Note: I’ve been having trouble posting photos to my blog for weeks. I’ve been working on the problem, and think I’ve solved it, but it kept me from posting all week. Our recent trip to Belize demands photos! This is part one of what will be a few posts on my trip to Belize, in Central America, and will be about all the amazing things we did and beautiful things we saw. When I first wrote this, I was on the plane, headed home, overcome with memories of our time there. At the time, I had decided to not share the fact that I’d been injured on the trip, or any details about the event. However, after sustaining burns last week, that added insult to injury, I posted about it after all.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about having shared that part of the story. As I’ve said, I write because I breathe; I can’t not write. As a writer, I’ve never been good with filters. I write what I think, I write what I feel. That sometimes leaves me and my life open to 0thers’ interpretations… for better or worse. The better: all the kind, supportive, caring words of healing and genuine kindness from this blogging/writing community that I love being a part of. Funny jokes (per my request) and simple kindnesses– it’s meant a lot; thank you! The rest of this post, was written two weeks ago. Now when you read this, you know that on day 2 I was injured. That said, it was such a spectacular journey, that it has to be shared!
There are times, when the miracles of daily life strike me as the magic that they truly are. Sitting on a plane, returning from a vacation that surpassed anything I’d imagined or hoped for, before leaving, it amazes me that I am able to travel from one incredible point to another, in the matter of hours. A trip that once would have taken months– by ship, train and no doubt horse and wagon– is now covered in the course of a 12-hour day. Gazing out the window, I feel like a child, learning for the first time, that life is so much bigger than my own yard. It is so easy to forget just how awesome this world we live in is! We take for granted that we can talk to people around the world, by simply pushing some numbers. We forget that it’s a stunning feat that we board a cylinder of metal and technology and cross the planet. Today, as I travel home from a 10-day vacation in Belize, the wonder of that strikes me deeply.
It’s nothing short of incredible that barely 24 hours ago: I was swimming in the indescribably turquoise waters of the western Caribbean, just off the coast of Central America. Our first day in Belize, we hiked through the jungle, to go tubing on a crystal clear river and through miles of caves– the only place in the world where you can go cave tubing. It was one of the many highlights of the week– thrilling! For the other eight days we were snorkeling daily, and I saw giant Eagle Rays glide past me– like phantoms in deep blue. Nurse sharks rushed to eat scraps, as we swam amongst them. Sea turtles came up to get a closer look at us, as we watched fish of endless colors and patterns, dart in and out of the spectacular reef. Just yesterday we were exploring Maya ruins, in a jungle– where exotic plants, birds and creatures competed for our attention– entirely different from the lush forest of my home.
Back in the fall, when we first discussed chartering a catamaran and taking a 10-day vacation in Belize for spring break, I thought it sounded wonderful, but I really didn’t put much more thought into it, outside of participating in planning and booking things, and counting down the days ‘til we would go. I didn’t read about Belize; I didn’t research the things we would see and do. There was so much going on in our day-to-day world that it just became another thing that had to be organized and carried out. Don’t get me wrong; I was looking forward to it, but I realize now that I really had no clue just how amazing this trip would be. Frankly, I was mostly worried about getting sea sick, and whether the eight of us (two families, each with 2 teenage boys) would all get along.
I didn’t bother to read up on Maya culture; I didn’t look up anything about the reef that surrounds Belize– 2nd only to the Great Barrier Reef in size and bio-diversity; I didn’t check out the history or culture of the country. In other words: was in no way prepared to be completely and totally blown away! As I fly home, having spent these 10 days being jolted out of my laissez-faire attitude, on an minute by minute basis, I’m not sure if it is better that I went with no expectations, or whether I could have taken it all in even more thoroughly. There is something to be said for the free-falling I so love to do. I can’t help but believe that magic is much more possible when you don’t plan each step, when you don’t know what’s waiting for you.
The boat we chartered, The Infinity, with Belize Sailing Vacations, came with a Captain, Cook and a Naturalist. The naturalist was there for the first half of the trip, to guide us through the underwater preserves and reef life. They were three strangers who we climbed on board with, entirely unsure about what we could expect, and who we felt very bonded to within the course of that week. We expected Captain Dave to keep us safe, to show us a world that he knows and loves, to help us make daily decisions regarding the things we would do, and to guide us through the adventure. We didn’t know that he would also provide some of the best music imaginable, on a day-to-day basis. Or, that he would suggest ideas that would elevate an already fantastic journey to an even more amazing level. We didn’t know that we would come to trust him completely, like him enormously, and be sad to say goodbye when we finally pulled back into port.
