For years, Lucky and Erin Ivy say, they were living proof of the phrase “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”
“We were living in Texas and both working high-pressure, 10- to 12-hour days, six days a week,” says Erin. “I worked in property management and Lucky ran a division of a multi-million-dollar lightweight concrete company. He was overweight and needed medication for high blood pressure.”
Then in 2004—the day after returning from a sailing adventure in Placencia, Belize—Lucky made a routine trip to the doctor’s office. “His blood pressure was normal. The doctor was shocked,” says Erin. Belize was the reason.
That helped focus the couple on a permanent move. They sat down and made out a five-year plan, developed a strict budget, and began downsizing.
A healthier life wasn’t the only reason to move to Belize. “Placencia is a quaint seaside village at the end of a peninsula with the most loving population of locals and expats you will ever meet,” says Erin.
“After just a few days everyone knows your name and remembers it six months later, even if you are only there part-time at first.
“Plus, Belize is English-speaking and has a wonderful QRP (Qualified Retired Persons) program, or you can become a resident. Its currency, the Belizean dollar, is two to one with the U.S. dollar, making it an easy transition.”
Over the next four years, Lucky and Erin stuck to their plan, took several vacations to Belize, mixing pleasure with research.
They bought a house in Placencia…then sold it…and in 2008, they bought a small resort business with a $500,000 down payment. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Caribbean Sea.
“What a relief it was to leave five-lane, bumper-to-bumper traffic and adopt a bicycle as our primary means of transportation,” says Erin. “Culture shock? You bet…and we loved it.”
“Instead of grabbing a Starbucks rushing out at 5:30 a.m., we now linger over our coffee while gazing out at the exquisite Caribbean sea, palm trees, and white-sand beaches—scenery so beautiful that we used to fawn over it in magazines and postcards. We still wonder if life this relaxing and enjoyable might be a dream from which we have yet to awaken.
“It’s like being on vacation all of the time. Home to the longest barrier reef on this side of the world, Placencia has some of the best snorkeling, sailing, and fishing anywhere. There are hundreds of islands to explore. Forget that fancy expensive fishing equipment; just tie a hook and weight to the end of a hand line and you will be rewarded with the next dinner entrée. Between the walking, biking, and a healthier diet, Lucky lost all of his extra weight, without even trying.”
If you eat local, food is very reasonably priced here. You can buy lobster tails from local fishermen for $8 per pound and all kinds of fish fillets for $3.50 per pound, although it is even less expensive and more fun to catch your own.
Whole chickens are about $1 per pound. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are also cheap, like pineapples for $1 each; mangos and papayas for 50 cents each; tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers for 50 cents a pound, and everything is grown organically.
Imported foods are expensive; for example, potato chips are $7 a bag. At that price one quickly stops eating junk food. “We have a clinic in the village that is free for residents. Erin and I obtained our residency three months ago, thereby qualifying,” says Lucky.
Major medical is handled in Belize City, a short 20-minute flight or easy three-hour drive. The local clinic is available for non-residents as well at a low cost.
Expensive wardrobes and even shoes have almost become a thing of the past for the couple. Lucky prefers to go barefoot in his new Caribbean home and saves his shoes for special occasions and visits home.
“We truly believed that our Western lifestyle was going to send us to an early grave, so other than wishing our extended families were with us, too, we have never looked back,” says Erin.
Editor’s note: Come to International Living’s Ultimate Event next month and get a complete soup-to-nuts action plan for every country on our radar—including Belize. Find out more here.