Subject: Ambergris Caye, Belize
Date: Feb 2006
I just recently returned from a week’s vacation to Ambergris Caye (AC), an island off the mainland of Belize, located in the Caribbean.
Imagine a place where you can go ANYWHERE barefoot and not only do so without judgment or “the look,” but also be joined by anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of those around you. At any given time in San Pedro, AC’s main town, you’ll see locals and U.S. tourists alike dining in restaurants, even more fancy places; shopping in grocery stores and other businesses; walking the streets; riding bikes; conducting other business; driving golf carts (a preferred mode of travel on AC); even working construction.
I lost my shoes on 5 February when I boarded the puddle jumper that took me to AC from Belize City and I put them back on when I returned to Belize City the following Sunday. During that time, I had something on my feet for a total of three hours during that entire time (flippers for snorkeling and sandals, which our guide said were required to tour Lamanai, the ancient Mayan site).
The streets of San Pedro are mostly a combination of white sand and dirt, which leaves your soles white, as opposed to black. I think that AC is kind of the opposite of my home in New Jersey—prevalent white bare soles that are accepted without question versus rare black soles that draw judgment and occasionally hassles. My wife, who doesn’t barefoot in public outside of our yard or the beach, and my five-year-old son, who occasionally barefoots with his dad in NJ, joined me. It was true bliss.
As far as barefooting among the locals is concerned, the population of AC is young (most people appear to be under 30 and there are lots of very cute kids). The majority of barefooters were men, but there were many women as well. Oftentimes, though, when I saw a family, the father was barefoot and the mom had sandals. Many kids run around barefoot, and you will see the occasional older person sans shoes.
It’s also interesting that many American tourists decide to follow the “When in Rome, do as the Romans” adage and lose their shoes as well. I think this speaks volumes to SBL members setting a positive example by being themselves in public here in the U.S. It’s the feeling that if he or she is doing it, I’ll do it, too.
I will most likely post a few interesting barefoot-related stories in the near future, but I want to let you, particularly those who live in the uptight and judgmental U.S., know that there is a beautiful, warm place not too far from home where you won’t be judged, where you can be yourself and enjoy a wide variety of surfaces–from powdery white sand beaches to cobblestones to ceramic and marble-tiled floors–all of this while being surrounded by the clear blue Caribbean, fresh air, coconut palms, and some of the warmest people you’d ever want to meet.
Seeing is Belizing (sorry for the pun, it’s theirs, not mine!)