It is almost unbelievable the things that can change in one short year.
The day still resonates in my mind. An international inspiration coach and consultant, Kathleen, came to my small district in Michigan to present on co-teaching and differentiated instruction. Her presentation was truly remarkable. I felt invigorated and a sense of empowerment! I couldn’t wait to try some of the strategies I’d learned in my classroom with my students.
Kathleen and I instantly connected, and during lunch she mentioned a Belize Eduventure. This professional development opportunity would allow me to “teach” teachers in San Ignacio, Belize for a few days. The cost was expensive for me, so I told her I would think about it. Over the next few months as things began to crumble with my long-term, long distance relationship, I began thinking about this trip more and more. I had taught in South Africa during my college years and the travel bug was coming back to me.
When Kathleen came back for another coaching session, I told her I was in. Even more than in, I was going to travel for a month after professional development. Heck! If I was going to Belize, I might as well get the most out of it. Through a recommendation from a friend, I decided to visit Placencia, Belize. It would be here that I would spend time contemplating teaching, life and more importantly my never ending battle with MEN. My adventure would start a week after my school district dismissed for summer break – June 2012.
San Ignacio was beautiful. I met a group of amazing educators and we taught during the day and conversed and connected at night. The time went so quickly and before I knew it, I was in Placencia on my own.
I spent the first few days in Placencia exploring and relaxing. I found a store that sold and exchanged old books and read daily on the beach. One particular evening right after sunset, I was walking back from the store with two books in my hand. I was passing a small bar called the “Pickled Parrot” when I heard live music. This wasn’t just any live music – it was a cover of Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan, being my favorite artist, drew me into the bar. As I walked around the corner, I spotted a man with long hair and a long braided beard. He had piercing blue eyes. “Sit down” he said. I sat down amongst strangers and began casually talking about life, traveling and my teaching career. The bearded man’s name was Justin.
A few days later I heard a voice from behind me, “April.” I turned around and Justin was walking towards me. From this moment on, we were inseparable. We connected on a level I’ve never felt with anyone. When it was time for me to leave this tropical paradise and head back to Michigan, Justin expressed his feelings for me. However crazy it may sound, I felt them too. I found the love of my life in Belize…but Belize? How was this going to work? The next 6 months of my life were crazy. I began my second year of teaching, met Justin’s family and friends, he met mine and I spent holiday weekends in Belize.
I began researching teaching certificates and work permits in Belize. Everything I read explained the long processes. I was exhausted from being away from the man I loved. In November, Justin proposed in Chicago. I said yes. A week later I resigned from my position at my Michigan school district. I moved to Placencia, Belize on December 22nd, 2012 and never looked back.
I have been living in Belize for 10 months now. Volunteering as a literacy coach and reading consultant at the local school, I stay extremely busy. I was recently offered the position of head teacher at an international school that is currently being built. I am starting my own professional development and educational company called Dreamers, Leaders and Achievers—DLA, to promote literacy and differentiated instruction in Belize. Justin and I are building our first house together and currently reside in a small apartment with our two cats. We are getting married next summer at a private ceremony in Belize.
Taking the leap and moving to a developing country has been challenging and inspiring. Some family members and friends still do not understand our choice. But that’s okay. We found love in Belize and we look forward to having a family and beginning our life together in beautiful chaos.