What happens when things go wrong on an adventure?

Today we tried to visit the Goss Chocolate factory in Seine Bight, Belize. After traveling to get there we had a big surprise. Watch the video to find out what happened and how we handled it.

So, instead of eating yummy chocolate, we ventured into the village of Seine Bight. We ate some pretty yummy fried rice at the only restaurant that was open, saw a ton of kids having a great time playing, snapped a picture of two goats in someones front yard, and had an enjoyable mile-long walk.

Most importantly, instead of visiting a touristy place, we got to see the “real” Belize. Seine Bight is a typical third-world, Belizean village where people burn their trash in their front yards and kids play in the mud and overgrown grass. The homes are mostly rundown and the clothes people wear are second and third generation hand-me-downs. But everyone was friendly.

In contrast to the village, along the road from Seine Bight to Placencia Village are western resorts where people spend upwards of $300 a night on a hotel room. In fact, director Francis Ford Coppola owns a resort called Turtle Village where cabanas can be as much as $700/night during the busy season. As we walked along the road I couldn’t help but think about western decadence and the privileges we have just because we were born in a first world country.

My Western Decadence

The edge of town

When we first walked into the village I started to look around at the minimal possessions that people had. There were no decorations around the houses and very little furnishings inside, no one wore jewelry and the cars were all at least 5 years old. As we walked, I started to become very conscious of myself and the extravagance of my appearance. (Ok, I was also conscious of the fact that I was the only white person in the village, but that’s a completely different blog post.)

Here I was, a stranger in this village who is the essence of western decadence. I was wearing brand new, trendy clothing. My engagement ring costs what most Belizeans make in a year and a half. And my bleach blonde hair cost the equivalent of a Belizean worker’s monthly salary every time I visit the salon. And I won’t even mention the iPhone that I used to take a picture of a goat in someone’s yard while two little kids stared at me with wide eyes.

I started to feel so overwhelmed with a mixture of guilt and shame that I felt compelled to take off my ring while we were in the village. Shame because I put so much value on these things that aren’t required for happiness, and guilt because I didn’t really do anything special to earn the privilege of having these valuable things – I was simply lucky enough to be born in a wealthy country.

What’s next?

So now I’m sitting in my cabana (not one of the $700/night ones) writing this post wondering what I should do with these feelings I have. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been to an impoverished place and it’s not the first time I’ve faced my American privilege head on. But something feels different this time. Maybe it’s because we partly took this trip to reflect on what we wanted to do with our lives and I’m more open to my surroundings. Or maybe it’s because I really feel like I could help these people earn a better wage through the internet so they can have more stuff too. But is that really the answer?

Is it them who needs changed, or is it me?

Westerners LOVE talking about living a minimalist lifestyle, and I’ve always felt that I live pretty simply. I mean, all of my possession fit into a tiny storage unit and 2 suitcases. Most people fill massive houses and their garage with all of their junk, so I thought I was doing a pretty good job of living the minimalist lifestyle. But I still value wealth, and I still have the ambition of making a significant amount of money over my life; does that make me a bad person?

No, I don’t think it does. It’s all about priorities and how you choose to be happy. And right now, living in a tiny one room cabana with the love of my life, a few pieces of new clothing, a gorgeous engagement ring that took us a year to pay off, an iPhone that allows us to work from anywhere, and a head of bleach blonde hair makes me one VERY happy lady. Heck, I’d even be willing to give up the ring, phone and hair and I’d still be as happy as a girl could possibly be. I’ve chosen to value love, friendship and family above anything else – everything else is just a bonus.

Americans and other wealthy Westerners have to do a lot of soul searching to find the key to happiness because we’re so blinded by the next fancy gadget, but I think the folks in the village of Seine Bight have known the answer all along. And I’m thankful to them for opening my eyes to the true wealth that I possess. That knowledge is far greater than any piece of chocolate.

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Staci Ann is half the brains behind Beyond the Diploma. She’s made it her personal mission to help other 20-something recent graduates find and follow their passions in non-traditional ways. She loves her generation (#GenAwesome) and wants to help make this the best generation ever! Start following your passion; watch this quick video to get 5 tips on how to make your 20′s the best years of your life.

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7 thoughts on “What happens when things go wrong on an adventure?

  1. Great post Staci and I Love where your thought process went with this! No need for guilt or shame! :) It’s not that everyone should have all the things that we have, it’s much more that we don’t need all the things that we have, so we shouldn’t feel bad about having all this stuff no one really needs. In reading Three Cups of Tea, the village that rescued Greg Mortensen had what he described as “uncomplicated happiness”. Their ability to be happy was greater than the majority of people in the West who feel they “need” much more than the basics of survival to be happy. And this is where my experience and belief goes even further, we don’t even need the bodies we’re in. What we are goes beyond anything in this physical existence and letting go of all of the psychological attachments to the physical brings the deepest peace and bliss imagineable…now in this life. Anyone can have that, no matter what their current physical circumstances, and that’s an amazing blessing! I Love the journey that you and Swim are on! <3

    • What a beautiful response. Thank you Julie! I like that idea of uncomplicated happiness. I think that’s what Swim and I are trying to create on our journey, but it’s harder than I think most people imagine. Especially since we live in this beautiful, simple place, but we still have very strong ties to our more complicated life back in Seattle. It’s been a challenge working through the desire to have Western amenities and gadgets while enjoying the calm peacefulness of where we are right now. It’ll be interesting going back to Seattle in December and being inundated in such a tech and fashion driven world after being here for two months.
      ~Staci Ann

  2. Best blog post yet! I love that you are asking these questions, because they are on my mind, although never having resided in another country like you are now definitely limits my perspective. Hope you talk about needs vs. wants and happiness again in the near future!

    • Ann, I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with these questions. I won’t lie, I really enjoy having all of the nice American things I have, but I often wonder if they are making me more or less happy. We’ll definitely be posting more in-depth blogs like this in the very near future. Thanks for commenting and keeping the conversation going! ~ Staci Ann

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