My wife and I have been full-time expats living in northern Belize, maybe the least-known part of this country, for eight years.
We live among a small but growing group of expats, a well-established community of Mennonites, and the local Belizeans on Corozal Bay.
For us, these two things are the big attraction—the beautiful bay and the community on its shores that we’re now a part of.
In 2006 I decided to take my family on a cruise. We visited Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize. It was our kids, really, who chose Belize for us. They loved it here from that first visit.
Six months later I returned to Belize with my son. We spent six weeks touring from one end of this country to the other with a simple objective. We wanted to meet as many people as we could—expats and locals. We met lots of folks and through them lots more folks. By the end of that trip, we had begun to build a nice network of support.
I’d recommend this as a key to success when making a move to Belize or any new country.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about being an expat in Belize I learned during that first extended visit with my son. In this country, you need vision. You need to be able to see the potential of something because often what you’re looking at is underdeveloped.
That means you’re operating on faith… which means you need to do a lot of research and due diligence. You need to make sure the people you’re dealing with—the developers, etc.—are on the up and up.
I was sold after that trip with my son, but I needed to convince my wife. I made a total of four research trips before our move, and my wife agreed to accompany me for the third one. Honestly, she had reservations.
We have six grandchildren. She didn’t want to lose her connection with the grandkids. But our kids move around a lot. So, finally, my wife and I realized that, rather than trying to follow them around, as we were considering, we’d move to Belize and let them come visit us.
Plus, now rather than working two full-time jobs to keep up with our expenses, as we were back in Washington, we’re retired… meaning more time and, because our cost of living is so reduced, more money. We’ve found that we’re able to travel to visit our kids and grandkids as often as we want.
They come to us… we go to them… it’s working out really well.
Our plan was to drive from Washington to Texas and then meet up with a driver who would take our truck across the border. But one block out of our driveway in Washington, the truck, which was running great to that day, burst into flames.
Fortunately, the last thing we had loaded into the back was my son’s fire extinguisher. We pulled over, put the fire out, and turned around to regroup.
The next day we both got very ill. We were in bed for 24 hours.
Maybe these were signs, we couldn’t help but wonder. But we pushed on.
We bought a new truck, drove to Texas, crossed the border into Mexico, got through customs OK. OK, we were on track.
That was phase one of our move. Phase two had us returning to Washington to drive back to Belize in another vehicle, with the final load of our household belongings. This time, on an overpass, we hit black ice. We bounced against the guard rail again and again. We didn’t go over the edge, but we did total the truck.
Crazy, right? Maybe somebody was trying to tell us something…
These kinds of stories could deter you, but don’t let them. We like to tell them to make the point. A move like this probably will not go without complications or challenges. You need to be prepared to keep pushing ahead.
It was our kids who focused our attention on Belize after our cruise visit, but we made our decision to move here based on a short list of the criteria most important to us.
First, I did not want to learn a new language. The fact that English is the language here was a big plus.
Second, we knew that we wanted to be on the water.
Third, we wanted to become part of a community and not an expat-only community. We wanted to integrate and establish friendships with our local neighbors. In Corozal we’ve been able to do that. We’ve been completely accepted by the local Belizeans. We’ve been invited to weddings, to birthday parties, to weekend barbecues. We feel privileged and proud to be able to say this.
Finally, we needed projects. I don’t fish. I don’t golf. I don’t drink. I knew I’d need something to keep me busy.
So I brought my construction management business down to Belize with us. Now I’m acting as a project manager for home construction in my area. I’m managing three or four houses a year. It’s an ideal situation for me.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone thinking about making a move to Belize is to be honest with yourself about your expectations. Why are you thinking about moving… and what are you looking to find on the other side? Answer those questions honestly and then see how Belize measures up for you.
For us, it’s a perfect fit.
This article was originally published in January 2019 and has been recently updated.