We met in Belize: Featured Traveler- Leah Gaskin

In 2014, I backpacked around Mexico and popped into Belize for a short minute. I was in Cancun and took a sketchy old school bus for less than $10 to Belize.

Belize is such an anomaly in Latin America. The first language is English and the nation gained it’s independence from Britain late in the game (1981). A popular destination among tourists is Caye Caulker, a small Caribbean island off the coast of Belize. To get there, I took a boat (that I almost missed because the ATM machine ate my debit card), and then I walked around looking for a hostel.

The island is so laid back, people walk around barefoot and use golf carts to get around. After roaming the tiny island, I stumbled upon a hostel and checked in. Almost immediately, I made two Canadian friends. We bonded, had life chats, and partied hard (maybe too hard at the beach split). This is the story of Leah.

Name: Leah Gaskinleah-g
City she calls home: Edmonton born and raised

What sparked your interest in travel?

I have always be interested in travel since I was young. My first trip was at 9 months old to Barbados with my family. I used to love looking at the photo albums of all the family trips they took before I was born, and comment “I wanna go there too!”My mom assures me I would get to go to new cities in time. We flew to Winnipeg and Toronto often to see family, and road trips to Banff or Jasper if an out-of-towner came to visit. However, my defining moment of travel was at 13 when I went to London, England. My cousin was 14 and she took me under her wing for the 3 weeks we visited. I went everywhere around Brixton with her, running down curvy paths, via secret tunnel ways, hopping on buses and onto the tube. We even egged cabbies one night and had to run down a dark alley and laid flat in a field full of tall weeds so the cabby chasing us couldn’t find us. I went to my first underground rave, kissed a young Londoner in the moonlight and heard my first gunshots in the distance. That was a type of city adventuring I’d never done before; sans my momma. I was trusted to be free and independent in a foreign city and I loved it. From that moment on I knew I wanted to gallivant like this in all the other big cities we talked about in Social Studies class.

Where have you lived/visited?

I’ve traveled around BC (mainland and island), Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec. In the US to Seattle, LA, San Diego, a bunch of Utah, Las Vegas, Miami, Jersey Shore and New York City.
I’ve traveled around Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Barbados. Hopped the pond to London and France. Most of SE Asia – Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia.

Tell me something that didn’t go as planned when you were traveling.
I had been in Kuala Lumpur for about 2 days and went downtown to get my Vietnamese visa. My stomach was quite upset that morning but had no choice as to get my visa as it was a Friday and I already had a flight booked to Vietnam for the Monday. I was with my Malaysian friend in some government building when I suddenly had to find a washroom. I quickly found one and did my business. However, there was no paper in the stall, only a garden hose. I understood the hose was to wash my dirty ass, but with my bare hand 😐 Sitting on the toilet panicked on what to do next I started ruffling through my bag looking for some tissue, nada. I did find some crumpled ATM receipts that kinda did the job… I also unwrapped the paper instructions off the 5 Pagodas herbal powder capsules to wipe with. Told my friend the incident who was laughing uncontrollably in this government office. Needless to say, the moment I saw a boy selling tissue on the street, I immediately bought 3 packs.

Thankfully I don’t plan my trips rigidly. I tend to have a rough idea of the places I want to see on my timeline and the route to take. Nothing is ever set though. My most recent trip to Mexico I planned to visit Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, get some surf and beach life in one last time before heading mainland to Mexico City. Unfortunately, this was during the political unrest in Oaxaca June 2016 and there were no buses going in or out of the region, only flights to Oaxaca city. I didn’t budget for flying and wasn’t sure if it was truly that safe to be anywhere in Oaxaca. So I opted to go to Chiapas instead which was beyond beautiful, and I got to hide in the jungle for 5 days without wifi access.

What’s next on your list?

The whole world is left, I wanna see it all!! I never know where I’m heading next, it’s all about opportunity, timing and what feels right. For example, I never planned SE Asia, I thought I would’ve been heading to South America first! But a friend was going to Malaysia to visit family and asked if I wanted to come with, so I went.

How do you balance work and travel?

When I am working, I try to maximize taking trips around long weekends. With working shift work, I would switch shifts with coworkers to get extra days in a row too. With contract work, I managed to arrange 1 month by taking initiative to take on additional project work and ensuring my time of wouldn’t impact the team.

How do you encourage people to travel?

I encourage people to start on small weekend trips close by, places you’ve been before or to established locales to get used to what it’s like to be away from home. Tour groups are a great option to go without the hassle of planning logistics. Once you feel comfortable in cities similar to home or ready for something more culturally different, check out a more foreign spot

What has travel taught you?

Travel has taught me that you can plan as much as you want but allowing flexibility brings true freedom. Be happy with where you are, not where you ought to be. With travel, it doesn’t matter where you live, where you lay your head, what type of food you eat. What does matter is we are all on this planet for the same reasons, to be loved, to give love, and to open my eyes another day with respect.

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