Monday, October 02, 2006

Why do we love living in Belize?

“So why did you move to Belize?” It's the question that everybody asks when they come to our jungle lodge. The strange thing is that we haven't got a straight answer to that. We just had enough of living in London. After the worlds of television and football, we wanted a change.

But why we chose Belize I don't honestly know. It could as well had been New Zealand, South Africa, Costa Rica, or any of the other countries that we researched online. Belize just sounded attractive; it's the only English speaking country in Central America, only a 2-hour flight from Miami or Houston, politically stable & part of the Commonwealth as a former British colony (back then known as British Honduras)

By now, we have been living in Belize for 5 years and have moved from loving it, to hating it, to learning to like it, to loving it once again. Only now it's a much deeper and more sincere love.

You can compare it to a long-term relationship/marriage, as this usually goes through these same stages; first you fall in love, then you fall out of love, you learn to like each other again and eventually, if all is well, you end up truly loving each other. It's actually a shame that so many people never get beyond the ‘falling in love/falling out of love' stage. They seem to take it as a sign that this relationship isn't for them after all. What they often lose in the process is experiencing the deeper (if less fiery) type of love that's just beyond that phase.

So why this analogy? Because the same thing happens to so many who immigrate to a (developing) country like Belize. They never get beyond the first falling in love/falling out of love stage. As soon as the honeymoon period is over, they are on the next flight home or off on another exciting adventure. The locals have seen this over and over again, so they take everything newcomers say with a huge grain of salt. Only once you cross the 2-year-mark, do they begin to accept you and will consider to taking you seriously.

Why do we enjoy living in this funny little Central American/Caribbean country? (Belize has a minor identity crisis; it sees itself as a Caribbean nation, when truthfully it's Central American) Well there are many reasons. Mainly the sense of freedom that you feel when you live here, the fact that our children can play outside without us having to breath down their necks at all times, the unending supply of sunshine, the relaxed attitude of the locals, the astounding natural surroundings, the reef, the caves, the Mayan temples, the wildlife, the sweet and juicy fruits that readily drop from the trees, the fact that we can live like kings and queens on a reasonable budget and the simplicity of life that is a constant undercurrent in developing nations.

Once you've experienced life in a country that doesn't rush, you start to see the insanity of this very Western habit. Why do people in Europe and America rush all the time? Generally they are busy making money to buy stuff and to build ever bigger houses to put all their stuff in and then they end up with debts to pay for the upkeep of these houses and their stuff in it, so they have to work harder yet again & round and round it goes.

In Belize we get to enjoy the simple pleasures that don't cost anything or at least not much; like watching the sunrise and listening to the jungle awakening, climbing trees with our 3-year-old, taking him cave tubing & snorkeling, shining flashlights in the garden at night, catching frogs and tadpoles (big hit with young boys), enjoying fruits and vegetables from our own garden, etc. Stuff that many people in Western society just don't have time for anymore.

The funny thing is that we actually have managed to make a decent living for ourselves here whilst doing all this. Simply by sharing this lifestyle with others. We generally eat with the guests of our jungle lodge, their kids (when they have them) run around with ours and with all the local Mayan children, we all walk (on bare feet) to the edge of the garden to admire groups of howler monkeys, we enjoy the fresh produce from our gardens together, play board games, float in the pool at night whilst stargazing, etc.

It's wonderful that people actually pay us to experience this lifestyle with us for whatever period of time they are here, as this enables us to continue living like this. So it's another catch 22, but quite a pleasant one.

Still, as idyllic as this all sounds, life is far from perfect here. After years of trying to find perfect…(fill in the blanc) I have come to see that perfection is nothing but a trick of light, a mirage, like the end of the rainbow. It simply doesn't exist.

See, reality can also be harsh when you surround yourself with as much nature as we have. Mother Nature, in all her beauty, can be a rather fierce lady; you simply don't mess with her. When the river floods, it floods, when lightening decides to hit your house 3 times in as many years you deal with it, when biting insects attack, you get used to it as best you can, when it rains, it pours and when it's hot it can be unbearable.

So will we ever go back to Europe? Who knows? Right now I wouldn't want to give up the great life we have created here, but I know that nothing ever stays the same, so it's possible that one day we may want to. What I do know for sure is that living in Europe will never be like it was before. The world has already changed too much for that in the last 5 years. We emigrated from England to Belize on September 11th 2001, the day the world changed into the mess it seems to have become. I try to keep positive and to see the metaphor in it all. The world can never go back to being like it was before 9/11 and neither can we.