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Another neighbor has begun construction of his guesthouse on his 5-acre parcel. This will be followed by gardens and then, later, the main house.

Lief and I also plan to build a guesthouse and a farmhouse on our plot at Maya Spring. First, though, we're interested in getting some trees growing. The Maya Spring community barbecue last night was a chance for us to formulate a plan with resident horticulturist Con (the one with the flat tire).

We have 9 acres to work with. About 1.5 acres will be given over to the farmhouse, guesthouse, and kitchen gardens. The remainder of the land we want to treat as a mini-plantation. Our idea is to plant timber intercropped with specialty plants prized by florists. Lief and Con considered different Belizean hardwoods—mahogany, cabbage wood, cedar, rosewood—and Con suggested two varieties of palms whose fronds are in great demand and saleable for relatively large sums even locally in Belize.

"Let's start by planting 100 neem trees along the far perimeter," Lief suggested. "That'll create a wall for privacy and also help control pests."

"No problem," Con replied.

"Can you get 100 neem trees?" I asked.

"No, I don't think so," Con admitted. "People here, they grow a few trees and sell them. You don't find anyone with large stocks of inventory. But I can work with a grower to produce 100 neem trees and everything else you guys want."

"What about the harvests?" I continued. "We want to keep this experiment as simple and low-key as possible. We're working with a small piece of land. We won't be growing enough to make exporting the harvests worthwhile. Would we be able to sell the timber we're thinking of producing in Belize?"

"Definitely," Con said. "The timber and also the palms. I've been working with a hotel out on Ambergris, for example, that wants hundreds of the specialty palm fronds I'm suggesting you plant per month, but they can't source them."

Lief and I know next-to-nothing about farming. But we have an interest, based mostly on a natural curiosity and an affinity for growing things. We're not doom-and-gloomers, but we do also like the idea of learning how to be more self-sufficient. Our 9 acres at Maya Spring Estates is our first focused effort at this. We feel lucky to have connected with Con, the friend of a friend, who shares our passion for planting and backs it up with experience, know-how, and local connections.

"Make it so!" Lief proclaimed to Con with uncharacteristic enthusiasm after we three had agreed a plan. Maybe he'd had one too many One Barrel rums.

The Cayo sky was fully dark by now. Above us a bright moon and a blanket of stars...in the distance, beyond the hills, the lights of nearby San Ignacio.

"Time to head out," I said to Lief and Jack.

"Couldn't I stay here?" Jack asked. "I could sleep in one of these hammocks. Just cover me with bug spray and come back for me in the morning..."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Whether you're after a place by the beach...or in the interior Cayo region (with its Mayan ruins, caves, rivers, waterfalls, and rain forest)...
safe, welcoming, English-speaking Belize offers many appealing options.

Which is why, I guess, our annual Live and Invest in Belize conferences sell out every year.

We are just about ready to open registration for our 2015 Belize event, and because we'd like to be able to accommodate as many interested readers as possible, this time we're trying something new. We're planning not one event, but two, back to back.

We have doubled our capacity. Still, based on experience, we expect these two conferences, taking place January 2015 in Belize City, to sell out.

If you're interested in joining us for these once-a-year Belize occasions, watch this space. We'll be alerting you within the next 24 hours that registration has opened. Again, we've got twice the number of seats available this time, but we'll still have to fill them first-come, first-served!

Continue Reading: Marta N. Of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wins Free Attendance At Live And Invest Overseas Conference

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However, I know that, for many, the best part about traveling to Belize City is leaving Belize City. We held this week's Live & Invest in Belize Conference here because it's the only place in the country with facilities big enough to accommodate us.

Finally, though, today, after two-and-a-half days in the meeting rooms of the Ft. George Hotel, our conference attendees are free to take off to see for themselves what we've been talking about. The readers in attendance at this week's event have, over the weekend, dispersed to Belize's four corners.

This is where the fun starts.

