“Maybe you should turn your work email off during our honeymoon,” the new husband says.
“I don’t even know how to do that!” I admit.
He takes my phone, makes a few swooshes with his finger, and it is done. I feel a rush of both relief and trepidation wash over me. I’ve never vacationed like this before.
Before I met Mike I never knew that a person could love pretzels. I knew that they could be tolerated, possibly even enjoyed when mixed in with other tasty snacks or the last choice left on the buffet table after the chips had been eaten. But loved? Nobody loves pretzels like Mike does. I think he enjoys flying just for the chance of free pretzels. This is what I think about as we hurtle towards the earth time and time again in a variety pack of planes and airports. I don’t look forward to the pretzels or the flying. I’ve never been good at moving quickly.
Which makes Belize the perfect destination for me by all accounts that I’ve read. Slow-paced, easygoing, relaxed atmosphere. It sounds like the ideal place to recuperate from a wedding at a speed I can appreciate.
So I’m slightly surprised when we make our final landing and our driver Robert races our mini-van 100 miles an hour down winding highway roads. “Is there a speed limit?” we casually ask. He chuckles and says “Yes, and if you are wondering if I am going it, I am not.” What he lacks in speed restraint he makes up for when we stop at the zoo. This isn’t a zoo like anything we’ve seen before. All native animals, all in their natural habitats, all rescued- all completely amazing. He knows the story of every animal there. The panthers rescued from a circus, the tapir that was hit by a car-by the time we leave I feel like I know these animals better than I know most of the contacts in my phone.
We drive (quickly of course) the rest of our way to the Chaa Creek, the Eco Resort we are staying in, and I know Belize was worth the travels.
The only thing that disagrees is my phone. I love the humidity of the rain forest. Although the moisture bothers many, I feel like I’ve constantly just worked out. Even if it is a lie. Plus, I appreciate that wearing makeup isn’t even an option. It would not stay on your face for more than a few seconds in this climate. My phone thinks the moisture is the worst. The screen becomes fuzzy and I can’t tell which kid I’m facetiming with at night. I guess this will make slowing down even easier.
If our first day was faster than the speed of light, then today we will test out warp speed. We travel two hours into Guatemala, pass through customs, change tour drivers, and visit the Mayan ruin named Tikal. We cover almost 4 miles of muddy path, see all four of the major temples, stumble upon a giant tarantula, eat a delicious lunch, travel back through customs and make our way home to the resort and we’re still somehow sitting poolside by 4:00. I learn an immense amount of information about the Mayan culture and their way of living. These amazing structures were built without the use of wheels or animals, and some of them were created primarily for the human sacrifice of the captain of losing sports teams. So I guess my damaged phone is seeming like less of a problem today.
There is nothing like weather to really slow you down. Although we’ve experienced just a few rain showers to let us know we’re in a rain forest, we haven’t seen anything like this yet. The sky opens up and soaks us with its bad attitude. Our day way supposed to be composed of mountain biking, a guided sunset canoe trip, and a special candlelight dinner for two. When the resort cancels our canoe trip I sense an opportunity to start in on my third book of the trip. Mike gets determined to find a different adventure. We mountain bike in the rain. I’ve never been on a mountain bike before, certainly not in a muddy rainforest in the pouring rain. I wait for about 5 minutes before my tear ducts open up and I soak everything with my bad attitude. Every honeymoon needs a good fight.
Luckily, we have loads of Amy Grant music to help us makeup over a lobster dinner. The food at this place is phenomenal but the music blows me away. Michael Bolton, Paula Abdul, and every love ballad created between 1988 and 1997 play non-stop in the bar and restaurant. Maybe their slow pace actually refers to the speed they receive new music.
We have to leave our newfound paradise and the music nostalgia it brought us for island living. We are heading to Caye Caulker, which has an official motto of GO SLOW, so I suspect we will finally understand what this phrase means. Except we don’t. Because we take a very fast moving water ferry to get there, we are greeted by golf cart taxis that speed down the dirt roads, and everyone whizzes by us on bikes. The rain just won’t stop and the island looks gray and depressed. We are unimpressed and wishing we didn’t leave mainland. The food all seems Americanized and we listen to back-to-back Whitney Houston CDs while dining anywhere in public.
