“The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem.”
“That was Jack Sparrow’s theory,” explained part-time Belize expat and full-time Belize businessman Phil Hahn to the crowd assembled for the opening session of this week’s Live and Invest in Belize Conference in Belize City.
“Jack’s words are good advice for anyone thinking about spending time in Belize,” Phil continued.
“Electricity out? Internet slow? Roads bumpy? Those things aren’t the problem. The problem is your attitude toward those things… or at least that can be the problem.
“You’ve got to shift your perspective moving to Belize,” Phil told the group. “This country has only been a country since 1981. It’s still figuring things out.”
After Phil had finished speaking, Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington addressed the group.
“Belizeans are respectful, polite, and pleasant. They are also peculiar,” Minister Elrington explained.
“If something isn’t working… if there’s some disagreement, some problem or conflict, we just go home. We don’t argue or fight. We just move on.”
Understanding the history and the people of this country helps you to understand what life is like in this country today. Ask any Belizean how he’s doing, and you’ll get a pleasant smile and a cheerful, “Fine, fine… no problems” in response. Belizeans understand Pirate Jack’s wisdom.
As Minister Elrington explained, everything’s fine in Belize and everybody’s happy. If anything threatens to interfere with that status-quo, Belizeans don’t fight or scrap. They just move on.
I’m sitting in the back of the conference room this week taking notes, while Lief is up on stage showcasing, with the help of a couple of dozen Belize experts and expats, all that this country has to offer.
After Phil and Minister Elrington, Lief introduced a couple of full-time Belize expats, David and Cathy Thayer.
“We’ve named our presentation ‘How We Escaped The Frozen North,'” Cathy told the group.
“We came to Belize from northern Idaho. We were used to nine months of winter each year. Now we have 12 months of summer.
“When David first got this idea of moving to another country into his head, I humored him,” Cathy continued. “He’d start talking about moving to a new country, and I’d listen. To his face I’d say, ‘Ah, that’s interesting, dear.’ To everyone else I was saying, ‘No way!’
“I’m pretty high maintenance,” Cathy admitted. “I hadn’t traveled anywhere other than Paris in my life until David signed us up together, without telling me, to attend a Live and Invest in Belize Conference a few years ago. I didn’t know anything about Belize at the time, but I knew one thing. Central America is nothing like Paris.
“But I agreed to come along to the conference, and I have to admit that I found I liked two things about Belize right away. First, I could communicate with everyone, because English is the language here. And, second, it was warm.
“At first I thought I wanted ocean. But after two days on Ambergris, I knew the beach life wasn’t for me. Then we went to Cayo, which I had been resisting. I’m not a jungle girl. When I think of jungle, I think of snakes and bugs the size of your head. But I told David I’d go see Cayo with him… even though Cayo is jungle… if he agreed that if we didn’t find a place to live that I was happy with within three weeks, he’d finally give up on the idea. So all I had to do was survive the jungle in Cayo for three weeks. Then I could tell David I hadn’t seen any place I’d have any interest in living… and this whole thing would be over.
“Our last day in Cayo before our return flight to the States, we walked into a house available for rent, and I said, ‘Take this. Rent this. I can see myself living here.’
“We’ve been living in Cayo ever since. It’s now more than two years.
“One of my favorite things about being in Belize are the other expats. We’re all a little quirky. We’re all different, quirky in our own ways, but we have one big, important thing in common. We all left home, left the States, to come somewhere completely new. It’s no small thing. It’s a pretty amazing and cool thing.
“Back in Idaho, I had a fine life but a small life. I had my work, my home. I had Target. I shopped for entertainment. I was happy, but I had no idea how much I was missing out on. Making this move has opened up the whole world to me. Now I see how small and fearful my perfectly fine life really was. I was afraid of moving outside my comfort zone, but I didn’t even realize it. I made this move for my husband, but I think I’m the one who has really benefited.
“The two biggest challenges our first year in Belize were the internet and the roads. Both of these things have improved dramatically in the past year. However, the biggest change for me this second year I’ve been an expat in Belize is personal. The fears I had moving here have been replaced by confidence. In the beginning, I was afraid of Belize City. Now I travel to Belize City on my own, walk around, shop, speak with people I meet. Belize City doesn’t scare me anymore. Belize City wasn’t the problem. The problem was my perspective on Belize City.
“Living as an expat these past two years I’ve learned that the most important thing in life is to remain open. And to be willing to change your mind.
“Our children didn’t get it at first. All our kids came around after visiting and seeing our life here in Belize… all except our oldest daughter. Finally, last month, she understood.
“David sends our family an e-letter update each week, telling them what we’ve done that week. Last month in response to one of these e-letters, our daughter wrote to say, ‘I’m so happy for you guys, for what you’ve found for yourselves. I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future I can find something as great for my own life…'”
Original Date: January 20, 2016