The World Nomads Podcast: Belize

Belize is known for its stunning dive sites and ancient Mayan ruins but in this episode, we also learn about its deep south and efforts to save the endangered scarlet macaw, one of the world’s most recognizable parrots.

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The World Nomads Podcast: Belize

In this episode we feature Belize, often referred to as the jewel in the heart of the Caribbean Basin, known for the Great Blue Hole made famous by Jacques Cousteau who declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world.

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What’s in the Episode


03:46 Cave diving

08:50 Where does World Nomads stand on insuring cave diving?

10:24 Going south in Belize

15:22 Jessica's homestay 

20:05 Kim's fun fact

21:46 The Footprints project funding the endangered Scarlet Macaw

27:00 Travel News

29:52 Florian's effort to spread the clmate change message

39:18 Next week

Quotes from the Episode


"I found it super interesting, and hearing the stories about who they thought these people were based on their skeletons and what they were able to basically just tell about the past from a couple bone fragments was incredibly interesting." - Allison

"At the moment the south is mainly visited by the more intrepid traveler, the one that wants to get off the beaten path." - Jessica

"So we have been funded to do and to implement a program for the protection of Scarlet Macaws which is the biggest of the parrots that are found here in Belize." - Rafael

"So one of the really sad impacts of that storm was that the famous Stradivari forest where Stradivari already found his tonewood for the famous violins." - Florian

Who is in the Episode

Allison Green runs the blog Eternal Arrival in which she tells honest stories about living a travel-centered life. “If you're into quirky cities and outdoors adventures, served with a hint of self-deprecation - you're in the right place.”

Jessica Vincent is a travel writer and photographer specialising in cultural and immersive travel in Central and South America. Her passion is telling long-form, investigative travel stories about the people, places and cultures that make our world so special. Read her story about exploring Belize’s forgotten south and follow her travels on Instagram.

Rafael Manzanero is a wildlife ambassador working to protect the endangered scarlet macaw alongside Friends for Conservation and Development. Belize’s Chiquibul Forest is the key foraging and breeding habitat for the macaw with less than 100 pairs left. A World Nomads Footprints project is helping to future proof their environment against predicted increases in tourism to the area through training and on-site monitoring.

You can follow Rafael on Twitter @rafam73 or contact him via email [email protected] and like FCD’s Facebook page.

Florian Reber is using travel as purpose to document climate change in the Rockies and Swiss Alps. He started in 2018 when he rode his bike across the Alps starting in Trieste at the Adriatic Coast to Cannes at the Mediterranean Sea. You can follow his journey through Google Maps or on Twitter @flo_reber

Florian is currently cycling through North America to document climate change. 

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Read more about the Footprints project helping to save the endangered scarlet macaw in Belize and for opportunities to volunteer bookmark this page.

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About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Announcer: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast, delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim: Nice to have you with us again, or in fact, welcome if this is the first time you've tuned in to the podcast with myself, Kim, and this man, Phil.

Phil: G'day.

Kim: Who is about to share, very Australian, a little about the destination we're featuring in this episode, Belize, often referred to as the jewel in the heart of the Caribbean basin.

Phil: It's on the north eastern coast of Central America. It's known for the Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau who declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. And he'd know, wouldn't he?

Kim: He would.

Phil: Marijuana is legal if it's less than 10 grams. That hole's probably not blue. Anyway. Look at the hole, man. And the country's most exotic delicacy is the gibnut rodent, also known as the royal rat because it was one served to Queen Elizabeth.

Kim: Do you really she knew?

Phil: I reckon. I reckon you have to.

Kim: I bet that you've had Guinea pigs. I'm assuming royal rat would be the same.

Phil: Yeah, lots of bones and gristle, yeah.

Kim: In this episode we'll hear about a homestay in the remote south, learn more about a project to save the endangered scarlet macaw, and checking with the guys spreading the climate change message. But first, Allison is a California native gone rogue. She says she's avoiding adulting one country at a time. Yes. She's about to share her time in Belize with us and explain her site, Eternal Arrival.

Allison: So Eternal Arrival is a travel blog with a focus on off-the-beaten-path destinations. So trying to counter mass tourism in some of the most impacted locations and re-channeling that into cities and countries that maybe don't get as much attention.

Kim: It's a big issue, isn't it, over tourism. And we talk about it a lot on our podcast. And then almost come away feeling guilty that we're highlighting these spots that are off the beaten track and that aren't full of tourists. Do you go through that?

