It feels absolutely amazing to say that I turned 30 here. My friend and I arrived at Belize City airport on my birthday morning. After we went through customs, we hopped in a taxi to the Water Taxi station where we took a 40-minute boat ride to the island of Caye (pronounced ‘key’) Caulker. The island is small, beautiful and simple. Sparse white sands and palm trees with more coconuts than you could stand to eat in one lifetime. Clear waters and happy, barefooted locals. There are no cars – only bikes + golf carts for faster transport, but it’s just as easy to use your feet. When I say small, I mean that you could walk the entire span of the island in seriously 20 minutes.
The trip was quick. Only 3 days and 2 nights, but to be honest it was plenty. Usually the first day you arrive somewhere by plane is a wasted day. We got to the island, checked in + dropped our few belongings except for our mini day bags on our back and proceeded to begin the day there. This was around noon. After a meal of red snapper fish, coconut rice, beans, plantains, and coleslaw and more meandering around under the gently overcast skies, we knew the entire island by 2 pm. You live life outside all day long. You carry no worries or agendas or deadlines to meet with the entire day. You just dance between sun and shade and wait to get hungry again so you can try a new place to eat on the island that you passed a few times earlier. I didn’t feel any different on my birthday, but it was definitely one of the longest days of my life.
The mantra of Caye Caulker is “Go Slow”. On the second day, I recall crossing on the streets as this older fella on his bike was coming pretty swiftly from the other direction. I was sure that we eventually were headed for a collision, so I started picking up my pace to reach the other side. He casually redirected his path making a huge half-moon detour to avoid me, and proceeded to twist his neck around as he passed to give me an odd look while he shook his head and laughed. It wasn’t until his hearty chuckle killed my adrenaline that I realized that I wasn’t in any actual danger. I had a but-you-can’t-take-the-big-city-out-of-the-girl moment. It apparently didn’t jive well on an island lacking cars, street signs, and crosswalks. Kinda refreshing though.
Every palm tree that swayed above your head carried a nest of coconuts. They were everywhere. Some had made it to the ground on their own I’m sure. Some were collected on tables in the streets for sale, as there were peddlers on nearly every path selling crafty wares, food, etc. We stopped at one table with freshly gathered coconuts (with an even fresher batch growing above the table…talk about supply and demand). The guy was offering to cut a coconut open and put a straw in it for us so we could enjoy the juice inside for 5 Belize dollars (which is $2.50 USD). We accepted. He placed two coconuts in his arms, grabbed a machete, and then proceeded to cut the tops off of each on a pre-carved tree stump that served as his chopping stand. He placed straws in each coconut and told us to come back after we finished the juice so he could hack it down further so we could eat the coconut meat. There was SO much juice inside! After carrying our heavy juice boxes around and taking ridiculous photos of ourselves taking sips of juice out of a real coconut, we came back as we were told an hour or so later + enjoyed it further. All for two dollars and fifty cents.
I could go on, but I just wanted to express to you that this was all I wanted for the longest. I just wanted to travel outside the U.S. and Canada and enjoy a REAL vacation and new experiences. I met people that have lived in Belize their entire lives and other travelers from Sydney, Toronto, Italy, Ireland, you-name-it! As a kid, we never really took any vacations growing up. Not because we didn’t want to, just because we couldn’t afford to. I missed out on some study abroad opportunities for the same reasons. But after I graduated from college, I got my passport in 2007 with the hopes of actually using it one day. I do use it for work going to Canada, and soon Mexico, but I stared at that stamp a while after the customs officer handed it back to me in Belize. I made it here. On my 30th birthday!
There is still so much more to see. I cannot even wait!!!