[Editor’s note: A rising star on both Instagram and Snapchat, Shea Powell is the travel blogger behind The World Up Closer. We met last month on a one-mile-long island in Belize — she’s got a big, bright smile, a super-keen eye and a knack for capturing a place’s essence. Instagram: @theworldupcloser]

1.

A 45-minute boat ride led me to another steamy destination with temperatures soaring to 38c/100f. I remember hopping off the boat and quickly finding shade from the sun beneath the palm trees. All I could think about was the heat and pondered what this spot off the coast of Colombia would show me. At first, the tiny island seemed so eventless with about 15 roaming visitors; I had no idea what was about to unfold. Nevertheless, I decided to setup gear to capture the scenery. After a few shots, I ended up with a scratched camera and something unexpectedly beautiful. Completely overshadowed by my expectations at first, I finally let go and allowed the surroundings to just, be.

2.

My gosh, these were the days before I had an actual camera. Before I really started sharing photos of my journey on Instagram. The truth is: I am from the Caribbean and had never been in a desert before until this time in Peru. I captured this moment with an iPhone 4s, shelled in a blue spider-web plastic phone case. This was the exact moment — if I remember clearly — I decided that this wanderlust lifestyle was destined for me.

3.

I had four days to make it to this spot with a 12-hour journey each way during a road trip in Colombia. For a moment, I hesitated thinking it was too much. However, I took it on and captured this moment. Even though my time there was too short, I had a fantastic trip.

4.

I had this entire river to myself for about 30 minutes, then came a gentleman who decided to swim over to the tiny waterfall in the backdrop which happens to be the entrance to a cave and…just sit there. After being there for about three hours in total, I was eager to get a photo with the very same waterfall as the backdrop. I waited another 30 minutes for the fellow swimmer to switch position just so I could get a photo…oh, the effort!

5.

One of my most memorable times in Belize. Nothing like having a helicopter ride over the Belize Barrier Reef and the Blue Hole itself. A quick noon flight with a 5-seat helicopter was so rewarding. In fact, I had a golf cart out to the airport to board the helicopter — I remember doing a few snaps about it. It was, however, very challenging getting a photo as the glare from the window was always in my frame.

6.

I walked a long way to this spot. It was totally off the grid so it wasn’t the easiest to get to. I was here with a friend and upon arriving we were the only ones there. Colored-based rocks and little clear water pools were everywhere. I am still trying to figure out how I managed to walk bare-footed here because it was blazing hot. But, on second thought, I think it was just for the photo.

7.

This was my first full day in Havana, Cuba! I was so excited to be here. This was around 8am and I was ready to explore this ‘old town.’ As a solo traveler I am always happy to meet people along the way and friends, especially those who are willing to take a good shot for me. Thanks to the fellow from the Netherlands for this one.

8.

This is a memorable one for me. I spent most of the day at the beach and opted on staying for sunset. The sunset changed colors every five minutes. From blue to orange to red. As glamorous as this photo might look, it was worth the horrifying walk home in the south of Cuba. Escorted by a swamp of hungry mosquitoes, I kept trying to fan them away from my ears while stomping my feet horrendously — trying to avoid getting eaten alive. It was a good laugh after the fact.

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