When my husband Dave and I first visited Belize we were blown away by the island lifestyle and culture. We loved seeing swaying palm trees and white-sand beaches everywhere we looked. We loved seeing people actually enjoying their day, walking to get their groceries, the lack of materialism, and the fact that we could be outside 12 months a year.
“Our day begins early, the local birds love to greet the sun and wake us up so we enjoy the sunrise over the water, too,” says Lynn Lawson. “Add a cup of fresh coffee and warm breezes, and we are totally relaxed. We take morning walks, greeting our neighbors and their pets.”
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I do a lot of traveling. So we often find ourselves on the way to places. We find ourselves in airports. In taxis and shuttles. In planes and buses. In snow-bound cities and towns for holidays and family functions.
Many people say that you cannot possibly come to Belize and not have some kind of a big adventure. I have to agree.
My first visit to Belize was in 1995. I vacationed for a week of scuba diving off Glover’s Reef. I met my Belizean husband, Marcos, during that trip, and he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico with me in 1996. I was a practicing psychotherapist and my husband launched a small business. We enjoyed living in Santa Fe, but were intensely busy virtually all of the time.
Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, and Belize earn top rankings as the countries with the best retiree benefits and discounts in the newly published 2016 Global Retirement Index from InternationalLiving.com.
The 2016 Global Retirement Index lists the top countries where retirees can live better for less around the world. But as well as offering a lower cost of living, some countries stand out in the category of significant retiree benefits and discounts, including savings on transportation, entertainment, social services, visa costs, and healthcare.
I am happy. I don’t worry about car insurance, driving for hours, or trafﬁc. I don’t have to put on a pair of heels and a business suit. Flip-ﬂops and a great pair of shorts or sundress are my normal attire now,” says Marlene Houghton, who owns Marbucks, her dream coffee shop on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Imagine a place where sunshine is ubiquitous, a high-quality lifestyle won’t cost the earth, and as a retiree, you’re treated like a VIP…you’ll get a red-carpet welcome and be rewarded for your age and experience. Places like this exist…and they have claimed the top spots in the “Benefits and Discounts” category in International Living’s 2016 Global Retirement Index. In many countries all over the world you can live better for less.
Life here is busy, but it’s a good kind of busy. We have less driving and commuting than when we lived in Ohio…and we don’t miss traffic jams, shoveling snow, and de-icing the car in the morning, which used to take up so much time. Here, grocery shopping or paying bills involves a bike ride or a walk in sunny weather, where you can hear birds and see the beach.
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.
After enjoying a Belize sunrise from my bird-song serenaded porch with a cup of locally grown coffee, a trip to the gym or walk on the beach is a great start to my day. Then I may catch up with friends on the internet, read international news, or spend time tending to plants on the veranda. The decision to move to Belize was not taken lightly by my husband Anthony and I, yet was achieved with a light heart.
Earl and Gail Johnson have lived in the Corozal District, a retirement haven in northern Belize, for eight years. Corozal is a small town, set on the vast Corozal Bay and just nine miles from the Mexican border. It has a close-knit expat community, with plenty of clubs and social activities.
Belize first attracted me because of the spectacular Caribbean seascapes and the vibrant offshore barrier reef teaming with colorful, diverse sea life…the laidback lifestyle…affordable cost of living…and the friendly Belizeans. But after moving here another advantage became apparent. Maintaining a healthy, happy lifestyle in Belize is easy. As a matter of fact, many expats who move to Belize remark that they have lost weight, are in better shape, and feel better than they have in years…
For most folks, the perfect way to start a day is with a stroll on the sand or a dip in the ocean. Owning a beach home so that they can do it every day is at the top of many wish lists. Many people think they can’t afford to do that. Understandable: When you take the limited supply of beach property and combine it with strong demand, what do you get? Sky-high sticker prices. But you can still bag a beach bargain in some overseas destinations
For many North Americans, winter is the time to batten down the hatches and brace for an onslaught of wind, snow, and rain. But not so for Bob and Lonni Skrentner. On the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye, this couple has found the perfect winter retreat. Here they can spend their days scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea, socializing, and relaxing by the beach, while friends back home are confined indoors by the cold.
Keith Morrison loves the great sailing and Caribbean lifestyle in Placencia. Keith Morrison, 58, scoured two continents for the perfect place to start his coffee shop: an English-speaking country with a laidback, affordable lifestyle, warm weather, good sailing, and low taxes. He found all these in Placencia, on Belize’s southern coast. Now he enjoys a terriﬁc Caribbean lifestyle when he’s not overseeing operations at his Above Grounds Coffee House.
Dick Walton, 53, and his wife, Dawn, 47, have always loved to travel. And they knew for a long time that they wanted to retire to English-speaking Belize…the tiny Central American country on the Caribbean Sea. But when Dawn had an aneurysm in 2009, the couple pushed up that timetable to escape the stress and fast pace of life in their hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
I’m sitting on the beach in Hopkins Village in Belize—mimosa in hand—staring out over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea trying to find the exact point where the clear blue sky meets the water. This friendly village is the heart of the Garifuna culture in Belize and my home for the next couple of days. There isn’t much on my to-do list…sunning, swimming, and a Garifuna drumming lesson with a local drummer.
Teleworking, telecommuting, remote working…call it whatever you like, it’s catching on. And the bottom line is, with the technology available today you could move overseas and take your job with you. If most of your daily work is conducted via email and telephone, then you may be in the perfect position to approach your employer about working remotely.
If the lure of a better life overseas is strong, but you’re worried about the logistics of managing your money in a foreign locale, take heart. It’s not as complicated as you may fear. Bank accounts…Social Security…credit cards…exchange rates…our team of expat experts weighs in here with lessons learned and real-world guidance to help you manage your money abroad with confidence and ease.
Living in San Pedro, on Belize’s Ambergris Caye, I’m a bit spoiled. It offers spectacular Caribbean Sea activities and lifestyle options. So I don’t typically need to take a vacation to anywhere else in Belize. But I recently spent a wonderful week checking out Placencia and it far exceeded my expectations. Each morning I woke to find a calm, glistening sea, it’s surface smooth as glass…a delightful way to start the day!
On my first trip to Granada, Nicaragua several years ago, I stopped in a small bookshop in the historic colonial quarter, just a few blocks from the main square. It was evident the owner—an expat from California—was a lover of literature. Classics…science fiction…travelogues…histories…and more lined the shelves. As I chatted to him, it emerged that he got started when he was just passing through Granada and, looking to make a bit of extra travel money…he laid books out on a blanket on the street to sell.
First, let’s set the scene: Common legal grounds enabling someone to acquire a second passport include marriage to a foreign citizen or birth in a foreign nation. In some countries like Ireland and Greece blood ancestry is a basis. Then there’s formal naturalization, meaning you apply and qualify for citizenship status.
A popular expat hub, the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye is no stranger to visitors. From August 6 to August 8, the island welcomes an influx of a different kind, as performers and artists from across the Maya world descend on Ambergris for the International Costa Maya Festival. This colorful event is a spectacle of music, dance, and food, as the region’s Maya ancestry is celebrated in vivid style.
Jacques Cousteau once declared the Blue Hole in Belize to be one of the best diving spots in the world—and few would disagree. The Blue Hole, part of the Lighthouse Reef system, is an almost-perfect circular limestone sinkhole that is nearly 1,000 feet wide and more than 400 feet deep. This striking ocean feature sits like a giant blue pupil in a sea of turquoise.
You gaze out from your veranda each morning onto a sea often as smooth as glass, shimmering as sunrays dance upon its surface. As far as the eye can see, north and south, are miles of gorgeous beaches, peppered with inviting, thatched-roof palapas at the end of docks. Red, yellow, and other brightly colored kayaks sit above the surf line, ready for the next joy ride.
Neither Yvonne nor Michael Bauche qualiﬁed for a pension in Canada. And so the adventurous duo decided to embark on a round-the-world trip that has seen them visit Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal, Italy, France, and the Caribbean. “We cut our expenses in half,” says Yvonne of their new life on the road. “Running two cars, paying for electricity, gas, phone, cell phone, internet, food, and eating out used to cost us almost $4,000 a month. Our average expenditure is now about $2,000, and we live and play very well on that.”
There are many countries around the world that offer you the right to residence without having to be physically there. The biggest benefit of having residence in another country is the ability to avail of offshore and financial protection strategies that would otherwise be unavailable to you as an America citizen.
Lara Goldman is living her dream in Belize. She lives just 100 yards from the beach for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. As a single woman who owns her own home on Ambergris Caye, her outgoings come to just $1,500 a month. She found this perfect home on her very first trip to Belize in 2006.
The English-speaking island of Belize has a lot going for it. For a tiny country, it packs a big wallop when it comes to charm and scenery. For the would-be expat—especially if you’re looking for real value—there are many areas deserving of your attention. Places where you can live the laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle of your dreams.
Toward the southern end of Belize, you’ll find a 17-mile-long peninsula that has become a center of expat activity and tourism in recent years. Developments and homes can be found up and down its length, as can beautiful beaches and views of the blue Caribbean. But Placencia Village, the walkable community at the peninsula’s far southern tip, is where Paul Petit and his wife Gail decided to settle.
La Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is the heart of life in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This street is Playa (as locals call the town) in a nutshell: cosmopolitan, chic yet casual, and lively from early morning to late at night, with expats and visitors from the U.S., Canada, Europe, other parts of Mexico, and all of Latin America. What used to be a tiny town, a ferry stop for tourists heading to Cozumel, has boomed. The talk around town is that it’s the fastest-growing city in Mexico. But the town’s guiding spirit of “fun in the sun” remains strong.
Caprice Parkes and Joe Singh’s rustic lifestyle is very different to the life they left behind…and they love it. The couple lives in Chan Chen Village, in Belize’s northern Corozal District, abutting Mexico. Young “retirees” at only 43 and 45, Caprice and Joe actively work a 22-acre homestead, and are largely self-sufficient. “We grow our own greens, spinach, lettuces, okra, beans of different sorts, herbs, cassava, sweet potato, onions, and fruit trees,” says Caprice. “Joe goes fishing and hunting with the locals from our village. We can pretty much eat for free most days. We raise chickens and turkeys and will shortly start raising pigs.”
When Steve, 58, and Kathy Wade, 61, from Myrtle Beach, first visited Belize’s Placencia peninsula almost 12 years ago they were smitten with the friendly locals, tropical vibe, unspoiled beaches, and blue Caribbean, so they decided to make the move. They made the right choice. Over the years, development and more tourists and expats have come to the area. And services have improved to keep pace. You can get high-speed internet everywhere. The road was completely paved four years ago and real estate has boomed with new developments being put in up and down the peninsula.
It took a trip to hell to show me all the heavenly delights Belize has to offer. It’s probably not the hell you’re thinking of, and I didn’t get there the way folks usually do. This particular hell is Xibalba, the Maya underworld. And I got there on a raft.
My wife, Suzan, and I love scuba diving, and Belize has always been a favorite destination. The second-longest reef on the planet runs along Belize’s Caribbean coast, and the diving is world class.
Furniture to fill their new home…shop and car repair tools…TVs…scuba diving gear…a brand-new computer…decorative tiles…and “too many clothes” for the warm, tropical climate and their relaxed lifestyle. When Barry Munson, 60, and Dena Carey, 58, joined Belize’s Qualified Retired Persons program five years ago, they brought a shipping container full of household goods and possessions.
I don’t like any weather that requires a jacket. My solution is to escape to warmer climates. This past fall and winter, I spent more than three months living in Italy and Spain. Last year I spent almost two months in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. I spent my weekends exploring Cinque Terre and small Tuscan towns like Siena, Lucca, and Cortona. I enjoyed soaking up the Italian history and culture by wandering through cobbled streets, climbing up old towers, and eating more pizzas than I can count.
I get a couple of emails a month like this from International Living readers: “I’ve been doing my research as you suggest. I know I want to make my move abroad, but no matter how many likely destinations I cross off my list, I still have too many to choose from. Where should I go?”
Exactly one year ago, I was sitting on my couch in snowy Cleveland. At that time, I hadn’t left Northern Ohio for more than three weeks at a time. I was spending my time watching International House Hunter shows and researching on every travel blog and forum I could…trying to find out if living in Central America was a realistic dream for my husband, Dave, and I.
The gentle waters of Peru’s Madre de Dios river lap the shore just inches away. A welcoming breeze begins to push away the jungle heat. Iguanas scurry about chasing each other in a game of tag. I am totally relaxed as the resort’s masseuse works on my tired muscles in an outdoor cabana. My morning was spent trekking through the jungle in the Peruvian Amazon where I discovered brilliantly colored plants and heard the unfamiliar sounds of nearby wildlife. Now I’m taking a break for a massage inside the thatched-roof cabana by the river.
People often ask about my transition from a hectic life in the U.S. to the laidback Caribbean island lifestyle of Ambergris Caye, Belize. Admittedly, it surprised even me how quickly I adapted, considering that I’d spent my entire life living in metropolitan areas. But since we moved to Belize from the San Francisco Bay area, our lives have been enriched beyond our wildest imagination, with adventures galore.