Getting back in the saddle sometimes produces soreness.

We spent seven 'soft' weeks on the shore of Bacalar. It's only been three days 'back in the saddle' for us, but we're feeling the tenderness. You could say that we're walking a little funny.

Our 'funny' walk is due to the hundreds of itchy bites that cover our bodies.

Even as I type this, I have to stop to satisfy irresistible urges to scratch, scratch, scratch - the result of an attack of the no-seeums (aka jejenes or sandflies).

Sometimes the most deadly enemies are those who can't be seen. While sleeping at the coast in Ladyville, Belize, these nearly invisible insects lighted upon us in a fury.

So small they could fit through screens, they swarmed into our tent and camper, and kept us awake with the continual snacking upon our flesh.

In the following days, the effects of their munching are terrible to behold (and they itch like the devil.)

Driven mad, we fled the scene in the dark to seek the refuge of a moving vehicle. Having no other destination, we drove to Belize City.

My bug-bitten ankle

Stopping at a park for little people entertainment and distraction, while I completed a work project, Parker (7) returned to the truck in tears, the result of a sleepless, bug bitten night, irresistible itching, and the burning Belize sun.

"I'm soooo hot and I'm itching. I don't like it here, I want to go back to Bacalar... or Alaska."

It was hard to say goodbye to Bacalar. (It's always hard to close a 'chapter' on your life.) A feeling of melancholy hung over us like a rain-cloud as we left the place we called home for seven peaceful, relaxing, wonderful weeks.

We had to bid farewell to the beautiful lagoon of Bacalar; the quiet, peaceful mornings; to our friends, the pirates; to Nancy and her five charming children; to the family that does our laundry; to the guy who sells the most amazing shredded pork; to the tienda de helados that sells coconut popsicles for only $5 pesos each (we stopped on the way out of town and bought some for old times sake).

Saying goodbye to our pirate friends.

Leaving Bacalar meant that for the first time in seven weeks, we didn't know where we would be sleeping each night. We didn't know what the road looked like, where it led, or what we would find.

And we didn't just leave Bacalar, we left Mexico, the incredible country we had explored for the past four months.

Even when it's exciting, It's still hard to leave the known and head into the 'unknown.'

Now, here we were, and some of the 'unknown' had revealed it's ugly face.

Besides the itching, and the heat, there were other adjustments we had to make- the closeness of tight quarters (living in our newly built camper); learning a new system for family operations (like meal times); and adjusting routines to new circumstances (where does everyone sit for bedtime stories?).

My new (still unpainted) kitchen

Learning how to make things work in tight quarters.

To top it off, Belize really wasn't all that impressive so far. It was like leaving the crystal clear waters and entering the murky sea. It was swampy, buggy, trashy. We weren't liking it much.

This is the sight we saw the morning we left Mexico.

This is what we found in Belize. Talk about culture shock.

When you face discomforts and challenges, it's natural to long for what you knew- the comforts, your 'happy place.'

Or it's easy to tell yourself, "See, we shouldn't have left. We left all the comforts, all the knowns - we went into the unknown, and look at the result. Just bad stuff."

It's okay to feel that way. We're human. We don't have to be cheerful about the unpleasantntries of life. We don't have to carpe diem the crap.

Sometimes you're just saddle-sore. Sometimes you just itch. I don't have to feel good about looking like I've got a severe case of chicken pox. We don't need to like every place we visit.

But the answer to our problem lies not in looking back at 'how good we had it', but to keep moving forward. It's to ask yourself, "How can I make this work?" or "What can I find that's beautiful about this?"

Because the unknown contains beauty too. It's not just 'all ugly.'

You have to look for the beauty wherever you go.

Rather than wallowing in the misery of the unpleasant circumstances, you have to look for solutions to make them better. You've got to believe that the 'ugly' is only temporary. Things will improve. And you have the infinitude to alter your circumstances. In the meantime, you make lemonade.

Recognizing this is the ultimate 'answer' to life. We all have to make adjustments. We all face the unknown. Life happens - new babies, job changes, moving, death, divorce.

If we can't learn to adjust to new routines, new environments, new habits - if we can't learn to say, "Yep, this stinks right now, but how can I make it better? How can I adjust?" "What can I be grateful for?" - well, then we might just go insane. Or die trying to keep things 'the way they were.'

Back in Belize, we examine our options. We look for relief, from the heat and the itching. We make some food (that's always a comfort), and made some friends (that always brings fun).

We looked for the beauty. We sought for solutions. And when you seek, you will find.

The next day our perseverance pays off. We're rewarded with the first-hand experiences with local culture that we relish, and that give travel so much meaning.

Camped on the property of a local man, three curious girls are interested in our home on wheels.

"May I come in, please, sir?" they each ask in turn.

In the midst of eating oranges, we share some with our sweet little guests.

"Juicy, juicy, juicy, juice!"

"Oh-run-juz is sooo good!"

"And they'ze good fo' ya, just like veg-uh-tuh-bulls."

We laugh, we learn, we giggle and share.

Greg asks one of the girls, "Why are you so pretty?"

"Cuz my momma born me that way. Cuz my mommas pretty, not like my ugly daddy."

We laugh, but she continues.

"It's good to have only one daddy, cuz my daddy tried to stab me with a knife. That's why I don't go to my home anymore."

And then she continues on, speaking about oranges and veg-uh-tuh-bulls, as though having your father attempt to stab you was a normal occurrence.

So simply said. So shocking. So telling of the reality for many children in the world. Such a smack in the face saying, "What do we have to complain about?" Bug bites? Cramped quarters? We're blessed to be a happy family.