Where to Live in Belize

A large portion of these soon-to-be expats are taking a quick hop over to Ambergris Caye, home to the largest expat enclave in the country. These folks want Caribbean, and they're spending time on Ambergris now, Belize's most developed Caribbean island, trying to determine if this is the Caribbean outpost they seek. This is unadulterated, unpretentious Caribbean...the sea, sand, and sunshine of the Caymans or the Virgin Islands, but without the price tag.

Another group of attendees headed in the opposite direction...and for the hills, the Cayo, where the appeal isn't sand and sea but wide-open spaces, a back-to-basics lifestyle, and really cheap land. Phil Hahn, the developer behind the forward-thinking sustainable community on the banks of the Belize River known as Carmelita, is introducing this group to his favorite part of this country.

The Carmelita plan calls for solar power and community gardens and orchards. The intent is a place where you could live completely independently if you wanted, reliant on no public services or third-party infrastructure.

A third conference contingency has broken off now to head south to explore this country's mainland coast around Placencia. This is another version of the beachfront life on offer when you are considering where to live in Belize. Several master-planned communities are popping up here, catering to those with a higher budget. You'll find marinas and golf courses here alongside large homes within gated neighborhoods. That said, plenty of affordable and charming options exist outside of these higher-end options.

Finally, a fourth scouting party has headed north today, to see the northern mainland Belize coast, around Corozal. While Ambergris Caye is a fully fledged expat community with all the trappings...Placencia offers luxury...Carmelita and the Cayo are all about being off the grid and self-sustainable...Orchid Bay, the most developed of the handful of projects in this part of Belize, is about kickin' back and layin' low.

At Orchid Bay, you're minutes' walk away from the water in a low-density, low-impact setting where the biggest attraction for some is the uninterrupted peace and quiet. Meantime, Chetumal, Mexico, with its 17 hospitals and big-footprint shopping, is only 15 miles away.

Those attendees able to make the time are traveling among two or three or even all four of these spots, to get a better picture of the different lifestyle options Belize has to offer.

Each has its pluses and its minuses. Island living is always more expensive than life back on the mainland...meaning Ambergris is the most expensive lifestyle choice in the country. Most expensive and also most developed and turn-key.

Carmelita is being developed on a river. For some, river views don't substitute for ocean vistas. Others prefer them.

Corozal boasts easy access to Chetumal, which could be a big advantage in case of medical emergency. On the other hand, day-to-day, you'd likely feel secluded here. Maybe that's a plus for you...maybe a minus.

The northern coast around Corozal sees about 50 inches of rain a year. The southern coast, Placencia and south, can see three times that much rain or more each year. Maybe that bothers you...maybe it doesn't.

Big picture, of course, all four of these regions are in Belize...which means the people speak English, the government is typically nowhere to be noticed, and your annual tax bill can be highly controlled.

Kathleen Peddicord

Editor's Note: Now that the final speaker has left the stage, work has begun in earnest to edit the recordings from last week's Live & Invest in Belize Conference. As soon as the recordings (all 32 of them!) have been edited, we'll bundle them with our "Live & Invest in Belize" manual and other key Belize resources to create our new Live & Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

Meantime, this one-of-a-kind Belize resource in the making is available pre-release at a 50% discount. Details on the Live & Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit here.

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"Belize is like Key West back in the day..."

--A Live and Invest in Belize Conference attendee who grew up in Key West

"Forget the golf course! Put in a garden instead..."

--Belize developer Phil Hahn on the vision behind his Carmelita community

"This isn't a consumer culture. This is a conservation culture..."

--Expat Amma Carey on the experience of living in Belize

"Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town..."

--Belize expat Macarena Rose

"The motto of Belize is: 'Under the shade of the mahogany tree we flourish.' In my now long experience doing business in Belize, I've learned that, if ever I can't find a local business partner, it's a good bet that he's under the shade of a mahogany tree somewhere...flourishing..."

