Expat Living – Finding a Way to Live and Work in Belize
Often I get emails from people who are ready to fulfill their dreams of moving to Belize. Not everyone is in a position to make their move abroad, retire and drinkÂ Belikin beer or rum punch on the beach all day. A husband and wife team who recently wrote me from Biloxi, Mississippi are in process ofÂ doing their research to see if they can “make it work” and enjoy the tropical lifestyle while still making a decent living. Scott and Monique, I know you will find Tamara’s answers to my questions below helpful in putting your puzzle together. For those of you who want to do the same, Quicksilver Messenger service offers relocation services and information, helping to make your move to Belize easy. Dianne Lawrence can help you with anything from accommodation assistance and opening bank accounts to utility hook-up, land title acquisition, assistance with vehicle permits and more.
1. What made you choose a trip to Belize in the first place?
My parents first traveled to Belize and Ambergris Caye in 1976. My first visit to the islandÂ was in 1978 when I came along with them on vacation.
2. Was it love at first sight when you got here?
Well of course! Especially back then! The town was no more than a four-block radius with power only on a few hours a night via generator. It was a sleepy fishing village, the beaches were literally crawling with lobsters and of course the people were super friendly.
3. How long after your first visit did you decide to move to Belize, what did your friends and family say when you dropped the bomb?
In 1981 my parents bought a beach house where Banana Beach Resort sits now, and I have been traveling here ever since. I first brought my husband (boyfriend at the time) Ron here in 1986. We always loved the area and hoped to find a way to eventually live and work here. In 2004 we had the opportunity to purchase The San Pedro Sun Newspaper, and we knew we were well equipped for the job and the move. My family has lived abroad before, in Venezuela and Costa Rica, so it was not a big deal for my parents and siblings when I decided to make the move. However Ron’s family were a bit hesitant about our move, but have always been supportive.
4. How many trips back before you moved and long did the process take to wrap up your old life and embrace your new one?
We traveled here twice in 2004 (March & July) to start the process and in late August made the move, with 12 duffle bags of belongings, our 13yr old son, a golden retriever and a cat. We purchased a house sight-unseen but under the recommendation of my parents who house shopped for us. After waiting for our work permits and closing on the business we officially took over The Sun in early October.
5. What did you love most about living in Belize when you first moved, how many years have you been here and do you still love it just as much?
We loved commuting on our bicycles, the warm weather and spending a lot of time in the water. Of course with owning the paper we were emerged into the community very quickly. I am not sure we love it as much now. The island has grown so much and has become very busy. Also the increase in crime (especially burglaries) has caused us a lot of heartbreak, our house has been robbed three times and it has soured us on the area. It is when I am enjoying the beaches and the water that I am reminded of why we live here, and of course the people still remain a huge plus to the area. It will be nine years this month, that we have lived here now. I would say working here takes a lot of effort, I think living here as a retired person would be perfect.
6. I know work factored into your ‘Living in Belize’ vision. How did you choose your new career path.
We had always wanted to live and work here, but wanted to be realistic about how to make that happen. Ron comes from a newspaper family and has worked in media since he has 14. I have a business and freelance writing background. Between the two of us, plus our years of travel and extended stays in Belize we felt very well equipped to not only take over the business but live abroad.
7. What were you doing back in the states before you made your move abroad?
Ron was working as the Communications and Public Relations Director for the Wyoming Education Association and I had been the Executive Director for the Wyoming Children’s Museum and Nature Center for 8 years and at the time of our move I was working as the Campaign Manager for the American Heart Association.
8. Best Piece of advice for someone who is looking to move to a new country?
Come and stay here for several months before making the move. Talk to expats who are living and working here and learn from THEIR mistakes and advise. If you do your homework right you will have a better understanding of what to expect when living here, and if possible DO NOT sell everything and spend your life savings to make the move. If you are still working take a leave of absence if possible, rent out your house if you can instead of selling it, and don’t invest everything you have here, at least not for the first year. Any expat you talk to who works here will share valuable information with you about what to expect and NOT expect. Living here and vacationing here are two very different things.
If if you are like me and enjoy kickin it old school with an actualÂ news paper in your hand, subscriptions are $60US for six months or $110US/year, orders can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org For those of you who want to make the move to Belize eventually getting a news paper subscription in the mail is a great way to keep your dream in focus and learn more about the island/country you are looking to relocate to. For those of you whoÂ have made your move, consider sending a news paper subscription to family or friends back home. I got one for my mom and step dad so they could keepÂ up with what is going on in our new home. I have also sent many papers to friendÂ over the years and some of them had even made the paper. My Cousin Erin and Joanne were in a volunteer vacation and we joined Elito Arceo for a mangrove conservation effort on the Seaduced by Belize boat. Joanne has also made the paper for her volunteer work at Holy Cross School.