On a February trip to Belize, a friend and I stayed in Airbnb rentals near villages, shopped for food in local markets, and did self-guided running tours through towns, rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries. Belizeans were friendly and engaging; they seemed content with their lives. Here are five ways of Belize that won my heart:
- Live and let live. Barriers and “Keep Off” signs did not exist in parks and archeological sites allowing visitors to assess their own capabilities before climbing up pyramids or venturing into the jungle. Children and dogs ran around villages unsupervised, allowed to experience the natural unfolding of life’s lessons. I never heard scolding or harsh warnings in Belize. I felt free.
- Smile and wave to others – even to strangers. It is a simple act that creates instant connection and harmony in the community. Warm greetings are genuine in Belize and I found them to be contagious. I felt happy.
- Protect fragile ecosystems and endangered wildlife. Since gaining their independence from Britain in 1981, Belize has designated an estimated 26% of their territory, in water and land, as protected wildlife reserves and national parks. The reefs and the rainforests are pristine. I felt grateful.
- Be inclusive. Most Belizeans are multiracial and bilingual. Maya and Europeans have blended into a single identity, Mestizo, and make up nearly half the population; Kriol, Africans, and Garifuna make up another forty percent and the remaining ten percent is a mix of other immigrants. There was no racial tension. I felt accepted.
- Enjoy the outdoors. Belize’s warm climate is conducive to spending lots of time outdoors. Locals told us where to find the best local swimming holes. We saw Belizeans running, riding horses, and bicycling. Children played pick-up soccer games before and after school, laughed and played with their dogs, and hung out in the village with friends after dark. I felt refreshed.
I enjoyed the rainforests, ruins, waterfalls, swimming holes, monkeys, and birds we found in Belize’s remote parks and wildlife sanctuaries. But it was the people that wove Belize into my heart.