Normally, I look for any excuse for a trip to Belize.
This week, though, while Live and Invest Overseas readers and staff are convened in warm, sunny Belize City for our annual Live and Invest in Belize Conference, I’m in cold, gray Paris.
Lief is here, too. Our daughter has just given birth to her first child, our first grandchild. We wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.
Still, I’m thinking of the group in Belize…
Belize is one of my favorite places in the world, and the thought of all those Belize first-timers discovering the country afresh brings back memories of my first visit.
My first time in Belize was a press trip. This was more than 30 years ago. I was a young aspiring travel writer thrilled to be invited to spend 10 days in this country as a guest of the Belize Tourist Board.
On that first trip, I met people who would become some of the greatest friends of my life.
I met, for example, Emory King, a legendary character and Belize’s self-appointed historian. Emory wrote a series of books on the history of the country he discovered by accident.
Emory’s small boat shipwrecked on the coast of Belize. His sailing mates fixed up their boat and carried on with their journey, but, for Emory and Belize, it was love at first sight. Emory spent the rest of his life in Belize, marrying a local lady and building a family, a series of businesses, and quite a name for himself locally.
On my first trip to Belize I also met Mick Fleming. Like Emory, Mick came to Belize as a young man.
Emory was an American who found Belize by accident. Mick is a Brit who came here on purpose. Mick came to explore a place he perceived as offering wide open spaces of opportunity to see what he might get up to. He bought a piece of land from a guy he met in a Belize City bar and took off for Cayo with his wife Lucy.
That was nearly 40 years ago. Today the Chaa Creek Resort that Mick and Lucy have built is one of the premier jungle lodges not only in Belize but in the world.
Over the past four decades, thousands of other adventure- and opportunity-seeking expats have followed in the footsteps of Emory and Mick… including me.
If you’re looking for a chance to reinvent your life while having a whole lot of fun and maybe making some money at the same time… Belize could well be the place for you. For that is the promise of this little country.
About the same time that Emory and Mick arrived on the scene in this country, Morley Safer traveled to Belize to film a segment for “60 Minutes.”
“The good news from Belize,” Morley said looking up from a little wooden boat in the middle of the Belize River, “is no news from Belize.”
I’ve borrowed that line many times over the years because I think it captures the essence of what Belize has to offer. And what Belize has to offer is something that I’d say is even more valuable today than it was when I experienced it for the first time, years ago.
On my first trip 30-plus years ago, I visited Ambergris Caye. All the roads were dirt. I stayed in the one hotel with hot water and drank nothing but water and Belikin beer because those were the only two options.
Today San Pedro is home to one of the most established and vibrant expat communities in the world. Its now paved roads are today sometimes snarled with traffic jams. Not with cars, though… but golf carts. In San Pedro, you get where you’re going by golf cart or using your own two feet.
Today there are dozens of options for accommodation, including luxury-standard hotels and resorts, and many shops and restaurants. I hope all our conference-goers in the country this week have time to make the quick hop over from Belize City to see Ambergris Caye for themselves.
Similarly, San Ignacio in Cayo District has grown up over the past three decades. Today it’s a bustling country town… the fastest-growing in the country… that, again, I hope all those who’ve made the trip to Belize this week are able to go see for themselves.
Today it’s possible to live a much more comfortable and convenient life in Belize by far than when I first landed there. This week, our team on the ground is walking our conference group through everything they need to know to follow through on their own Belize adventures.
Today’s Belize comes with Wi-Fi and wine bars, things unimaginable when Emory and Mick began building their lives in this country.
However, to borrow Morley’s line one more time, the very good news from Belize is that, otherwise, nothing’s changed.
Belize remains the unassuming, quirky, welcoming, open-minded land of pirates and freedom-seekers it’s always been. Belizeans—both local and imported—are fiercely independent and self-reliant. They make their own way, but they also look out for each other.
In Belize today, still, you are blissfully apart from all the troubles of our age.
And everyone speaks English, making it easy to make friends.