Our Community - Leslie Soukup - "An inspirational island instructor"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 35            September 25, 2003

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Leslie Soukup

It seems that more and more people are in a hurry (to get nowhere) these days and usually create a lot of stress for those around them along the way. Thousands of visitors flock to San Pedro every year to take a break from "life in the fast lane." Some set aside a few days to experience "island life"; others make plans to spend the rest of their lives this way. This week, The San Pedro Sun is pleased to introduce a woman who not only enjoys the peacefulness of paradise, but also teaches others how to maintain a feeling of tranquility, Leslie Soukup. 

    Leslie grew up in Tiburon, California, USA, the daughter of two schoolteachers, Roberta and Durward Baker. Although she was raised in fun-filled Marin County, Leslie was a quiet child who spent most of her time reading books. She fondly recalls her favorite childhood memory as the time her parents took a year's sabbatical from their jobs to study in Mexico. For the first six months, nine-year-old Leslie and her sister Lynn went to school in Mexico City, while her parents attended the University of Mexico. The family spent the remainder of the year exploring Central America. Ironically, the Baker family lived in several cities along the way, including Belize City in the country of British Honduras (Belize).

    After graduating from high school, Leslie studied accounting at Sonoma State University. She landed her first bookkeeping job at well-known Sam's Anchor CafÈ in Tiburon, before moving on to an accounting position at Actualizations, a company that conducted self-help, motivational workshops. After gaining a wealth of experience and knowledge, Leslie next accepted a position as the accountant for a large furniture retailer located in downtown San Francisco. After two years of hard work and dedication, she was named Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the company. It was during this time that Leslie began yoga classes, to ease the stress created by her job.

    In 1988, Leslie met and fell in love with Mark Soukup, a sales representative in the electronics industry, who convinced her to move to Seal Beach. The two were married on April 29th, 1989 and despite the move to southern California, the furniture company employed Leslie as a financial consultant for another two years.

    It was at this stage in her life that Leslie chose a different career path. After giving birth to daughter Cathy in September of 1990, she dedicated the next five years to being a mother. With more time on her hands, Leslie developed her yoga skills and became a certified instructor.

    Away from the corporate world, Leslie also had more time to enjoy life. While on holiday in Cancun, she and Mark had a chance meeting with an acquaintance who was on his way to Belize. This man's enthusiasm for the country convinced the couple to make it their next vacation destination.

Leslie and Mark visited the island of Ambergris Caye in 1992 and were immediately enchanted. Before departing, Leslie displayed a bit of her financial expertise and made a major investment in the family's future - a piece of paradise. Knowing they would live in San Pedro someday, they continued to visit and subscribed to The San Pedro Sun newspaper to keep abreast of island happenings.

    Back in the US, the Soukups began making plans for the future. Establishing their own business selling and marketing electronics, Leslie managed the business and taught yoga part-time out of their home. Winding down, she made the transition from career woman to soccer mom, while continuing to plan and save for the day when the family would be able to enjoy island life.

    Finally, the dream became a reality and the Soukup family touched down on the sands of "La Isla Bonita" to stay. After enrolling Cathy in school, Leslie began to settle down in her new life. Establishing a small network of friends, she began to see the difference between merely living in paradise and working in paradise. Despite the peaceful atmosphere she found in San Pedro, her new friends were business people, and needed a way to manage their stress. Leslie decided to share her passion for yoga with them, and gained such a good reputation that she now includes visitors to her classes as well as locals. "What better way for me to give back something positive to the community, than by teaching people ways to develop their physical and spiritual strength, thereby improving their overall health." To add to her skills, Leslie also became certified in the art of Reiki,an ancient form of "hands-on" healing.

    Building a house became the next priority and now, two years later, the project is nearly complete. Leslie now spends her days home-schooling her teenage daughter, one of the top students in her class at The Island Academy for the past two years. She has also found a way to utilize her accounting skills and help her community at the same time, as treasurer for the South End Neighborhood Watch Committee.

    From corporate executive city woman to island wife, mother and friend, Leslie Soukup made a plan for her life and is happy to be accomplishing her goals. Living in a remote paradise has not restricted her; in fact, it has provided her the freedom to "bend" whichever way the wind blows in "Our Community".

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