GUIDE: Caye Caulker, Belize

Chances are, if someone starts talking about Caye Caulker, “Shark-Ray Alley,” “KoKo King” beach and “The Split” are going to be among the first phrases out of their mouths. (Shoot, guess I just perpetuated that trend.)

Well, this isn’t that kind of guide — mostly because I didn’t DO the first two (I’m really bad at being a tourist), and the idea of needing a tour guide to tell you about the third is more ludicrous than a Belizean street without potholes.

Live Inspired: Finding home in, leaving, Corozal

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A month ago, I rolled into Corozal, a stranger.

Something compelled me to come, though no one had offered a recommendation; though the town wasn’t known for anything in particular; though I knew nothing of what to expect.

I booked a week in an apartment. I wondered if it was too long.

Then I stepped off the bus from Belize City and almost instantly had a feeling. A feeling I would stay longer than planned. A feeling that something special was in the air.

Four weeks later, as I snaked through the sea grape trees at the water’s edge, mentally preparing to finally move on, I understood that instinct.

I was meant to arrive in Corozal. It was a place that slowed my anxiety and calmed my soul. A place where, though I didn’t know it yet, my community was waiting.

Live Inspired: the new vacation

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I remembered the feeling so distinctly that I almost felt it within myself as I saw it through their eyes.

On my iPhone screen: a family I follow on Instagram, on the last day of their February beach vacation, soaking it all up and wishing their last moments to pass slower.

There was the Last Sunset and the Last Sunrise, dutifully and beautifully documented; smiles captured in the tide; sunglasses that couldn’t quite hide the wistful eyes.

Then images of the road, and already nostalgic faces in rear-view mirrors.

From my perch at an open-air bar in Corozal, where I had come to cool off between video shoots, I looked out at my present nook in the world; my home for the last month.

Beyond the dusty street in front of me lay a children’s park abutting the Caribbean ocean. Turquoise waves rolled in under full sun. Birds chirped. Great palm leaves rustled. 

I stopped for a minute and watched it all.

Live Inspired: my very serious guide to the elite nomad’s beauty routine

Since some people have commented on this glorious bronze glow I’ve obtained while traveling through Central America, I thought I’d share my beauty secrets for achieving radiance and staying glamorous while on the move.

Repeat at your own risk.

SECTION 1: BODY CARE

Shower (but not too much). One pervasive theory suggests that regularly bathing yourself with water and soap is a good way to, you know, remove sweat and dirt. But that theory doesn’t know sh*t about ice cold water lines, and cockroach-lined walls. So resort to this option only when you start to wonder who in the room smells so bad and then realize you’re the only person in the room. When the time comes, here is the proper protocol:

  1. Do some jumping jacks. Maybe some pushups. You’re going to want to be sweating going in to this. Bonus: this will help keep you #lean and #fit.
  2. Scream as you walk into the shower. This is akin to breathing out while lifting weights or biting down on something while digging out a splinter. You’re acknowledging that this is going to suck and you’re proactively dealing with it.
  3. Find some 3-in-1 action. This is no place for multiple steps. This is a war zone. Forget the conditioner; forget the loofah full of body wash. You’ve got time for one substance — it doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be 3-in-1, it just is now. Slap it on, wash most of it off and get out.

CITY GUIDE: San Ignacio, Belize

When I first announced my plans to head to Belize after several months in Guatemala, one of the first questions I got was whether I’d be able to have any “real” experiences in a county that elicits images of swaying palm trees, immaculate beaches and touristic experiences.

But although Belize — conveniently the only country in Central America whose official language is English — has a long coastline, one of the world’s best barrier reefs and vast supplies of clear, cerulean waters, it’s identity stretches far beyond the dispatches most often received.

My first glimpse of that reality came in San Ignacio — a little river town on the Western border that will live on as one of my favorite locales in my Central American travels thus far. Here, you’re only about 70 miles from the coast as the crow flies, but you’ll feel much farther away, surrounded by dirt roads, Mayan ruins — even within city limits — and a variety of cultural experiences. Walk down the main street and it will be immediately obvious that you’ve left Guatemala, even though you’re just over the border. Expect to smell curry, spice; you stop seeing much corn; that carbohydrate sustenance replaced plentifully by rice and beans. In addition to the expected Mayan and Hispanic influences, you’ll find a big population of Chinese, Asian Indians, Mennonite Germans and of course many of Creole backgrounds that lend great flavor and distinction to the food. You can hardly soak it up in a week, but I tried.

