Facing Your Limits? You Better Belize It.

Altun Ha
Altun Ha

It seems I have an issue writing in the summer. That’s probably because I spend so much of it enjoying the fleeting time that summer gives. Sure the days are longer, but the time in summer is compressed, like a sleeping bag, trying to break out of its container.

There’s just too much to do between holidays, beach vacations, family cookouts and summer reads. It takes special planning to pull off a summer vacation that allows you to grow and learn about yourself. Or maybe just dumb luck.

I didn’t want to go to Belize. It wasn’t on my list of places I felt the need to check off. I’d heard of and about it from listicles and acquaintances. I had other places I wanted to see and grand adventures I wanted to have. So when my conservation graduate program told me I was going to Belize, I wasn’t overly excited.

But it was travel, and the thought of not taking advantage of the location seemed stupid. This was a land full of jungle monkeys and mysterious cats. There would probably be fun to be had. So I booked my class trip and added a solo extension for me to see some of the country alone.

I soon learned that being told what to do with your time might not be so bad.

Junior Buddy Belize Zoo
Junior Buddy at Belize Zoo

Belize was the trip I needed to confront my limits – both physical and self-imposed. No, I didn’t go bungee jumping, kite surfing or alligator wrestling. But I did push myself past a pesky ankle injury.

Four years ago I had a bad, and freakish, accident that left me with a chronic ankle problem. Loss of flexibility, constant pain, and, worse, action-halting self-doubt are now my constant companions. It’s hard to want to do things when just standing up to get out of bed can cause a pain that makes you sit back down. It is grinding and frustrating.

Especially when you’re active, when you climb rocks, ride horses, hike through marshes and forests for work and fun. You start to let the pain and what you’ve lost overtake what you may still be able to do.

Secret Beach
Secret Beach

I left that behind in Belize. In Belize I hiked through the humid rain forest and scrambled up rocks to peer in caves. I snorkeled the reefs and swam with the sharks for hours, using my ankle to propel me through the waves. I jumped off of 12-foot-high structures into deep water, overcoming the (mostly) irrational thought that my ankle would snap in pieces again.

I have spent the past four years telling myself that I can’t do things because of the injury I sustained. It took traveling to Belize and throwing myself into the wilds of the land and sea to overcome those thoughts. And that has made all the difference.

Because now, come the summer of 2020, I will be off to the land of quokkas and kangaroos (plus a hobbit or two as a side trip), and tackling Belize has shown me I can do it.

Beach Chair on Tobacco Caye
The dock on Tobacco Caye


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