My first trip to Belize, some 35 years ago, was organized courtesy of the Belize Tourism Authority.
I was a just-starting-out travel writer; the BTA was looking for press. This was well pre-“Survivor,” pre-“Temptation Island.”
The only people paying attention to this tiny country way back then were divers and backpackers.
And Morley Safer.
Around this time, Mr. Safer broadcast a “60 Minutes” segment from Belize, in which hetraveled the Belize River in a small wooden boat.
From that humble perch, on the river, looking up into the camera, Morley declared:
“The good news from Belize is… no news from Belize.”
The sentiment stuck. It was repeated to me by several I met during that first scouting trip, and, over the years since, I’ve borrowed it many times myself.
It comes to mind again as I sit down to write to you of Belize this morning.
What can I tell you about this country that might qualify as new, interesting, and worthwhile?
The trouble is that asking that question is missing the point.
What Belize Is All About
On paper, Belize doesn’t add up to much. This is a sleepy Caribbean nation with but 380,000 people, three highways, and generally basic infrastructure otherwise.
As Morley Safer remarked decades ago, nothing much happens here, an observation that is as relevant and telling today as it was back when Mr. Safer first suggested it.
It is difficult for me to speak of Belize without waxing philosophical and becoming sentimental.
Because, for me, Belize is a perfect example of why you can’t spreadsheet your live- or retire-overseas choice. The things Belize has to offer can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet… but I’d say they’re the things that matter most.
Belize, A Paradise For Many Expats
On my first visit to this country, I met two men who would become two of the greatest friends of my life—Emory King and Mick Fleming.
Emory King was a local legend when I met him. In his 50s at the time, he’d been in Belize since the age of 21, when he and three friends had set out from the States in a small sailboat only to shipwreck on Belize’s mainland coast.
The friends patched up the sails and carried on. But Emory liked what he saw in Belize and decided to stick around. He went on to marry a Belizean girl and to raise a family in a house he built himself a little ways outside Belize City.
Emory died some years ago, but I think of him often.
He was my first and then my regular Belize guide. Emory showed me the Belize he’d fallen in love with at first sight at the age of 21… when I was close to that age myself.
“The United States was founded by puritans,” Emory told me the first time I met him and then many times over the years to follow. “Belize was founded by pirates.
“A country never escapes its origins,” he concluded.
“This is a land for pioneers,” Emory told me, too. “A frontier.”
Everyone in Belize back then knew Emory… and they all knew Mick Fleming, too.
That’s true still today. Everybody knows Mick.
Like Emory, Mick and his wife Lucy came to Belize in their early 20s in search of adventure. They put every dollar they had into a piece of land in the country’s Cayo District that they bought from a guy they met in a bar in Belize City.
First they farmed the land. But that was hard work, and, as they were struggling to make a living as farmers in this super-remote region, they noticed that, as time passed, Cayo was becoming slightly less remote.
Passers-by began appearing on the scene, backpackers looking for a place to spend the night.
“So I built a little hut,” Mick told me when I met him long ago, “and I offered these folks who found their way to this part of the country a bed, a box of matches, and a shaker of salt for the night.”
That first little house has evolved over the decades into Chaa Creek Resort, the premier jungle resort in Belize, rated top jungle resort in the region by Caribbean Travel & Life more than once.
This, for me, is the great promise that unassuming little Belize offers—a chance to start over.
Emory and Mick and the thousands of other expats who have sought this place out more recently all have come in search of adventure and a clean slate. Belize is a land of do-overs.
A place for escape, reinvention, independence, and adventure.
And a unique chance to make your own way, create your own reality, and build your own future.
Belize Remains A Pioneer’s Playground
The very good news from Belize, even today, is no news from Belize. And I am more delighted with every passing year to be able to continue to offer that observation.
That said, there’s so much I’d like to show you about this land that offers both quintessential Caribbean escape on its offshore islands… and sweet, simple country living with plenty of elbow room in its interior.
Because the promise of Belize is more relevant right now than it’s ever been.
As I’ve been telling readers for more than 35 years, this country is the best place in the world to escape the world.
Making it your best option for where to be during a global crisis… like the one we’re living through right now.
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter