Finding Your Caribbean Shangri-La In This English-Speaking Paradise
With our staff preparing for our annual Live And Invest In Belize event this week, I’m feeling a bit left out over on this (very cold) side of the pond…
Belize is one of my favorite places in the world—it was the first foreign country I ever visited when I was but a wee babe, and those grainy first impressions have lasted a lifetime. Each subsequent visit has only confirmed my love of this quirky little Caribbean country.
And when you’re suffering in the northern cold, as so many of us are this month, it’s hard not to be tempted by fantasies of palm-fringed islands… icy beers… crystal-clear lapping waves… hammocks swinging…
These dreamy snapshots are so often clichés that owe nothing to the reality of a place, existing only in resort packages offering a manufactured version…
In Belize, though, this is the honest-to-goodness lifestyle.
Whether you settle on one of the cayes or in the rustic rural interior of the mainland, you’ll find relaxation is the order of the day. The national language of Belize may be English, but you won’t often hear the word “stress” here.
And, above all, a return to nature is what most expats rave most about when they share their experiences since moving to Belize…
Expat Story #1. Rachel Jensen
Rachel Jensen has been spending time in Belize for over a decade, and bought a home on Ambergris Caye, perhaps Belize’s most popular expat destination, a few years back. What’s life on Ambergris like?
“Life on this colorful island is laid-back and a little eccentric,” Rachel says.
“Brightly colored houses line the newly paved streets, Coconut Lady shouts at passers-by to buy her natural coconut water, and loose chickens skirt across the street at random.
“The primary mode of transportation on the island is the golf cart, making you feel like the mayor every time you drive through town because everyone waves at you. Seeing 3-foot iguanas on the commute is normal, too.
“There are no chain stores or Amazon Prime here… you may have to visit four different supermarkets to get your shopping done. As the store owners get to know you, though, you start to receive special discounts and perks. Plus, you can count on produce always being fresh and organic.
“Locals, expats, and tourists all mingle at the same hangouts. Some of your new friends may end up being the people you least expected.
“Flip flops and shorts are standard attire, and just offshore you have access to some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
“The cherry on top for many, though, is the front row seat Ambergris affords to the most incredible sunrises and sunsets in the Caribbean…”
Expat Story #2. Carolyn Casey
Carolyn Casey, who has been living in Belize’s inland Cayo region for years now, says of her adopted home, “Lush does not begin to describe these hills…
“The bottom layer is a green carpet of rain forest bushes and trees. Above this, trees of different kinds stand out. Higher still are the huge, graceful crowns of palms.
“The three-dimensional landscape is simply stunning.
“When you turn off the highway towards Springfield, following the sign to All Citrus Nursery, it feels like you’ve traveled 100 years back in time.
“Soon after turning onto the dirt road, you pass a typical Belizean house where you’ll often see women doing laundry in the stream.
“As you travel down the dirt road, you’ll likely encounter horse-drawn carts, wooden vehicles piloted by Mennonites in traditional long pants and long-sleeved shirts, suspenders, and straw hats.
“You may see children along the road… the boys dressed like their fathers, the girls with long hair and long cotton dresses, complete with straw hats and dusty bare feet.
“My first regular stop is White Rock Farm, run and owned by a British couple.
“Driving into their yard, you’re instantly surrounded by ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, and probably some other fowl.
“This is the place to come for fresh, homemade cheeses—blue, brie, and more versions of cheddar than most know exist. They also sell free-range eggs, chickens, and turkeys, as well as raw milk, butter, and other goodies.”
Another popular option for expats is Corozal, hugging the northernmost edge of the border shared with Mexico. One of the biggest advantages of living in Northern Belize is the proximity to Mexico and all its modern conveniences. You won’t find a chain store or franchise in Belize, but if you hop across the border into Chetumal, you’ve got exported American culture, shopping, and dining at your fingertips.
Expat Story #3. John Wiankowski
John Wiankowski chose this town as his home in Belize, and says, “Even after six years of living in this beautiful country, I still feel like a kid in a candy store. Between the jungle, wildlife, and ever-changing Corozal Bay, I never tire of taking my surroundings in.
“The open-air market brims with fresh fruits and vegetables, all locally grown, plus more foodstuffs brought in from Mexico. For BZ$1 (or 50 U.S. cents), you can get eight local bananas or six oranges. During lobster season I pay just BZ$25 (US$12.50) per pound of lobster tails.
“From just across the border in Mexico, you can get button and portobello mushrooms, strawberries, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, plus much more. Everything is ripe and ready to eat.
“Nature is awesome here. Flowers are such brilliant hues, they’ll shock you the first time you see them (have a look at the aptly named flamboyant tree below for an example). Iguanas come through my backyard daily…
“Originally, I planned to buy a boat and fish in the bay, so I had a boat slip added when my house was built. My priorities changed, so I never got the boat, but now I have a canal that hooks up to the Caribbean Sea…
“I can sit in a sling chair and fish for hours, watching puffy white clouds go by. Two barracudas—one is 18 inches, the other is 5 feet—hang out around my boat slip. I catch several different types of fish, crab, and even turtles, when fishing in my canal.
“The weather is warm all year… no more snow shovel for me. The daytime temps are almost always between 80°F and 90°F. Nighttime temps in summer are in the high 70s and can drop into the low 70s in the winter. Six years ago, pea-size hail came down, and construction workers ran out and threw the hail around while playing, as most of them had never seen it before.
“It’s easy to make both gringo and Belizean friends in Corozal. Walking down the street, the locals say good morning faster than I can. When a car is stuck or breaks down, Belizeans show up eager to help. You’ll hear about how dangerous it’s in Belize… That’s not my reality in Corozal. Most crime that happens takes place in select circles of Belize City.”
Editor, LIOS Confidential