Learning to Go Slow in Caye Caulker, Belize

It occurred to me this morning that exactly a year ago, I was in the midst of a bit of a travel frenzy. It began with an icy engagement session on a Christmas tree farm outside of Toronto in which the temperatures dropped so low that my camera gear began to have issues and frostbite to our fingers was an actual risk. I arrived home from that long weekend with less than 12 hours to dump my luggage and re-pack it for ten days of shooting in the mountains near San Salvador. I traded mittens for sunscreen and gorged myself on green mangoes soaked in lime juice and chili powder for next week and a half as I shot for a service organization building homes in the small town of Talnique. Which brings me to exactly one year ago today.

With a full 48 hours between flights, I’d managed to have my camera gear cleaned, catch up on my laundry, and, you know, spend more than an hour or two with my boy and our dog in our snowy Maine spring. And then it was back to Central America and sunshine for an assignment in Belize.

You may remember some of my first week in Belize…maybe when I mistakenly ordered 16 tacos at the market, or when I spent the morning with Mayan ghosts before meeting little Vivianna, who reached in and grabbed my heart. I wandered western Belize and learned to make tortillas from a true master and began to slough off the frenzied feel that my many flights and transitions over the last month had left me with. I’m an introvert by nature, albeit a very outgoing one, and the time spent wandering alone began to re-energize me and reignite my desire for engagement.

So it was in this state that I made my way to the small island of Caye Caulker and a different Belize altogether. Gone were the howler monkeys and scorpions and in their place bright orange starfish and the great birds of the sea. It was a sensory feast of turquoise water, brightly painted buildings, diverse ethnicities, a vast array of scrumptious street food, and a level of relaxation unparalleled by anywhere I’d ever been before. I settled into my hotel the day before I was scheduled to begin shooting for a yoga retreat and began to tune into the island vibe.

It was actually the next day that I really learned what Caye Caulker was all about. Having met a friend and retreat participant as she disembarked from her ferry ride to the island, we decided to wander down to the famous Split and have a beer before the retreat officially kicked off later in the evening. Enchanted by the music and the setting sun, we lost track of time and suddenly realized that we would be late for the retreat kickoff. As we power walked our way back to the hotel, suddenly stressed at the prospect of our late arrival, a barefoot man with no shirt and the world’s most impressive set of dreadlocks, looked at us from across the narrow “road” filled with strolling people and yelled over to us, “Why da FUCK you goin’ so fast!?!?!” 

After a startled moment that hung in the air for the briefest second, Shelley and I burst out laughing. Why were we going so fast on an island where the official motto is “Go Slow”? 

Isn’t this the story of our lives? We rush about in whatever way our frenzy of the moment requires, driven insane by the dings of our cell phones and emails and repeating often to each other and ourselves some variation of “When I have time to slow down…” except that we never make time to slow down. Sometimes we even find ourselves on an island with a “Go Slow” motto for a yoga and mindfulness retreat and it still takes a random dreadlocked stranger yelling at us before we even realize that we’re still rushing around.

Go Slow.

It really is just that simple.