A Simple Escape: The Back-To-Basics Lifestyle In Cayo, Belize

Unadulterated Escape

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 unadulterated escape.

Escape from the obligations of the office back in Panama City… escape from daily 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 yesterday, 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 window of our SUV…

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. This is Belize’s breadbasket. 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 things like potential government shutdowns, cryptocurrency bubbles, FBI investigations, or the mounting deficit.

Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don’t matter or even 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 from Belize City to Cayo yesterday to see—progress at the riverfront development called Carmelita Gardens, 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.

The first dozen houses have been built at Carmelita, and they’re charming. Modeled after Tennessee Williams’ home in Key West, these timber structures feature floors and ceilings of exotic hardwoods, long breezy porches, and an impressive attention to detail. They’re completely self-sufficient, with cisterns to catch water and solar panels to generate power… but also, again, comfortable, with washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, and dishwashers, if you want them.

These Carmelita homes are also affordable; you could own one, fully furnished and outfitted, starting for as little as US$100,000.

At the heart of Carmelita is its “village green,” with space for retail and gatherings. Across the property are gardens… of vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, and flowers.

Down at the river will be a small clubhouse and pool. And, all around, are the wide-open spaces of Cayo.

At Carmelita yesterday, Lief and I hiked around… crossed the river… toured the organic gardens… considered the views from different vantage points… then gathered on the front porch of Phil’s place for rums and Cokes as the sun began its descent for the day…

“It’s getting late,” Lief said finally. “If we’re going to make our dinner meeting back in Belize City, we’d better get going.”

“Yes, yes, ok,” I said reluctantly.

Back in the truck, headed back in the direction of Belize City, I tried to refocus. I reviewed the agenda for our dinner meeting… remembered deadlines I was at risk of missing…

But, all the while, Cayo nipped at the edges of my thinking, teasing me, tempting me, calling me back…

Kathleen Peddicord