This morning I started thinking about what it is like to live in a popular tourist destination. My hometown of San Pedro, Belize for the last 10 years is the most visited spot in the country of Belize.
And before I moved here, I lived in Manhattan…New York City – one of the most visited locations in the world. THE popular tourist destination. A city where almost everyone on the planet could list a few of New York’s most iconic, bucket-list sites. The Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty. Times Square – where I worked for the last few years of my “office career”.
As a New Yorker (who obviously wore all black, was cynical about all things and way too cool for school 🙂 ), you work hard to minimize your time with or near tourists. You avoid Times Square and all the big attractions like the plague, you roll your eyes (oh tourists!) when you pass by a bustling TGIFriday chain or midtown Macy’s and you would never eat a hot pretzel from a corner cart.
Because…duh! That’s for tourists!
Like Manhattan there are LOTS of great reasons people visit Ambergris Caye.
The caye is ridiculously beautiful – white sand, the bluest ocean, the barrier reef, the wildlife. There are great restaurants, fun bars and plenty to keep you busy day and night, if that’s what you like to do.
But a vacation to Belize is so different…so obviously unlike visiting NYC or Paris or Miami and, not as obviously, so different from other Caribbean trips I’ve taken. There is a reason that I went to Aruba and Curacao, Grenada and Costa Rica, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten and never thought about relocating there…
When you arrive on Ambergris Caye, take a walk around town. You are vacationing within a community.
Pause for just a second – there are kids in uniform going to school, there are street vendors selling fruits or tacos to people on their way to work, there are parades and holidays, there are signs for fundraisers and school parties, talent shows and business openings -it doesn’t take too long to see that the community is pretty fantastic.
Here the locals don’t actively avoid the tourists…
There are no huge chains – no Senor Frog’s, no McDonald’s or Starbucks. When you drink a Belikin beer after your snorkeling trip, you are just as likely to be sitting next to a San Pedrano as you are another visitor.
When you head home after your Belize vacation, I bet that one of the reasons that you want to return is to visit the local friends you met.
Despite the growth that the island has seen over the last 5 or 10 years – San Pedro still retains this community feel because, well…this is a living, working, tightly knit community.
And it’s the thing that made me want to visit here again…and then again…and then to make San Pedro my home.