In this series, I will talk about things that help me to survive and sometimes thrive while traveling. Not everything will be a must-have for you but I don’t leave home without them
For this trip, the longest leg of the journey (45 days) is being spent in Belize. As you may have guessed, despite its close proximity to the US, life in Belize is much different than life in the states.
Remember life before the Internet? When our attention spans were longer and we went outside a lot more? When we had to be creative to keep our minds occupied? At least that’s how I remember the 90s.
I like to think of Belize as my life pre 2000. Pre smart phone, pre cable tv (my mom didn’t get a box until I was in college), pre Facebook, pre easy distractions. Sure, I have my iPhone here and I can access Facebook. But wifi is not always available and I have intentionally reduced my internet usage.
I’m here for over a month so I’m not snorkeling Hol Chan or exploring ancient caves everyday. There is lots of down time in which I need to find ways to entertain myself. This is why one of the most important things to bring along on any trip is creativity. Here are some of the ways I keep my brain occupied in Belize.
Learn card games: Play games that make you think and strategize. Jill taught me 500 Rummy and we’ve played it A LOT. Because it requires flexing the ol’ noggin, it never gets old. We bring a deck of cards to a local restaurant and sit outside. It’s a great way to pass the time.
Meet someone: Talk to new people. They have interesting stories and perspectives. Locals are also a great resource. They have tips and advice about local haunts and unadvertised adventures. The longer you’re in one place, the more you recognize people (and vice versa). Say hello, strike up conversations but always be safe about it. Your gut doesn’t lie.
“Ras Tony” escorting us to the pool
Decorate: One nice thing about home is having a place to call your own. Traveling doesn’t have to mean giving that up entirely. I hung up a colorful sarong next to my bunk bed (Jill calls it my fort) and strung some of my other colorful purchases from the post. I love seeing the splashes of color when I walk in the otherwise bland room. If you’re staying somewhere long term, inject your own creativity into decorating (within the confines/rules of your space).
Take pictures: I am constantly taking pictures (to Jill’s chagrin). We have been here almost a month and I have over 1,000 on my iphone alone. Taking pictures allows you to be creative with angles, colors, lighting etc. (or just handle all that on Instagram). I love looking back at pictures I took weeks, days, even hours ago. Not every picture would be Annie Liebowitz approved. But each one is representative of that moment in time. It’s like walking through a museum of my travels.
Read a book: Since the advent of the smart phone I always moaned about how much I “used to read”. While that was likely an exaggeration, I do have about a dozen books back home that are half finished. Now I’m back on the book wagon. Luckily where we’re staying has a pretty decent book selection and I haven’t read this much since High school English class. Generally when traveling you can find used book stores with cheap books. Some also offer book swaps.
Write it down: Blogging is something I enjoy doing, but that I used to procrastinate due to other obligations (and laziness). Here I have no excuse. Regardless of your perceived writing abilities, keeping an account of your life is never a bad thing. It forces you to analyze your life and gives you a record to look back on when those memories are foggy. (You think you’ll remember everything years from now but you won’t). If you have nothing interesting to write, that’s a wake up call. Go do something interesting.
Leave your comfort zone: nothing wakes up the brain like fear. I’m not suggesting walking around Belize city at night. Just do something that is actually safe but make you really uncomfortable. Then fake it till you make it. For me, it’s things like starting up a conversation with a group of people, or, say holding a giant iguana.
Go outside: Whenever I hear a traveler say “I’m bored” I get confused. You’re in a new country, surrounded by people you’ve never met and things you’ve never seen and you’re bored? Go outside. Go sit at a cafe and people watch, go take pictures by the river, go browse a local market, go offer your services at an animal shelter, just GO. I cringe at all the times I would lay in bed browsing the Internet back home and proclaim that I was “bored”. My mother once said “if you’re bored, you’re boring”. I took offense (because I was probably bored at the time) but now I get it. The world doesn’t just spoon feed you entertainment. You’re not entitled to an interesting, fulfilling life. You have to decide that that’s what you want. That you want it more than anything. That in order to achieve it you’re willing to take risks and make mistakes and sometimes be uncomfortable.
And then, here’s the key: you have to go get it.