5:21 am. I woke up to the sound of a text alert. Our 8am flight had been delayed to 8:45. Ok, no biggie. We have a few extra minutes at home and fewer extra minutes during our connection in Dallas. I wasn’t worried. (Spoiler Alert: This optimism will emerge as a theme.)
Our traveling partners, Liz and Brian and their son Nicholas, didn’t see the delay in time and got to the airport early enough to start negotiating with American Airlines for an alternate flight. Plenty of planes fly between Northwest Arkansas and Dallas every day and there was another one at 8:30. Before long, we were all on standby for the 8:30 — but no luck. We eventually boarded our 8:00-turned-8:45-turned-9:30am flight to Dallas knowing we’d never make our connection. Our only chance to make it onto the once-daily flight to Belize City was for a delay in Dallas. It’s a strange feeling to HOPE for a delay. Fingers crossed, y’all.
On the short flight from XNA to Dallas we let reality set in and started making plans for the night we would inevitably be spending in Dallas. We can go to Six Flags, guys, it’ll be fun! Maybe we can call our hotel in Belize and they’ll let us tack on an extra day at the end of the trip. As we approached Dallas, I painfully watched precious minutes tick away on my watch. Our flight to Belize was scheduled to take off at 10:35am — and we landed at 10:29.
Up the escalator, onto the tram. Like crazy people. The updates on my phone said the plane hadn’t left yet and we hoped they could hang on just a feeeeeeew more minutes. We ran up to the gate in a flurry of families — some from our flight some from others, also delayed — and heard, “I’m sorry. You just missed it.”
We begged. We pleaded.
“I’m sorry. Nothing I can do. The door is closed.”
We begged harder. “1, 2, 3, 4… There are 14 people standing here! You won’t open the door for 14 people?? It hasn’t left yet!”
The gate attendant pointed us toward the desk where we could go get our hotel vouchers and rescheduled flights. But we didn’t give up. Finally, a security guard appeared from the heavens. “The captain says open it up. Everybody have your documents out, let’s GO.”
We snapped to attention and whipped out our passports. AND WE BOARDED THE PLANE.
American Airlines saved summer vacation, you guys.
We couldn’t even believe it. What a morning. But we were headed for Belize!
In the back of my mind, I KNEW. But I tried not to worry. Maybe our bags were easy to find and they magically made the connection. Surely in all that hubbub at the gate, they made sure our luggage made it, right? RIGHT?
We arrived in Belize with the carry-ons we carelessly packed without regard for the fact we would be spending the week on an island that doesn’t even have real roads and cars. Closest Walmart – 400 miles away. In Guatemala.
I don’t know what I was thinking. No toothbrush. No swimsuit. No change of clothes.
We filed a report with American Airlines at the airport and made a mental list of the things we would need to make it the 24 hours until our bags could arrive on the next, daily flight from Dallas.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
A 15-minute flight on a 12-seater hopper plane later and I was determined to let Belize make a beautiful first impression. After all, I had packed the bare minimum for this trip. Half that suitcase was snorkeling gear, anyway. We didn’t need anything but a chair by the pool to get this trip back on the right track.
Unfortunately, we had to take care of business first. Jeff and I rented a golf cart – almost no cars on Ambergris Caye in Belize – and ventured into San Pedro, the only town on the island. It was Sunday, because of course it was, so most things were closed, but we scavenged for a toothbrush, contact lens solution, and two of the most Belize-alicious swimsuits you’ve ever seen. The basics. We made our way back to the resort for dinner and drinks and an early bedtime.
My mission Monday morning was to stalk our luggage status on my phone and by that afternoon, I was thrilled! One of our bags made a detour through Miami, but look! They’re in Belize!
Lost luggage found! Somebody go get those puppies from the mainland and bring mama her own toothbrush!
The afternoon came and went.
By the time I realized I’d fallen victim to ‘Belize Time’ there were no more flights to the island and I had to do some more begging. And then we had to start rearranging our plans for the week… It’s all fun and games to not have any clothes, until you realize you’ll be climbing Mayan ruins the next day in the cute sundress you wore on the plane.
Then a phone call from the front desk! One last flight tonight! The bags will be on it!
Only to have the flight arrive — without our stuff.
At this point, I had just come back from spending an hour with the tour company, rearranging our activities and finalizing plans for the week, and Jeff could tell I was about to break. He made me take a breath and just sit. No talking. I looked up to see a rainbow peeking through the clouds.
And I silently reminded myself that this is why I love to travel. I really do. I love the unexpected and the unplanned and the imperfections. And beneath the frustration at the situation and the frustration at myself for not being better prepared for it, I absolutely knew we were fine. Our luggage was in the country and we’d get it eventually. We hadn’t lost money or passports or each other. And we were in a beautiful, magical place with friends (smart enough not to check luggage and) determined to make us laugh hard enough we’d forget all about it.
With all the traveling we do, it’s a small miracle this has never happened before. But all the times we’ve lived and played for days on end out of a single backpack prepared us to operate pretty minimally without too much trouble.
So we prepared for night #2 with no luggage. We put our contact lenses in large spoons overnight and carefully laid our only clothes and swimsuits out for the next day instead of otherwise casually tossing them in the bottom of a suitcase.
Be careful, friends. Be careful when you ask the world for adventure. Because the world may give you exactly that.
This story is part of a series from our recent travels to Belize. Click here for the next chapter.