Like most people who go to Hawaii for the first time, I had decided before the end of our vacation that I could live there. (“There” was Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.) But moving anywhere wasn’t feasible at the time because my husband had a business to run, although he and Mark, his partner, started a bicycle rental business on the main street, so we had an excuse to visit a couple of times a year. I still love the area, although of the thousands of people who fall in love with Hawaii, many, of them did move there—and today Kona is as crowded and congested as Del Mar, California. Belize is a little like the Hawaiian islands in that nearly everybody speaks English, the climate is great (no real extremes of temperature or climate), and everything costs more than it did back home. But it takes a certain kind of person to pick up your roots and leave your friends—and sometimes your family—behind and move to Belize.
Although statistics are hard to come by, I keep hearing more and more stories about how dangerous Belize has gotten, mainly because of the drug trade. So you have to be the kind of person (young) who believes the statistics don’t apply to you, or that you’ve taken safety precautions. In any urban area, keeping your yard enclosed and keeping two big dogs inside it is an excellent safety precaution. One of the few people I know who moved there (and has lived there for several years now) is in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, and she has done both: enclosed her yard and keeps two big dogs, who spend most of their time outside. In smaller towns, where fencing your property is impractical or too costly, keep dogs anyway. They’re very territorial, and they bark. Does the average petty thief know for sure they’ll bite? No. Does he want to find out? No.
Petty theft happens everywhere in Belize, not just in the cities. The neighbor of a friend of mine who lives in Big Falls, in Toledo Distract (a lot of Maya families live there) had a bicycle stolen off her porch one night.
Get accustomed to paying more for everything except local produce, meat, and fish. In Hawaii, everything costs more (especially supermarket food) because it has to be flown in from the mainland. It’s the same in Belize. Whenever my friends find out I’m planning a trip, they all have requests. “Oh, can you bring me some . . .” Since I like to travel light (carry-on only), this can sometimes be a problem. I always manage to stow the items someplace, but I end up with a very heavy carry-on! Items that are always in demand because they’re very expensive in Belize include batters. Other items—especially over-the-counter medications that are readily available in the States—are not available at all in Belize. If you live there, you’ll be asking your American friends to bring something with them the next time they want to visit. (The only time I’ve refused is when a friend wanted cuttings from my rosebushes. I told him he can come visit and take his own cuttings back—and I’ll visit him in jail. But I am not going to prison for rose cuttings!)
By living in populated areas like Belize City or Belmopan you can usually buy those necessities of life that you deem essential to your life, but if you choose to live in a rural area, particularly in a village that’s predominately Maya—especially one with no electricity—you have to know a little about a lot of things. You should know about electricity (you’ll want a generator), plumbing (unless you like going out at night, in the rain, to a wooden latrine), and especially carpentry. You can, of course, hire local people to build and decorate your house—but that will make it more expensive.
If you think you’re serious about moving to Belize, decide on an area and explore it. Spend some time there hanging around with the locals. Ask about things like furniture stores and grocery stores and how much it will cost you to build your own house vs. how much locals will charge you. Find out how much the property will cost. In other words, do your homework. It will save you a lot of heartache.