My husband and I just returned from a trip back to the USA, to spend quality time with our family. After such a trip it’s natural to reflect upon why we relish our lifestyle in Belize…and there are many good reasons. We first visited Belize in 1999; almost a decade later, in 2008, I moved permanently to Ambergris Caye.
If you’ve ever yearned for your own Indiana Jones-style adventure, be sure to add Belize’s most infamous cave to your bucket list. ATM—full name Actun Tunichil Muknal—is your ticket to the ancient Maya underworld, or Xibalba. Also known as the “cave of the stone sepulcher,” it’s near san Ignacio in the Cayo District, and it’s where the Mayas of old performed their sacred rituals long before Europeans came.
We’re both 50 years old, we live on a Caribbean island, and we love running our restaurant,” says Jackie Feldman, who—along with her husband, Adam— moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, three years ago. “We have great friends and our family regularly visits to share our experiences. Isn’t that what so many folks dream about?”
As luck would have it, Judy’s sister and her family had moved to Ambergris Caye before “Temptation Island” put it on the map… Judy notes, “We chose San Pedro because we had been visiting my sister and her husband since they moved to Belize about 23 years ago. We fell in love with the island through those many visits.”
Writing for International Living over the years has inspired me to take a pretty hefty interest in all things related to retirement. And, having just celebrated my 60th birthday, that interest has sharpened. After all, moving abroad is one of the most intriguing ways to improve your retirement situation…or to lay the groundwork for an active, interesting, and affordable retirement if, like me, you find retirement rushing at you faster than ever.
Chicago natives Brad and Christine Schofield have always loved the beach and the water. As their children were growing up, family vacations always seemed to be centered on the sand and sea. As time marched on, their dream to own an inn on the beach headed toward reality. Brad (56) was a manager in the restaurant industry, and most recently general manager of a Chicago environmental company that processes waste cooking oil for the restaurant and hotel industries. Chris (53) owned her own interior design and room renovation business.
It’s a good time to be in Belize. I’m on the beach, in the shade of a palm tree with fronds swaying in the breeze, looking out over azure water. In front of me is a Caribbean lobster, fresh off a grill made of an old propane tank and welded together Rebar for the legs. The lobster is just right. Eric, the dreadlocked grill man, has been doing this for years. Sides of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk and a mellow cabbage and carrot coleslaw complete the package.
From bond trading in New York to running a bar in Belize, Rebecca Coutant made the overseas move. But it was only when she started blogging that she found something she really loved…and now it’s her income as well as her passion. “Five years ago if someone had suggested that I’d be a professional blogger, I would have laughed,” says Rebecca. “I wasn’t much of a writer or photographer. I just look at it as sharing my experiences with friends. That’s always fun. And now I love the freedom of being self-employed.”
Before moving to Belize, the Cordts lived quite a different lifestyle in New York and New Jersey. They owned several successful clothing boutiques in New York and were involved in the local Greenwich Village scene. Their historic home, in nearby New Jersey, was a 15-minute commute from work. They were engrossed in the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan lifestyle, surrounded by 9 million others.
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If you like easy-going people…a chilled environment…a warm climate…and an income of up to $5,000 a month, then owning a beach bar might be just the lifestyle career for you. After all, if your customers are predominantly tourists, they are at their most relaxed and happy when they come into your place. And the profits from serving them can be considerable.
There are few things that can motivate me to rise before the sun. But on a calm, hazy April morning I arrived at Garbutt Marine’s dock before 6 a.m., as the sun was rising… I was joining a ReefCI day trip to the Sapodilla Cayes, in search of Belize’s most beautiful beach. The other participants had fishing on their minds…
Two years ago Duane and Judy Allen moved full-time from Tampa, Florida, to Ambergris Caye, Belize. “I always wanted to live right on the beach, but not in a condo,” says Duane. “I wanted a home, and space around me to roam. For years I scoured Florida’s coasts, looking for an affordable property. But everything was out of reach.”
Belize is a small country, with only 330,000+ residents. Ninety percent of businesses here are small or microbusinesses, making it a good place for an overseas venture. I’ve lived here full-time for six years now, and I know expats running all types of businesses. It’s surprisingly easy. For example, Frik De Meyere, owner of Belize Wind Energy and a real estate agent with Mannsfeld and Associates, says he spent 80% of his time on paperwork back in Europe. But in Belize, paperwork only takes 10% of his time.
Once you stroll Belize’s unspoiled beaches and explore the flora and fauna of its rainforests, you may become afflicted with what’s known as the “Belize Factor.” Simply put: you find that once you return home, you have an uncontrollable compulsion to return. Time and again …Perhaps even to stay.
The attributes of a life of ease in Belize have been well documented: beautiful warm weather, friendly people who speak English, and lovely sand beaches with the Caribbean Sea lapping at the shoreline. Those are just some of the reasons my wife Char and I are considering Belize as our retirement destination.
Nadege Thomas lived in Toronto, Canada for 22 years where she was a successful financial planner. But as the pressures on her sector mounted and the cold weather wore her down, she began to yearn for an easy life in a balmy, tropical environment. “After 22 Canadian winters, I had had enough of the cold and was looking for a warm place,” she says.
Ann Kuffner first started dreaming of living in Belize full-time when she was in her 20s…but it wasn’t until six years ago, at the age of 57, that she finally left behind the corporate life in the U.S. to enjoy all that the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye has to offer.
It’s been a retirement haven for decades—one of the world’s most popular—and if you have ever visited Costa Rica, you know why. Living here means access to excellent and affordable health care, living costs of as little as $2,000 a month for a couple, including rent, and natural beauty at every turn.
While living in the San Francisco Bay Area my husband and I both worked long days, and too many weekends. We rarely bumped into our neighbors, had little free time for socializing, and even less energy. We hoped that would change when we moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize—though we worried that by basing ourselves on a small island we might be in for a limited social circle.
If you’re planning your first trip to Belize, here’s a list of the top 10 activities you should consider. 1. Experience the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. To truly experience Belize you must see the reef. If you’re not a water person you don’t need to get into, or onto, the sea to appreciate the reef’s beauty. Just hop a local flight to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.
It’s largely thanks to these folks that Guatemala has such a rich and unique culture. And it’s this culture that entices many of the expats who have made their homes here. “I love how different it is, and I want it to stay that way, too,” says Jean Johnson who lives in the colonial city of Antigua. “It’s like traveling into some epic or bygone landscape,” says Portland-native John Kin, of traveling around the highlands.
Those of us who live on Ambergris Caye in Belize head to the north island for our beach escape days… We frequent the hidden gems few tourists find–even though it’s fairly easy to reach them. Just hop on a Coastal Express water taxi. The boat trip itself is a thrill…and you’ll get an entirely different view of the island from the water. Water taxis run about every two hours.
Nadege Thomas lived in Toronto, Canada for 22 years. She was a successful financial planner whose business was thriving in the 1980s and 1990s. But things began to change. “I didn’t like the direction the financial planning business was taking,” she says. “Overnight people expected 125% returns.”
Most expats who consider moving to Belize dream of living near the Caribbean Sea on a beach. Fortunately for them, Belize offers several beach lifestyle options. Right now, the three most popular beach areas expats settle are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and the Placencia Peninsula. Here’s a quick peek at each of these popular beach retreats… Ambergris Caye is the island that I’ve called home for the past six years—and I’m not the only one who has discovered its charms.
Belize is well-known for its famous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. For decades adventurous scuba divers and anglers have vacationed in Belize, in pursuit of their favorite marine sports. But this tiny country also has some fine beaches. But they aren’t always obvious to the first-time tourist. Fortunately, the majority of Belize’s beaches are public and accessible. The 60-foot strip of beachfront adjoining the Caribbean Sea is usually public property.
We’ve already lived in seven communities in four different countries. We’ve had some time to honestly assess ourselves and what we need to live somewhere for more than just a month or two a year. By now we have some pretty clear criteria for what we really need a location to provide.
From the first time I flew from the mainland to Ambergris Caye—in a small turbo-prop plane—I was hooked on Belize. Gazing down onto the crystal clear Caribbean waters, and at the waves breaking on the Mesoamerican Reef, I was overwhelmed by the scenic beauty around me. This stunning seascape was my intro to Belize. What later convinced me I could live full-time in Belize were the vibrant communities and comfortable lifestyle… So what makes Belize so appealing? I’ve outlined the top seven reasons to live here below:
Vacation rentals are a great way for an investor to create an income overseas but, unless they’re living next door, anyone who owns a vacation rental needs someone to manage it for them. Property management is a business you can start with absolutely no investment. You are simply trading your time and effort.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)
You’ve probably heard a lot about the stunning, tiny Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key”), Belize. But if you’re looking for a quieter, even more laid-back slice of the Caribbean, you’ll want to check out Ambergris Caye’s little sister, Caye Caulker. The motto of this island is “Go Slow”… Spend any time with the easy-going locals and expats who live here, and you’ll discover it’s a motto they take very seriously.
Every morning, when I wake up and hear the birds singing outside my window, and watch the sunbeams that stream into our bedroom, I thank my lucky stars for being able to live a more laid-back life on the little Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When my husband and I left California behind, I promised myself that we’d make time to socialize in Belize. Our busy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area didn’t leave much time for socializing…and we were dreaming of a more simplistic lifestyle
Think of the best of the Caribbean—clear, blue skies…long, white, sandy beaches…warm, gentle waters lapping at the shore…a soft breeze swaying the palm trees overhead—and Belize is where you’ll find it. It’s the sort of place you need to bring your camera to—you only have to point and click in any direction to capture the sort of picture-perfect scenery usually only seen in glossy travel brochures.
Some years ago a man I know visited Florida and asked a retiree why he moved there. “You don’t have to shovel the humidity,” the retiree merrily responded. This month my friend’s mother is in Florida…wrapped up in sweaters. Times are changing. Even down south, the climate isn’t what it used to be. East coast cities are like freezers. And the Mid-West is more tightly in the grip of Jack Frost’s icy fingers than it used to be.
Belize has long been a favorite for expats and travelers alike. From its Caribbean shores to its jungle interior, this nation has great natural beauty to be discovered—blue water and deserted beaches, and inland retreats where jaguars and scarlet macaws still live in their natural habitats. People are attracted to Belize for many reasons including the warm, English-speaking people, the natural beauty, and the air of freedom and opportunity.
I’m a small town girl. I grew up in the village of Mahomet, Illinois, and though I moved away, I’ve brought the love of simpler living with me. After becoming a dental hygienist—something I worked as for 33 years—I lived in the Florida Keys, before moving to the Bahamas. Both places were nice—but they didn’t offer that quiet, peaceful, simpler way of life and cheaper cost of living I was always looking for. So my husband Bob and I began to look further afield for such a lifestyle, including in Costa Rica and Panama
The ocean breeze blows in through the open door as I sit in my rocking chair—a surprisingly favorite Nicaraguan furnishing. Sunlight glitters on the ocean, almond and coconut trees sway in the wind. This is my office for today, a four-bedroom house right on the beach that we rent for $350 a month. Previously we spent time on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, beneath the shadow of three majestic volcanoes…swimming in one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, shopping in the local markets, and interacting with the indigenous people who still wear their traditional clothing and speak Spanish as their second language.
Alfredo and Yvonne Villoria were just another fast-paced, career-minded couple in Los Angeles. But money-making wasn’t enough. “We felt that something was missing,” says Yvonne. “In 1976, we decided that 1980 was the cut-off year. In 1980, we would leave the United States. All we were doing was chasing the dollar. We wanted more. We thought there had to be more to life than just working and owning things.
A low cost of living is one of the most important factors for retirees who move overseas. You can live a richer life overseas, probably for what you’re currently spending at home (or even less). Here are some of the top places where the cost of living is low, and the quality of life is high, according to International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2014.