It’s the Little Things…

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on November 21, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

It was our last evening together in paradise, and 3 of us were sitting around a table on the beach enjoying a freshly-prepared BBQ.  The moon was just starting to appear from behind the darkened clouds, and the palms swaying provided a refreshing breeze.  We had just spent the last 4 days together at the Global Investment Symposium on Ambergris Caye, Belize, and in addition to rehashing what we just learned, we were chatting about life.

This U.S.-based couple I was sitting with asked me about expat life on the island.  They wanted to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I took a deep breath and paused for a moment.  My head was spinning.  Where to begin?  Typically, I have a standard, 30-second answer to this question.  This couple was digging deeper though.  They wanted more than just the ready-to-serve response…

It’s the Little Things…

San Pedro from above.

A few seconds later, I came up with the right word.  Quirky.  Island living has been quirky.  The motions of everyday life don’t change just because your location does.  No matter where you live, you have the ups and you have the downs.  Some things you can control, and other things you can only change your reaction to.

When I was explaining this to my tablemates, I reflected on one of my first trips to Ambergris Caye, back in 2012, when Skype was still blocked and blackouts were a guarantee at least once a week.  This was only 5 years ago, yet the island has grown up since.  It’s as if Ambergris was a perpetual toddler.  Then, over the past few years, she transitioned into her teenage years.  Still figuring herself out, yet beautiful in the process.  And the most amazing part is that she still has the Caribbean charm for which she became famous many years ago.  Brightly colored houses line the newly paved streets, Coconut Lady still shouts about her natural coconut water as we pass by, and Ruby’s continues to serve freshly brewed coffee at 4:30am for the early birds.

Many of these island quirks are the reasons I fell in love with Belize.  Some are also the reason why I may be prematurely graying.  It’s a love/hate kinda thing ☺.  With Belize reaching the top of many international destination publications, I figured I’d let you in on ten of the little-known allures that give this country its unique charm:

  1. You can ride co-pilot when flying on Tropic Air, the domestic air carrier.  When traveling in-country there are a few different modes of transportation, and one of the most popular is to catch a puddle jumper.  When the plane is full, one lucky rider will be asked to sit in the co-pilot seat… and reminded not to touch anything!  Seeing the incredible 10,000-foot views from beside the pilot is exhilarating and surreal.

It’s the Little Things…

Tropic Air’s Cessna caravan.

  1. Golf carts are the most popular mode of transportation on Ambergris Caye. Yes, there are some cars, most of which are older minivans that are now taxi cabs.  You’ll see some private cars, but due to the narrow streets and limited parking, folks tend to prefer vehicles that are more navigable – and golf carts easily take the cake.  On the mainland, you’ll find more cars and 4x4s over golf carts and Polaris.
  1. Crank-bridges still exist, although not so much on Ambergris Caye.  A little over 10 years ago, the Boca del Rio bridge was constructed connecting the northern part of the island to San Pedro and the south.  However, a few weeks ago, Betsy and I were on the mainland and accidentally stumbled upon the back road into Spanish Lookout. We took the bumpy dirt road that led to the raging river, only to be greeted by a queue of cars all waiting to make their way to the other side via a crank-bridge.  Only 3 cars could fit on the platform at a time and it was operated by a single gentleman, while a few Mennonite kids sold sweet snacks and beverages.   After a 15-ish-minute wait, it took about 6 minutes to cross the river and continue on the journey.

It’s the Little Things…

  1. Get to know the employees at the local shops.  Once they recognize you (and hopefully like you!), you’ll start to receive special discounts and perks.  For example, you may have read about my favorite pineapple lady, Tina, who works a few buildings down at Esperanza’s.  She’ll cut up the pineapple for me and even throw in an extra snack at no cost.  A little conversation and familiarization with the locals goes a long way.
  1. When the door is open, it’s an open-door policy.  One stormy evening night, Betsy and I heard a commotion outside of the office.  Glancing at each other, wondering who would be visiting us at this bizarre hour, we slowly glanced out the door frame to see a small lady and her food cart.  She was seeking shelter from the rain under our portico and we began chatting.  Edel, as she introduced herself, began to tell us what she had in her Annie’s pastry box.  We discovered the jalapeño poppers that night, and during her tenure with Annie’s, Edel would save a few poppers for us and hand-deliver them at the office if she saw the door was open.  In addition to Edel, when the door is open it’s not uncommon to be solicited.  We are often visited by folks offering homemade fudge, meat pies, artwork, asking for donations, looking to earn a quick buck by washing our golf carts, etc.  It’s typical and it’s also how you get to meet the people in the community.

It’s the Little Things…

It’s the Little Things…

  1. Queen’s Land/Crown Reserves = public access way.  One of my favorite land laws in Belize is that the first 66 feet of beach are open access ways to everyone.  That means everyone can enjoy a refreshing, morning walk in the sand while watching the sunrise.

It’s the Little Things…

Sunrise from the Queen’s Land.

  1. Avocados can be the size of a human head!  There is a fantastic produce service called “Shoots Alive,” which allows you to shop online for fresh produce from a handful of farms throughout the country.  This service will deliver your personalized order to you, straight off the vine in a styrofoam cooler.  One week Betsy ordered a “Large Avocado.”  Not much more said in the description, but loving avocados, she ordered one.  A few days after eating avocado for every meal, she gave me half… photo below.

It’s the Little Things…

  1. Despite being a British colony, unlike Bermuda, St. Kitts, or the Bahamas, we drive on the right-hand side of the road in Belize.  There are a few different stories as to why this is the case, but the one that makes the most sense dates back to the 1930s, when the Pan-American highway was constructed.  The rest of the region was driving on the right-hand side of the road, so to keep it consistent, British Honduras (as Belize was known in that era) drove on the right-hand side as well.

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  1. Hermit crab races.  Yes, on Ambergris Caye you can bet on the hermit crab of your choosing to be the first to find its way out of a convoluted obstacle course.  This one-of-a-kind event takes place at the iconic Crazy Canucks beach restaurant and bar, and it is a great way to mingle amongst the locals, expats, and travelers.
  1. Watch out for the lizards – both the big and the little ones.  The little guys tend to weasel their way into your bags and onto your ceilings, while the monstrous ones idly linger around in the sand and in your backyard.  While not dangerous, they do move quickly, so have your camera ready to snap their photo!

It’s the Little Things…

This sneaky critter tried to get into my purse!

  1. And one more bonus for you.  Belize DOES NOT have the mega-chain stores that we’re used to in North America… no Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, or Starbucks. What this means is two things:  (1.)  You’re supporting local businesses by shopping at stores owned by Belizeans.  Yay.  And (2.)  It can be really difficult to find what you’re looking for.  What could’ve been a quick, all-inclusive trip to Target in the States could turn into a 5-store search in Belize.  It’s equally entertaining as it is frustrating, but the key to success in this case is to understand what you’re up against.  Get recommendations from others if you’re not sure where to start, because chances are, others have gone through a similar experience.

It’s the Little Things…

We may not have a Subway, but we have a “Sub-Away”… and a Mar-bucks 🙂

We all have our favorite reasons as to why we continue to visit places, and I hope you have found your special spot or are at least in the process.  With the world becoming smaller due to affordability of travel, and many jobs becoming remote, we’re seeing more and more people test-driving life abroad.

Request the complimentary Belize Handbook here to discover more interesting facts about this charming destination.  Looking forward to seeing you for a holiday in the tropics this winter season!

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on November 21, 2017. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.