--Phil Hahn

"Go slow. We have two cemeteries and no hospital."

--Sign on Caye Caulker, Belize

"There are more than 600 Mayan ruin sites in Belize. It's the greatest density of sites in all the Mundo Maya. In some caves in some parts of the country, you walk past Mayan pottery...actual pots made and used and left behind by the Mayans themselves...just laying around on the ground. There's the chance that the Department of Anthropology will close these caves, but, for now, they're open. You can visit them anytime..."

--Belize expat Jim Hardesty

"In September 1798, the Spaniards had been trying to push the Belizean settlers out. Local lore here in Belize has it that the Belizeans, a rag-tag band of pirates, slaves, and misfits, beat off the mighty Spanish Armada. That's not actually what happened. What actually happened is that the Belizeans annoyed the Spanish into leaving. Those pirates, slaves, and misfits swam out into the ocean and cut the lines of the Spanish ships...again and again. They moved the channel markers and generally irritated and confused the Spanish, who, eventually, gave up and went home.

"This Battle of St. George's Caye, as it's called, is a good lesson for life in Belize. Belize will do her best to annoy you...to drive you away. Don't let her. Life here is worth all the struggles and all the frustrations..."

--Phil Hahn

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • I recognized the feeling when it hit. I've had it every time I've returned to this little corner of the world--the sensation of escape.

Escape from the obligations of the office back in Panama City...escape from the deadlines...escape from the grind...escape from concern over what's going on in the rest of the world, whatever that might be...

As we continued along the Western Highway, speeding toward the district of Belize known as Cayo, I was less and less distracted by the to-do list I'm forever reviewing in my mind...and more and more distracted by the view outside the truck window...

Fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. Here and there a small house of concrete block or timber, in the distance the outline of the Maya Mountains. The land in Cayo is fertile. Farmers grow corn and sugarcane, watermelons and citrus.

We passed Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered, I'd bet, by sequesters, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register. Life here revolves around the land and values independence above all else.

To be truly independent in today's world, you need to be energy-independent. That's part of what Cayo offers, too--a chance to take yourself off the grid. This doesn't have to mean living a backward or burdened existence. Thanks to 21st-century technology, the self-sufficient life can also be comfortable, even fully appointed. This was what we made the trip out yesterday to see--progress at the riverfront development called "Carmelita," where developer Phil Hahn is building a community of like-minded folks interested in being, as he puts it, "independent together" and completely self-reliant...

  • "What in the world am I gonna' do with her?"

That was Mick Flemming's first impression of me, he admitted years later, as I climbed down from the four-wheel-drive jeep in my linen suit and beige pumps.

I was 23-years-old, a just-starting-out travel writer, in Belize for the first time...

  • "Many folks come to Belize for the beach life," explained full-time Belize expat Jim Hardesty to the crowd gathered with us in Belize City for this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference today. "That's why it's worth pointing out that the entire community of Orchid Bay, where I live, is directly on the water...right on the sand."

Belize is known for sandy beaches; however, those out on Ambergris Caye get most of the attention. The beaches on this country's mainland coast are less recognized but no less quintessentially Caribbean. Because they get so much less attention than the beaches out on the cayes, they can also be much more affordable. This is the case with Orchid Bay.

Another big advantage of Orchid Bay is that it's built. Buy (that is, pay for) what you see, we remind you often. At Orchid Bay, the infrastructure is in, amenities (a dock, a restaurant, a dockside bar, an equestrian center) have been built, and houses have full-time residents.

Now, don't misunderstand. Orchid Bay isn't about flash. When I say that the infrastructure is in, I'm not suggesting that these sandy shores are now backed by parking lots of asphalt, high-rise condo towers, or souvenir shops. The "clubhouse" has a thatched roof. No structure is higher than three stories. Residents get around most often using their own two feet or on horseback...

