Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Island life, reef expeditions and a hurricane…

It seems like I blinked and three months went by...

After our last visa run to the US and Mexico (which you can read about HERE) we returned once more to the island of Utila, the smaller of the Bay Islands off Honduras for our fifth three-month-long stay on this beautiful Caribbean island since we first came here in 2014.

On our way back to Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

Feeling excited to be back to our island home of Utila 
Flying over Ecomarine Dive Centre!

During our previous three months on the island in March, April, and May of this year, my husband Trav completed a PADI Staff Instructor course at Coral View Dive Centre. This time around, we were returning to Utila so that he could take up a voluntary position teaching scuba diving to students on a reef conservation management expedition at Coral View Dive Centre. 

Trav’s internship over a period of eight weeks during the summer was a fantastic opportunity for him to gain valuable experience working and teaching scuba diving as a PADI Staff Instructor.

When the expedition project was over, Trav also completed his IYT Powerboat Captain Course. I’m so proud of him - what a busy year in which he has achieved so much!

While Trav was busy teaching scuba diving, I was busy too working on my next novel entitled ‘Island in the Sun’ which I hope to publish later in 2016. During that time, when I was researching and writing about a hurricane in the story, we actually had a hurricane warning for our part of the eastern Caribbean Sea!

Hurricane Earl had started out as a tropical wave and, during my research watching the National Hurricane Centre website, I watched it progress to a tropical storm and then become a hurricane. Trav accused me of conjuring it up!

Hurricane Earl

Everyone on the island began to prepare for Earl’s arrival in earnest by cutting down trees that might fall on power lines or properties, moving items like diving equipment away from the dockside, battening up beachfront properties, taking boats to the safety of the lagoon, and of course planning hurricane parties and mixing hurricane cocktails.

With only a few hours to go before Earl was expected to hit our island, the hurricane changed course - and we got a day of wet windy weather instead. But of course other places were not so lucky and our friends in Belize reported quite a lot of damage to palm trees and property but thankfully no-one hurt.

Our last few weeks on the island were spent at a more leisurely pace, riding our bicycles around the island, getting a couple of new tattoos (me) and spending time on the dock with our lovely friends at Ecomarine Dive Centre – our home from home on Utila. We also had lots of parties on the beach and BBQ's and movie nights on the dock and we had lots of fun at carnival time. Once, I even got to swim in the sea close up to a pilot whale and her baby and several times I got to catch tarantulas in our house and put them back outside on the porch. All part of the amazing aspect of island life on Utila!

Our bikes parked outside Rehab Bar
Steve 'Daddio's' birthday beach party on Utila:
Photo by Dave Thatcher
Ecomarine dinner at Mango Tango Restaurant Utila
Trav and Steve at Ecomarine Dive Centre
Having a drink on the dock of the bay at Mango Tango
A tarantula spider in our house on Utila
With my friend Giselle on Carnival Day
Happy days out on the Salva Vida with Trav and Ecomarine

My new tattoos came about because a guest tattooist called Jeff Dott from the USA came to Utila and, after seeing his work, I decided to finally get my 'mermaid and diver' tattoo done on my thigh and, to cover the scar on my foot, a 'marine' montage with a shell, a starfish, a sand dollar and a sea turtle.

Getting my new tattoos - no pain no gain...

Leaving Honduras for the USA in late August

We left Utila in late August when our three month visa once again expired and we flew to the US. We stayed for a week in Florida on the east coast at Lauderdale by the Sea – a quiet little seaside town that is a bit of a throwback to the 1950’s. We rented a little self-catering apartment opposite the beach and we chilled out for the whole week.

On the beach in Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida
Our small rental and pool in Lauderdale by the Sea
The small town of Lauderdale by the Sea Florida

It was such a treat to go to a big US supermarket and to see the huge variety of foods available. After our long stay on a small Caribbean island that only got supplies by boat twice a week, we could hardly believe our eyes. We bought steaks and sausages and cheese and vegetables and lots of other fresh yummy foods.

It was such a treat to buy a variety of fresh foods in the US!
Trav at the BBQ

We enjoyed shopping for food and cooking for ourselves in the BBQ back at our apartment. We did eat out a couple of times however and we took walks on the beach and lazed around in the sun at the pool and we slept - we did a lot of sleeping to make up for the sleep loss on Utila - where we were woken every morning by our natural alarm clock of ear-piercingly loud cockerels crowing outside our bedroom window at around 4.30am!

