Friday, November 18, 2005

Moving to Belize Guide, part 2

For those considering a move to Belize...my personal "how to" series.

Getting to know the country

Before settling in a certain part of Belize, ask yourself what you are actually looking for.

How much inconvenience can you truly handle? It’s great finding a beautiful little waterfall in the middle of the jungle or a private island, miles away from civilization, but could you really live there? Try to net get too idyllic about this. Be overly practical. How will you get your shopping? What happens in a medical emergency? What will the place look like in torrential rains or when hit by a hurricane? How accessible is it? How much will it cost you to make the place more accessible? (Always double your estimate, for a more realistic financial picture) How long will it take you to build your dream house/resort, etc. (Again, double your estimate) Where will you find builders, plumbers, electricians, etc? And, most importantly, how will you fund your chosen lifestyle long-term?

Life in Belize is most likely to be very different from the life that you are used to. Right now, if you need a plumber, you probably just grab the yellow pages and find one that way. Right now, you buy all the food you need in one supermarket (confident that everything you purchase is within its sell-by date), you pay your bills online, your garbage gets collected every week, any house you’ve bought came with running water and electricity, when your car breaks down you get it fixed at your local garage (Access to car parts is usually not a huge problem in the States or Europe) & when your house is on fire, you phone the fire brigade and expect them to be there within the next 20 minutes or so. None of these things are as simple in Belize (I will share some stories in the coming days highlighting these inconveniences)

Also, you know what how to play by the rules. So whenever you deal with any legality, you’ll find out what’s expected of you and follow the clear instructions given to you. There are very few gray areas when dealing with legalities in most of Western Civilization.

When moving to Belize, or any other developing country, you have to pretty much relearn how you do everything. There are no clear-cut rules, it often seems. Just rules that are rather fluid and move around a tat every time you look (I’ll go into this more in part 3 of my “Moving to Belize Guide”, when talking about the need to be humble)

So, to start with:

  1. Keep your money in your pocket if possible & spend some time in your chosen town or community. Make friends there and find your way around. Because, even though the communities are so small, it takes a long time to discover what is where. Small businesses often have no signs and the best fish (for instance) can be bought from a person’s shed somewhere. Also, talk to other expats in the area. They will have a wealth of information and are usually happy to assist newcomers.
  2. Next, get very clear with yourself (and your partner?) about what it is that you want. What lifestyle do you want and how can you achieve that?
  3. Get very clear as well about what you don’t want or can’t put up with. If you hate bugs, stay out of the jungle, if you become a nervous wreck whenever a hurricane comes near, stay away from the coastal properties & if you want convenience at all times...stay out of Belize.
  4. You may come to Belize with some savings, expecting them to last you a long time (The “but things are so cheap here” trap). I can tell you now that your money will disappear much faster than you anticipate. So plan how to make ends meet long-term

And finally, when deciding to make the leap, be prepared for a simple life of beauty, mixed in with moments of utter despair. You will often wonder: (or shout out to the heavens) “What have I done????” Know that this is normal and that this too shall pass. The only way to succeed in relocating to a place like Belize is to not throw in the towel too quick. Good luck my friend! May patience be on your side…..