Allison: It is kind of, it's a double edged sword, right? Because you want to promote these places and give locals the chance to make a tourism income because for so many of these countries that can be really transformative. But then, at the same time, I've gone back to places as they've got more touristic and I've kind of like been scowling and been like, "Oh gosh, now this place is getting ruined."

Allison: That is a very sort of gate-keeping attitude to have. It's like, I don't think that's necessarily the right feeling to have because everyone does have a right to experience destinations. It's kind of silly to be frustrated with other people for doing the same thing that we are and traveling to these places. But at the same time, I think it's good to encourage traveling sort of with a wide view of the world and not just traveling to the most impacted cities because that's really when it starts to have a so much of an impact on locals.

Kim: Well said. And later in the podcast we'll chat with someone who did a homestay in the south of Belize. In one of the articles or one of the blogs on your site, you talk about some of the unique things to do. So outside of perhaps catching the chicken bus to the south of Belize and having a homestay, what other unique things can you experience?

Allison: There's so much that you can do. My favorite thing in Belize is the ATM Cave, and it's abbreviated that way because the name is super hard to pronounce, but I think it's Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave and it's a cave kind of close to the border with Guatemala. If you were in San Ignacio, it's a good place to base yourself for that. And you can go inside the cave and it's quite dark. You have to swim and use your headlamp to go through everything because there's no lighting. And after you kind of go about a couple hundred meters into the cave, you can climb up these rocks and see the remains of human sacrifices from the Mayan times and remains of pottery and all sorts of things. So that's definitely, in my opinion, the most interesting thing in Belize for visitors to see.

Allison: And then of course there's, you can go cave tubing, which is less extreme than the ATM Cave. You can just sort of float in a tube down rivers through these caves. You can go hiking in Pine Ridge. You can go see Mayan ruins at Caracol. And of course there's the coast, there are the beaches, and then diving, snorkeling, that sort of thing as well.

Kim: So this ATM Cave, back to that, you've said it's worth checking out. You do need to do it with a licensed guide. Group numbers are limited. What's it actually? Like I would love to do something like that, but I have several fears in life. And one of them would be, I'm happy to snorkel, but I like to see what's around me. So how far down do you have to go and how creepy does it feel?

Allison: Yeah, I'm a little bit afraid of the dark and slightly claustrophobic. So I definitely can relate to sort of being a little nervous about this. So you're basically, it's when you're swimming there's always a rope that you can hold onto and also your headlamp so it's not completely dark. And then there are sections where you don't actually have to swim where you can just walk through the water. But in, like along a shallow bit.

Allison: I would say that it's not extremely scary, but it is also quite, quite tense at certain points. And there is a lot of really narrow parts. And that can be kind of challenging to make yourself, amp yourself up so that you can fit through these extremely narrow bits. But you'd be surprised that you can actually squeeze yourself through really small looking sections of the cave.

Kim: Well, that sounds like an amazing natural wonder. Not sure the signs of the sacrifices. I think I've seen some photos on your page of skeletons. So I can see myself emerging from the water and then immediately wanting my mom.

Allison: Yeah. It's a little creepy, but I ... I don't know. I found it super interesting, and hearing the stories about who they thought these people were based on their skeletons and what they were able to basically just tell about the past from a couple bone fragments was incredibly interesting. So it's very, very worth it to go with a guide who ... Well, obviously you have to go with a guide, but it's very ... You get a lot from the guide instead of ... They can really tell you so much about the place. So it's creepy, but it's definitely so cool.

Kim: So is it a great place for history lovers then?

Allison: Yeah, absolutely. It's a really great alternative destination to learning about Mayan culture and seeing the ruins. There are the largest Mayan ruins in Belize and Caracol. And there are hardly any tourists there at all, mostly because it's a bit of a pain to get to. This was on par with Chichen Itza and it was incredibly beautiful. And you can actually climb the pyramids there still because it's in good enough shape that it doesn't see enough tourists to where you can't climb up the pyramid yet. And so it's incredibly cool and really, really beautiful and it's a great place to learn about history.

Kim: So why would Belize be attractive to a World Nomad?

Allison: I think mostly just the diversity of what you can experience in such a small country. You can go diving and then by the evening you can be practically at the border with Belize staying in a jungle lodge, getting ready to go to the ATM Cave the next day. So it's really great for travelers who don't have a ton of vacation time, but want to see quite a bit in a limited amount of time. So I would say if you have a week to 10 days, you can see the country pretty extensively. Of course, you could always come back and see more, but I think that it's really great because it's small but it's extremely diverse in what you can see.

Kim: Thank you Allison. Now from an insurance point of view, where does World Nomads stand with things like that cave diving?

Phil: Okay. We cover caving in some, yes, mostly all policies will cover caving.

Kim: So caving going into a cave.

Phil: Caving, going into a cave is fine. We also cover scuba diving. But we don't cover caving diving, so scuba diving in a cave, the combination of two, far too dangerous, too risky. Don't do it.

Kim: Even if it's not scuba and it's snorkeling?

Phil: Yeah, we don't do.

Kim: Don't do it.

Phil: Yep, we don't do caving diving. Whenever you're going go on a trip, you should try and think of all the things that you know you'll be doing, and then go and check out the level of coverage that you'd need from your World Nomads policy and whether indeed we do eventually cover it or not. Very easy to find on the worldnomads.com homepage. Go and find about what we cover and what we don't. Too easy.

Kim: We mentioned insurance. Does that mean we have to play?

Phil: Yeah, we do. Here we go.

Phil: (singing)

Kim: I love that. By the way, you cannot take cameras into the cave anymore because someone dropped one on one of the ancient skulls.

Allison: Or no.

Kim: Now I referred to this next chat when speaking with Allison, and it's Jess' this trip to the south of Belize and why she chose to jump on a chicken bus and do a homestay.

Jessica: Well, originally when I first kind of did my research about going to Belize, I hadn't, I had never been there before. It was my first time. So I turned straight away to guide books and online blogs to see what to expect and to help me plan my two week trip there. And almost everything, everything talked about the north, the snorkeling, the Blue Hole obviously is really, really famous in Belize. And I didn't really hear anything about the south at all. So that interested me. And then I kind of dug deeper to see if there was anything worth seeing in the south, and it was all very limited, the information basically.

Jessica: So it wasn't until I got to Belize that I kind of was able to explore the south. And it's very, very different to the north. You don't have any beaches. It's all mainly, the activities are mainland, inland, sorry. So you won't see much of the sea. But it's in the south where you get to do more of cultural side of Belize that you don't see as much when you're in the Cayes for example.

Kim: And a lady commented to you, a local that you don't see many tourists in that area?

Jessica: No. The infrastructure in the south is, well, there's just not a lot of infrastructure there. So when there's not much infrastructure, obviously there aren't as many tourists going there because the transport is quite difficult to get down there. There's lots of bumpy roads, sometimes no roads at all, and not that many affordable hostels.

Jessica: At the moment the south is mainly visited by the more intrepid traveler, the one that wants to get off the beaten path. So yeah, as soon ... That was the first thing. I was the only visitor at that time on that bus, and I did get a few stares. But everyone was just intrigued, just wanted to know what I was doing there.

Kim: Isn't that nice? We've heard of that in a couple of podcasts recently, Bangladesh in particular. Just this lovely curiosity about why people are visiting.

Jessica: Yeah, definitely. And that's, you can definitely feel that in Belize, that everyone is very ... At first, if you're new to traveling, the stares can be a bit off-putting. But actually once you start talking to the locals, you realize actually they're just intrigued. They want to know your story. They want to know what you're doing in their part of the world.

Kim: So you were on this bus heading to a home stay. Tell us about that.

Jessica: Yes. So I ended up getting a local bus to Punta Gorda which is the southern most town in Belize. Then I got another. And it's all chicken buses in Belize. It can be a very bumpy road, especially in the south when there's no tarmac roads. So I ended up doing a couple of hours on that bus, and then the bus actually stopped halfway through and made us all get off. I'm not actually sure why, I never found out why, but that was the end of the road for that bus that day. And I ended up having to hitchhike a four by four pickup truck that very luckily came past just half an hour after me waiting. And that car very kindly, they took me to the village where I was going to be spending the next few nights on a homestay.

Kim: Were you worried? There you are in an area where travelers don't normally visit and you're not kicked off a bus, but you're forced to and hitchhike.

Jessica: Yeah, my mom and my nan said the exact same thing, like what are you doing? But actually I'd already spent ... I've spent almost two years in Latin America, so I'm ... although Belize, every country in Latin America is different, I did already feel quite comfortable. I'd been traveling for a long time. Also, anyone who's been to Belize probably agree with me on this point, that you do feel very comfortable very quickly. Obviously they speak English there as well and everyone wants to help you. So in that particular instance, I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. It was mainly all families around me just doing their daily, daily routine from town back to home. So no, in that case I felt pretty safe.

Kim: Well, speaking of families, you arrived at where your homestay and you were greeted by a little boy that asks if you're Jessica. So where does the story go from there?

Jessica: Yes. So I'm kind of standing around very awkwardly. I've just been dropped off in this town. There's not a lot around, just a few, a few wooden huts and not many people around. It was quite hot. So everyone was inside or by the river. And suddenly this little boy, he's kind of soaking wet. He's just run off from the river and he says, "Oh, is your name Jessica?" And I said, "Yes," and he suddenly very excitedly just ran off and expected to me, I guess, to follow him. So I did. I tried to keep up with him.

Jessica: We went through the town and he took me to what at the time I assumed was going to be my homestay. And we went into his house, and in there, there was a lot of people in the house waiting for me. Because I had arrived a little bit late because of the whole thing with the bus. So yeah, they're all there, expecting me. And yeah, that's where it starts.

Kim: So was this the house that you were staying in with all these people or were these just the neighbors that had come to welcome this lass?

Jessica: Yeah, so, the homestays in this part of Belize, how they work is, instead of staying with one family, it's shared out between. I mean, it's an extended family, the village, everyone knows each other anyway, whether they're cousins or equally just neighbors. It's all shared out. So that particular house is where I would eat lunch that day. But I actually stayed in several houses and all of them kind of pitched in because obviously resources there are quite difficult to come by. This is quite a poor community. So for them to host the guests, they need to share the burden as it were. So yeah, that was where I would stay at first. But I did move around to lots of different houses.

Kim: And what did you learn about the culture, some of the traditions?

Jessica: Lots. Mainly the part that I enjoyed the most was the cooking. I'm really into food and cooking. And so are they. The Mayans take a huge pride in their produce, in their cooking. Some of the traditions that they do, they practice in the kitchen, actually haven't changed much since the ancient Maya were living here, so hundreds, probably thousands of years ago here. So that was very interesting for me.

Jessica: We learned how to make tortillas by hand, which is actually a lot harder than I thought it was because you have to ... So they grow the corn themselves and you have to dehusker by hand, which they were there for hours dehusking, and it's quite painful on your hands. So we did that for a few hours. And then you hand grind that into a corn flour and then you can start actually making those. And they cook everything on an open fire that's actually inside the kitchen so it can get very, very smoky in there. And that's where they sleep as well.

Kim: Obviously I'm guessing you would recommend that someone traveling to Belize head south.

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, I would absolutely recommend it. Obviously, it's not for every type of traveler. If you're coming to Belize for a week of relaxation and a bit of luxury and the blue seas, all of that, that's kind of synonymous with Belize, then yeah, of course, this might not be for you.

Jessica: But, if you're interested in having a cultural experience, a cultural experience that is really seems quite natural, it doesn't feel put on, because there aren't many tourists there yet. For example, I was the only one in the village at the time. So I had the undivided attention of the people there and they genuinely wanted to share their culture. So if you're looking for an experience like that. And obviously, as I said before, they speak English. So this is a rare opportunity in Latin America to connect with people that are different, have a completely different way of life to what you might be used to at home. So yeah, I would definitely, definitely recommend getting off the beaten track, making the bumpy journey. It's definitely worth it.

Kim: Thank you Jess. There is a link to that story in show notes. And FYI Phil. Did you know Belize has some, and this is FYI, very random, some weird folk law with one character known as El Sisimito, a dwarf with a thumb complex. Apparently it doesn't have one, so he cut off everyone else's. Well, perhaps that's why thumb-walking is a form of a greeting in Belize.

Phil: What?

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: Well, you wrap thumbs ...

Kim: A bit like that thing. I don't know if it's universal-

Phil: Yeah, [inaudible 00:20:35] with the kids, the thumb-

Kim: But one, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war. Yes.

Phil: Yes.

Kim: Yes. Something like that.

Phil: All right. I'm with it.

Kim: Come on, fun facts.

Phil: No, you got me on that one.

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: Look. Here at World Nomads we believe that as travelers we have a responsibility to give back. It's why we founded the Footprints program. When you buy travel insurance with us, you can choose to add a small donation to your policy, just a couple of dollars, $5 to help fund a community development project.

Kim: Now, one of the projects that you have funded, our travelers, is to save the endangered Scarlet Macaw in Belize. Rafael joins us to tell us about the projects.

Rafael: Yeah. So we have been funded to do and to implement a program for the protection of Scarlet Macaws which is the biggest of the parrots that are found here in Belize. So we should be implementing this project over the next 10 to 12 months. So, in reality we would be the implementer of such a project and enabling also to have a program of citizen science, in other words, volunteers to be able to join and be a part of the protection of these birds.

Kim: It is a spectacular looking bird.

Rafael: Yes it is. You know, for us it is the emblematic species because of the richness that the jungles have. You can see the colors of the parrot which is the red, blue, yellow. It is a magnificent really sight to see, particularly as you are standing in a tower lookout or if you are looking at the jungle from above, you can see the parrots actually flying over. So yeah, it is a very spectacular one. It's a very colorful one. It makes quite, sort of a loud sound out in the jungle. For us it is really the sort of the symbol of the Chiquibul jungles.

Kim: So why is it endangered then Rafael?

Rafael: Since the species was discovered, it's a sub species which is the Ara cyanoptera, it has been really under a small number and population because of the limited habitat. Of course, the destruction of the forest has been one of the key threats to this species. And more recently the problem of illegal wildlife trafficking has become much more prominent. In fact, even for us, after doing this work for the last eight years, we have just realized that the extraction of these birds from our jungles is probably four or five times more than what we had anticipated. So it's really one of those threats that if we don't really put the right interventions, I think we're going to lose the species here from the jungles of Chiquibul.

Kim: You're on the ground in Belize. Is there any way people can help?

Rafael: Yes. Actually the idea of citizen science is really the involvement of local people or people who are coming, volunteering from other countries, who can be able to participate in terms of what we call biological monitoring. So the idea is that the groups here, our rangers, our field personnel, they spend seven months starting from the month of February and going up to August of every year in terms of monitoring the parrots. It's really more to provide a presence and to look after the nests and the fledgling.

Rafael: So once the breeding season starts, we are already under that particular environment under the trees there are the canopies and looking after these birds for that duration. So people who are in as volunteers, we get from time to time people from other countries who will come in and spend one or two weeks with us and they become a part of the data collection process.

Kim: Great. So how will you measure the success of the project?

Rafael: The project, or I mean the success is really by the number of fledglings that are able to fly wild and free every year. I mean, if we are able to protect 10 or 20 or 30 nests and if then those fledglings are able to make it wild and free, name it, 40 parrots or 50 parrots, I mean that is really the success.

Rafael: Once they leave the nests, once they are safe out there, because you see, the poaching activity came it of course whenever the birds are on the nests. Once they are flying out, then of course it's difficult to capture them. But they become very vulnerable as they are found as young chicks on their nests. And so the success for us is by having a presence, by having more people safeguarding these nests, then ultimately it means that more of those birds are going to make it to the wild.

Kim: Well, best of luck with it, and thrilled that World Nomads can be part of it Rafael.

Rafael: Yes, certainly. It's really the first time that we are getting this support and so certainly we are really looking forward to it. I mean, this season for now we are ready in August and so practically for this year we already are closing down already the breeding season for this current year. So we have the months of planning. In fact, we are just I need to do now the t-shirts, the certificates for the program that will be starting in February of next year. So for the people who are hearing this message, there's still pretty much the chance of being able to be a part of this. So we still have some time for the planning process and we certainly look forward to putting the right interventions and of course to have a good results.

Kim: Links in show notes to the project and on how you can volunteer in Belize when the breeding season begins. Phil, travel news.

Phil: Okay. A bit of a danger one to start off with. The Philippines has declared a epidemic, as the number of dengue fever cases soars. 622 people have died since January, and there've been 146,000 reported cases in just seven weeks.

Kim: Can you immunize against dengue?

Phil: No, you can't. It's spread by the bite of a particular type of mosquito, and annoyingly it hangs around during the day, not just at dusk and sunrise like the other types of mosquitoes. So anything you can do is make sure that you put insect repellent on, good tropical strength, and cover-up. So if you're traveling around Philippines at this time of year, because it's dengue fever season, make sure that you wear long sleeves and long pants. And if you get to your accommodation and you see stagnant water lying around anywhere, tip it out.

