VICTOR TEIXEIRA – LMDI
It’s not every day that I am jealous of anyone else’s lifestyle, but when Kimberley and Ross told me they were moving to Belize… oh my God!!! I just wanted to pack and go! Especially when we nearly crossed each other in Cancun… just as I was leaving.
You might recognise Kimberley, she wrote a previous DogBlog for Let My Dog In. This time she’s gone international and I cannot wait to visit her…
Welcome to our October DogBlog!
Kimberley Perry – Mexico to Belize
“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”
Landing into Cancún International Airport in southern Mexico marked the halfway point of our journey from south east England to a peninsula in Belize. Crossing the land mass between the two points involved, for me, a feared unknown. The absence of someone to call on to pick the brains of had been disconcerting. Facebook group participants had driven through it and regaled tales of either slipping through it unnoticed with their worldly belongings in their truck, dogs seamlessly waved through the border into the lower belt of the Yucatán Peninsula, or warning others of its ability to trap and snare with freedom needing to be bought for various prices.
Sadly, not even Facebook groups could support us with this path. Most North Americans relocating to Central America chose a crossing miles and hours from Cancún but it was our only viable option for Cookie, who had somehow come through 11 hours in the cargo hold unscathed.
Blind to any other options and totally in the dark about its viability, in the middle of September I had reached out to a driver advertising tours from Belize to Mexico. The website mentioned Cancún as a drop off or pickup point, the company looked family-owned and kindly. I tentatively paid a deposit for a driver, Josh, who later became the saviour of our journey, to meet us at the airport once Cookie was through. He would drive us the 650 km from the sparkling azure blue tourist hub of Cancún all the way to our apartment in southern Belize. Other options, including hiring a jet to fly us from Mexico or the States ($25,000 from Miami would have blown the equivalent of 2 years of our living budget!), buying a car and driving it ourselves (too many variables, too little experience on our part) were quickly eradicated. Flying as far as airline schedules would allow us and our dog, then having a worldly wise driver take us through the land border was our safest and virtually, only, option.
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
Just like organising our journey from London to Mexico was truly stepping into the unknown, the next leg of our journey had been the source of a deeply troubled mind for me. In the UK, I had woken up at 6am most days in September churning over what it might look like to get Cookie through the endless list of requirements the animal health border officials at the airport had. Would she be kept there for days? Would she be in some uncomfortable holding pen, lost and confused? We’d been told she would have to stay the night without us when we landed because it would be too late for her to be inspected that day. This already clashed with our ethics – my head wrangling with her being alone, jet lagged and exhausted when the whole point of us travelling all this way was for time, adventures and to bask in better health together. Further separation from our spirited, loving, chirpy girl was a heavy worry but it was beyond our control.
As if by magical intervention, our Mexico based pet relocation company (the incredible Unintran Pets – a fantastic team including the brilliant Antonio) messaged to say they were going to try and get Cookie through the intense process that afternoon. With live updates flooding in every few minutes through the 30 minutes of free airport wifi, we realised we would need to drastically change our plans if she was to be released to us that evening.
Standing with our bags in arrivals, with 2 further pieces of luggage yet to be collected from cargo and a dog on its way to us but a driver still in Belize (Josh wasn’t due to see us until the next morning), my head for logistics turned one more creaking, jet lagged, cog and then seemingly seized up altogether. The brain could not process any more information!
Cutting through the brain fog, the voice of peaceful, steady, calm, Ross simply said ‘We will work this out, don’t worry’. Even without a SIM card that worked in Mexico, or WiFi that connected anywhere away from the terminal, we did. In that tumultuous swell of what ifs, buts and can’ts there was a flexibility that astounded me – it started with Ross and then came the words of Josh – ‘I’m heading there now, I’ll be there, let me know when you have the dog’. And all my incomplete lines between the dots were suddenly joined.
Every time you’re dangling, legs prickling with the thought of the drop you have before you hit the ground below you, someone, something, just scoops you up and there you are – safe again.
You just need to loosen your grip on how you think life should unfold.
The heroic, unfazed Josh cancelled another job he had and he drove all the way to Cancún to intercept us. We just needed to get the rest of our belongings from cargo, be reunited with our tired Cookie and find a dog friendly hotel in the area to rest our weary bodies so we could leave for Belize in the morning. With a folder of paperwork for everything but the cargo consignment we needed to collect and no address for the depot, we were once again clueless with few options. Unintran’s office had already sent us a pin on WhatsApp for Cookie’s cargo-area location and our bags were pictured with her, we just had to somehow reach the backstage area of the airport.
Dragging our suitcases in the blistering Yucatán afternoon sun, we reached a check point for a staff area. Habla inglés? Fragments of GCSE Spanish were in an unreachable part of my memory in the moment I needed them the most. Miming what we were trying to do coupled with a few words in Spanish didn’t get us far until a helpful, patient, official finally explained to me in Spanish (but in a way my frazzled intellect could understand) that we needed to have our piece of paper with the cargo data on it stamped at another place called Plaza Luxury before the luggage would be released to us. Resigned to the fact we couldn’t get any further without getting Cookie first and with Josh’s arrival imminent, we took a taxi to Unintran’s office and into the care of people who could finally help.
Yet more dots were joined together as Unintran advised us Cookie was cleared and was on her way! A hotel just yards from their office would accept dogs so we could stay overnight and Josh would be fresh for the long drive the next morning rather than trying to push through and drive us the 10 hr stretch in one hit and darkness.
As Cookie arrived and exhaustedly came towards us we could finally grasp how elated we were that she wasn’t harrowed by the flight and that life’s adventures into unknown lands would now be just as exciting for her as it was for us!
