So there we were, my husband David and I, retired in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, we had a lovely home in a great development and spent our time remodeling, doing volunteer work, and getting on with our lives.
But as the years went by (five of them to be exact), we started asking ourselves, “Is this how we want to spend all or part of our retirement? Shouldn’t we have some adventure in our lives?”
We had vacationed in the Caribbean and daydreamed of living in a tropical setting. The sound of rustling palm trees, being close to the water, and having a laid-back, simple lifestyle really appealed to us. Mainland Belize had been on our “bucket list” for a place to visit for a while. Not an island, but tropical nonetheless. And English is the official language.
We are not the kind of couple who likes touristy kinds of areas, crazy nightlife, or big hotels. For our Belize trip, we decided on the Corozal district, located in the northern part of the country.
Corozal, located right on a large bay, was exactly what we were looking for. It’s a Caribbean hideaway still undiscovered by most tourists—there are no cruise ships, no duty-free shops, and no big box stores or chains of any kind to be found here. Instead you’ll find a great place to relax.
On our trip, we fell in love with the area—so much so that we bought a house within four days of our arrival, in the small village of Ranchito. And while it may not be a recommended course of action or right for everyone, it worked for us. Within two months, we had sold our U.S. home and moved.
Not surprisingly, there were a few adjustments that we had to make. For instance, the heat and humidity are good teachers for making you slow down. We learned quickly that all the heavy lifting chores are done first thing in the morning. There are no home improvement centers in town; one needs to be creative in home remodeling efforts. The parts may not be available, so having a variety of back-up plans are the way to go.
And instead of one-stop-shopping for groceries, we often visit the open-air market stalls for fruits and veggies, and swing by various grocery stores to score whatever might be on our shopping list.
If you must have frozen meals and name brand or gourmet products, they’ll cost more and you’ll have to either make a trip to neighboring district of Orange Walk or go over the border to Mexico to get them. (Crossing the border to Mexico cost $37.50 for non-residents.)
But you can eat pretty cheaply here, especially if you buy in-season produce and buy local brands in the grocery stores.
We spend somewhere around $200 per month for groceries. Our average electric bill is about $50 per month and our water bill averages $20 per month.
Property taxes vary depending on what part of the district you reside in, but here in Ranchito, it’s pretty inexpensive (less than $20 per year for about a 3/4-acre lot). Living literally a one-minute drive from Corozal Town means we pay less in property tax, too—saving us up to hundreds of dollars per year.
From house remodeling and cooking with different ingredients to learning and adapting to a different culture, our life in the last year has been just the adventure we were looking for.
And through it all, the one thing we can count on is the friendliness of the locals and the camaraderie of an eclectic expat community. Almost to a person, we have found folks ready to lend advice, share tools and equipment, and point us in the right direction to find things we need.
We are truly enjoying our new lifestyle. While one should never forget that this is a developing country, it’s a very economical place to be, the sun shines most of the time, sea breezes cool and bring amazing aromas our way, and the people are truly excellent neighbors.
Day-to-day life in Corozal is simpler. You won’t find some of the amenities you might get elsewhere in Belize, but if you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, this place could be it…