So, yes, Belize is where we have chosen to live out our lives.
This blog, “Bound for Belize,” is where the process for migrating to another country will take place. It is where our dreams, our plans, our discoveries, our disappointments, our decisions, our doubts, our delusions, our conversations, etc. will be documented.
All we have at the moment is a “mission statement” – Rose and I will be moving to the Latin American country of Belize some time in early 2014.
How are we going to do it? Where will we live in Belize? Will we rent or buy? Will we bring possessions or liquidate everything before we go? Will we ever come back? What will we live on? What will it cost to live there? There are no answers yet. Well, not concrete answers.
We know some things about Belize. (And, OK, some are first impressions, rather than cold facts.) These were actually compiled in mid-July. New information has been added to our plate. I’ll get to that stuff later. Meanwhile, some first impressions:
1. Belize is the size of Massachusetts. With fewer people — just more than 300,000, not counting troops from the occasional military incursion from Guatemala.
2. Belize is closer to San Francisco than a cross-country flight in the U.S. to Boston
3. Belize has many nationalities – Creole, Hispanic, Anglo, Mayan, Garifuna, Africans, German Mennonites, Indians, among them. English is the official language but most natives speak Spanish and Creole.
4. Northern Belize is the most developed and populated region. This is where tourism and wealthy ex-pats are clustered. There is also some touristy development as you head south but it grows less-developed and more agriculture-oriented. Moving west from the coastal areas you encounter either expanses of farmland or dense jungle.
5. There is crime in Paradise. Lots of it. Burglary is a big problem. Belize City seems pretty rough, with US-styled gangs popping each other on the south side.
6. Belize has the worst Internet infrastructure and service in the Caribbean.
7. While Belize is part of Central America it feels aligned more with the Caribbean island nations… but they are working on it
8. The cost of living seems all over the map. Coastal areas that are rich in tourism and ex-pat developments are costly – some as expensive as living in the U.S. There are million dollar homes and condos. Less-dense areas have very nice housing for $600 to $1,000 a month with ocean views. You can “go native” and live for less than $300 a month, especially inland. Exchange rate: One U.S. dollar is worth two Belizian dollars.
9. The manatee population is actually increasing. Hooray, manatees!
10. There are carefully preserved Mayan ruins all through the country, and some not so carefully preserved.
11. Bicycling (competitive) is a national preoccupation. So, briefly, was the national soccer team when it played in the CONCAF Gold Cup. Sadly, its first game was against the U.S. Happily, it’s members refused to accept bribes. Sadly, the country could barely afford to send the team to the Cup competition.
12. There is no problem running into Americans or Canadians. Migrating to Belize has become quite popular. Too popular? That is one fear.
We are still thinking of Belize as our first choice for where we will live out our lives. Not the last. Not the only.
Belize is spectacular in many many ways. Nobody can argue with that. Not even me, although my perspective to date consists of the travel-brochure-level view. No feet on the ground. Not yet.
So there is that risk, that we will migrate to Belize and regret it.
To avoid buyer’s remorse, we will fly to Belize in September for several weeks on a recon mission. That should give us enough time to figure out where we want to live, if we want to live there and how we are going to accomplish it.
Among the decisions we need to make: Do we simply want to be Americans living abroad or will we integrate ourselves as closely as possible into the native culture? We’ve seen the come-ons for the American experience – “as if you never left the states.” Gated communities. American stores. Surrounded by Americans. Only a cheaper place to live. Ugh.
If that is all we are looking for then there are probably places in rural America that could fulfill the need. What is the point of migrating to a foreign country and then walling yourself off from its culture? Why travel 5,000 miles to insulate yourself from all that is different and strange and wondrous?
I think we want to be as much a part of our host nation and contribute to its society as much as we do living in Fairfield, California.
We still have a lot to learn.