Last year, I got my passport so this year my intention was to use it. I was set on going somewhere that was very different from America to surround myself in the culture and experience a new way of life. To see first hand how others do differently what we believe to be the right and only way. That is the real beauty of traveling.
I booked a trip to Belize with my mom as my travel companion.
For 4 days, my mom and I stayed in a small cabana on Caye Caulker Island, 20 miles off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea. You get there by water taxi. There are no cars. There are no paved roads for that matter. Only bicycles and golf carts occupy the 3 main streets on the island that measures 5 miles long by 1 mile at its widest point. There are no resorts. Only small inns, hostels and rental properties. It is a traveler's paradise. Not a tourist's paradise. There is a difference. The locals experience life at a much slower pace than most of us are used to. I had never seen palm trees with real coconuts growing naturally or turquoise water. It was a beautiful new world I was seeing for the first time.
On my last full day on the island, I was up before the sun and rode my rented bicycle to a sunrise yoga class. Standing in tree pose on a wooden dock with a grass hut cabana at sunrise was something I had only seen pictures of other people doing on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine, while I myself stood in line at the grocery store. It was surreal to me. All of it.
Anytime I travel, I am usually faced with something that brings me to my own attention and encourages personal growth. This was no exception.
Caye Caulker Island is essentially the top of a limestone cave so all sorts of sea life are directly under you. I wanted to snorkel one last time while I was there so by afternoon I had made my way to The Split, a popular area of the island ideal for relaxation, swimming, snorkeling and a little day drinking.
I had only been in the water for about 10 minutes when I spotted a giant starfish hanging onto a piece of coral. I had my waterproof camera so I snapped a few pictures of him, took a few underwater selfies and all was great until I felt my foot slide across something and I instantly knew that it wasn't a good thing.
Within an hour, I was driven by golf cart taxi to a tiny medical clinic that resembled nothing like any medical clinic I've ever seen in the United States. If I wanted the local experience, I was about to get it.
Three Belizean women discussed in another language what to do with my foot and as it turns out, sea shells are pretty sharp. Atleast that's what they decided it was because of the clean slice in my foot. (For future reference, I'll wear flippers next time. They would have made for the perfect photo op and served as protection.) They gave me a shot and 2 stitches, wrapped me up and handed me a small baggy of pink pills. I was told they were antibiotics and to take them for the next 3 days and to keep my foot clean and dry.
The clinic excepted donations as payment. I had $60 Belizean dollars on me. The equivalent of $30 American dollars. I gave them what I had and limped out of the door grateful that they had taken such good care of me. I'll admit I was a little bummed that taking antibiotics meant I wouldn't be partying on my last night in Belize. We went to the local bar and I drank Sprite from a glass bottle so I still had the sensation of holding a beer while listening to live music. That was my way of making the best of the situation.
My pink hair faded on that trip. The ocean water stripped it out almost completely. I thought nothing of it assuming I would refresh it as soon as I got back just in time for the holidays.
But I haven't.
At my last salon appointment in October, I was so compelled to write about my hair. It's almost as if subconsciously I knew that it would be the last time.
The other night I was super nervous but I played my ukulele and sang for The Drifter. The next day he told me that watching me was a kind of beauty he couldn't even describe. That it was as if I was sloughing off fear like some old, useless skin.
It really does feel like I'm shedding. In so many ways.
I have clients and friends who think I am adventurous and I suppose that's true to a degree but I have not always been this way. 6 years ago, I was afraid to fly in an airplane. I used to get very anxious in uncomfortable situations and unfamiliar places. The 25 year old version of myself would have never been that far out of her comfort zone and she would have had a panic attack at the very thought of needing medical treatment in a foreign country.
I was completely calm. Maybe it's age and life experience or a new mindset but I'm not that girl anymore.
Bright pink hair is something that I have identified with for almost 4 years. Four days in Belize washed that away and I realized that I may not be that girl anymore either.
I'm not saying that I will always play it cool or that I'll never again have colored hair but it feels good to be aware and let go of stories and ideas that no longer represent the best and most authentic version of myself. Change is inevitable.
The Drifter told me once that he wants to be the kind of person that he would admire. I'm on a mission to do the same.