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: So you can't get mosquitoes breeding. Yeah. Remember, if you come back and you've got home and you've got flu-like symptoms, don't forget to tell your doctor that you've been in a tropical location.

Phil: All right. I've got a special announcement in travel news. Put the fork down. The obesity epidemic has forced airlines to increase the average weight they allocate to each passenger.

Kim: Of food?

Phil: Yeah. Well, no, the weight of a passenger.

Kim: Right. Yeah, we knew this was coming.

Phil: They haven't updated these for about 30 years, and of course we've all got a lot larger, fat, fatter.

Kim: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Phil: All right, so put the fork down. An airline's biggest expense of course is fuel, and more weight means more fuel, and extra weight also means that a plane needs a longer runway to take off. So you can't sort of go hit steady runways in lots of places because there's farmland and houses around and what have you.

Phil: The average weight assigned to each passenger by the USFAA is 200 pounds for men, 179 pounds for women, and 76 pounds for children under 13. This includes 16 pounds of carry-on luggage and averages out the weight of winter and summer clothing. So that's 194 pounds or 83 kilos for a man and 165 pounds of 75 kilos for a woman. I reckon if you weigh less than that, you should get a discount on your ticket because you're using less fuel.

Kim: So what happens if you do exceed those weights?

Phil: Well, no, it's an average. One of the Australian Airlines, an offshoot of Virgin, has taken about 10, 15 pages out of its in-flight magazine. It saves 100 grams per magazine on board. But they reckon they've got to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel cost every year. And the other Australian international airline, Qantas, they recently, you know the food trolleys that go up and down?

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: They've recently replaced those with lighter versions so that they can cut back on weight and fuel costs. That's much of a news.

Kim: All right. Thank you for that. A change of pace now as we share a conversation with Florian Reber who gave up his corporate gig last year to embark on a cycling travel project documenting local impacts of climate change.

Florian Reber: Yeah. So that was, I was working as a consultant in a consulting company focused on climate change and sustainability, the Swiss company called South Pole active a little bit around the world and always confusing when you say you work for South Pole but actually in Switzerland.

Florian Reber: So I've been working in sustainability for the last 12 years or so. And eventually I left. It's a bit of a funny story, but the trigger of it was a cycling accident I had about a year ago, broke my shoulder, was on medical leave and had like six weeks to do a little bit of thinking, what I wanted to do, and I kind of felt that desire to combine my passion for the outdoors if I work in sustainability. And then one thing led to another and all of a sudden I was biking across the Alps.

Phil: That's one way to help your shoulder recover.

Florian Reber: Indeed. Yeah, of course. I mean there was a bit of quite an intense summer of rehab before that, really spent a lot of time with the physios and in the gym, and already three months after surgery the shoulder was good enough to go climbing some peaks about 4,000 meters in the Apps. That was the test right then, and cycling was more, more of an effort for the legs more so than the shoulder.

Kim: So you embarked on this cycling travel project and you were documenting local impacts of climate change. When you set off on your bike, how did you intend to do that? Just by chatting to people?

Florian Reber: Yes indeed. Before I'm heading off, I contacted a few people that I research or that I knew maybe also, and we set up like interviews in specific places at specific times. So it was not only just random conversations with people in the streets that I would encounter from my travels, but mostly organized meetings, interviews that I did by cycling.

Phil: And are you finding people in those sorts of positions have good documentation of what's happened? They've got a good record of how things have changed?

Florian Reber: Sure. I mean if you talk to a scientist, I mean of course. I mean, there is ... That's like their work. They have all the data. I mean, I was looking more for stories, and I was also ... Some things you just can't plan it and then things that just happen spontaneously. I was really more looking for anecdotal stories and maybe stories also like older farmers or maybe also hear from what some athletes that spend the time in the mountains are seeing. So it's not only, it's not primarily let's say the scientific facts and data that I was looking for. Rather something a bit more like emotional that also speaks to our identities and empathy for nature.

Phil: Well, we love a good story. So go on. So tell some of the stories you heard.

Florian Reber: Well. One thing I have maybe to explain a little bit here, but there were of course when I cycled in the Alps, I mean that happened after the huge drought last year in Europe and a little bit all around the world. All the soils were super dry. And then so that really, really impacted the work of farmers in 2018, were struggling with access to water. And then of course at the end of October and the Alps were hit by a really massive storm, huge rains, lots of casualties in Italy. There was a lot of trees got razed in Italy. And those kinds of like extreme weather events are really kind of typical for climate change.

