Turquoise waves lap the shore 30 feet from where I sit writing on my borrowed veranda in southern Belize. As a pair of large birds glides gracefully through the sky, I think to myself that this remote, off-the-grid home is exactly where I belong at this moment.
When my husband and I first started dreaming about taking a six-month “family sabbatical” with our four young kids somewhere in Central America, we’d considered Costa Rica and Panama as well as Belize.
But then I met a British couple who lived in southern Belize. We stayed in touch and they often gave me advice about our unfolding plans. When they decided they needed a house sitter, they asked if we would be interested. We were!
We now live in their darling 2,400-square-foot furnished home directly fronting the Caribbean Sea. The house is only accessible by boat. We have two large bedrooms, two and a half baths, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and several porches, as well as a cabana for our guests’ use, and a caretaker’s home. We have access to a paddle boat, a sailboat, fishing equipment and two sea kayaks.
The owners even left us chickens with a steady supply of fresh eggs!
In lieu of paying rent, we’ve agreed to take care of their property as if it was our own. This fits our skills perfectly since we own and manage houses and apartments back home in the States. We are asked only to pay for our own expenses, which include our on-site, English-speaking Mayan handyman, Pasquale, for $17.50 a day. We also pay for Internet, phone, boat taxi rides, cooking butane, and diesel for the generator. All told, our personal/house expenses are under $1,000. But we’re not paying any expenses back home while we’re here, so it’s a wash.
If a smaller family wanted to rent a home in the nearby tourist beach town of Placencia, they’d pay on average $425 per month plus utilities for a two-bedroom place. Land is inexpensive here. A 325-foot lot of direct Caribbean seafront, complete with sandy beach and palm trees, can be had for $50,000. A simple, sea-front, local-style house in the nearby Kriol fishing village is on the market for $20,000. Unimproved farmland nestled in the Maya Mountains can go for as little as $500 per acre.
Pasquale’s wife, Evelyn is happy to help me around the house. We pay her $2.50 per hour, higher by a small margin than the going rate for household help. In the States, I could never afford to hire household help and so rarely had enough time to pursue my dream of writing a book.
Here, I have time. And more work than ever.
While here, I’m blogging at renaissancehousewife.com, crafting articles about interesting people, and writing a book about our family’s experience of moving back to simplicity and embracing the basics of off-the-grid living. We are learning true self-sufficiency here and reducing our footprint. We are going green—jungle green—more than we ever could in suburban America. We are immersing ourselves in the local, authentic culture, off the tourist path. Our kids even attend the local village school, St. Stephen’s, in Monkey River Village, the nearest town, a 5-minute boat ride away.
At home, we had all the modern conveniences and were drowning in a complex, over-scheduled life full of work stuff, kids’ sports schedules, volunteering, board meetings, and other commitments. We had it all, at least from the outside looking in.
But we wanted more. We wanted to follow our dreams of traveling, of seeing new vistas, and meeting intriguing people from across the globe. We wanted to run our business back home remotely and write books about our experiences.
And here we are, doing it… I can’t begin to explain how liberating it is to live in a foreign country and be able to say, “I got this!” Or how extremely important it is for us to give our kids a critical distance from the over-consumerism and entitlement seen in America. Here in Belize, my kids (ages 11, 10, 7, and 2 1/2), are allowed to be children instead of mini-adults with Day-Timers and iPhones and schedules as busy as their adult counterparts. Here in Belize, it’s perfectly okay—even expected—for us all to relax.
As I sit on the veranda letting the waves lull me, with a napping toddler on my lap, I shake my head in wonder that I am here, house-sitting a gorgeous property. And, though I’m extremely excited to explore beautiful Belize, write travel articles, and work on my book, I’m also wondering: now that we have discovered we can take six months out of our regular life back home to house-sit in Belize, where in the world will the universe take us next?