Joshua "You Better Belize It!" Berman

Buy Moon Belieze by Joshua Berman

Drinking some "vitamina T" near Mechapa, Cosiguina

Ever feel like your guidebook was a travel companion who made suggestions and wry comments that were spot on?

A few years ago when I was in Nicaragua that’s how I felt while using Moon’s guide by Randall Wood and Joshua Berman.  I was traveling alone, but I wasn’t.

Me and my guidebook had full conversations from subjects such as Sandinistas to drug running.  And it was always there with a joke for me to laugh at. But for some reason, it never laughed at my jokes.

And did you ever throw down your guidebook on the middle of a dusty street and yell, “You’re not the only one that’s interesting, buddy.  You’re all smug with your photos, maps, and histories of banana production.  I could burn you, you know. One flick of a match and whoosh, all that wisdom and wit turned to heat and light. Screw you!”?

And then after that did you ever you walk directly into the part of town that you shouldn’t walk in at any time, proceed to get pummeled by a group of teenagers who end the pummeling by giving you an atomic wedgie?  And then did you – post-wedgie – crawl back to your guidebook to apologize.

I didn’t think so. (cough) Me neither.

Anyhow, although I’ve never met Josh, I feel like I’ve traveled with him. Plus we’re in an elite group of  travel writers that have recently reproduced, including Matt Gross, Jen Leo, and Michael Yessis. Someday all of our kids will be in therapy together.

Josh has kindly agreed to introduce us to Belize the subject of his new Moon guidebook.  Word has it that Josh has a Monday thru Friday collection of “You Better Belize It” T-shirts.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the Belize guide and now I’m just itching to dive into the nearest blue hole.

Take it away Josh…

Hola, Kelsey! Thanks for having me. It smells so fresh and neutral over here in your corner of the blogosphere, as if you were filtering your flatulence (which would be crazy) or throwing away your underwear when they got dirty (which would be plain weird), instead of leaving them laying around among the old coffee cups like a respectable writer. But I digress.

I wanted to let you and all your travel-underwear-engaged-consumer friends know about my new edition of Moon Belize. I know you’ve never found a “Made-in-Belize” label in your gear (there is no garment industry there, unlike the rest of Central America), but please hear me out anyway:

Belize is the smallest, least populated, most diverse, only English-speaking corner of the continent. It has the hemisphere’s longest barrier reef, hundreds of islands, caves, ruins, protected forests, and … chocolate. Mmm … ancient, sacred, organic chocolate

A thousand years ago, Maya kings and priests drank cacao as a spiced beverage. The seeds were used as currency and jewelry, carried in long canoes to Copan and Tulum, and other trading posts along the coast. Today, cacao is still an export and the entire Belizean organic- and Fair Trade­–certified crop is purchased by international chocolatier Green & Black’s, which you can find in many supermarkets around the world.

I recommend you go to southern Belize to examine the effects of Fair Trade chocolate industry and tourism on the lives of modern Maya. It would be a great chapter for Where Am I Eating? The best time to go would be the annual Cacao Fest in May. The tranquilo cottage industry will be out in full force with lots of cultural events and parties. If you miss it, you can still go any time of year (though I would avoid hurricane season in September and October). Stay with a cacao-growing family in their village, or since you’re a high-rolling, big-shot travel writer now, go for luxury; get a babysitter for Harper and take the missus on this Valentine’s Day chocolate tour (for a cool $3700 per person)?

Actually, there is a fantastic assortment of accommodation for all budgets in this area, which I detail in Moon Belize. When I took my family to southern Belize last year, we stayed at Hickatee Cottages and visited Cyrila Cho’s home and chocolate workshop in San Felipe. Her son, Juan runs the farm and her daughter, Abelina, helps host visitors and teach them how to make chocolate by hand (my 9-month-old daughter, Shanti, loved it).

 
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