S (our cook) worked daily to anticipate our needs and make things go smoothly and well for us. She worked tirelessly to keep the clutter and mess that eight people can generate, organized and neat; she made fresh meals and snacks, and anticipated our looks that said “oh, a rum punch would be nice now,” or “maybe I’ll take a swim,” or even “a nap would be good right about now.” She was there offering that drink, or a pillow, or just her infectious smile. She was young, but a sweet heart who made us all feel welcome. Like a magic fairy, our kid (ok, the adults too) would drop a wet towel, or leave an empty glass, and magically, it was all folded and put away, cleaned up. As an art student (almost done with college) she joined us for a morning of sketching as well. Re-entry will be hard!
Ally, our Naturalist, was a cat of entirely different stripes! She shook us all out of our comfort zones and took things up a few notches, from the minute we boarded. Brown beyond brown, from having lived in this sun-water-and-island-world, for more than 15 years now, the transplanted Canadian made us laugh constantly. Impressive dread locks, a patchwork of tattoos that represents a colorful life by any standards, a song for anything that came up, and an endless knowledge of the marine life around us– Ally is one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met. Everywhere we went, the locals called out and chatted with her in Creole or island dialect. When we arrived at her home, on Caye (pronounced Key) Caulker, she blew three sharp whistle-calls and her two dogs came charging up from the beach, and leapt into her arms. When we went snorkeling, giant rays that she had named, came when she beckoned and allowed her to carry them along, or stroke their giant bodies. She shared her fierce love of and desire to protect the natural world she has adopted, with us, and we followed along– smitten; she spoke to the creatures and people with a singsong joy and we all watched in awe.
I have seen starry nights that make the universe seem endless; I am fortunate to live in a place with enormous, stunning night skies. But, now I know: there is nothing like the stars from the deck of a boat, rocking on an endless, inky sea. To look up and see both the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross, reminds you that you are far from home. There is nothing quite like waking up and jumping into that same sea by early morning light, and feeling fresh and awake, ready for another adventure. Short of a long day hiking, the tired that you feel after swimming and sailing all day is a tired that you feel to the core. Climbing into your bunk and falling asleep to the sound of water against the hull, is soothing on an entirely different level from anything I’ve ever experienced– and probably accounts for the multiple trips to the tiny bathroom each night.
There are so many things that might not have worked out, with eight personalities, eight expectations, eight preferences… but we laughed hard and joyfully every day. We enjoyed each other far more than I would have guessed might be possible, and as we head home, I feel certain that we have forged memories that will bind us in ways that can only happen when you step outside your comfort zone. Incredibly, four teenage boys, who are very different from one another, found fun in each outing. They supported each other through personal challenges, encouraged each other to stretch and explore new things. They fished together; they snorkeled together; they slept on a tiny uninhabited island together, and they showed patience and good humor throughout. It was a giant bonus to watch them take on each day together and make it work.
Little Man, who has long been afraid of deep water and dark places, faced his fears in ways that made me proud every day we were there. He snorkeled; he jumped into water where we knew there were nurse sharks, rays, and other challenges. He took a diving lesson and tried diving. He faced all of those fears in one fell-swoop by going on a night snorkel that was incredible, but creepy by all standards! We each had a high-powered flashlight, but aside from that, the night was incredibly black, once we dropped from the small motorboat that took us out, into the dark, choppy waters. The creatures beneath the surface lit up and darted in and out of the coral, as we explored. An octopus changed from blue to green and milky white as it chased and caught a fish, no more than 3 feet in front of us. Spiny lobsters watched us with their glowing red eyes. A squid lit up like an eerie space ship– speckled in strange lights, and then turned and shot a stream of dark ink at us, warning us to stay away.
We live in a world where it is possible to get on a plane and leave all that is familiar, to discover an entirely new piece of this glorious planet. I don’t take for granted, for a single moment, that I am fortunate to be able to do that. Beyond the finance and the logistics, there is also the wonder and magic. It is rare and wonderful when I’m able to divest from the logic that makes the extraordinary, the incredible, the magical, seem anything less than that. Right now, I choose to surrender. That I can climb aboard an airplane and fly across the globe, to explore a place that I might only have seen on TV, or read about in books, and that a few hours later I can look out this tiny window and see Nebraska, as a series of lines and shapes below me, and go to sleep in my own bed tonight… is northing short of miraculous. (Next post: adventures under the water)
If you’re interested in taking an amazing family vacation, check out Belize Sailing Vacations.
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