Christmas – Gap Year Style

It’s finally Christmas! (At least on the blog it is!) After San Juan we spent a couple of days back in León, wondering around the city and visiting a few museums we had missed the first time. From there we had one of the longest days of travelling we’ve ever had, 17 hours from León all the way up to San Pedro Sula. We met up with all the other vols that were coming to Utila and were meant to make it there the next day but we managed to miss the ferry meaning a night in La Ceiba. This mishap meant that that it was Christmas Eve before we arrived in Utila.

The plan for the 10 days we were to spend there was to relax, scuba dive and party! Utila is the perfect little island for all of these activities. It has the laid back charm that suits all Caribbean island, is THE cheapest place in the world to learn to scuba dive as well as being set alongside the second largest barrier reef in the world, and is famous across Central America for hosting the original shot challenge in Skid Row bar. 

Christmas Eve was a very relaxed affair, exploring some of the island and facetiming home to cure a little bout of homesickness I’d been suffering from followed by a night out in the town (and by town I mean the one street that holds all the bars and clubs on Utila). 

Yes we do!

With no set plans for Christmas Day, it was a slow start with most people making the most of the time difference to butt in on Christmas dinner at home. I even got to be guest of honour back in Scotland, propped up on the iPad at the top of the table wearing my cracker hat! 

We had organised a secret Santa between our whole group which led to an amusing half hour. The best presents came from Eilidh, Siobhan and Peter in the form of chocolate, clothes and some well chosen extras but an honourable mention goes out to Tom who spent the day before scouring the island to bring back a pigs foot for Lucy, a life long vegetarian!

Deciding we wanted to make sure we did something with our day, we found a boat to take us out to Water Caye, a tiny island, more like a sandbar really, where we could swim and hang out for the rest of the afternoon. Our hostel, Trudy’s, was hosting a pot luck Christmas dinner for all of its guests and staff in the evening. As we’d only arrived the day before our contribution consisted of a box of wine but that seemed more than good enough for everyone! 

Our main purpose in coming to Utila had been to learn to scuba dive and we started on Boxing Day afternoon at the dive school attached to our hostel, Underwater Vision. Almost everyone had never done it before so were all in the same boat. To start with it was a lot of theory but it wasn’t long before we were doing confined dives by the dock and then the proper open water dives. 

I had been warned in advance by Amy that diving is surreal but it was so much more than I was expecting. In our first dive I was riding a thin line between awe because all of a sudden I could breathe underwater and panic, because I was breathing underwater! But then came the open water dives and the panic was gone because it was like being in a different world. The silence apart from the tickling noise of your bubbles, the laziness of your movements, the coral making fascinating landscapes and the overwhelming vastness of the open ocean. 

Creds to Grace with the GoPro skills

And that’s without the even talking about the animals! Throughout the six open water dives I did I was lucky enough to see an eagle ray, a common octopus, a lobster and massive crab and an absolutely huge barricuda that fortunately had no interest in having divers for lunch! Alongside these were the unbelievable amounts of fish including parrotfish, queen angelfish, fairy basslets and blue tangs (Dory!). 

We finished the course on the 29th and Jesse, Calum and I (with the addition of Lucy and Peter to our stellar team) celebrated by avenging our loss at San Juan’s trivia night by smashing Trudy’s. We got the highest mark in two out of three rounds plus having the best name, Low Pressure Inflator Hoes (the diving pun was sure to win) and while it may not have been free Sunday Funday tickets, we did win 700 lempira to split between us! (Don’t get too excited, that’s only about £20!) 

We had the 30th and 31st to rest up for a big New Years Eve though I still managed to get some paddle boarding in! I must have more balance than I though because I made it the whole way through without falling off… Until climbing back onto the dock when I face planted into the water!

Hogmanay was spent at Trudy’s party up until midnight at which point we transferred to a beach party down the road. While I rung in the new year in Honduras with the family I’ve made here, I had managed to ring it in at home while on the phone to my real family six hours earlier. 

Included in our course were two free fun dives which we had (however wisely) booked for New Years Day, in the afternoon. Something else that was booked for that day was an appointment at the tattoo parlour. Originally I was not one of those this was booked for. However, long story short I came out of that tattoo shop with a permanent reminder of my time in Honduras and I couldn’t be happier with it.

One more day was spent lazing around on what has to be one of the most chilled out islands in the world before it was back to just the six of us and we set off for our next stop – Mexico! 

The whole experience of spending Christmas away from home was as different as I imagined but nowhere near as bad as I feared. While I did suffer from some pretty tough homesickness in the week running up to Christmas it was easily sorted by just seeing my family over video chat. Yes it was weird seeing all our traditions happening without me but we were following our own Project Trust ones and, in my eyes, I was still surrounded by family.

At the end of the day, this has shown me that it really doesn’t matter if you spend your Christmas in the snow or on the beach, how many presents are under the tree or if you get to have turkey and stuffing for dinner. It’s really all about who you spend it with and appreciating what you have. 

Obviously we couldn’t go without the annual Christmas photo
Possibly the only picture of everyone together and even then only Peter’s forehead made it in!

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