I know what you’re thinking: Dude, that’s called a layover, not a visit. You didn’t even leave the airport. To which I say, “Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.” Besides, I much prefer the attitude of my former colleague who once spent a week in London and has forever after happily -- and truthfully -- told friends and acquaintances, “I used to live in England, you know.”
Belize came into play when my family and I were trying to get from Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth after having spent more than a week away from home. The MIA-DFW route is one of American Airlines’ most popular, which makes taking it somewhat of a dicey proposition when you’re flying standby. Especially when there are five of you. Especially on a Sunday. Especially on a holiday weekend. Translation: It was a perfect storm of traveler obstacles.
If not for my unorthodox itinerary, I probably would have wept when I heard an airport representative cheerily tell a cluster of nearby passengers, “Every single plane is absolutely full today, folks.” But by that point, I was already embracing my detour.
At the ticket desk, the agent initially laughed when I told her my flight plan: Miami to Belize City to Dallas/Fort Worth. “I have never heard of anybody doing this before,” she mused as she discovered the same truth I had, that while the meek may inherit the earth, the bold are the only ones getting from Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth on a perfect-storm kind of day.
And that’s how, a few hours later, we found ourselves at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, which is staffed by some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered. Passport Guy was especially perplexed by us, but the sight of my pigtailed 10-year-old daughter holding my hand apparently convinced him we weren’t national-security threats. “You really should come back and stay for a while,” he finally said with a smile. “Belize is a very beautiful country.” (Frankly, I consider that to be an open invitation. So if you’re reading this, Passport Guy, don’t be surprised if I show up sometime and ask to crash on your couch for a few days. Do you get HBO?)
As we waited for our final flight, I walked outside. Instead of the airport accessories I’m used to -- acres of concrete and the scream of jet engines -- there was lush jungle and the calls of tropical birds.
In that airport, though, was the opportunity to learn about Belize and appreciate a way of life and a style of travel that’s foreign to millions of travelers. Which is why I do plan to take Passport Guy’s advice and go back as soon as I can.
Adam Pitluk, the editor of this magazine, experienced Belize in a much different manner and discovered that its charms extend far beyond the airport boundaries. His adventure can be found on page 26. But I hope you’ll also take a few detours once you’re inside this issue and read our takes on überpitchman Billy Mays and a fabulous new golf course in Scotland. Be sure to read the entire issue, because as you savvy travelers know, there’s always something interesting up ahead.