It all starts out so simple:
- Decide to move to Belize.
- Sell everything.
- Pack what you want to keep into two oversized suitcases and a backpack each
- Fly to Belize.
- Move into a cool place.
- Open a Belikin beer on the veranda and watch the sun set … or rise.
- 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.
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.
(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 …)
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.