Taking part in this sort of cultural experience is like marrow to the bones of travel - it's why we're out here.

To learn about and from other people, to expose our kids to new languages (even if it's a foreign version of English) and customs and lifestyles, and to gain greater insight into ourselves and our blessings.

Seeing beauty depends more on what you're looking for, than it does on what you see.

It's good to be 'tight'



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14 Responses

  1. Lisa

    Wow – I love the new camper!! How did you do it? It looks great. We’re trying to get ourselves together for a trip and are just exploring options for our “rig” and the layout. Any info would be helpful!

  2. gerald

    Belize doesn’t offer much to see, apart from the Cayes islands, which are expensive, you’ll find the same reefs in Honduras at a fraction of the price. Inland, some caves might be fun for the kids, again, pricey and not as nice as Lanquín caves in Guatemala. Same goes for the ruins, Yaxhá and Tikal are much much more beautiful.
    You can get your little girl some nice afro breads though!

  3. Lee

    Hi Rachel and Greg. I’m embarrassed to say I have not subscribed to your site officially but have been trolling and reading almost all your posts over the last couple months. I love your site, attitude and ingenuity. My family and I were about to head off on long-term travel but had to put it to the side to attend to a family emergency. I am just beginning to chronicle the experience in my blog. Much of what you wrote in the posts sums up our current experience to a “T”. Often the hard part is not where you are or what you are experiencing, it is getting your attitude right. Blogs like yours keep me motivated to get back to our goals and not let the dream die. My husband is also obsessed with your vehicle and it has altered and expanded our thoughts on how to do our trip in the future. Thank you for giving us more to dream about and possibilities to explore. Just FYI, there is a French family of seven traveling the world similar to your style (sans veggie oil) in a Land Rover Defender 110 wagon. It’s always amazing to encounter those who think outside the box and simply make it happen.

    A last comment. Someone mentioned your oldest daughter’s hair. I have natural hair. A different texture than your daughters but coily none the less. Braiding and unbraiding afro-textured hair takes a toll over time just like putting in chemicals. May I suggest you consider, if you haven’t, locking her hair in small locks. They would look like Sisterlocs or double strand twists but you or she could easily palm roll them for maintenance. She would look more kept and be able to style it any way she does now. Her hair would be healthier and grow longer if you keep it moisturized with a little natural oil like olive or coconut. It would eventually give her the same freedom with her hair the rest of the family enjoys with less risk of damage caused by her ends being dry and exposed so much as you travel. I don’t mean to offend or overstep, I just believe it would fit your lifestyle better.

    Thank you again for sharing your life. Keep sending the inspiration!

    • Rachel


      Thanks for you comment, and for your recommendations on the hair – I’ve done that style before, but didn’t know about keeping it in long term. My concern is that she’s so rough on her head – playing, wrestling, getting sand in it – even when she sleeps (with or without a scarf on), she rubs her head all over the pillow and makes a mess of her hair. Any suggestions for that?

      • Lee


        I’m not sure if you mean you have done twists before or locks. Twists are more fragile and easy to mess up. They are a great way to start locks though because it provides internal structure for the new growth to weave into. You just start palm rolling them every few weeks. YouTube, of course has great tutorials on how to roll properly. Fortunately her being “so rough on her head” actually helps the locking process by causing tangles and knots faster. As for scarvesI have two daughters with an abundance of curls and scarves are a must. Finding the right satin or silk scarf that fits the head is key. I find a men’s doo rag with tails works better than a regular scarf or sleep bonnet. They are smaller and shaped to fit the scalp, and have longer ties to pull it snug. Hope all this helps. I’m no expert but between my hair and the girls’ I’ve stumbled into learning a thing or two 🙂 Feel free to ask.

  4. matt

    I love your videos, but I don see you making any more videos especially when you go from one country to another.
    I would like to see how you cross each country

  5. Christina @Interest-Led Learning

    Oh my gosh, Rachel, you just made me cry. What an incredibly beautiful story you just shared. And your writing is simply gorgeous. It was also a message I needed today. I have bronchitus which led to an asthma attack yesterday. While I’m at the doctor-and the kids are laying all over the floor and won’t get up-and I embarrass myself by crying in front of the doctor-and I wonder how I’m going to be with these never-ending balls of energy by myself tomorrow when my husband won’t be home until nearly 10:00 p.m. and it hurts just to breathe – I get to stop and read your words. I can stop and just let things go. I can not worry about the house or anything else. I can cuddle on the couch all day in my p.j.s with the kids and watch them play. I actually felt myself getting a little better just by looking at the way things were at the moment instead of thinking of how horrible things were going to be before they actually happened. Thanks so much for writing this.

    • Rachel

      Thanks for sharing this comment Christina,

      When we feel overwhelmed by life, the best thing to do is to stop and tell ourselves that everything will be just fine 🙂 I’ve often created huge problems out of things that never actually happen!

      Take care and get well (do you want me to send you some essential oil samples for asthma?)

      • Christina @Interest-Led Learning

        Thanks so much for offering that! You’re really, really sweet 🙂 You guys are so busy, I really wouldn’t want to put you through the trouble of doing that. You could let me know the name of the products, though.

      • Rachel

        It’s no problem, I have a friend in the States that does it for me (she actually has asthma and uses the oils for it). No cost to you, so if you’re interested email me your address and I’ll have them sent, along with a little booklet that tells how to use the oils. I LOVE my oils – wouldn’t leave ‘home’ without them 🙂

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