My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.

Roatan beachFor me, the phrase velvet escape brings back memories of my first foray into the travelling world. I’d managed to make it through all my school years without seeing anything other than European beach resorts and decided it was time to break free. Once school exams were out the way I headed off to teach English in a local village school in Roatan, a small island off the north coast of Honduras.

Roatan is a beautiful place that lives up to all the expectations of a Caribbean island. However, it is quickly becoming a tourist trap, with large resorts shooting up across the island and as many expats living in some areas as there are Hondurans. Backpackers flock there for the beautiful beaches, Caribbean climate and stunning underwater scenery and often end up staying far longer than planned, encapsulated by the laid back lifestyle.

The real Roatan

Punta dance
Punta dance

But this isn’t the full story. The real Roatan lies in the many small towns and villages that stretch from the ‘capital’, Coxen Hole, to the eastern tip. Villages such as Punta Gorda, where I lived during my time as a teacher there and, as one of just two foreigners in the whole village, was welcomed in as part of the community. The village was the first settling place of the Garifuna people and it is one of the few places where their culture is still maintained. They are a fun loving bunch who are happy with the simple things in life; relaxing in the sunshine, spearfishing in search of the family’s dinner and dancing the customary ‘punta’ all night to the bongo drums and maracas.

In my time there I lived as a local, whether it was eating baleadas for breakfast and dinner (the tastiest street snack you’ll find anywhere!) or paddling out to sea in a cayuco (a dugout canoe) to go fishing for the day’s big catch. This became the norm and it quickly made me forget creature comforts such as TV and leather sofas. Even though I often visited the western, touristy end of the island, it was always refreshing to return ‘home’ to Punta Gorda and dive into some beach football with the kids from school followed by a freshly caught fish dinner.

Roatan sunset
Roatan sunset

Whilst I only lived there for 12 months, it was in Punta Gorda where my passion for travel was ignited and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Having lived in a suburban English town for all of my life it was a huge change, but it was just the escape that I needed. It opened my eyes to all the incredible places out there and gave me the urge to see as many of them as possible – an urge I’m still trying to satisfy.

About today’s guest writer
tom profileTom Mcloughlin is a writer, digital marketeer and passionate traveller from England. Having discovered his love for travel after spending a year teaching in Honduras he has made it his mission to see every corner of the world and leave no stone unturned. With so many destinations under his belt he thought it a shame not to share the knowledge he’s picked up so created Top Backpacking Destinations, a guide to the many places he’s seen along the way.

Follow him at BackpackerBoy and tommcloughlin8 on Twitter.

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