Since the invention of the instant camera, photography has become a way for each and every person to record their own history, to have tangible evidence of being in a certain place with the people closest to them. Photos are used to take pictures of their loved ones, special moments in their life, and even everyday events that make one’s life unique. Vacations always produce a plethora of unforgettable experiences, whether good memories that elicit warm feelings or bad moments that are best left in the past. When one leaves their daily life and indulges, for a few days or several months, in the culture and life of another world, wonderful things happen. Perhaps this is why people have always loved going on vacations to faraway places to experience the extraordinary, knowing that in a short while the comforts of home can be returned to.

One of my favorite photographs is of just such a vacation. I went to Belize with all of my best friends and my boyfriends and one group picture, where we are standing as a group, all smiling at the camera, captured all of the excitement and happiness we shared on that particular trip. Every person that went on that vacation is in the photo, all people very close to me who I consider close friends. My boyfriend is also in that photo, his silly handsome face smiling at the camera. And what I love about the photo is that all of us are at the height of happiness, big cheesy smiles that reflect the carefree fun we were having in Belize.

Belize is known for its clear blue waters, white sand beaches and tropic Caribbean weather. Bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east, it is home to the second largest coral reef. Spanish influence has given birth to a rich variety of Latin music including meringue and marimba and of course, reggae and calypso are prominent influences as well. The buildings and local clothing are rich and colorful and many colonial influences can be seen, nicely mixed with the Caribbean flavor of tropical weather and passionate summer nights. Ice cold drinks and a unique cuisine that highlight the very essence of a culture shaped by life on the Caribbean Sea. As you can imagine, the combination of great music, beautiful weather and pristine beaches can make for an idyllic vacation. Add to this your closest friends and a boyfriend you adore and Belize can be the perfect vacation just waiting to happen.

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In the background of the photo, you can make out the colorful spirit of Belize and from the way our tanned skins glisten, the warm weather and sun-soaked beaches seem to jump out from the photo. Each of us are in bright, summer colors which only highlight the way we were feeling during that vacation. No one took too much time to style their hair or bothered to put on make-up, displaying our holiday fashion of carefree moments lined with laughter and frosted drinks. The warm night, the calm beach and the soft sands beneath our feet somehow paint a picture of how the beach looked during the day–sparkling blue and endless as far as the eye can see. It’s not the most flattering picture of any one person including myself but the picture doesn’t capture anyone’s unphotogenic moment either. But there is something about the picture that truly captures the complete mood and experience of out vacation to Belize. Maybe it is the composition and the way we are all leaning into one another showing the camaraderie and ease we have with one another. Perhaps it’s the way we are all smiling as if on the verge of laughing, genuine smiles that weren’t put on just for this photo but were showing before the click of the shutter and lingered beyond the flash. Or maybe it’s just in my mind, knowing the picture encapsulates one of the best few days of life, a time when I could forget all the stresses of my daily routine and have a good time with the friends I hold dearest to my heart.

It’s funny because I must have taken over a hundred pictures on that vacation and my friends took plenty more on top of that. There are even more photos of us as a whole group-eating at a restaurant, in front of a beach or store front or a national monument we all decided would be worth seeing. I have pictures of us landing, then departing at the airport and I have photos in front of an inside our hotel. But it is this particular photo that I cherish most about the vacation I took to Belize. Somehow this moment, this photo, is everything I loved and remember most about Belize. Sometimes after taking so many photos, you look at all of them and realize that you could have done just fine with one photo that captures everything this is that one photo for me. If this was the only photo I took home with me from Belize and this was the sole souvenir from those days of bliss, I would be able to remember every moment and know that this one picture was everything worth remembering about my vacation.

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