This is the story of two young (at heart) lovers who risked it all on a dream, in a little country called Belize.
My wife Laura and I had been talking about making a major change in our lives – starting around the summer of 2013. We were living in Casper, Wyoming and were in the middle of a landscape project in the back yard. Things were not going like we had planned — they never do. But this was different somehow. A lot more work, a lot more money – a small project had turned into a giant undertaking.
I hadn’t been happy at work for some time and that didn’t help. But we started kicking around the idea of packing it in and simplifying our lives. Our kids were off to school, and the house was way too big for two people. We decided to float the idea to the kids one night at dinner. “So, mom and I are thinking about selling the house and moving to the tropics”. Boom! Or so I thought.
The response was wow, sounds great, when are you going to do it? What’ll happen to my stuff? We were stunned. There was no uprising or negative response AT ALL. No, “you can’t sell the house we grew up in” or “are you nuts, why?” Just, “when are you doing it”. In a way, it gave us the courage to start digging deeper into the feasibility.
The plan was to resign my job at the end of the year, but life happened. Health issues with Laura’s mother warranted a trip to Erie, Pa around Christmas, then her brother in California was hospitalized with cancer so she spent 3 weeks there helping out.
We delayed, but the decision had already been made. Finally on February 21st, I walked into “the man’s” office and let him know I was out. I gave him as much time as he needed, but we had a lot going on together – partners in 1 business, and 2 others that required day-to-day hands on help. By the end of March, I was antsy and ready to get on. We had already planned a trip to Belize and I needed to be done.
We picked Belize for our “first look” trip because we’d heard about it from friends years before. We knew there was a beach and sea there, and not much more. We thought we’d see a few other Caribbean countries next and we had to start somewhere, right?
That trip in April ’14, we worked with a commercial real estate agent. We were thinking that we were going to have some partners and that we could get into a nice project that alone, would have been impossible. The agent showed us 46 businesses – all over Belize. We saw things from huge condo projects, to a small window and storm shutter business. And EVERYTHING in between.
We traveled to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye (Laura said, “I hate it here” – something to do with our ferry catching on fire, I think!), then to Belize City, Orange Walk, Corozal. Onward to Belmopan and San Ignacio, (Laura said, “I miss San Pedro”), then to Dangriga and Plancencia. We headed to Caye Caulker, then finished up in San Pedro again. Never staying anywhere for longer than 3 nights – and mostly just overnights. As we were leaving, Laura said, “I love San Pedro” and a close friend, Margie told Laura, “when you come back to San Pedro, I’ll be here to say ‘welcome home’”!
We were both hooked on Belize!
We learned a lot that trip. We learned that the people are nice and actually like us. We learned that getting around is easy and cheap. We dug into the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) program, contract and title laws, tax laws, International Business Corporations (IBC’s) and 250 corps. We met with the Belize Tourism Board, some bankers and a hell of a lot of just really good people! Most importantly, we learned that if we entered into a business with partners, it would be like turning on the same thing that we had just managed to turned off.
We decided that if we couldn’t make a small boutique hotel work by ourselves, then it wasn’t meant to be.
We put the house on the market July 7, after we’d price it so if we had to sit on it through the winter, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We sold it in one day – before the sign was even put in the front yard! And, the buyers wanted most of our furniture, too. NOW, we have a problem. We have 75 days to close and will be homeless after that. So we did the most logical thing we could think of. We planned our next trip – back to Belize.
We had narrowed down where we thought we could live in Belize, to either Placencia or Ambergris Caye (San Pedro), mainly because we wanted more beach, sea and sun as opposed to jungle adventures. We packed our remaining possessions into a sea container. We landed in Belize City three days after we closed and drove to Placencia for a 3 week look-about.
We had made some wonderful friends in Placencia our first time around and were able to join up with John and Ellen Lee on that trip. But we missed out on seeing Lee and Gail Dusa who were back in the US. We had a great host for our stay at Dolce Cabanas – Nicole – and she made us feel like we were family. We also spiked out to Big Falls, Punta Gorda and San Antonio for a few nights.
Placencia seemed to close in on us after the first few weeks. It’s a great part of the country with lots of great people, great restaurants, bars and lots to do. We celebrated Independence Day in Placencia (September 20th), bought fish at the pier, drank some Belizean Bitters, ate at the Placencia Supper Club, The Turtle Inn – so many great places!
Without the barrier reef nearby, the water didn’t seem as inviting. Placencia just seemed to close in around us…maybe it was just too small for us? We saw a lot of properties while we were there – some of them for a second time, as well as a bunch of new ones. It came down to could we see ourselves living there long term. And our answer was no.
We moved on back to San Pedro where we planned to spend the next 3 weeks. We ran into a motorcyclist in Belize City, or did he run into us? In any case, it cost me $50 BZD to the motorcyclist to have his bike checked out, and $50 BZD to the kind officer that was looking out for me. He would make sure that the $50 got to the hospital so that the motorcyclist could get thoroughly checked out!
Back in San Pedro, we hooked up with a new realtor, Robert Colon, who spent a lot of time with us, showing us around some new properties on the island that might work for us. Some homes, some lots, some up North, many down South and a few on the lagoon. He arranged a meeting with a contractor and we made an offer on a place that needed renovation (and a 2nd and 3rd story!) No go.
Robert found us a lot on the sea, in our budget that was pretty much an ideal location. Unfortunately, it was 2 days before we were leaving, so we didn’t have the time to fall in love. We headed home with the attitude that if it’s meant to be, it will happen. Admittedly, we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t come home with great news to share. We waited to find out more information on the lot. Robert sent us emails with video’s, pictures, platte’s – everything he could get his hands on. He told us this is the one, it’s a steal at this price, you should buy it, it won’t be around long. I was kind of thinking, “I’ll bet he says that about a lot of properties”. We waited and waited, and decided that since we were going back to Belize in only another week, we’d look at it again when we got there. It sold that week – and for exactly what Robert said it would sell for.
When we came back to the US at the end of October, we had planned a long road trip to see Laura’s mom, brothers, my folks and family. We planned on 4 weeks including Thanksgiving. We planned to go to Rachel’s graduation in Bellingham, and then to return to Belize for 6 months. My folks told us they would join us in Belize for Christmas so we rented a condo and decided we were going to try on San Pedro for 6 months.
As we were leaving Casper, both Laura and I had a strange feeling that we needed to hurry up and get to Erie, Pa to see her mother. We made it in 2-1/2 days and had a wonderful visit with her. She was beginning to fail and her memory wasn’t what it was – but she had some really good days to share with us. We didn’t know it, but those would be her last good days with us as she passed away peacefully on November 21st.
My wife and I returned to San Pedro on December 18th along with our daughter, Rachel who just graduated from Western Washington University! We don’t have a home in the US anymore, so we’re here for ?????
Thanks for sticking with us so far and please stay with us! More to follow on what’s been going on since December. We hope you join us for our adventure in Belize.