When she first arrived in Belize last January, Sharon Hiebing was confused.
“With so many wonderful options it was hard to decide where to call home. On the one hand, you have the gorgeous turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and swaying palm trees of the islands, or cayes as they’re called in Belize.
“On the other hand, you have the rainforest, rivers and ruins of the Cayo area in the west. If you like the water but don’t want to live on an island, you’ve got coastal towns like Corozal, Placencia or Hopkins, or you can live in the middle of nowhere in Orange Walk, or off the Hummingbird Highway…
“I had become disenchanted with life in America. I wanted to move somewhere with a decent cost of living so that I could hopefully retire and live comfortably earlier than 65. I wanted a warm climate, as I was sick to death of the 20 F to 30 F winters in California.
“I was a California business owner and completely stressed out by all the laws, regulations, and the failing economy. Plus, I had a dream of living in a different country that was culturally stimulating. Overall, I just didn’t feel in control of my destiny in the States, and I felt there must be a better way.” There was a better way, and Sharon found it in Belize.
“Eventually, I chose the small town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District. The area is quite spread out, with sister town, Santa Elena, right over the bridge, and it has an incredibly low cost of living. I was able to meet more locals here than in Ambergris, and thus have a much more authentic Belizean lifestyle. I also have access to rivers, rainforest, and ruins on my doorstep, but the ocean is only a 90-minute drive away.” says Sharon.
“The average temperature here is about 80 F year round. I practically live in tank tops and shorts now and only occasionally need a light jacket or close-toed shoes. And in Belize, a couple can comfortably live on $1,000 to $2,500 per month, depending on the lifestyle they want.
Doing Business in Belize
“Because of the low cost of almost everything, the possibilities are endless. For instance, I’ve started two businesses since arriving. One is Red Roof Property Management, where we handle leasing and the management of rental homes, as well as caretaking and house-sitting services for absentee owners. This business can be run out of my home, and it cost me less than $2,500 to start up (furniture, supplies, marketing, licensing, etc.). Try doing that in the U.S.
“The other business is an online venture, called Wealth Ships’ Expat Relocation Consulting. Because it’s almost entirely done via the Internet, I can take it with me wherever I go. The important point is that in Belize, I was able to create a new existence for myself simply based on what I had just experienced and where I was living. Opportunities like that did not present themselves to me in the States.”
Of course Sharon had to overcome challenges. “I won’t lie—there were several points before my departure where I almost called the whole thing off because I was so scared. I moved with only a limited amount of capital, so if I was unable to create a profitable business in the short-term, what would I do? The little voices in your head can be especially overwhelming when you are going through relocation.”
Sharon’s advice is not to rush the process. “It took me five years, and I researched several countries before I settled on living in Belize. You don’t have to take that long. But spend a good amount of quality time on research—and never move anywhere you haven’t visited first.”
Sharon ultimately wants to buy a nice piece of land on the river. “After that, who knows?” she says. “Moving to Belize has made me realize the world is my oyster!”
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