Florian Reber: So one of the really sad impacts of that storm was that the famous Stradivari forest where Stradivari already found his tonewood for the famous violins. There like about almost the entire forest is now gone. So that's a very precious wood which is gone. So those are kind of very violent impacts of climate change.

Florian Reber: But then what I actually really found fascinating was also the more like softer and slower impacts of climate change. Here's a story of that. In the northern parts of Italy and close to the borders with Switzerland and Austria, actually like the German speaking part of Italy, there is a valley which is like gently going up the hill. It's like north south directed valley, gets a lot of wind. And because of climate change, because of the warming, farmers can now grow apples higher up in the valley, which is really good for their income. But it has also created social conflicts. For once, because it's mostly like richer farmers from down in the valley that are buying up the land, and second, because the apple plantations, which are basically a monoculture in that valley, they use a lot of pesticides, and now people have started mobilizing against them, the use of those pesticides.

Florian Reber: I've mentioned before the wind in that valley. Because of that wind, it's almost like impossible to avoid the pesticides that are being used. So that kind of impact of climate change because of the warming where you can now grow apples, it's good for the income of some, but it really also has some unintended consequences which people now start mobilizing against.

Phil: Very interesting. Great project to do. How would you rate that as a way of travel? I mean because that's travel with a purpose, a very definite purpose.

Florian Reber: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Phil: Would you recommend it as a way of traveling?

Florian Reber: If I would recommend it?

Phil: Yeah.

Florian Reber: I would-

Phil: Having a really major project like that to drive your travels.

Florian Reber: Well, I definitely found it inspiring and personally I was, it was a bit of a premise for me. I did not just ... I didn't feel inspired to just go cycling or take some nicer photographs. I wanted to have a purpose to it.

Florian Reber: Firstly, I would definitely recommend it because I think it's enriching. I also met people that I would not normally meet in my daily or professional bubble. We're all living in our bubbles to some extent. So that was a great opportunity. It was also a great learning and opportunity for me. You got to be open. You want to go talk with people. It also certainly helped me see ... Well, yeah, you see the purpose of what you're doing it's not going pedaling every day, but you want to share something with the world based on your activities. And I think there are plenty of opportunities to combine traveling with purpose, and I actually think it's a very good way to inspire people to take sustainability action.

Phil: Do you have an itinerary mapped out or a route mapped out? Because I'm just thinking, some of the nomads listening to this now might want to offer help in some way or other if they know where you are, and if they can contribute something, or just have a chat.

Florian Reber: Yes, of course. I do have a full Excel mapped out with my itinerary where I am on which day and how many miles this will be from one place to another. So it is ... That's I guess the difference in between just going cycling and having a project. I actually have to plan that stuff.

Kim: Well, thanks for chatting to us, and good luck.

Florian Reber: Well thank you Kim and Phil. Great chatting to you.

Kim: You can catch Florian on the road cycling from Livingston, Montana to Denver between now and August 22nd obviously if you're listening to this episode in 2019. Further dates in show notes.

Phil: Look, according to figures from the WTTC, the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism in Belize makes up more than 38% of the country's total gross domestic product. And of course, rising sea temperatures are affecting the coral reefs there, and there because they're one of the biggest draw cards there for travelers. So there are some obvious concerns about climate change.

Kim: If you enjoyed this episode, you might like to listen to an early one featuring Guatemala.

Speaker 7: I had traveled overland from Mexico and Belize, and Guatemala sounded like a warm hug. The mind culture is right there and evident. And so for people who travel with or want to understand the culture and to understand a different culture, it's right there in your face and it's very different than the main Hispanic culture that's sort of across the region. It's just beautiful too. So you get to hike through the highlands, and it's an absolutely stunning country.

Kim: Well, that brings us to the end of this episode featuring Belize. To get in touch with us email [email protected] and listen to our episodes by grabbing them from wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Then subscribe so that you don't miss any out. Rate and share. And also, a little bit of news. We've got our own podcast page now. On Facebook it's simply World Nomads Podcast.

Phil: Absolutely. Next week, an amazing nomad who travels the world seeking out conversations by talking to strangers. It sounds like me. A very funny guy who's just launched his own travel podcast.

Kim: Bye.

Announcer: The World Nomads Podcast. Explore your boundaries.

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