FIreflies Do Not Make Good Headlights

by Ariana Ince

A leap into the unknown Belize


One of the most important things you should do when renting a car, motorcycle, boat, etc. on your trip is to double, triple check even, that everything is in proper working order. This means checking the obvious things like the brakes, steering control, dents, scrapes, scratches and everything that could possibly, even improbably fail you. And when you're renting that motorcycle in the middle of a sweltering Belizean afternoon, itching to move things along so you can get your travel started yesterday, do not shrug off that dim headlight. Do not tell yourself that it will be perfectly fine at night, that of course it could not possibly appear luminescent when surrounded by the shimmering Caribbean sun, the bright pastel homes smiling at you from the roadside, or the crooked, serene grin of the elderly mechanic. Because you will be wrong. This is how I found myself on a night in late November careening down the winding Placencia road trying to stay just within the taillights of the car in front of me, the poor excuse for a headlight providing slightly less light than a glass jar of fireflies. On more than one occasion a car would speed away, understandably confused by the two American girls squashed tightly together on a rumbling motorbike, following closely enough for them to surely realize we had failed to purchase bug spray the day before. After the 4th unwitting guide car took off into the night, leaving us with only our firefly headlight as a companion, I slowed the bike down to a crawl and slowly navigated us past the potholes and numerous speed bumps that are scattered along the meandering and only major road that connects the peninsula of Placencia to the rest of Belize. As the engine quieted down and my best friend's continuously colorful commentary became more audible behind me, I felt the strangest, faint smile cross my lips. Here I was, exhausted, hungry, itchy, moderately frustrated, and driving in the middle of the night down a road in the middle of Central America while my friends and family back in the states had all settled in for the night after a presumably hearty Thanksgiving dinner. But in that moment, I realized this was exactly where I wanted to be. That this is what adventure looked like, felt like, tasted like. A slight rain began to fall and my friend's cursing picked up with fervor. I let that grin crack into a full, beaming smile and continued my careful driving, our fireflies guiding the way.