Moving to Belize? Making a list, checking it twice …

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Downtown San Ignacio offers the hustle and bustle of a center of commerce but also has lovely parks on the Mopan and Macal rivers and a relentlessly encroaching rainforest.
Downtown San Ignacio offers the hustle and bustle of a center of commerce but also has lovely parks on the Mopan and Macal rivers and a majestically and relentlessly encroaching rainforest.

It all starts out so simple:

  1. Decide to move to Belize.
  2. Sell everything.
  3. Pack what you want to keep into two oversized suitcases and a backpack each
  4. Fly to Belize.
  5. Move into a cool place.
  6. Open a Belikin beer on the veranda and watch the sun set … or rise.
  7. Exhale.
  8. Repeat 6 and 7 as needed.

Apparently there are some interim steps that must be executed before you get to Step 8. Like a million.

Let’s take the decision to move to Belize.

The Macal River on the edge of San Ignacio, eventually merges with the Mopan and then the Belize River which travels to the Caribbean Sea.
The Macal River on the edge of San Ignacio, eventually merges with the Mopan and then the Belize River which travels to the Caribbean Sea.

OK. Where? When? For how long? Some answers are beginning to emerge.

For example, the first question: Where? After our recent trip to Belize we’ve been able to narrow this down to two places. There is San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, the largest island off the coast of Belize. And there is San Ignacio, near the western border with Guatemala and surrounded by rainforests, Mayan ruins and eco-lodges.

Ambergris Caye is really a very long and narrow peninsula that once hung like a stalactite off of Mexico into Belizean waters, but centuries ago the incredibly industrious and culturally advanced Mayans dug a canal across the top of the peninsula to get to the ocean.

Here's a last glimpse of part of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye as we took the air taxi back to the mainland of Belize for our flight home.
Here’s a last glimpse of part of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye as we took the air taxi back to the mainland of Belize for our flight home.

(I like to think Teddy Roosevelt vacationed here once and thought, “By jove, if the Mayan’s could cut a canal through here, imagine what we could do in, oh, I don’t know … Panama?”  Unlike most tourists to Ambergris, Teddy skipped the rum drinks and Belikin beers, so he remembered his idea when he got back to Washington. That one and the other about invading some Caribbean island …)

Rose pedals down one of the three main north-south streets in San Pedro.
Rose pedals down one of the three main north-south streets in San Pedro.

San Pedro is expensive (by Belizean standards) but it has the ocean. It can get very crowded and noisy but it has the ocean. Real estate seems to be getting scarce but it has the ocean. Let’s see, what else does it have going for it? The ocean views and iridescent blue waters are spectacular. So is the barrier reef. There is work to be had, if desired, and the people we met are terrific.

San Ignacio is a rainforest community of about 20,000 people on the banks of the Mopan and Macal rivers, nearly 70 miles inland from the coast. Fewer than half that population lives in San Ignacio proper. It is a fascinating melting pot of descendants of English and Spanish colonialists, Mestizos, Creoles, Mennonites, Mayans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, ex-pats, Lebanese and Chinese. And I know I’m missing some.

While San Pedro is largely devoted to tourism and ex-pats, San Ignacio seems more preoccupied with being a real community. As one reader recently wrote to me, “In San Pedro you’ll always be an ex-pat. In San Ignacio you will become part of the community.”

San Ignacio has incredible tropical birds, jaguars, howler monkeys, mosquitos and snakes. San Pedro has crocodiles, extraordinary barrier reef fish, sea turtles, coastal birds and mosquitos.

Real estate is considerably cheaper in San Ignacio, more along the lines of the come-on pitched by the various organizations devoted to extracting retirees from the U.S. and installing them in much cheaper accommodations in foreign countries.

And we like it in San Ignacio. And we like it in San Pedro.

We didn’t even have to play the HGTV “Househunters International” game in which you must discard one of three houses — OK, in our case, one of three towns — as part of the decision making process.

So here’s the plan: Beginning March 1, 2014 – if not sooner – we will move to San Ignacio and rent a house or condo for four months. At the end of that time, the high season will be over and San Pedro should be lighter by a few hundred thousand tourists and part-time ex-pats and we shall rent there for the next four months.

At the end of eight months we return to the U.S. and hopefully mooch off our children and friends while we decide which of the two locations will be our permanent home.

After which we fully expect our friends and children to come visit and mooch off us!

So, that’s the plan.

We are blessed with what we feel are two terrific choices in a magical country.

The next question is “What do we do with all this stuff?”

I’ll try to answer that one in the next post. It gets complicated.

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9 thoughts on “Moving to Belize? Making a list, checking it twice …

    lifeagain said:
    October 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks…Robert for the post…

    Don

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      October 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      My pleasure, Don. Wish I had enough to say to make it a daily event…. perhaps wen we get closer to the big decisions.

      Like

    OneCardShort said:
    October 22, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I have heard such terrible things about Panama I hope Belize is better!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      October 23, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      Me too! Or rather about some parts of Panama. But it is the same in Belize. There are good — even wonderful — places to live and some, like South Belize City, are just plain dangerous. I always urge people to take their time, rent first and only when you are certain — make it permanent.

      Like

    […] brings us to item No. 2 on our list of things to do as we move to Belize: “Sell […]

    Like

    Will Moreno said:
    November 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Belize is certainly a great place to live and quite honestly you have narrowed it down to two of the expat hot spots in Belize. When selecting great properties to rent in Belize make sure to contact Platinum International Real Estate at http://www.platinumrealestate.biz in Belize.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      Thanks for the message and the link, Will. We’ll be moving to Belize right in the High Season (March), which I suspect may make finding a rental pretty challenging! Going to need all the help we can get! — Bob

      Like

    Sheri Blocker said:
    February 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Hello Robert,

    I am happy to have found you today. My husband and I had an extensive conversation last night about the possibility of moving to Belize. We have never been there. Crazy to think about moving somewhere you’ve never been. I know. I lived in the bush of Bocas de Toro for awhile, but ended up having to leave for unfortunate reasons. I have wanted live a similar life ever since. I’m excited to read, learn and share with you and other like minded people. Congrats to you!

    Sheri

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      February 12, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks Sheri!
      That’s kind of how we started too. Belize just came up in conversation. After an 18-day visit last fall we were pretty certan it was the right place for us. We just couldn’t decide which part of Belize was most right! We’ll try island life for a while and then consider a move to San Ignacio at try urban rainforest living.
      Everyone says visit first and I agree. The country is filled with beautiful contradictions.

      Like

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