A view of the beach from Aruba restaurant
Having beers and burgers and enjoying live music at Whisky Tango Bar in Fort Lauderdale

Revived and refreshed, we set off on our next adventure by flying from Fort Lauderdale to Vancouver Canada, where we were to stay with family for the next two weeks. My Uncle Ed (my mum’s brother) and his wife Dawn have, over the years, often invited us over to stay with them at their home in Hope, British Columbia, so we thought we’d take them up on their kind offer at long last and visit.

Canoedling in British Columbia Canada

So do pop back soon to catch up with our exciting first ever trip to Canada!

Janice xx

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Who is Janey Travis….?

Now that we are back here on the island for the summer, I’m focussing with renewed vigour on my writing career. I've decided that in future I will be publishing my books under two separate genres of the romantic fiction umbrella .

To Explain: I’m going to continue to write Romantic Adventure fiction under my own name of Janice Horton and I'll also be writing Romantic Comedy fiction under the pen name of Janey Travis.

Right now, as Janice Horton, I’m busy working on a brand new romantic adventure novel entitled Island in the Sun, which will be released later in 2016.

I’m also re-releasing, re-branding and re-packaging my existing books How Do You Voodoo? Voodoo Wedding and Voodoo Child and bringing them together under one new romantic comedy title of I Need A Doctor using a pen name of Janey Travis.

Right now, all my Janice Horton titles will all remain exclusive to Amazon worldwide in eBook format to buy at £1.99 or $3.00 or to download free under their Kindle Unlimited and Select programmes. Paperbacks are also available for all titles for those who prefer a real book reading experience.

But I Need a Doctor by Janey Travis will be published in all ebook formats and will be available worldwide not only from Amazon but from Kobo and with Apple for iBooks and with dozens of other premium distribution outlets. Paperback format is also available.

I Need a Doctor will be officially published and available for instant ebook download from 15th July 2016.

Why not click on the book cover on the side bar to read a free page turning preview of the book?

So who is Janey Travis? She is me!

You can follow Janey Travis on:

Website (under construction just now)

Please wish me luck!

Janice xx

“Just the right sprinkling of romance and humour.” Brook Cottage Books 
“A very clever plot. Different, fresh and enjoyable.” Jenny in Neverland 
“I couldn't help but like Nola even though at times she is a proper diva.” Comet Babe’s Books 
“I love all the quirky characters in the story and just the pure madness and fun of it all!” Books4U 
“A nice balance of humour, sweet romance, morals and a spooky side!” The Little Reader Library 

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A whirlwind of adventure and romance..

What a whirlwind of adventure and romance the past few weeks have been! Trav and I left our Caribbean island home of Utila on a visa-run to the USA, where we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary by renewing our wedding vows in Las Vegas, took a 600 mile round trip on a bus to drive over the Hoover Dam and travel along ‘the mother road’ of Route 66 before exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and grabbing a last minute flight to Mexico for a second honeymoon.

Yes, really, it all happened exactly like that - although, when we set off, all we had was an 18 day window, a tight budget, a low cost flight to Sin City and a deal-of-the-day hotel reservation.

This time last year, in May 2015, we also had to do a visa-run/wedding anniversary trip and we'd flown to Miami Florida for Memorial Day weekend and then took a Greyhound Bus down to Key Largo and then onto Key West – where we spent our wedding anniversary. Afterwards we'd flown to New Orleans for a few days before going to the Bahamas and staying in a rental apartment just off Cable Beach, Nassau. It had all been amazing.

This year we decided to explore more of the USA and at the same time do something we had been talking about doing for years - renewing our wedding vows in Vegas – with Elvis.

We were SO excited about going to Vegas. It was our first ever visit and I kept thinking of all the movies I’d seen and all the TV shows about the casinos and the iconic hotels like the Bellagio, the Venetian, Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand. It was just as fabulous as we expected and we must have walked at least fifteen miles up and down The Strip that first day. Happily, our aching feet were relieved with all the complimentary drinks we were served in the Casinos while we gambled away a few dollars and won them back again!

All this excitement gives you a hearty appetite and we found the best value and most delicious dining was at the ‘big name’ hotel dinner buffets. We tried the Bellagio and the Wynn – the Wynn won – and their endless pours of champagne and wine made the gourmet food even more delicious.

The next day was our much anticipated special day - our second wedding day. We chose the Graceland Wedding Chapel, a traditional and also famous wedding chapel that offered Elvis themed weddings.

We had a stretch limousine to pick us up from our hotel. Ridiculously, I was bursting with excitement before I even saw it. Our driver had phoned to say, that when he picked us up, he would have to leave the car at the end of the drive AS THE CAR WAS TOO LONG for him to make the turn into the hotel’s circular driveway!

