Ever notice how people in other parts of the world seem to be a bit more relaxed than North Americans? Part of the reason for that can be attributed to a difference in culture and on placing more value on time rather than on things. I spent a week in Belize and learned how easy it can be to slow down, chill out and live a little bit better. All you need to do is apply these simple customs from Central America to your own life.
1. Use a little to do a lot
Corn is a staple in Central America, so the grain makes its way off the cob and into more dishes than you can possibly imagine. Of course, ground corn is the main ingredient in tortillas, but it’s also used to make a nourishing, sweet drink called atole de maiz, which is spiced up with cinnamon and served at any time of the day. Fresh, hot tortillas are also served at the end of meals, sweetened up with a generous spread of coconut oil. By valuing every ingredient you use and incorporating it into mealtime many different ways, it’ll be tough to ever grow bored of the ingredients you have in your fridge. That way, nothing will go bad, and you probably won’t end up blowing cash eating out all the time.
2. Reduce your reliance on loans and credit
In Belize, families build new homes in stages, adding onto the structure as they save up enough money to do so instead of taking out a huge mortgage. While no one can change how the Canadian economy works overnight, this definitely serves as inspiration to rely less on credit and loans (and save ourselves some serious interest payments).
3. Eat what’s in season
It may seem strange to think that there’d be a time of year where you can’t buy an avocado or an orange. Since Canadians rely heavily on other countries for fresh fruits and vegetables, we end up wasting a lot of the fresh stuff from our own land. But that doesn’t mean we can’t adopt the Central American custom of making the most of locally-grown, seasonal produce. Trust us, the fresh stuff tastes way better than something that’s spent days on a truck anyway.
4. Take the time to pass on traditions in the kitchen
Very young children learn to make tortillas in Central America — usually from their grandmothers. By the time they’re 12 or 13, they’ve mastered the art entirely. Use this as inspiration to pass on your favourite recipe to your kids (or nieces and nephews), whether it’s for simple comfort food or something that’s typically reserved for special occasions. It’s a great way to help the whole family bond a bit more and even to get a few more helping hands in the kitchen.
5. Create closer community ties
It’s not unusual for a stranger to wish you goodnight if you pass them on the street in Belize. It’s also completely normal for a parent to hand over their baby if you happen to comment on how cute the kid is. These kinds of micro-conversations create a sense of closeness, familiarity and community — especially when you have them over and over again.
6. Slow it down
Sure, the heat in Central America encourages a slower pace of living, but there are other reasons to slow down, too. Try getting up just ten minutes earlier so that you can appreciate that first cup of coffee in the morning. Drink it from an actual mug while sitting down, rather than out of a paper cup on transit or while you’re stuck in traffic. Life is precious, so it feels good to savour it every once in a while.
7. Get back to nature
Of course getting outside is good for you, but the great outdoors is more that just exercise and fresh air. People in Central America rely much more heavily on natural remedies, often harvested from a rainforest, for simple ailments like sunburns and headaches. In Canada, not many of us have a rainforest outside our front door, but we can focus on using products with fewer chemicals and preservatives instead.
8. Work to keep culture alive
Like Canada, Belizean society is made up of many different cultures, including Mayan, Mexican, Chinese, West Indian and Garifuna. Unlike Canada, however, Belize places a huge emphasis on its historic structures (you won’t see a glass condo tower going up on the site of a Mayan ruin). Canada could benefit from working towards preserving the incredible cultures that make up this country as well as the sites that represent their unique histories.
9. Take a break from work
Turn off your smartphone. Set your email to auto-reply. Heck, unplug the router if you have to. Because work is not a 24/7 thing — life is.
So the next time you’re feeling frustrated at the pace or quality of your life, it wouldn’t hurt to try taking on one of these beautiful customs. After all, Central America is a beautiful place.