The Advantages Of Life At The End Of The World
“If the world has any ends, British Honduras [Belize] would certainly be one of them. It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else. It has no strategic value. It is all but uninhabited.”
–Aldous Huxley, Beyond The Mexique Bay
Huxley’s quote from 1934 holds true still today…
When I wake up in the morning from my carefree slumber in Belize, with the sun shining and the birds singing, it’s easy to think that all’s well in the world. But as soon as I turn on the television, this illusion is shattered. I realize that the tranquility and freedom I enjoy here in Belize are rare treasures today.
To understand what life in Belize is like, you must first understand what it isn’t…
Day-to-day life on this little sliver of Central America’s coastline is not a frenzied, high-paced rat race. There is no fevered, keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ competition… no need to accumulate things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like. There’s no struggle for sanity and safety as opposing factions rip society apart.
I’m not saying that everywhere else is a mess… but, I have to say, from our perspective in Belize looking out at the rest of the world, it sure can seem like it.
Some of my friends elsewhere in the world see this turmoil as the realization of their worst fears. In fear and desperation, they’re preparing for an end-of-days scenario.
That’s not a life for me…
That said, I do want to feel assured that should there be an abrupt change in our global society, my family and I are secure.
But am I going out and digging a hole to hide in with canned goods and bottled water? Will I be building a fortress to protect my family from the marauding hoards after civilization falls apart?
I don’t need to. I live in Belize.
How does living in this little English-speaking country allow me to feel comfortable even in the face of the turmoil spreading throughout the industrialized world?
Here are nine reasons…
1. Off-the-beaten-path: Most of the world doesn’t know Belize exists. Until the year before I moved to Belize, 12 years ago, I had never heard of it. When I arrived, I noticed a T-shirt in a tourist shop that read: “Where the hell is Belize?” Not much has changed since then.
2. Peaceful: Belize has no history of civil unrest, and Belizeans are a peaceful people. There has never been an armed insurrection, coup d’état, invasion, or anything of the like in well over a hundred years, since long before Belize was even a country. The closest we come to an uprising happens around Christmas week when the local brewery inevitably runs out of beer. What you witness that week is about as worked up as Belizeans get.
Belizeans are so laid back they are nearly horizontal.
3. Free and tolerant: In everything from politics to stray dogs and religion to bad roads, Belizeans are tolerant. Above and beyond that, Belizeans are fundamentally all about mutual respect and freedom. They have little interest in meddling in other people’s affairs.
Belizean society embraces diversity above all else. While politicians struggle with how to codify society’s wishes, people go about their day-to-day lives practicing a civilized mutual respect and love of freedom.
4. Non-violent: Like any society, Belize must contend with crime, but Belizeans are culturally non-violent. Don’t be fooled by the sensationalist statistics or news stories. Modern-day gang influence in certain areas of Belize City creates per-capita statistics that belie the reality on the ground.
Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town. This translates to a close and intimate society, the greatest protection against radicalization of youth and the disenfranchised.
5. Resilient: Modern utility infrastructure and information technology are relatively recent arrivals to Belize, so almost everyone could easily revert to an off-line, self-sufficient lifestyle.
Electricity is not yet nationwide, and some, like the Mennonites, eschew it by choice. The current power grid has improved and is actually fairly reliable, but a large part of the population is still within a generation or two of having no electricity… so they don’t panic when the lights go out.
Water systems in most areas are still rudimentary, and it’s surprisingly common for village water pumps to break and go weeks or months without being fixed. When that happens, the villagers shrug their shoulders and grumble a bit about the current government as they pull on their boots, grab a bucket, and head to the river.
Cell phones have swept across Belize, like everywhere, so the majority of the populace is connected telephonically to some degree. I know several people without indoor plumbing who have cell phones… just one more aspect of the charming quirkiness of Belize.
If people in Belize lost access to power, water, and telecommunications for an extended period of time, they wouldn’t panic. We would not see here anything like the massive cultural upset that would occur in the 100%-plugged-in, industrialized countries,
6. Convenient: Belize is close to the United States, and flying here is easy. However, if things ever got really chaotic and flights were no longer an option, you could sail, motorboat, drive, or catch a bus to your Belizean hideaway. I have a friend who set out on horseback from Oregon to Chetumal (Mexican city on the Belize border)…
7. Food-secure: Belize has an abundance of naturally occurring food sources and a tiny population. Walk down the road in Belize and you will see mangos, coconuts, avocados, breadfruit, game animals, and more, all growing healthily in the wild… and all for the picking.
Belize has an abundance of marine and river fish, and it is a common sight to see people catching their dinner by hand-lining a hook with a wad of bread on it. Half the country is national parks where you can hunt with a license in season. In good times and bad, people can and do get their own food; they won’t need to fight you for yours.
8. Naturally comfortable: Cold weather is a natural weather cycle that Belize does not have to contend with. Living here you have no heating bills and no danger of dying of the cold and all you really need for shelter is a roof to keep the rain off your head. Though, because the warm tropical climate also means sunshine and bugs, porches and screens are nice features, too….
9. Rich in natural resources: Belize has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to natural resources, certainly when you measure them on a per-capita basis. At the same time, there is no supply of any particular natural resource so abundant that it attracts international attention.
Water, water, everywhere—and plenty of it to drink! One of the main reasons that Belize was able to support a Maya population four times the current population is because of the vastness of its riverine and aquifer systems.
Another reason is the soil fertility and expansive arable land. As a member of CARICOM (Caribbean Free Trade Organization), Belize is a breadbasket for the Caribbean.
People have been searching for utopia since Thomas Moore coined the phrase in his titular work of fiction in 1516. Most don’t realize that the word utopia is formed of Greek words meaning “no place.”
I think back to Huxley’s words: “…not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else.”
I know Belize is not utopia, but it is on the road from no place to nowhere… and that is a good place to be in today’s world. I appreciate this about Belize more every day.