To see life through a dog’s ever present, ever inquisitive eyes is an eternal source of reassurance in my opinion. Dogs have no awareness of the fact there is a planet at all, as Ross so beautifully said when I expressed how flabbergasted I was by her resilience. That’s part of their mystery though…do animals know and feel what we do and so much more? Or are they so solidly rooted in the now that any other timeframe or timezone is just background noise? Either way, having a dog with you when you’re immersed in life at its most raw, uncontrollable and frustrating best, laid out before you without a safety net of any kind, is just the best thing for your soul and your mind because they just find the whole episode so very exciting.
That night I shed a snakeskin of fear in the hotel room. We had our girl, woozy but waggy-tailed, we were on the right continent and we were safe. My fear of the unknown hadn’t helped when the reality was workable. I knew this from observing clients’ reactions to major life changes during my therapy work but we are never as adept at taking our own advice as we are at giving it. The only way to find peace in what feels like a storm is to be that peace. Being flexible, keeping my humour and my cool like Ross had were the keys to my happiness in a new wilderness.
A sun drenched morning awaited us and a sniff around the perimeter of the airport invigorated a jet-lagged Cookie, whose nose breathed in a thousand new Central American smells. Josh greeted us in the small, sun-filled breakfast area. I had to give him a hug! He was the picture of reliability – smiling in camouflage utility wear – ready to go whenever we were. We were!
Another fear dissolved – Josh’s huge and robust vehicle had room for Cookie’s cargo caravan, which we didn’t subject her to as we knew she’d prefer straddling one of our laps in the back over another day of being in that! We just needed to get the elusive luggage from deep space, AKA Cancún cargo. We had an address to go to – Plaza Luxury – for the aforementioned document stamp – and it just so happened (another angelic intervention) that it was across the road from our hotel. The stamp was finally obtained after money changed hands, all cash of course, and a few pages were signed to verify the document as finally usable.
Curling back along the highway towards the cargo area of Cancún airport, we hoped for a swift turnaround on the releasing of our luggage. Pulling up in the morning shadows I sat with the ever patient Cookie whilst Josh and Ross attended the elusive customs department. Two hours later, after a lot of waiting for apparently no reason at all other than to occupy someone’s time, the men appeared with the bags. Josh had been a saviour once again, translating for Ross whilst officials rubber-stamped, photocopied and looked over an immense amount of paperwork. It was bureaucracy at its most beguiling.
We were finally unleashed onto the ever long México 307 highway, which Josh said was often severely congested between the resorts along Cancún and Playa del Carmen with their grand, illustrious hotel gatehouses, like something a billionaire would build in Nevada, swaying palms and the occasional glimpse of the bright blue Caribbean Sea beyond. Today, in the mid-morning heat, the roads were clear and opened out in front of us as if finally welcoming us to our new chapter. Washed away were my UK-based nightmares in which I envisaged highwaymen seizing our vehicle, kidnapping us or holding us to ransom. The human brain just relishes the opportunity to create drama of the deadliest proportions if given half a chance to run amok but the reality could not have been more different. If the cartel vehicles were patrolling, we were under an invisible shield. Josh drove on effortlessly, stopping at his usual favoured services for fuel and comfort breaks. He did the border crossing multiple times a week and made the arduous journey seem like a trip to a domestic weekend away rather than the huge mission that had painted a million possible scenes in my mind for the past 6 weeks.
There were highlights for us along the way; Cookie’s ability to snooze on our laps whilst Josh shared stories of his time in the Mexican military, legends of Belize and of the Maya, smiles and kindness from the locals who operated the toilets at the service stations (they were immaculate and the ladies in attendance were full of so much joy that Josh took them specialties from miles away to make them smile even more). Ordering a footlong sandwich in Subway in spanish made me feel accomplished, especially when the locals were impressed I wanted jalapeños in it!
Seeing Mexico drift past us made me feel grateful – thankful to be with someone who really knew the region – and annoyed. Annoyed with myself for not thinking outside the small box that was the UK, for not being ambitious enough to push myself beyond the comfortable confines of Europe and not consider just how simple it really is to uproot yourself and transplant yourself in a new place, even if it looks like a world away.
Why didn’t I think about doing this sooner?
The border for Belize was a short queue of people and a tiny office where a smiley official stamped our passports and waved us on. Cookie’s animal health inspection was done quickly and again, with the natural Belizean warmth that had originally stolen our hearts and imaginations in August when we’d toured the country. Under a pastel sky, we quickly passed through the northern tip of the country and on to Orange Walk to the west, past the tiny capital of Belmopan and onto our favourite, aptly named road – the Hummingbird Highway. Teeming with wildlife, birds singing as dusk arrived over the jungle, Josh drove just off centre to avoid any wandering mammals or, in one town famous for it, drunken locals lying on the roadside! A few hours later, eyelids heavy and heads nodding, we found ourselves at the neck of the peninsula we were to call home – Placencia. Lagoon on one side with the Caribbean Sea a few paces away on the other, Placencia’s watery paradise had felt like a natural choice for two scuba diving lovers who’d spent too many years on land to count.
Those I’ve met who have relocated and crossed oceans to live in new ways have always told me that once you have done it on one occasion, doing it again is easy. Once we finally saw our apartment for the first time in the flesh and Cookie did happy loops of our sandy yard, twinkling stars overhead, Josh departing having even taken us to a supermarket to get essentials, our shoulders dropped.
We’d created a fresh start completely through joining irregular, random dots thanks to the kindness of good people. All that was left to do was to sleep, to dream of what was to greet us in the morning and of pastures new. For the first time in 6 weeks, my slumber was free of Mexican melodrama and my heart was full of hope.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
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