The view from the window of my home-made camper is almost like a postcard. Tawny sand stretches out to meet the glittering sea which reflects the fading light of day.
Inside my little house I'm listening to Jack Johnson and preparing dinner for my family on my little camp stove.
I'm feeling really good about life. My children are playing contentedly in the Caribbean sea and the trade winds are keeping my sworn enemies at bay.
My husband climbs into the camper and embraces me, and I can't help but smile and feel warm all over, and gratitude for having such an amazing life. Wow, I'm so blessed.
But then an image flashes into my head that makes me laugh. I realize that I've become one of 'those' people - a vagabond, that lives in her truck with her large, free-rein family, and listens to Bob Marley. If you describe me that way, basically, I'm a hippie.
I can just see my (wonderful) sister telling her friends, "Yeah, my older sister lives in her truck and is wandering through Central America with her five kids. They don't have a job, or a home." Yeah, that pretty much sounds like a hippie.
But the thing is, I don't feel like a hippie. I don't think I look like a hippie (maybe I'm wrong there. Though my kids do look like hippies sometimes.) Really, I feel pretty 'normal'.
I share my thoughts with Greg, and he laughs too. "We think that we have this awesome, enviable life," he says, "but a lot of people probably look at us and say, 'Those poor saps, living out of their truck. And their kids...they're growing up to be hippies. Poor things." Then we laugh at the irony.
I remember when a life like the one I'm currently living seemed so weird and just plain crazy. "Who lives out of their truck? And drives through foreign, 'dangerous' countries with their children? People just don't do that. That's not 'normal' (aka, socially acceptable)."
Back then, 'normal' to me was my husband's career; a house with a mortgage; a stack of bills to pay each month; two car payments plus insurance; shopping at Walmart; Hamburger Helper for dinner; a 401(k); looking forward to the weekends; and dreading Monday mornings when my husband went back to work.
I remember when I thought it was vitally important that each of my children have a room, or at least their own bed. I remember when the minimum size house I could consider was 3 bedrooms, with newer carpet, granite counter tops, and 4 inch base-board. What would people think if my house was run down, or not clean when they happened to stop by?
Now that life seems light years away. And 'weird' and 'crazy' has become my 'normal'.
'Normal' has now become camping on a beach in Belize, cooking on a camp stove in a home made camper, and sleeping in a roof top tent. My kids all share one, large bed that extends above the truck cab, and we haven't seen carpet for months.
We had arranged a meetup, but after receiving word that friends won't be coming to Placencia after all, we eagerly head toward the Cayo district of Belize - an area in the mountains that borders Guatemala.
Driving along the Hummingbird Highway, we see some of the most beautiful scenery since entering Belize. I'm reminded of our time living in the Dominican Republic, with the green, tree-covered hills and colorful wooden houses.
Cruising the Hummingbird Highway
For them, this is 'normal' transportation
The first stop is at the Blue Hole, an under ground river that is partially exposed, creating an incredible swimming hole. Kids are free, adults pay $8 Belize each (U.S. $4).
We stop to buy some bananas for our hungry munchkins at the 'grocery store'. This time it's a house/store/art studio ran by a man without a shirt. Eighteen bananas cost us $2 Belize, or $1 U.S. This is all perfectly 'normal'.
The sun is getting low and sending streams of light which seem to paint the already bewitching countryside with a magical, golden hue - almost like fairy dust has been sprinkled over the entire district. Deep green pastures dotted with grazing cattle; stately ceiba trees command the horizion; thick rivers carve through impenetrable jungle.
But as usual, what's most fascinating to me is the people. One woman from Mexico who had visited the United States, drove through a suburban neighborhood in Texas and asked her host, "Where's all the people?" It's common for us to be sequestered indoors, and 'keep to ourselves,' or our television.
That doesn't happen in Latin America. Being 'out', walking, riding, standing, hiking, working, playing, washing, talking. It's all part of 'normal' life. It would be 'weird' to stay inside your house all day and never talk to your neighbors. They would think you were very strange.
Now as dusk approaches, dozens of people are gathering for the evening at the river's edge to 'bathe', wash laundry, and just spend time together as family and friends, a daily event.
'Normal' for these people is something entirely different than what I grew up believing 'normal' was. It's wooden houses, dirt floors, walking and riding bicycles, and washing laundry in a river.
'Normal' is sharing the same room, or even the same bed, your entire life; never shopping at a Walmart; buying groceries from your neighbor who has a store in their house; and never having a mortgage or a car payment.
The day is waning. We stop in the city of Santa Elena, Belize for dinner. Odd to me, it's BBQ chicken, baked beans (like they came from a can) and coleslaw. Seems like such an 'American' meal.
Conventional wisdom would tell us to call it a day. Instead, we decide we'll cross the border into Guatemala. Why not? It's only 9 miles away.
**Besides, we have some projects we want to work on once we get settled in Guatemala, so we're anxious to get there.
So despite common 'travel advice' about crossing borders early in the morning, we reach the border as the sun starts to set. We go through customs and immigration like we're waiting in line at Walmart - just another day.
We're not surprised when the system is slow and archaic, and it takes much longer than we would like. The kids are barely aware of what's going on. They're entertaining themselves and having a good time as usual.
We're mildly amused, but not astounded, when part of the process includes a jaunt into Guatemala to a local copy shop, to make copies of our paperwork. Just a 'normal' day at the office for these guys.
It's dark by the time we're through. Hungry, we stop at the first roadside stand we find for our first Guatemalan meal. It's an incredible chicken taco on Guatemaltecan corn tortillas with mandarina-limon juice squeezed on top. (It's amazing how many versions of a 'taco' you can find south of the U.S. border).
Then we drove. And drove. And drove. We drove into the night, despite the well known 'travel advice' about not driving at night in Central America, because it's dark, and windy, and people are walking and dogs are wandering, and at any moment the pavement could stop and turn to dirt (which it did several times). Though I would have to say, that's counsel I would prefer to stick by - driving at night is 'crazy' (but 'normal' for all the truckers we saw cruising the highway.)
The kids climb up into their bed to sleep, and we keep driving and driving. I doze off before we stop, and when we do we're in the parking lot of Tikal.
I get out of the truck and can't help but gawk up at the stars which seem to be bursting out of a blanket of darkness from their bed in the sky, reminding me again of why I love Mother Nature.
This 'average' day of my life might seem very strange, crazy or exotic to you. Maybe it seems like complete mayhem. Perhaps it's difficult for you to imagine living the way we do (and we don't ask you to).
However, we think our life is pretty great. We have each other; love; freedom; travel. We get to explore amazing countries, eat great food, and go new places all the time - something we LOVE to do.
More interestingly is that our life seems...'normal'. We still get up and make breakfast and clean up and brush our teeth and work and study and play and do all the normal things that everyone around the world does everyday.
But our life isn't 'normal' in a boring, hum-drum sort of way - it's normal in a what-I-once-thought-was-strange-weird-impossible-is-now-reality- sort of way. Does that make sense?
The appalling, frightening idea of being a homeless, nomadic 'social outcast' is now my life - and it's not that bad. 😉
What is 'normal' anyway? Who defines it?
If there's one thing I've learned through our travels, it's that people live in all sorts of conditions, and are accustomed to all sorts of circumstances and situations that to others might appear absurd, unacceptable, weird or crazy.
The funniest part is, if you open yourself up to it, you too can learn to live the way they do - and then it no longer seems strange, but 'normal' (and sometimes even better than way you used to live.)
'Normal' can be whatever you define it to be. You decide what you want as 'normal' for your life, and it can be completely different from what you know now, what others expect of you, or what society has prescribed as the formula you should follow. That's what it means to live deliberately.
It means that your life is lived consciously, intentionally, and with full consideration of all the options - even ones you're not currently aware of.
**Note: I don't think we make this clear often enough on our site. This website IS NOT about convincing you to live like we do - nomadic vagabonding. That is our dream. Please don't try to make it yours unless you really, really, really want it.
This site IS about convincing you to live your dream. We all have a unique gift, talent and contribution to make to this world. What is yours? By sharing our story, we hope to inspire you to discover and pursue your dream, and live deliberately.
What do you want your 'normal' to look like?
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