Today marks one month living in the tiny country of Belize. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve changed over the past month: the big ways and the small ways.
I’ve certainly changed physically:
But other things have changed as well. Internal stuff.
Most predictably, my day-to-day behavior has changed:
Only drinking bottled water, never flushing toilet paper (delicate septic system here), slathering myself with sun screen before stepping foot outside, hanging clothes to dry, eating a LOT of rice, being in bed by midnight from heat induced exhaustion, immediately washing dishes to avoid ants, taking only cold showers, ordering rum instead of vodka.
I’ve also changed in more meaningful ways.
For starters, I don’t care nearly as much about my appearance.
Society has a lot of conflicting messages about female beauty.
Have you gained weight?
Yikes, you’re SO skinny.
Wow…you got so dark
You’re basically translucent
These messages pelt at our self esteem, taking aim from magazines, television, advertisements, and sadly from other women.
After a skin darkening, hair frazzling, liberal eating month in Belize, I accept my soft belly and ebony complexion. I am not actively trying to lose weight or impress anyone. I don’t feel pressured to meet some unobtainable standard of beauty. Sure I still like to look good. But looking good now comes from feeling good. My shining eyes, my relaxed shoulders and my easy smile: those are what make me feel beautiful.
And, the little things make me happy.
Sure, I was “happy” in the U.S. I had friends, income, a great apartment, healthy pets, a supportive family.
I was surrounded by bars and restaurants, had instant access to a variety of technology and social media, had disposable income and a thriving social life. Yet, I was also so bored.
Working the same job every day, going out in the same city, getting annoyed at the same guys. The monotony of it all was killing me. Now, I’m on this 81 day adventure and yes, some days are pretty mundane. But I appreciate and treasure every single moment. I smile from the bottom of my soul.
Because this trip isn’t going to last forever, I have to head back to an existence that probably won’t be quite as adventurous, at least until I graduate. So for now I’m reveling in the little things: the sun setting over the mountains, roosters running wild in the streets, practicing Spanish with Juan, rocking on a vinyl hammock, watching a pale green gecko crawl along the balcony, coconut rice and beans, laughing with Miss Martha, , submerging in a warm pool, teaching the kids to count to ten in Spanish, and the comforting breeze of the fan as I drift off into a nap in a beautiful foreign land that’s not so far from home.
And finally, acceptance.
Let’s be honest, we can all be a little judgmental. I’m certainly guilty of it. Often we judge people before we even meet them. The wonderful thing about travel is that I get to meet people from all walks of life. People I might never give a chance in the states become confidants. Class disparities shrink. Age really does become nothing but a number.
One of my favorite people here is Miss Martha.
She is a cook at the organization, in her 50s, and probably makes less per month than I did in a week. But none of that matters. We bond over penis jokes and talks about being strong, independent women. We laugh constantly. In the U.S, we would never even meet. Here, she is my dear friend.
Whenever I feel a judgmental thought creeping into my head, I try to push it away. I analyze what it is about me that makes me not want to interact with that person. We’re all human after all, just trying to share this shrinking planet. And the next person you shrug off, could’ve been the one bearing your most important life lesson.
As the journey continues I look forward to whatever mind expansion and important lessons the universe has in store for me.
And a hot shower. One of those would be nice too.