  • I heard last week for the first time of NORCs: Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

The example I heard about was a NORC in Fairfax County, Virginia. House prices in this area have skyrocketed over the past few decades (the downturn of housing markets across the country notwithstanding). The current average cost for a home in Fairfax County is US$700,000; few newcomers can afford to move in.

Meanwhile those who live there, mostly government employees with fat salaries or fat pensions, need or want to stay. Voila. With few people moving in, and few moving out, the community ages naturally. It becomes a NORC.

In my experience, you'll find nothing NORC-like in expat communities. In most cases around the world, you'll find nothing like traditional retirement communities, either. Instead, overseas retirement communities are mobile, young and vital.

Why?...

PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

In Belize this week for the Live and Invest in Belize Conference, Kathleen and I took a day to travel out to the Cayo District to visit some development projects that I'm involved in. One is Maya Spring Estates. The idea here is privacy and elbow room. The developer has allowed for just 20 lots, each one big enough to serve as a base for a fully self-sufficient lifestyle. Lot sizes range from two-and-a-half acres up to more than nine-and-a-half acres, meaning you have enough room to build a house and have a large garden or even a small farm. The land in Cayo is very fertile, and this is one of the best places on earth to grow things. That's the attraction for me.

Creating a destination where we could be fully self-sufficient has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years. Self-sufficiency is a growing agenda for many people, and Belize is one place you can easily organize a fully self-sufficient life using solar power to run your house, growing your own food, keeping some animals, and, if you have the inclination, even building your own furniture out of local hardwoods.

Belize is also a good place to be self-sufficient because Belizeans like to take care of themselves. They always have. Founded by pirates, the country prizes independence above everything else (despite having been independent from the U.K. for only about 30 years).

Carrying on in that tradition of independence, Maya Spring Estates will be a small community for self-sufficiency aficionados. The infrastructure will be basic, including roads and electricity (although I'm planning for my house to be off the grid). You could have your own well if you prefer, or you could go with a water catchment and storage system. Modern, efficient wastewater systems will be used for effluent.

Maya Spring Estates' location in the Cayo is near enough (15 minutes) to San Ignacio so that residents will be able to take advantage of the restaurants and shops there, but the property is very much out in the country, meaning privacy and quiet. The small village of Santa Familia is just a few minutes away and the Mennonite settlement of Spanish Lookout is only about 20 minutes away. Spanish Lookout is where you'd go for your farm supplies if farming is part of your plan.

Our plan is to build a house that we'll use for vacation and rental income in the short and medium term. However, as we're buying more than nine acres, we also intend to see if we can find a local farmer interested in leasing it from us to make it productive.

Even if we never grow a single tomato or ear of corn on the property, though, we'll have the foothold in Cayo that we've been wanting for some time. We like it here. Coming to Belize is a chance for escape. The rush of everyday life disappears as soon as you step off the plane. And at Maya Spring, we'll be able to sit on our porch and enjoy the peacefulness of both the location and of knowing that we could take care of ourselves if we had to. If the world were, in fact, to go completely haywire, as some think it will, we'd be fine.

For more information about Maya Spring Estates, you can inquire here. The first three lot buyers get a US$5,000 discount. We've already taken the first lot so that leaves two more available with the discount.

Editor's Note: Now that the final speaker has left the stage, work has begun in earnest to edit the recordings from this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. As soon as the recordings (all 32 of them!) have been edited, we'll bundle them with our "Live and Invest in Belize" manual and other key Belize resources to create our new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

Meantime, this one-of-a-kind Belize resource in the making is available pre-release at a 50% discount. Details here.

***

Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

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Beaches in Belize

Another big advantage of Orchid Bay is that it's built. Buy (that is, pay for) what you see, we remind you often. At Orchid Bay, the infrastructure is in, amenities (a dock, a restaurant, a dockside bar, an equestrian center) have been built, and houses have full-time residents.

Now, don't misunderstand. Orchid Bay isn't about flash. When I say that the infrastructure is in, I'm not suggesting that these sandy shores are now backed by parking lots of asphalt, high-rise condo towers, or souvenir shops. The "clubhouse" has a thatched roof. No structure is higher than three stories. Residents get around most often using their own two feet or on horseback.

