Sober Travel Belize – Being Open to the Wonder
What does this incredible spotted eagle ray have to do with sobriety?
Let me tell you…
You know when you have one of those perfect days? A day where everything is just flowing perfectly? We had that on Friday. The windy Caribbean weather finally took a break, our ferry left early and arrived on time, our luggage was on top of the pile, and we easily found our cute Airbnb. We LOVED the vibes on Caye Caulker, much more tranquil and clean than neighboring Ambergris Caye.
Our airbnb was only a few blocks from “The Split”, a famous swimming spot between North and South Caye Caulker, with incredible turquoise water, white sand, a diving platform, and a reggae-blasting beach bar. I don’t mind the day drinkers here most of the time. Everyone was having fun and relaxing in the translucent blue-green water.
I took the jump and felt exhilarated. We signed up for the perfect sailing and snorkeling tour for the next day. We walked around exploring the island. I was full of gratitude on this day, just overbrimming with it. Easy when you’re in such a gorgeous place!
The “Lazy Lizard” beach bar at The Split did bring up memories of past travels, all the other beaches and islands we have been lucky to visit, both in drinking and sober days. I’ve been free from alcohol for 6.5 years now, but every once in awhile it’s good to remember what the drinking days were like.
I would have been having fun still, but I would have been involving alcohol in one of two ways:
1. Spending too much money on drinks at The Lazy Lizard, getting drunk and dehydrated and broke while there.
2. Sneaking in cheap alcohol from the grocery store, running back and forth from the airbnb to mix drinks and pee, also getting drunk and dehydrated, always worried about running out of booze, which I thought was enhancing the experience but really was negating it.
I’ve lived out both scenarios many times. Regardless of which option I chose, the mental obsession was strong. That was me! I remember those days so clearly, still. I couldn’t be content to just be somewhere beautiful, in my body, with my feelings, without alcohol. I thought I needed it to make every good time better and every bad time numb.
My solution to this problem unfolded throughout many years and this story is not about the process. Let’s flash back to now. Since The Split covers the whole point at the end of one skinny island, it’s perfectly situated for sunrise or sunset viewing, one side facing east and one west. We walked back down for sunset and observed the crowds gathering with drinks in hand, on the west-facing side. Sunset is a weird “witching hour” on party islands, when everyone begins to frenziedly pre-game for the nighttime parties, or they’re suddenly sloppy from day drinking. The vibe was chaotic.
We still had 20 minutes before sunset, so we walked back over to the nearly-deserted east-facing side of the split and sat in some beach chairs to meditate. We’re working on building a twice-a-day meditation routine. Suddenly, Zach glimpsed something in the water — “Look!” he said, and we both stood up, peering over the edge. This giant creature (we later learned the name) glided along the edge of the split, just underneath the surface of the water. “Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed, not believing our luck. After pulling out my phone to capture the moment we followed the spotted eagle ray for almost two full minutes, him on the water and us walking along the edge up above, getting a perfect show. Did you see the moment when he even seems to curiously stop and look up at us? Watch it again; it’s real! I put down the camera and just watched, immersing myself in the moment. Several people walked by, not noticing the ray or us watching the ray in awe. And I added this experience to the short list of times I have spontaneously cried happy tears thanks to the sudden beauty of the natural world. (The first – the 2017 eclipse, the second – fist glimpse of the confluence in the Grand Canyon, and now this – the third.)
As in my drinking days, I still find reasons to feel discontent or lacking something on the regular. So when the occasional “perfect day” comes along, I embrace it fully. I am grateful that I no longer need any substance to mediate my interaction with the natural world. On a good day like this, I can be fully present, sober, and breathe all the wonder into my whole body and soul. That’s usually when the magical moments happen. The signs appear when you’re open to them. We saw many more spotted eagle rays on our snorkeling trip the next day. But this one, the first one, who almost seemed to wink at us and brought me to tears, will always be the most special. It’s as if he showed up to say, “Although constantly moving, you are in the right place. Keep gliding with the current and opening your eyes wide to notice all the beauty around you.”