Got a good poker face? Or maybe you have a good pinochle hand? Perhaps you long to meditate or perfect a new art in your golden years…
Whatever it is you’re looking to do, you can probably find it in Belize.
I confess, I’m trying to be more patient these days. After all, I retired and relocated to a place where I could leave the hectic hustle and bustle of working behind. No more rat race for me!
When I moved to Punta Gorda, on the southern coast of Belize, I was more than happy to immerse myself in the laid-back lifestyle of the people there, but it took me a while to sit back. On more than one occasion I was asked, “Where’s the fire, sis?” I realized I needed to relax—and fast. No need to prove that I could get the job done in a hurry… no time clock to punch… no sign-in sheet to prove I got to work on time…
Eventually I learned the lay of the land, the way of the town, and slowed down to a healthier pace. Flip-flops were the order of the day, along with light clothing, to better enjoy the gentle seaside breezes that constantly reminded me that I was in a better place—and moving at a better pace.
But, after a couple of months of hammock-swinging, I felt an urge for activity. I called back home and told some members of my family that there was nothing much to do in Punta Gorda…
The more I started looking and asking around, the more I found there was to do.
I found the frequently running, low-cost bus routes and started taking advantage. Through these trips I was exposed to those wonderful places of waterfalls and lush greenery that I wouldn’t have seen staying in town. I met many more people who had some of the same interests and we began planning get-togethers to chat and chew and enjoy walks by the seaside and share our adventures.
Belcampo Lodge is a 12,000-acre nature reserve right outside of Punta Gorda. It was worth the taxi ride just to go for a tour of this area… which is breathtaking. The infinity pool is awesome. The guest houses are unbelievable. There’s a building just for yoga.
I rode the cable car down to the river where a boat was standing by for fishing trips. (I understand now why Belcampo’s safari-looking truck was always full whenever I saw it around town.)
Another bus ride to the Placencia area was almost too much for me to take in. Some houses in this region are surrounded by moats, with a lagoon on one side and the sea across the road. Magnificent!
Once I saw the northern town of Corozal, I decided to pull up stakes from Punta Gorda in the far south and move to this town in the far north of the country. After settling in here, I found myself asking around again about what there was to do…
Trying out the local fruits, vegetables, and traditional foods has kept me busy—and locals love to share their unique nosh with curious newcomers. I’ve sampled many dishes and fell in love with most (even the spicy ones that I thought would be too much for me). There are plenty of restaurants that cater to American or European tastes. And, if I want something really homey, I can always travel the 9 miles over to Chetumal, Mexico, to indulge in its many comfortable choices… even a McDonalds for those who care.
Not only are locals open and hospitable to newcomers, but so are the many expats that now live here. They’ve found their way here from Canada, the United States, and England, among other countries.
After a few months in Corozal, I had shopped the many shops in town, had taken Spanish lessons at the library (even though most people speak English), had attended sessions with the Red Cross, and had even joined the local Rotary Club, which is quite active in the community.
The Art in the Park event that takes place monthly is a bunch of fun. Many sell their wares and delicacies and are happy to see new faces.
My real “in” with the expat social scene came when I was invited to the birthday party of one of the expats in my community. There I found out about a lot more than I had realized was available in the area…
I was invited to seaside yoga classes, tai chi, and a weekly poker game. One lady at the party plays pinochle regularly (which is my all-time favorite card game) and even brought a deck of cards with her. We realized quickly that if we start playing, we have to be ready to stay up ‘til all hours!
But that wasn’t even the kicker…
One of the ladies told me to be sure to stop by the House of Culture in Corozal Town on the third Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. for “monthly orientation.” Apparently once a month everyone gets together to share all the upcoming events and activities with one another and make plans.
I know now that I’ve found my new home…
This article was originally published in April 2019 and has been recently updated.