The vision for Orchid Bay is a rustic community on the water. The situation on the well-protected shores of Chetumal Bay means endless opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, boating, water sports, and fishing. Across the bay is Chetumal, Mexico. This is where you'd go for shopping or medical care. Back at Orchid Bay, though, you've got power and water.

You've also got neighbors. Often, in this part of the world, you're investing and perhaps even taking up residence ahead of the curve. You're front-running the path of progress. Orchid Bay, in the northern mainland region of Belize known as Corozal, is still well ahead of the path of progress, but it's also settled. It has evolved, over the last five years of effort, into a small village of expats and foreign retirees.

"You can meet up with your neighbors for a drink at sunset or maybe a day of fishing," says Jim. "The big appeals, again, are the sea and the sand. Days are spent out-of-doors. Walking around, you'll meet your fellow Orchid Bay residents. It's an exciting thing to watch...the community that is taking shape."

Not everyone at Orchid Bay is in the retirement stage of life. One resident, Elizabeth, is living at Orchid Bay, Belize with her 8-year-old daughter. Elizabeth and Alexandra have been living full-time at Orchid Bay for three years. Last year, Elizabeth considered moving.

"I worried about Alexandra's education. She's attending the local Belize public school. This has been ok to this point, but now she's reaching an age where I think she needs a more rigorous program."

Elizabeth considered relocating to Panama City, where the international education options are many and top-notch.

"But Panama City just wasn't for me," Elizabeth explains. "Orchid Bay is for me. Alexandra and I really appreciate the simple life on the water we have here, and we know that this lifestyle would be very difficult to replicate. Not only the lifestyle, but the cost. Our cost of living here in Belize is ridiculously low.

"Still, again," Elizabeth continues, "I knew that I had to do something for Alexandra's education.

"Then I heard about a couple in Panama with young children who were living in a part of that country where the only education option (other than homeschooling) was the local public school. That couple's strategy has been to start their own school. I've been in touch with them, and they're helping me to use the curriculum they have created (and had accredited) to create a similar school here in Corozal..."

You can find out more about what's going on at Orchid Bay, Belize, here.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. As always, we're recording every presentation here in Belize City for this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference, including Jim's presentation on Orchid Bay. My marketing team back in Panama City assures me that we'll be able to being making this new bundle of Belize resources available to you starting tomorrow (at a special pre-publication discount). More tomorrow.Continue Reading:

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"Until that point, Belize had been British Honduras, a colony of the Crown.

"The constitution for this new country was based on the Canadian constitution. What does this mean?" Peter asked the crowd.

"That means boring. Boring politics, boring everything. Not much to rock anybody's boat.

"As a result, in the nearly three decades since, Belize has managed to remain largely under the radar. Ambergris Caye drew some attention as the setting for TV's 'Temptation Island.' Otherwise, other than from global divers and sun-seekers, Belize has been really successful at attracting very little attention.

"I spent many of the first 27 years of my 30-year banking career in Europe," Peter continued, "working with Swiss banks, for example. We Swiss bankers back then would turn up our noses at the mention of 'Belize banking.' Bank in Belize? Who would give their money to a Belize banker, we wanted to know. Bankers in Belize can't count, can they?

"About four years ago, I retired from the Euro-bank where I'd been working. Retirement's not so much fun, I realized after about two days. When I thought about returning to work, I considered not the opportunities in Europe, but those on this side of the world, in the Americas.

"That's looking like a smart move right now. In the time since I moved from the banking industry in Europe to the one in Belize, the global banking industry has been turned on its head.

"Used to be, the mention of 'banking' brought places like Switzerland or Austria to mind. This paradigm has collapsed. Banking in Switzerland has collapsed.

"There are dozens of 'banking havens' around the world. The truth is, though, that very few of them deserve the description right now. Belize is an exception. Belize is a true banking haven.

"Why? Two reasons.

"First, bank secrecy. Belize maintains it. Anyone in the Belize banking industry who violates the country's bank secrecy laws goes to jail for a minimum of 18 months. Trust me. You don't want to spend 18 months in a Belize jail.

"How has Belize managed to maintain its bank secrecy position while other better-known jurisdictions have all but abandoned the idea?

"That's it, precisely. Belize is little-known. Remember, this country has kept its head down. No one pays it any attention, and Belize is keen to keep it that way.

"The second reason Belize stands out among the world's bank havens right now is liquidity.

"Used to be, when I started talking about bank liquidity at a conference like this one, I'd notice people begin to nod off. Some would even head for the door. Nobody had any interest in the idea.

"I notice, though, today, you all seem wide awake. Thanks to recent events, bank liquidity has become a hot, sexy topic.

"Current liquidity among banks around the world is less than 4% In fact, it's just about 3.1%. That's the average worldwide. What's the situation in Belize?

"Banks in this country maintain liquidity rates of 24%. This standard is mandated by the Belize government. A quarter out of every dollar in a Belize bank must be liquid. If a bank falls below this level of liquidity, the government can take the keys and close the bank.

"How did Belize bankers fare during the recent banking crisis? We sat back and smiled. We knew we didn't have anything to worry about, and, in fact, not a single Belize bank has failed.

"Belize banks maintain an extraordinarily high standard of liquidity, and they lend only 50% loan-to-value for mortgages. That's how Belize banks stay healthy.

"You can open a bank account at my bank in Belize with zero dollars. Why? Because we, like all Belize banks, are focused on attracting small- to medium-sized investors. We're not going after mega-clients. Mega-clients attract attention. Remember, Belize is a low-key jurisdiction, happy to stay off the world's radar.

"That's not to say we're ready to open an account for any shyster who comes along. The days of sewage banking are over. The banks that threw off a stench in places like Panama and Belize, are gone. No more numbered accounts. We need your name and your address (not a P.O. Box).

"And we're going to ask you how you made the money you're depositing. We need to know our clients. We need something to fill in the blank on the application form. This helps to protect fellow account-holders, as well as the bank.

"Remember, Belize speaks English. So your account manager is an English-speaker. And Belize is in Mountain Time. You don't have to get up at Midnight to have a conversation with your banker.

"Americans and Canadians can open either a personal account or what's called a structure account. This is the preferred option. It's an account formed for you by someone else that's not in your personal name but in the name of a structure--a trust, a company, or a foundation, for example.

"Once you're offshore, you want to do as little in your own name as possible. Put everything possible in the name of a structure.

"You don't have to come to Belize to open your account. In most jurisdictions, including Panama, you must appear in the bank in person to fill out the forms, sit through the interviews, and sign on the dotted line. Not so in Belize. You don't ever have to step foot in the country if you don't want to.

"But I'd suggest you come have a look. You'll find yourself in familiar company. This is where the Baby Boomers are headed. They're coming our way in growing numbers. Walk down the street on Ambergris Caye, and you hear the music of the Boomers all around--the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin...

"These folks had a great time in the 1960s...then they became the most boring people on the planet. They made a lot of money...and now they're looking to reclaim their lives. They're finding their way, in retirement, to places like Belize...where they're listening to their music again, growing their hair long again, and spending their days stoned again...

"I'm joking about that last bit. But my point is that Belize has what a lot of people in North America are looking for at this point.

"It's also got the most appealing banking industry in the world right now."

Ann Kuffner
Live and Invest in Belize Conference Insider

Editor's Note: We got Peter's complete address on tape, and it's featured along with all the other presentations from last week's conference in our all-new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

The audio recordings are being edited as I write. Meantime, you can purchase your copy of this important and very timely resource pre-publication and save a full 50%. Full details on the Live & Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit here.Continue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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