Live Inspired: Resolutions for 2019

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When I took off on my open-ended journey, I anticipated learning a lot about the world and other people, but as it turns out, I’ve uncovered so much about myself, too.

Leaving my support network, my sold possessions, everything I know, to travel alone, full-time, through places where basic comforts I’ve long took for granted are often absent — while trying to build a business from scratch — has tested me in major ways.

I’ve been hard on myself as I’ve struggled through the ups and downs, condemning my shortcomings, my moments of frustration and sadness and exhaustion. I’ve cracked the internal whip, always believing I could do more, always terrified I wasn’t enough.

Over the last six months, and perhaps especially the last several weeks, I’ve broken down enough to realize that track isn’t sustainable, and it’s not allowing me to be my best self or produce my best work.

So as I look ahead into 2019 and all the promise it holds, the resolutions I’m making aren’t ones of great achievement, of hard work, of doing more and being more. I am old enough now to realize I need no extra nudge in that direction, and I probably need a nudge the other way.

Instead, I am vowing to let go of some of the pressure and expectation and to be more gracious to a person who is constantly striving to do her best: me.

Live Inspired: 2018 reflections

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Nearly one year ago, I walked into a tiny, Portuguese restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown — one of my favorite neighborhoods in my favorite city, and one that always makes me think and dream — and plopped down at the bar.

As I sipped a glass of wine, I looked through the window, out onto the dark, bustling streets, and my heart hurt. Minneapolis, my adopted home of eight years, had been great to me, as had the Star Tribune, from which I was taking a short break to wander New York and see old friends.

But change, I knew, was long overdue.

So over a plate of prawns and white beans, I quietly hatched a plan. I was going to flip it all upside down.

Live Inspired: holiday traditions

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Last week, my best friend and I were gingerly hanging silver globes and ceramic stars on our 2018 Christmas tree, when I paused a minute to think about the whole ordeal.

Then, our glasses were filled with wine, Christmas music was playing in the background and we were sifting, gleefully, through the sparkling, palm-sized memories we have collected over the years.

But the day preceding that moment was fairly hectic. We had made four (FOUR!) stops attempting to find the perfect tree — after the three cut-your-own farms let us down by having only Christmas Sequoias or Christmas bushes left, we procured The One, at long last, from a trailer stand behind a Golden Corral.

Then there was getting it on the roof of the car, pinning it down well enough to sustain the drive back, and, you know, wrangling a live shrubbery through the door, inside the house and into a Frankenstein collar whose screws twist as though they were made in the early 19th century, too.

We named him Gerald, the prickliest tree I’ve ever had; so surly you had to handle him with gloves.

Live Inspired: my very serious guide to spending time in Belize

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How to find the desire to go: Do you like places that offer beautiful beaches, diverse culture, astounding landscapes, ancient pyramids that aren’t overrun with tourists, cheap, fresh seafood, bars with in-the-ocean seating and $2.50 cocktails? If not you should probably avoid Belize.

CITY GUIDE: Isla de Flores, Guatemala

The moment you arrive on the quaint, blossoming Isla de Flores, one thing is clear: life is lived on the water.

Plant-laden restaurants and cafes affront the tranquil Lake Petén Itzá, offering prime seating for watercolor sunset shows. During the day, lanchas (public transport boats), canoes and jet skis zip around the glistening expanse; beaches and docks are well frequented. And at night, it’s not uncommon to see kayakers linger beneath the moonlight, taking advantage of the round-the-clock stillness.

But if at first Isla de Flores strikes you as only a mindless aquatic draw for vacationers, think again. The tiny island, only 45 minutes from the grand historic Parque Tikal, is a mine of Mayan culture itself, built atop the ancient city of Nojpetén — the last independent Mayan state.