ingredients. The proprietor even goes so far as to use filtered rain water in his sustainable beverages.
So, although the setup is sustainably simple and the day is often intolerably hot, the energy at the Truck Stop is always intoxicating. People from all walks of life gather here each day to enjoy each other’s company and help build a better community in the place we’ve all chosen to call home.
It’s definitely another incredible island-find for my list, and I’m already looking forward to frequenting the relaxing movie nights and bustling farmer’s markets of the future. Not to mention tasting every item on the menu of each food vendor (including the ice cream, of course).
Interested in reading more about how I’m thriving and surviving in San Pedro, Belize? Click here to discover this island along with me.
Check out the links below to see what other adventures I’ve been on lately.