Other Than White People, Who Goes Backpacking?

Local art sold by Guatemalan Kid
Reading Time: 3 mins

Young Lorenzo

High School was a breeze and after graduation, going to College was just another thing that society expects from you so I enrolled. At the beginning of my first year I started to lose interest and finding alternatives to skip classes suddenly became top priority. Hanging out with friends, playing sports, watching TV, anything would do. That finally caught up with me when my GPA plummeted beyond return and I was asked to withdraw from school.

Now I will let you know, there is nothing more upsetting that seeing your parents disappointed at you. I doubt that this is only because of close Belizean family ties; who can really not give a damn seeing your mom cry. She asked that I remedy the situation and complete my studies no matter what.

Since I was given a year probation, I couldn’t return to school immediately and I took up a job at a local resort. Little did I know this would change me in so many ways.

Interacting with hotel guests introduced me to the world of travel. The stories of their fascinating adventures planted a seed in my soul, with the more travelers I met, the more my lust for travel grew. The point came when I no longer wanted to only hear about the exotic locales but wanted to experience them for myself – I knew I had to escape soon.

The challenges

central america guetto slums
There is poverty in Belize.. but nothing like this.

I’ve read many articles from fellow travel bloggers who say: there are no excuses for not traveling, just get up and go. Bullshit, go tell that to the teen who can’t find work or the struggling single mom who is hoping she can afford to educate her child. My situation wasn’t that bad, I come from a middle class family but in my society, being able to travel is a luxury.

I worked for a little above minimum wage and tips helped plenty but I was saving to go back to school. Aside from not having a lot of disposable cash, my intentions to travel weren’t seen as norm with my family and friends. They thought I was crazy, it’s not safe, and who goes backpacking other than “white people” they said.

An unexpected gift came

One day I got a message that some guests had left something for me at the front desk. Thinking it was another heartfelt thank you note which of course usually included a generous tip, I quickly made my way to discover my gift. Instead of a note, it was an inspiration, in the form of a book; it was Lonely Planet’s Central America on a Shoestring guidebook.

Getting home that day I decided to skim through the guidebook only to get engulfed by its pages. I spent the next several weeks budgeting, planning out my itinerary and dreaming of my escape. Thanks to this book I was CERTAIN I could afford to travel, I’m going backpacking I said out loud.

A different Lorenzo

El Catillo, Xunantunich
At El Catillo, Xunantunich

Central America as my classroom was an incredible experience. From falling in love with the beauty of the Guatemalan Highlands, being scared of child thugs in Managua, surfing in Costa Rica and seeing poverty at its worst in El Salvador, I returned home a completely different person. Saying ‘travel is the best form of education’ is probably the most worn-out phrase out there but this is only because it’s so true. For starters, travel tests your limits, it helps you discover yourself, and shows you that there is more to life that your immediate reality.

I came home not caring if I was called “white boy” by friends and convinced that I was going to make my mom proud when I graduated from College. Travel changed me!

N.B. Similar to the Latin America term Gringo, “White People” is a common term used for Americans by natives of Belize. I apologize if anyone gets offended but I wanted to keep the rawness of the story.

Related: Belize backpacking tips

Related: Belize on the cheap



Reader Interactions


  1. Ishmael Lucien Quiroz says

    Fantastic read. Had always been intrigued as to what might be your story. Thank you for sharing. I too took it upon myself to appreciate my opportunities to travel (and the most meaningful travels have always been traveling on a ‘shoestring’). Backpacking in Europe, South America and having had true living experiences in South Asia and rural West Africa, for me, has been soul-stirring and well worth my while. As a Belizean, I too had to break the fetters of fearing that others would think I was traveling ‘hippy’ style.

  2. Karin says

    This is an awesome story Lorenzo, I don’t think as many people appreciate that it is harder for some people to just drop everything, but that travel is a great achievement that you should be proud of, as you’ll probably look back on it more fondly than you ever will a certificate or a degree, I know I do! 

  3. spencerspellman says

    Thank you for the mention and sharing your story through the “Find Yours” campaign. I hope others will be inspired to share their stores as well. And what a great story it is. I love what you said about how some bloggers seem to make it sound so easy for one to just pick up and travel. I’m sure I’ve come across that way, but as you allude to, it’s not so easy. Even for someone who doesn’t want to take a big trip, but just take a one to two week trip, it’s not easy for most. Yet, I love the story of how you got to that point to where you could travel and make it happen, and then the changes you experienced along the way. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you online and look forward to following your story more!

    • Lorenzo Gonzalez says

      Glad you enjoyed my story. Yeah, a couple years ago it was a huge trending topic among bloggers to write posts on how everyone can take around the world trips by just deciding to leave. I just thought it was so naive as not everyone is fortunate enough do something like that, especially people from developing countries.

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