People often ask why I chose Placencia, Belize, to live and work, instead of all the other places in the Caribbean and Central America. When you first start to look at all the options, it can be overwhelming to find the right fit for you, or even to know how to start looking.
For me, there were a few parameters that helped me narrow it down. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, and because I wanted to own a business, and I only have limited Spanish, this was a huge plus. I didn’t want to pay top dollar, or “tourist prices,” which is common in popular, saturated areas. I also wanted to live someplace that felt tropical and exotic, with great weather, beaches, and that “always on vacation” feel.
I showed up in Placencia three years ago, and was immediately hooked as I drove down the 14-mile peninsula, with the sparkling Caribbean on both sides. Palm trees and beaches were everywhere I looked, filled with tropical birds and plants. On top of all this, the village of Placencia feels warm, safe, and welcoming—I knew I was home.
What I have learned since then is that I live much more cheaply in Placencia than I ever could in the U.S. While some will say that things are expensive in Belize, they are referring to consumer goods like cars, or specialty items like imported food or liquor. The duty on these imports makes certain goods expensive. But after three years, I forgot what it was that I felt I “needed” to buy in the U.S. When I go back, I am overwhelmed by the quantity and competitiveness of material goods. In Belize, it is a flip-flop culture, where “keeping up with the Joneses” is just not a part of life.
You can buy local beer and liquor in Belize for as cheap or cheaper than the U.S., you can buy local food such as fish, chicken, rice, beans, plantains, exotic fruits and vegetables, for about 60% of your food costs in the U.S.—and I have found that my diet is made up much more of natural, whole foods. You can buy a one-pound bag of rice for around $2, three large boneless chicken breasts for about $6, and a bunch of plantains for around $2.
You do spend more time preparing your food than in the U.S., but the relaxed culture in Belize leaves you more time for leisurely activities like cooking. I don’t need a car, I walk or bike everywhere, so I have no vehicle costs. And for housing, you can rent a beach-view apartment for about 50% to75% of what it would cost for a beachfront community in the U.S. An apartment right behind our property with beach views has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, for $1,350 a month. Try finding that anywhere in the U.S.
So, what do people here do if they are not spending money on consumer goods or experiences? Kayaking, walking the beach, paddle-boarding, biking, hiking, visiting waterfalls, swimming, dolphin watching, laying in a hammock, yoga on the beach…these are all things that fill my time that don’t cost anything. Back in the U.S., I would pay to see a movie, play golf, shop at a mall, get a pedicure…there were so many things I thought I couldn’t live without. Living in Belize has taught me how to have a quality of life that revolves around simple pleasures, natural beauty, and real-life experiences.