Thursday, August 3, 2017

The long way home...

Sooo…remember how I described my family’s recent trip to Belize as the most “wild and remote” we’d ever taken? Well, I think it’s safe to say that I officially reached the Travel Tolerance Level of the two youngest members of Team WestEnders. By the end of the week, it seemed to be a combination of factors that played into their…discomfort. For example, the early morning wake-ups for excursions. Not to mention, the rich restaurant fare for every meal—which probably also contributed to each of them experiencing unfortunate…”tummy troubles” the last few days of our vacation.
I, of course, felt nothing but sympathy for them while they were under-the-weather, but it was still amusing to hear them rhapsodize about what they were going to snack on when they had recovered, and returned to their usual routine in the good old U.S. of A. You might wonder what they missed while they were temporarily living in a fabulous resort with world-class cuisine? “Squeezy tubes of applesauce”…milk flavored with chocolate Nesquik powderNature Valley protein bars…and (my favorite example) “packaged ham with Velveeta cheddar slices on white bread”! 

Derek actually was heard to utter the words, “Mmmm…processed food!” when asked what he was looking forward to eating. (Oy. They really DO eat very healthy at home, I swear. I guess it’s just not as easy to get all poetic and whatnot about their nightly dinner salad and several-times-a-day fruit servings…)

I think he also summed it up best for me when he solemnly declared, “Mom, we’re really more…buffet guys…than we are cut out for fine dining.” (Oh, you mean like the last two all-inclusives we’ve visited? Duly noted, son. Memo to me: dial it back on the “swanky” factor next time we choose an international location. Exotic locale? YES! Fancy food? Clearly a big “No, thank you!”)
We got a crystal clear indication that it was indeed time to go home when Derek turned to me on the last evening and declared, “I’ve had enough of this…eco-friendly DEATH TRAP!” Oh-kaaaay, that might have been a wee bit dramatic, but I took it with a grain of salt. After all, we were facing another 5-leg, 10-hour travel day before we’d finally be back at our own house. The odyssey began at 9 a.m., when we settled into the resort’s van for the ride to the airstrip. We then boarded the 10-seater plane that would take us to the Belize City airport, where we’d eventually catch our Southwest flight back to the States.

And this is where the whole journey began to slowly slide off the rails. We checked in at the counter, to get our boarding passes. Then we showed our passports and forms a second time, to be allowed into the Security line…which was super-long…so an airport…guy…directed half of the queue to walk a few hundred yards to another…eerily similar…line. Security involved the typical stuff and nonsense—shoes off, purses/laptops/phones/cameras/liquids in buckets, suitcases on the belt.
We already knew we were facing a 2-hour wait…which was then increased by an added half-hour delay in our takeoff time. To give you a picture of the delightful environment in which we’d be spending our…Bonus Travel Time…Derek, looking around critically, suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, Mom—this place is no bigger than…a Sheetz!” And tragically...he was so very right

However, a Sheetz—or for that matter ANY well-stocked convenience store, would have offered so much more in terms of “amenities” than the tiny Belizean outpost. We managed to scare up some Gatorades, sodas, pretzels, and trail mix to tide us over until we’d hopefully be able to forage with more success in Ft. Lauderdale. At the appointed time (finally) we endured a chaotic boarding mess to be herded onto our packed plane, where none of us was able to sit together, and the lady next to me overflowed the armrest into my minuscule amount of personal space. Yippee!

The upshot of all this was that, by the time we landed in Florida, we had less than an hour to catch our connecting flight. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Except the backup at the self-service kiosks (the only option, by the way) at Customs…and then the next traffic jam to show our passports and forms to actual agents. And then, wait—we have to go through Security AGAIN? Somehow we’d forgotten that we had to complete this obnoxious extra step, so Husband and I had filled our souvenir water bottles from the resort, to bring with us on the next flight.

Of course, these showed up on the scanners and got pulled out for inspection…and the only choices they gave us were to throw them in the garbage or leave the area, empty them out, and GO BACK THROUGH THE FREAKIN’ LINE. Since it was now 10 minutes until our plane was scheduled to take off (not board, mind you, which had already happened, but actually “leave the ground”) we told them to shove the bottles...I mean “dispose of them” and let us proceed on our (not at all merry, to put it mildly) way.

As we sprinted to the gate, I heard Derek proclaiming emphatically, “I am Never. Leaving. the U.S. Again!” “That’s fine,” I breezily retorted, “Next Summer’s our domestic year, anyway!” To which he responded, even more firmly, “Nope. We’re done. No airplanes. We may not even leave the HOUSE!” Honestly, at that moment, dragging our luggage at breakneck pace through crowds of people, frantically trying to catch a plane that had probably already left us behind, without having been able to obtain more snacks or drinks…I really couldn’t fault him for this sentiment. (BUT…they held the flight—hallelujah! And we weren’t even the last ones on, by a long shot! Maybe just the most out-of-breath…but hey, if Airport Olympics ever becomes a thing, Team WestEnders has a fabulous head-start on training…)

Wouldn’t you know it: we then had to sit around while being cleared for departure, since there were other planes ahead of us on the runway. But this one wasn’t a full plane, so I actually had an empty seat in between me and the lady by the window…for her tiny dog to occupy. Whatever—the canine was completely silent and no bother at all during the entire flight….and I wasn’t forced to sit with my elbows squashed to my sides, so I’ll take it! From there, it was a brief walk to the parking lot to retrieve the Subaru, followed by a short drive to Casa WestEnders…where we all collapsed gratefully…after raiding the fridge, of course! (Trust me, it had been a looooong time since “munchies in Belize”!)

It was a trying, troublesome travel day, to be sure…but despite Derek’s protestations, once the fatigue wears off, we’ll be left with awesome memories of hiking in the rainforest, snorkeling the reef, enjoying the ocean, experiencing a one-of-a-kind beachside resort…and for some of us, even savoring delicious meals. And now, we can get back into our daily lives and habits…and start dreaming of next year’s (much less “out there”) adventure!

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