At the wedding chapel. I was given a red rose bouquet and Trav a red rose button hole. Elvis walked me up the aisle and sang a few classic songs while we joined in and danced. It was crazy fun!

As well as our wedding vows, we also recited the ‘Elvis vows’. Trav promised to Love Me Tender and not to leave me at the Heartbreak Hotel and I promised not to step on his Blue Suede Shoes or treat him like a Hound Dog. And the whole thing is on video!

The next day we were up early – 5am – as we had booked an excursion to the Grand Canyon. We chose to take a bus tour to the South Rim – a 600 mile round trip - but which offers a wider and more spectacular view of the canyon and also takes in the spectacular Hoover Dam and part of the famous ‘mother road’ of Route 66.

It was a long and exhausting day – but so worth it to walk the trail from Mather Point to Bright Angel Lodge along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Another big tick off the bucket list for sure!

As I mentioned, we hadn’t yet booked a flight out of Vegas, and because we were feeling tired from all our exciting activities, we decided to stay in Vegas one more night just so we could slow down, sleep in late, and have some time to discuss and plan the next part of our trip because we still had a couple of weeks before we needed to return to Utila.

We looked into going to San Francisco – another destination on our bucket list. I’d love to see the Golden Gate Bridge, all those famously steep roads and tramcars, and Alcatraz. Flight prices seemed reasonable but hotel prices were prohibitively expensive for our budget. So we looked at heading east instead using budget flights and Greyhound Buses to get to Nashville, to Louisville, and Lexington in Tennessee, because Trav had always wanted to do The Bourbon Trail. But again, on this occasion anyway, both logistically and financially, it seemed to be out of our reach.

So we looked outside the USA instead and on the internet we found a bargain flight to Cancun. Mexico is a country we had yet to explore and certainly a place that ticked all the boxes for sun and fun and as a ‘honeymoon’ destination. We struck lucky again and managed to also book a bargain all-inclusive hotel resort in Cozumel – an island just off the Mexican coast which seemed easy to reach from Cancun via a public bus to Playa del Carmen, a ferry over to Cozumel Island, and a taxi to our resort.

After an amazing 6 nights and 7 days of eating, drinking, and lazing on the beach or by the hotel pool, we decided to add a little adventure and some culture into the holiday mix, as we discovered there were Mayan ruins to explore just a couple of hours away in Tulum.

We checked out early the next morning (made difficult by the horrible hangover I was nursing from partying with our new friends by the pool bar the night before) and we took a ferry back over to the mainland and then a public bus down to Tulum.

Then we had a flurry of a drama at Tulum when we stepped off the bus and it promptly drove off with our luggage. We ended up chasing it across town on another bus until we managed to catch up with it and retrieve our bags!

In Tulum we stayed in a gorgeous little roadside hotel. It didn’t look like much from the outside but its few rooms were clean and comfortable. The place had a rich history and was atmospheric with lots of old photos of Mexican bandits and antique guns displayed on the walls!

The hotel offered us bicycles to get to the ruins – which would have been a good idea early in the morning but by this time it was mid-afternoon and blisteringly hot – so we opted for a short taxi ride instead.

Seeing the Mayan ruins first hand and walking around the ancient site at Tulum was a wonderful experience; for me it was akin to walking around the ruins of old castles in Scotland, seeing the great pyramids in Egypt, or visiting the sacred Buddhist temples of Thailand. I do love old places and the feel of history they evoke and so I now wished we’d had the time to take in the great Mayan step pyramid ruins at Chichen Itza, which were only a few hours away from Tulum, and to visit and swim in the many Cenotes, the fresh water pools and caves in the region. Oh well, places and adventures for another visit to Mexico, perhaps?

It was time to make our way back to Cancun, to Houston, and to home.

We’d experienced another amazing trip, had another fabulous and exciting adventure, and made a few more ticks off our bucket list.

What’s next? Well, Trav has some very exciting diving commitments over the next few months and I have a new book to finish writing. Then, as the end of the year and the rainy season approaches, and another visa-run is required, we will no doubt fly away again like birds on migration to another place and on another adventure.

Until then, I’ll continue to post about island life, about writing and my progress on the new book. I’m excited because my lovely cover designer has now produced the cover for Island in the Sun – and it looks fabulous – but I feel I must actually produce more of the novel before I can legitimately show it to you!

Please do feel free to leave a comment or ask a question or tell me about your own exciting plans and adventures – I’d love to hear from you.

Love, Janice xx