We rent (road) bikes to get around and mine has two flat tires. I guess that is one way of guaranteeing I go slow.
I wake up in the middle of the night and grab for my moisture impaired phone to see what time it is. The phone burns my hand it is so hot. The screen goes blank and never comes on again. I am officially unplugged.
Today the sun comes out! The island looks different basked in sunlight. Everyone seems happy, the food tastes a little better, but the music stays the same. Whitney Houston or Reggae, all day every day.
We decide to take advantage of the weather improvement and go snorkeling. We are joined by an international collage of bearded men from Austria, Germany, Israel, France and the U.S. (plus two non-bearded women). I stock up on Dramamine because I like fast moving boats even less than I like fast moving air planes or mini-vans, and I’ve learned that despite their little slogan, everything here moves quickly.
We have amazing luck. We swim with several nurse sharks, two loggerhead turtles, several green turtles, and much, much more. The bearded men all have mask problems and require frequent applications of vaseline. I don’t have a beard to blame but when I have mask problems I inhale so much salt water that I’m certain I don’t need a saline rinse for months.
Just as we are heading back our guide spots a manatee. He pulls the boat over and urges us to “go slow” as we slip into the water, as they are squeamish about noise and movement. None of us have seen a manatee before and we really don’t want to miss this opportunity. We can’t help but let ourselves splash into the water with much less grace than the sea cows we are about to witness. And witness we do. Two of them, dancing along the bottom of the ocean. The first slow movements I’ve experienced during our trip.
The day is a total success, paid for with a debt of the worst sunburns of our lives.
Today we are leaving. The sun is out and lights up the island for a proper farewell. We have to take the water taxi back to the mainland but I’m not too concerned after our safe trip over. Until I see the water taxi approaching. It is nothing like the large boat that brought us here. It is a very small boat, packed from edge to edge with people. Even the locals whistle at the sight of it. There are 25 or so of us waiting to get on. There are 45 or so on the overfilled boat. The worker tells us not to worry because 15 people are getting off the boat. I look around to see if I’m the only person still worried or if my math is just incredibly bad. We make our way onto the boat and I find a seat but there doesn’t seem to be a space for Mike. Some locals tell him “no problem, we’ll make room” and they somehow squeeze even closer together to make a spot for him. I can’t help but love these strangers and their constant attitude of no worries. The boat alternates between blasting reggage music and Kenny Rogers. The entire boat sings along while bobbing their heads. You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. I might love these people but I am more confused than ever by their music choices.
We make some new friends at the water taxi station and they join us for a final lunch, set to Rhinestone Cowboy playing in the background. We share a cab to the airport and bid Belize goodbye.
After hours of waiting and flying we make it to Dallas, our destination for the night due to a long layover. We are exhausted by the time the hotel shuttle picks us up. All I want is to be home. Not Belize, not Dallas, and not in the air in between. Just home. The shuttle is already pretty full and we make one last stop where there is a family of four needing a ride and only two seats left. The family, with limited English, seem concerned and unsure of what to do. “No, problem,” Mike says, “we’ll make room” and he squeezes next to me so we can fit four people where two were intended to sit.
This small, but sincere action, takes me back to Belize. It takes me back even further than that to my wedding, to my proposal, and to dating this guy for three years. The moment slows down and I look at him and appreciate everything about him, and about this extraordinary trip we just went on. I want to fly all the places with him and let him experience all the pretzels in the world and I also want to enjoy the actual moment that we are in. Sitting in an overcrowded, fast-moving vehicle, heading to a Super 8 where we’ll devour a vegetarian pizza and watch some show called Fat Guys in the Woods. And I think that is what they mean by Go Slow. We all want to see the manatee. But sometimes we have to slow down and listen to a few more Whitney Houston songs before we can get there. We might as well enjoy it while we’re there.
Thank you Belize for all your beauty and lessons. I will always try to remember to Go Slow.