Photo Credit: Stacy Swift
This Small Town Girl Shares The Ups And Downs Of Traveling On A Belizean Passport
Stacy Swift is a 32-year-old healthcare worker traveling the world on a Belizean passport. Originally from Belize City, Belize, she relocated to the U.S. in 2011 for work and is now based in Chicago. Although she loves living in the Windy City, Stacy says it is quite different from her home country, and she does, at times, find herself feeling homesick. She especially misses waking up to sunshine and 85-degree weather every day.
“I love Belize! It’s very different from Chicago,” she said. “Belize is a tiny country with a population of close to 400,000 people. It was a British Colony, which is why its official language is English, but a lot of us speak Spanish and Garífuna. The Belizean people are great, there is amazing ethnic food, and a unique mix of cultures (Spanish, Mayan, Belizean, Sarifuna, and foreigners.) Belize is a beautiful country and many vacationers fall in love with it.”
As a child, however, Stacy always dreamed of traveling and being able to discover what the rest of the world had in store. She was inspired to see the world by her aunt, who was an avid international traveler.
“My auntie married a man from the U.K. and he would take her and my cousins all over the place. I remember seeing beautiful pictures of them in all these amazing places and saying that would be me one day. At the time, my mother couldn’t afford to take us anywhere. She was a single mom with four children. But I promised myself I would achieve my dream of traveling.”
Stacy kept her promise to herself. Today she has traveled to many of her dream destinations, mostly on solo trips, starting with Chetumal, Mexico. She felt so much anxiety finally venturing off alone that she initially cried. Working full-time, she began with weekend trips until she secured a more flexible job that allowed her to take longer trips.
However, Stacy says traveling on a Belizean passport can sometimes be challenging. She has encountered many airline employees who have never heard of the country before. In contrast to an American passport, with her Belizean passport there are only 57 countries she can visit visa-free.
“I recently visited Turkey, where I ran into issues with my passport. I loved Turkey and was like a big kid in a candy store because from there I found a lot of cheap flights for €25-€100 to places like Greece and Barcelona! I bought a ticket to Greece, but was held up because of my Belizean passport. My flight ended up leaving me. I was so upset. I booked a ticket to Barcelona with a different airline, thinking I would have a different experience, but I was wrong. I encountered the same problem.”
Stacy ended up having to actually Google Belize to show them where it is and that it exists. After the airline employees’ took additional steps to check her passport, Stacy was finally approved for entry into Spain, however, again, her flight had already taken off.
“The airline offered me an overnight hotel and the next flight to Barcelona the day after, but I was so upset I just wanted to leave Turkey immediately. I ended up taking the next flight out, which was to Paris.”
This type of spontaneous travel is typical for Stacy. When traveling to far off locations, she prefers to maximize her trip by visiting two or three countries in the region. Admittedly, she is not a big planner; she is more the type of traveler to figure it out as she goes along.
This spontaneous nature led to Stacy accidentally ending up in one of the most magical places she’s been, Pammukale, Turkey. After finishing a tour in Cappadocia, Stacy went to have a drink with the tour guide and a few other tourists she had taken the tour with.
“Someone mentioned Pammukale, and we started looking for flights, but there were none available. One guy suggested we drive. Now, it was midnight and the idea seemed crazy, but we decided to go for it. We stopped at my hotel, got my swimsuit and day bag, and drove the seven hours to Pammukale. I am so glad I went and had the opportunity to explore the most beautiful all-white hot spring that I have ever seen.”
Stacy also enjoys visiting countries typically portrayed by the media in a negative light. Two such countries, El Salvador and Mexico, were places Stacy chose to visit for this very reason. Stacy found that although the media portrayed stories of drugs, kidnappings, and prostitution, what she saw when she visited for herself was the total opposite.
“The people were amazing. The police escorted me around and gave me a tour of the area, and the people danced around me. Everyone was happy and smiling. The media portrays certain countries badly because the people are poor, however, I have found that these tend to be the happiest people you will ever see. Though they have very little, they are content. I hope to teach people it’s foolish to listen to the media when it comes to travel. You have to go there and see it for yourself firsthand!”
Stacy enjoys meaningful experiences in her travels, such as those that allow her the opportunity to teach others something new. Having the chance to teach people she meets around the world about Belize is an experience that always makes her feel good.
“I love teaching others about my country. I visit many places, but there’s no place like home. I think everyone should visit Belize if they can. We are home of the Great Blue Hole, the world’s largest sea hole. The island of Ambergris Caye and the Cayo district in Western Belize both have many beautiful parks and ecological reserves. They’re great for hiking and backpacking.”
Next, Stacy is planning to visit Afghanistan and perhaps Egypt.
“I just received an email saying that I need to wait to go to Afghanistan, though, because there is something going on there with the Taliban, so right now it’s a waiting game.”
You can follow Stacy at @iamstacy_swift.