© 2021 Carmelita Gardens.
When I presented at the LIOS Belize Conference this past February, I began by promising an inside joke and with this simple statement that many might find surprising: “I am not living a dream. Nor am I living in Utopia, which means Nowhere – nor in Paradise, which means walled garden.”
I live somewhere very real and it’s not a gated community. It’s in Carmelita Gardens located in the Cayo district of Belize. And rather than a dream I am living the result of a sound business decision that has me enjoying a higher standard of living and a greater quality of life than where I came from prior to this move.
But I’m not the only one here who made this same sound decision.
And there are dozens more who have made the same smart decision. But there’s one more thing we have in common.
And here’s the inside joke.
You see, I like to call all of us geniuses for being here and the more the world churns, the better our decision seems to be.
Some background: I began seriously to think about leaving my complex, unnatural modern life about 20 years ago because I was tethered to something I wasn’t very happy with. And it was more than just the harsh winters. I’m a New Yorker, born and bred… but I’ve dreamed most of my life of leaving it far behind. It is a very unnatural environment to live in.
For me, the best part of retirement was the chance to put that unnatural New York City lifestyle behind me. But it took ten years of hard work to accomplish after a financial setback and to get the necessary information for such a move.
Instead of utopia, I found a place where the living is uncomplicated, back-to-basics, and super affordable. I was able to buy my cottage here, fully furnished, fully outfitted, which I named Ithaca. Reason? If you’re familiar with Homer’s classic the Odyssey you’ll know it took Odysseus ten years of hard work to get back home at the conclusion of the Trojan War.
The name of his home and kingdom? Ithaca, of course.
Now making such a move has a lot of moving parts. So what did I consider, you may ask.
My approximate monthly expenses are about BZ$1,175 (US$588). That’s less than half of my Social Security benefit. To give you an idea of how affordable it can be to live here, my monthly expenses for one person include:
Utilities (power, water, & lawn work): BZ$160 (US$80),
Internet (without TV): BZ$116 (US$58),
Food (including wine): BZ$900 (US$450).
Of course, I have other expenses but I’m trying to give you an idea of how affordable I’m able to live here. My local phone cost BZ$50 (US $25) with very good service to the United States. Please keep in mind I do not have a vehicle, so gas and car-related expenses are not included in this budget. My purpose is to show the cost of the most basic needs.
Ease Of Adapting
The second thing I had to think about after affordability was the ease of adjustment.
And to me that came down to two things: the language and the people.
The official language in Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is English. The importance of this for an ex-pat from North America cannot be overstated.
All business and real estate dealings, all legal procedures, all banking, shopping and touring of the country – none need interpreters or translators. No go-betweens, no cousins of my uncle who lived in the US twenty years ago and who know how to speak English.
No. None of that.
This is no small matter for us North Americans. This is more than a small benefit. No language shock means virtually no culture shock.
Secondly, the people here in Belize are magnificent.
Essentially they are happy. Very happy. And this can be quite contagious. They are warm, welcoming, and very family oriented.
They have a strong work ethic – a very strong “can do” attitude – and an entrepreneurial spirit that’s easy to see in the many small businesses all over the country. There are no Big Box stores anywhere in the country as well as no fast food restaurants. All businesses here are small businesses.
And Belizeans really love their independence.
Convenience in Belize has a different meaning, anchored to a different way to measure and define it.
There is an entirely different idea of convenience down here that is not first measured in how long as in how much time but in how far.
Back up north, convenience meant quick, fast. That’s the first consideration – how much time will it take to get done?
It doesn’t take much figuring to see that this frame of mind is pressed for time and spending time on a task or job has to be calculated first. Time is the metric, the measuring stick.
Here in Belize the meaning of convenience is connected with distance, location, and space.
Of course this ultimately must consider the time element; it’s just that time is not the first consideration.
Slower time, simpler living, reduced needs… All of these and other factors combine to give me a sense of freedom I haven’t felt since the ’60s. A feeling of freedom – a culture and a way of life.
We, the people I live around and with, are creating a community and a culture of Privacy & Sharing; a community of Interdependence & Individuality. Phil Hahn the developer likes to say we live Independent Together.
© 2021 Carmelita Gardens.