[Sharon Columbus and her husband have joined us every single year since 2012. They are already scheduled for 2017. She offers some great advice here for anyone thinking of spending a week out on Long Caye. All photos are by Neil Columbus.]
Here are the two most helpful island tips for Long Caye in Belize. First and foremost pay very close attention to Lucy’s packing list. It is all true. You can bring more than what is listed but bring exactly what is listed, even if you have to borrow some things. If you plan to snorkel and you have a tendency to get cold (and you will get somewhat chilly in the water) wearing the long underwear under your dive/’snorkeling suit will help. This next February my husband and I will be returning to the island for the 6th time and we will use the list again as we always do. In fact, Lucy’s list is so good we use it for other trips!! [Send me an email and I’ll send you our packing list – Lucy]
The second best tip for making the most of your trip to the island is to relax. Relaxation is not necessarily as easy as we think. Even though we try not to ruminate about the things we left undone back home, our jobs, our homes, our families, etc. our minds just go there and when our minds go there they are not in the present. That is just how we are programmed. As Dr. Amit Sood from the Mayo Clinic says in his book, Stress Free Living, “we have a network (of neurons) that produces ongoing dialog in our heads”. So for lack of anything else to think about we fret about things we currently (while on the island) can do nothing about.
So here are some exercises you can do to help you relax. No, I am not recommending meditation, it’s virtually impossible to meditate on this beautiful little island; too many distractions. Instead I will give you some exercises in Mindfulness, the opposite of Meditation. I have stolen the talking points from Alfred James’, Pocket Mindfulness, found on the web, and adapted them for the island. Enjoy!
1. Mindful Awareness: Some people are quite surprised when they finally get out to the island for the first time and realize just how small it is. This could cause some anxiety. Take some time and think about where you are and how you got there. How the island got there, this little microcosm out in the Caribbean and be aware of your existence on it.
2. Mindful listening: There are lots of noises on the island, most notably the wind and the surf. For some, the noise can be very distracting, especially at night. They are different from what we hear at home, even if you brought music or ear plugs these noises can be very difficult to tune out. Don’t try to tune them out, embrace them. Close your eyes and concentrate on a particular noise, listen carefully to it, to the pattern, think about what is making the noise and how it came to be. This one takes practice I admit, but then I can go to sleep in an MRI.
3. Mindful immersion: This exercise cultivates contentment in the moment. There are a few things we do on the island that may constitute a chore or perhaps something slightly unpleasant. Constantly sweeping the sand out of your cabana, showering in what you had hope was warm water. Take whatever it is and create an entirely new experience out of it. Pay close attention to what you are doing make it into a game.
4. Mindful observation: This is a no-brainer, with all those beautiful patch reefs to visit every day!
On at least one snorkel, find a small area on some coral and just focus on it for 4 or 5 minutes. Watch what is going on, watch the interaction, don’t worry about what kind of fish you see or what other are doing, just concentrate on your little patch of heaven.
5. Mindful appreciation: Notice 3 things on the island, that may seem insignificant or you may have been taking for granted (this one is good for you repeaters, you know who you are!) Write them down if you can as you identify them. Think of these things, think about how they came to be, how they contributed to your enjoyment of the island, think about how you will miss them when you get home. The compost toilet is a good one here. I have seen the look new people get on their faces when they fully realize just exactly what a “compost toilet” is, can be a real buzz killer for some! But in the end they ALWAYS come around to appreciating it! You can share your appreciation with that couple you seem to always get stuck with at the table
Wipe away all negative thoughts and ENJOY!