A 6-Month Escape to Belize

Life was good in the States. We had a big house, two cars, and a community of friends in our Pennsylvania hometown. We had meaningful work and our weeks rushed by in a whirlwind of activity for both us and our children. We espoused the American view of “work hard, play hard.”

But something was missing. The lifestyle we were living was too stressful, too busy, too unhealthy, and too expensive. We found ourselves accumulating—and worrying about—unnecessary stuff. We felt we were running on a work-and-spend treadmill that didn’t get us anywhere and left us exhausted. In the name of living the good life, we felt we were actually losing ours.

So last winter my husband Kevin and I decided we needed a break—a family escape—from what we knew to be “normal.” We realized we couldn’t stay where we were with our four kids and find the change we wanted.

We focused on Central and South America because of their proximity to the U.S., their warm tropical climates, and their low cost of living. We spent many hours online researching and talking to expats who lived in the countries we were considering: Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and Ecuador. We paid flying visits to several places to see in person if we would like it there.

Ultimately, we decided on Belize, nestled between Mexico and Guatemala and facing the morning sunrise over the Caribbean Sea.

A sparsely-populated country of around 300,000 people, Belize is English-speaking. It’s also very affordable and would allow our family of six to live comfortably, even without selling off everything we owned in the States.

We started to plan…and things seemed to fall miraculously into place. Although it seemed to be a Herculean task in the beginning, we found the excitement of our dreams drove us forward.

Conventional wisdom tells us to tuck these dreams away until retirement. But we weren’t willing to wait that long. We looked at our budget. We own a business at home that gives us a steady income and, once we were able to hire good people to watch over it, my husband could manage the big picture remotely from Belize. My freelance writing would help pay the bills, as well. Besides that, Belize is a place where it’s easy to stretch your dollar.

When we finally arrived in Belize, we had no regrets. The lifestyle is simple and laid-back.

Here we meet people from all over the world. Belizeans themselves are a melting-pot culture: Creole, Spanish, Garifuna, Mestizo, East Indian, and Chinese all settled here at one time or another. Add to that the burgeoning expat population.

We walk most places we need to go, and the daily fresh air and sunshine from these hikes do wonders for our mental outlook, not to mention keep us in better shape than at home, where exercise at the gym was more of a chore than a joyful way of life.

Overall, we’ve found that our life is simpler and easier here in San Ignacio than it was in the States. We have more awareness, more time, and more old-fashioned fun. We spend time sitting together on the porch of our $400-a-month rental house to catch the mountain breeze.

When it’s really hot, we jump into the clear Macal River, along with half the town, and savor the idea that, here in Belize, we are in the land of eternal summer: hot days and cool nights.

It’s also cheaper. We live on a fraction here of what most folks spend at home. Our family of six lives comfortably for under $2,000 a month.

We spend less in part because we need less. Housing costs, car insurance, and school tuition are lower here. And no need to spend money on vacations when you already live in paradise.

A short while ago, Kevin and I would never have thought long-term travel with our family was possible. But we found it’s not only possible, but preferable. We’ve asked many questions on this journey, but right now the biggest question of all is: “What’s next?” The answer: After a few months back in the U.S. sorting out our affairs, we’re thinking of driving across Canada and our own native U.S.

But our next big adventure may be a camping trip through Europe. We’ve also heard wonderful things about Malaysia and Thailand. And we’ve made Kiwi friends we’ll probably want to visit in New Zealand

Now that we’ve broken free from “regular life,” we see possibilities around every corner…

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