Last Saturday Emily Stone went diving for conch in the morning. She ate that conch for lunch. Not everyone does that on their day off, but that’s life in Belize.
At just 25 years old, Emily made a decision it takes most people years to make. She was working 50 plus hours a week in a stuffy office building in Boston. Although her work in the field of environmental advocacy was interesting, Emily realized she was settling into a typical career path of long hours and little sunshine. She wanted something more…
She joined up with the founder of Maya Mountain Cacao, Alex Whitmore, who was developing a new way of sourcing cacao (used to make chocolate)—organically, sustainably and at a fairer price to farmers—in the Toledo District of Belize.
Emily walked away from her office job in Boston and moved to Belize. She rented a two-bedroom, ocean-view apartment for $150 per month in the town of Punta Gorda in the southernmost district of Belize.
She rarely spends more than $10 on a delicious meal out. “This would certainly not be possible in Boston,” says Emily. “It has made bootstrapping a start-up enterprise much easier!”
Maya Mountain Cacao grew 300% last year and Emily’s job has transitioned into managing the growth of the business. She’s tasked with keeping the business operations running smoothly, assisting with any issues the farmers may have and showing them ways to increase their crop.
In the three years she has been in Belize, her life hasn’t been all work and no play though. For a start, her work day is anything but typical. “My work day and hours vary depending on the season,” says Emily. “When things aren’t busy my work day can be over at 3.00 p.m.—when we’re in the middle of the hectic peak season for cacao the hours are longer. Overall though it’s a great balance. Can’t beat being your own boss!”
The Toledo District—with its pristine waters and rugged Indiana Jones-worthy caves—gives her plenty of opportunities for recreation and adventure, too. “When I’m not working I spend my time diving, snorkeling and caving,” Emily says. “But on Sundays you’ll find me relaxing in my hammock sipping local coffee, sampling local chocolates and looking out at the Caribbean Sea.”
Like anyone, Emily misses her friends and family back in the States but she has matched those friends with counterparts in Belize from across the globe. “The opportunity for cultural exposure is immeasurable,” says Emily. “There is a great group of expats living in Punta Gorda from around the world. One night we counted and between us we speak 17 languages.”
“The people attracted to Punta Gorda and southern Belize tend towards fascinating and meaningful work—shark researchers, ethno botanists and eco-entrepreneurs—and we’ve all grown close as the result of sharing the joys and challenges of Belizean living,” explains Emily.
“To anyone considering the experience of international living, I say buck the crowds and take ownership of your future. It sure beats 50 hours a week in a stuffy office.”
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