How I Learned to Slow Down in Paradise

Life moves slowly in Shane's new home of Placencia, Belize. And he's learned to move with it.|©iStock/CampPhoto

After four years of living in paradise, I realized something. I am a much, much more relaxed man today than I was when I first arrived in Placencia—the little seaside town in Belize I now call home.

It hit me when I attended International Living's Ultimate Go-Overseas Bootcamp in Denver last year.

I was there to answer questions about Belize from attendees. During the conference I managed to break away from my table to sit in on a few of the seminars. On the first day, Suzan Haskins spoke about building a profile of yourself to help you when evaluating potential places to live.

What stood out to me from her talk was the term "patience threshold."

Your patience threshold is how much waiting, inefficiency, and overall change to the speed of life you can tolerate. 

I remembered back to when I first arrived in Belize. 

My background was tech. This meant I was used to things moving at the speed of email. In Belize, I was frequently frustrated with how long some seemingly simple things took. I even remarked, on more than one occasion, how a single computer in some government offices would revolutionize their workflow.

Now that I've lived in Belize for over four years I have learned to adjust. I'm happy to report my patience threshold is now much higher. I still see inefficiencies that could easily be fixed, but now I just laugh and shake my head while getting on with my day.

During that visit to the US for IL's event, it was driven home to me how much I have changed.

Take just one experience. I was in a shopping mall, just minding my own business, when I realized how fast everyone was walking. People were passing me like I was driving the speed limit, in the middle lane, on I-75 in Atlanta. I wanted to ask where the fire was, or what flash sale I was missing, but everyone in every direction was walking like someone was holding down a fast forward button.

Then it dawned on me. My patience threshold was even affecting the speed at which I walk. 

Living in Placencia, I walk almost everywhere. Most of the year it's hot, and I quickly learned to slow my roll so I would arrive at my destination less sweaty. Apparently a slow, leisurely walking pace has become my default now.

I've even developed my own Belize Walking Speed rating system that defines how quickly one should walk based on the activity they're headed to. There are four categories:

1. Headed to Work

Having to go to work is bad enough, getting there early is unacceptable. This is the slowest walking speed. It feels almost like a "two steps forward, one step back" speed. Just a little faster than standing still. You have to keep a lookout in the morning for pedestrians walking this speed, or you may end up rear ending someone.

2. Normal

There is a normal walking speed. You know you've "made it" as a Belize pedestrian when you start to notice you're not gaining or losing ground on the people walking in front of you. The trick here is that this speed varies by temperature. When it's really hot, normal slows. When it's cooler, normal speeds up. It's a balancing act, but with time, and practice, it starts to feel natural.

3. Headed Home From Work

Work is over and there are only 16 short hours until it starts again. There's no sense wasting time getting home and changing into my comfy clothes so I can binge-watch something on Netflix the rest of the evening. Since a shower is needed to wash work off anyway, walking fast and getting sweaty does not factor into this walking speed. 

4. Headed to the Bar to Meet Friends

This is the fastest walking speed. You cannot let your friend get too many rum punches ahead of you. If you're walking at normal speed and you see a flash of light pass you on the sidewalk, you can almost be certain someone is headed to the bar to meet their friends.

Like many things in my new life in Belize, I've come to appreciate the walking pace. Gone are the days of always feeling like I'm in a rush, or I'm late for something. 

Now my goal is to just get there, and not stress about how quickly… unless it's to the bar.