When I was poor, many years ago, it used to really piss me off when people said things like, “Why don’t you just move to a better neighborhood?” when I told them I’d been burglarized and mugged in one week, that my neighbors kept me up all night with loud parties, and that I had found a used condom and needles in my front yard.
“I can’t afford to move,” I’d say, gritting my teeth so I wouldn’t launch into a rant about how clueless and insensitive they were. And these were always liberals—I think liberals are often more out of touch with reality than conservatives.
I’m telling you this because some of you may not have the luxury of being able to buy plane tickets on a regular basis. Your job may not allow you to work remotely or even offer paid holidays. You may not own a condo you can rent out while you’re away. I hope I don’t come off as clueless when I write about travel. I’ve never claimed any of my adventures have been easy or cheap. I hope some of my stories may inspire you to plan for something when you can afford it, or try something on a small scale if you can’t afford to do it in a big way.
I was driving down scenic Summit Avenue yesterday in my beloved Mini; spring was in the air and I was listening to Vivaldi. I felt utter joy.
“Life is beautiful!” I exclaimed in my head.
That’s not a thought I ever had when I was in my 20s or 30s. It’s not a thought many people in Syria are having right now. It doesn’t do anyone any good for me to intentionally kill my joy because others are suffering, but it remembering them certainly intensifies my feelings of gratitude for how far I have come.
Back to January in Minnesota. The holidays are over. There will be nothing by three months of cold, dreary, short days without a holiday until the end of May.
And so I went to Belize. It makes a difference, getting away somewhere warm, even if only a long weekend.
This would be an all-inclusive group trip operated by Wilderness Inquiry, a Minnesota-based nonprofit. Their thing is “inclusive outdoor adventure travel.” I totally missed that because I Googled “tours of Belize” and went straight to that trip page. I looked at the color photos, glanced through the itinerary, checked the price, and booked it.
This was back in December, and I didn’t give it much thought until I got a call from the trip leader, Mark, in January. I have been on group tours before, and it’s good practice to have a meeting ahead of time—if everyone is local—or to at least talk to someone to learn the expectations and ask questions.
Mark informed me about the Wilderness Inquiry mission of inclusion. “I lead a lot of trips to the boundary waters, and this will be my first international trip,” he said, excitement in his voice.
“You mean, your first international trip ever?” I asked, a little alarmed.
“No, I went to Uruguay last year with my girlfriend. Her family is from there. So I’m ready.”
I wasn’t so sure about that. The Gross Domestic Product of Uruguay is four times that of Belize. But the tour and my plane ticket were paid for, so it was too late to back out and he seemed very confident. Everything would be fine, right?
The night before I left, I had dinner with Vince and met his girlfriend, Heather. I liked her a lot, especially since she gave me a beautifully boxed birthday present—a sweater and Moleskin notebooks and pretty pens, which I used to take notes on the trip. I looked forward to watching their relationship develop.
My birthday. Vince picked me up at 5:00 am and took me to the airport. He’s a morning person like me, but 5:00 was even a bit early for him, so it was a very nice effort on his part. And it’s nice to hug a loved one good-bye, just in case something fatal happens.