When my husband Dave and I first visited Belize we were blown away by the island lifestyle and culture. We loved seeing swaying palm trees and white-sand beaches everywhere we looked. We loved seeing people actually enjoying their day, walking to get their groceries, the lack of materialism, and the fact that we could be outside 12 months a year.
Although it's difficult to pick my favorite things about living in Belize, here are some of the reasons I find it so special:
1. The diversity of this small country: From our home in Placencia we have beaches and the jungle just a short drive away. We can spend the morning on the beaches near our house and while away the afternoon deep in the tropical forests at the Jaguar Reserve. We can be looking at tropical birds and waterfalls, and sweeping mountains, winding rivers, and tiny rustic Mayan villages...and be back home in time for dinner and a drink at any one of the many bars and restaurants right on the Caribbean Sea. It really is the best of both worlds.
2. Everyday life is easy. The official language in Belize is English. Although the locals speak Kriol most of the time, they all speak English and you will never be at a loss for someone to help with directions or finding the best place to buy fresh local produce.
And it's easy to know how much you're spending as the Belize dollar is set at a permanent rate of 2:1 against the U.S. dollar (also the U.S. dollar is accepted almost everywhere). This can be particularly helpful when figuring out how much you're spending. I find that my monthly food bill is about 60% of what I spent in the U.S. Everything is natural and organic, so we've never felt better with the way we eat.
3. Lack of materialism in Belize. When I visit the U.S. now, I am overwhelmed by the choices available, and the quantity of "stuff" you feel you need. In Belize, I forget what it is that I "need" to buy outside of groceries. The dress code down here is t-shirts and shorts with flip flops. My husband and I always marvel at how refreshing it is to get a break from the urgency and consumer culture we are so used to in the U.S.
4. Belize is a perfect mix of Caribbean and Central American cultures. One of the things I love most about Placencia is that I can walk the main road into town and feel like I am in a true Central American village. Wood-stilted houses line the streets, locals passing you on foot, in golf carts, or on bicycles...then I turn a corner and I'm on the famous Sidewalk—the world's smallest Main Street—which transforms the scene into a Caribbean vacation paradise.
This is a charming pedestrian-only sidewalk with glittering sandy beach on both sides. The entire street is filled with brightly painted wooden buildings which house charming bed and breakfasts, restaurants, ice cream stands, souvenir shops, and much more. Even now, two years later, I feel like I am on vacation when I walk down here.
5.The 200 islands and about 240 miles of coastline. If you enjoy sailing, boating, kayaking, or paddle boarding (or ever wanted to try them out) Belize is your paradise. Dave and I now own two kayaks and a paddleboard. These were activities I had never even tried in the U.S. and now I love them. And if I time my water activities right, I often see manatees and dolphins when I'm out on the water.
Then there's the endless cayes (islands) around the coastline, each one prettier than the next. Most of them look like something straight out of a tropical calendar with white sand, curious pelicans, crystal-clear water, and cabanas on wooden stilts. You can also snorkel with turtles, stingrays, and sharks and fish right off the beach.
There's so much more to love about Belize...the fact that you can still find affordable sea-front homes...the large, happy expat communities...the fresh, organic, tasty food. Although people at home called us crazy for moving here, really it's no surprise that so many expats, me included, love to call Belize home.