Right now, at the time of writing, I’m on Utila. It’s the smallest of the Bay Islands, just off the coast of Honduras in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, and it feels wonderful. It feels like I’ve come home.
Mr Backpacking Husband and I are now in our sixth year of travelling the world and it was right here on this island that our adventures first began. We had been exploring the Caribbean and Utila was our special find. It felt like not too many people knew about it. It felt like we’d discovered a secret place. A tiny tropical island paradise sitting on the Meso-American reef – the second largest coral reef in the world – tucked away in a bay where the water is warm and clear. Back then we stayed on Utila on and off for over a year, except for the necessary visa runs, renting a little Caribbean style house near the beach.
I suppose, when we left the West to explore the East, I expected to find another Utila somewhere. Perhaps amongst those tiny islands in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia or off Thailand amidst those verdant jewels in the Andaman Sea. And, if not there, then surely somewhere in Indonesia? But no. There was no other place just like it. There really is nowhere else in the world like Utila.
The first time Mr Backpacking Husband and I came to Utila was for the scuba diving. It’s a long haul to get here. I remember we flew from Glasgow Scotland via New York then Miami and Roatan (the larger of the Bay Islands) and all the time the planes were getting smaller. We took a tiny plane over to Utila. I’d never flown in a Cessna before and I remember being terrified and exhilarated in equal measures.
That summer spent on Utila exceeded and yet set our expectations for all our travels to come. We fell in love with the island and its people. We became intoxicated (sometimes quite literally as the rum is delicious) with the no news, no shoes, snoozing/reading in a hammock and never really knowing or caring what day it is, kind of lifestyle. And, despite the troublesome biting sand flies that I’ve blogged about and the intense and throbbing heat and the blistering sunshine and the exhausting humidity – and lack of air conditioning – we immediately fell into sync with this island’s laid-back vibe.
Sure, there have been some changes on the island. Our fav dive shop has changed hands. Our fav local store has moved 200 yards down the street. There is a touristy ‘I Heart Utila’ sign on the beach. But thankfully lots of things remain the same. Fresh supplies still come to the island from the Honduran mainland on a Tuesday and a Friday and the rum and local beer remain delicious. The sea is still warm and crystal clear. The sun continues to shine. And the best thing of all? Our lovely friends here still remember and welcome us. So, I guess we could be staying a while….
Where in the world is your special place?