April 15, 2014

The Road Is Life - Our Belize Ending

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
 – Miriam Beard

We came to Belize with open eyes, two suitcases full of the unknown, and only the vaguest idea of what would happen. In two weeks, we will leave Belize with much more sun on our skin, new names in our hearts, and yet another vague and intimidating idea of what will happen. The unknown appears to remain consistent regardless of your location.

When we first started planning for Belize, we took a leap of faith and moved here without knowing if Blake would have work or not. Within a week, he had a job secured that was not only interesting, but it was comforting and it opened up the doors for a more permanent move to this beautiful country. Initially, we were enamored with the idea of staying in Belize for a few years...we told our close friends that we weren't coming back and we began to set our sites towards a future basking in the Caribbean sunlight.

Yet, as the weeks have moved on, we have begun to feel the weight of the things that we value more than location or job security: family, friends, and church. Belize, while beautiful, has been isolating. Eventually, we had two options: stay for Blake's job and the potential it offered, or go back to the States for relationships. This has been one of those "no matter what we choose, it will work out" decisions, which are, in my humble opinion, the worst. We have prayed, we have stressed over the details, we have weighed our options...and in the end, we decided that this is not where we want to build our home over the next few years. So we are taking another leap, for now, back to Oklahoma, with the intent to get some ground footing and figure out our next game plan from there.

Belize has tempted our pallets with the flavors of living abroad. I have loved getting to work with the kind, intelligent, and humorous Maya people. I will miss Julio's amazing chocolate and Aurora's tamales. Living just steps away from the Caribbean Sea has been, in a nutshell, my dream come true. I have always been drawn to the sea and I always seem to think clearer when I am on the water. I wrote a letter to a friend a few weeks ago telling her how we ride out to an island every Sunday for a part of Blake's job. "The sea is my sanctuary and the bow of the boat is my pew." I will miss living near this glorious ocean cathedral. Belize has been a wonderful home over the last few months, and it has changed our perspectives on life dramatically.

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton

Preparing for our return to the States has been both exciting and bittersweet. We are so ready to receive hugs from our friends and so ready to get into some great discussions with our Sunday school class...but we don't want to return to the nonchalant attitude towards wealth that we had before. By wealth, I mean the ability to buy a candy bar without depleting your family of a meal for the day. The people in Belize are poor, but they are not destitute, and the difference is a very important thing to note...but despite the lack of anything excessive, the Mayas I worked with were so content with what they had. The children here all go to school and no one is going hungry, and for the Maya people I have worked with, that is enough. Ambition and drive are almost completely foreign concepts here, save for a few individuals, because it is more important to them to spend time relaxing with their families then building wealth for their families.

Belize has taught me, if nothing else, that the simple life can be beautiful and that money does not equate any sort of happiness. Obviously, this is a basic lesson that I think is safe to say "well known", but it has become much more tangible to me as it has become reality. Perhaps this first-hand example of contentedness is what has encouraged us to take a leap of faith back to an "unsecured" area just to be near our family and friends again. We recognize the importance of family and our desires to be near those we love once more. So we're leaving the security of a well-paying job with potential and choosing to go at life from a different route...an unknown route at the moment.

Travel will always change you, if you let it. It will open up your heart to people with different ideas, different religions, and different ideas of home. Travel invades your soul, forcing you to grapple with reality as it is and create new realities instead of falling back on the things you once called familiar. Comfort zones have become less important to me compared with the ability to adapt to new circumstances and new trials. I am thankful for Belize, thankful for the Maya people for welcoming me graciously into their communities, and thankful for the friends that we leave behind here. Yet, I am ready to move on. Ready for the next adventure, ready to go over the pros and cons of microfinance in developing countries with strangers, ready to improve my business skills in various industries, ready to use the knowledge in my head to follow the passions of my heart. Belize has felt like a well-needed reprieve from American culture, it has helped us to reprioritize and refocus on the things that we are truly passionate about, but this has felt like a temporary assignment to allow us to get our footing on life again. So return we will to whatever lies before us in the States (or wherever our feet may land), refreshed but ready to get to work. We're leaving Belize with a pocket full of seashells, a bunch of photographs, and two suitcases filled with the unknown.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac