CAYE CAULKER, BELIZE
I thought I would find love in Belize. Like the head over heels, I-can't-feel-my-face-when-I'm-with-you type of love. Instead I realized how distracted by it I can be.
I went to Belize --actually I planned my entire trip to Central America--with the intention of spending time with a guy I was interested in. (I know I said all that stuff about self discovery but I am large, I contain multitudes, and I contradict myself sometimes...so leave me alone.) Visiting Central America wasn't a priority since I was in this corner of the globe a few years back. When thinking about my next travel experience, I felt an overwhelming sense to visit Ghana NOT Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc. A cheap flight ($130 vs $900), the possibility of experiencing a new country (El Salvador), and a pretty face was all I needed to completely reroute my plans. Honestly, everyone has their drug of choice. Mine is just men.
To be fair, Belize has its own merits. This beautiful nation is a traveler's dream. Here you can spend one day diving the world's second largest barrier reef and the next hiking through the jungle to an ancient Mayan ruin. Although this is a relatively small country, it is bursting with diversity. There is an array of ethnic groups contributing to the vibrant culture of Belize. Last but not least, dollars are widely accepted and English is spoken by most people since it was a former British territory. So if you're just starting to travel to places off the beaten path, Belize is an easy transition.
I chose Caye [pronounced "key"] Caulker because an island in the Caribbean IS ALWAYS a good idea and it was relatively easy for my Belize bae to get to. About an hour ferry ride from Belize City, Caye Caulker is closer and quieter than the neighboring island to the north, Ambergris Caye. It attracts backpackers, mature guests, and even luxury travels who are keen on the island's vibe, "go slow." It is also a great place to be based to get up-close-and-personal with manatees and nurse sharks during a snorkeling excursion to Hol Chan Marine.
Interesting fact: There are many stray dogs in Caye Caulker and if you're interested, you can volunteer at the animal shelter on the island. Just ask for Kenny and someone will direct you to him. (Disclaimer: I didn't volunteer. This is me playing with the pups at Bella's Backpackers.)
A day or two into our romantic getaway, and after the best sailboat/snorkeling experience of my life, I think we both began to realize that we might not be a good fit. This was a little heartbreaking for me because I really wanted "it" to work. "It" wasn't much to begin with. Am I the only one who catches feelings and dreams up a life with someone even before the first date? Okay, okay...it wasn't the first date but we were definitely new. Reflecting on my time in Caye Caulker and my motivations for visiting, I remembered that this wasn't the first time I've sidelined my plans for the prospect of love. Once, I turned in a grad school assignment late to go on a Tinder date (don't judge me). Not to mention the countless times I chose boys over books, besties, bank, and any other "B" word you can think of. Why? I just love, love! Being fully known and fully accepted in my opinion is worth almost every risk. And blessing someone else with that same gift, the gift of love, is priceless--except when the cost is sacrificing one's dreams.
Earlier on in this trip I realized that I could no longer allow fear to dictate my decisions. Going to Ghana was more than just another vacation, it was, and is, a part of my destiny. Fear of missing out on true love caused me to make choices that compromised my dreams. Caye Caulker taught me these beautiful truths:
When you say 'yes' to others make sure you are not saying 'no' to yourself.
Handsome distractions, even if they're 6' 6", are still distractions Abena.
In this life, true love isn't guaranteed. However, the best way to find your prince is to prioritize following your bliss.
Guess what? Your dream doesn't have an expiration date. Breathe...and try again.