"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. Having departed the worlds of showbiz and soccer (I was an MTV veejay, my husband was a professional soccer player), we desired a change. But why we chose Belize, I don't know. It could as well have 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 two-hour flight from Miami or Houston, politically stable, and part of the Commonwealth as a former British colony (back then known as British Honduras).
We have been living in Belize for five 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, which usually goes through the 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 a shame that 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 adventure. The locals have seen this over and over again, so they take everything newcomers say with a grain of salt. Only when you cross the two-year-mark do they begin to accept you and consider 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, but 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 breathe 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 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 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. 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, and round and round it goes.
In Belize, we get to enjoy the simple pleasures that don't cost anything, or not much -- watching the sunrise and listening to the jungle awaken, climbing trees with our three-year-old, taking him cave tubing and 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 have managed to make a decent living for ourselves while doing all this by sharing this lifestyle with others: we 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; we play board games, float in the pool at night while stargazing...
It's wonderful that people pay to experience this lifestyle with us for whatever period of time they are here, as it enables us to continue living like this.
Still, as idyllic as this sounds, life is far from perfect here. Reality can be harsh when you surround yourself with as much nature as we have. Mother Nature, in all her beauty, can be a fierce lady; you simply don't mess with her. When the river floods, it floods; when lightning decides to hit your house three 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; when it's hot, it can be unbearable.
Will we ever go back to Europe? Who knows? Right now I wouldn't want to give up the great life we have here. I know that nothing stays the same, so it's possible that one day we may want to leave. What I know for sure is that living in Europe will never be like it was. In the past five years, the world has changed too much for that. We emigrated from England to Belize on September 11, 2001, the day the world changed into the mess it has become. I try to keep positive and see the metaphor in it. The world can never go back to being like it was before 9/11, and neither can we.