“Here I am
One flip flop and a farmer’s tan
Floatin’ ’round the bay on the net of a catamaran
Wouldn’t mind if I got lost at sea
You can leave your watch
Don’t you know we’re on island time?
Everybody’s in the business of feeling fine”
– Brett Eldredge
A tropical catamaran ride with my mom and sister!
Island life is often synonymous with being stress-free. It’s a state of mind that washes all your worries away and highlights being in the moment. It’s often perceived as a dreamy utopia. Think about it. Every day you could wake up to see the sun rise over the crystal blue waters, a fresh cup of java in your hand, and the neighboring palm trees standing still, as island life hasn’t woken up yet. And in the background, all you can hear are the waves breaking and the dolphins singing. Sounds quite relaxing, doesn’t it?
Capturing this ideal of relaxation is a contributing factor to why Jimmy Buffett has been so successful his with Tropical Country Rock music, i.e. Margaritaville. In fact, this theme has been so successful that he started branding “Margaritaville” with chain restaurants, hotels, paraphernalia (yes, there is a margarita blender!!), and he even hosts a Margaritaville at Sea cruise on Norwegian.
Buffett, along with other artists including Brett Eldredge and Alan Jackson, have successfully conveyed the ultimate dream of complete R&R while being out of touch with reality. There is a preconceived notion that once you’re on island time, any past stressors disappear and life is always good. And people love it.
Whenever visitors come to Belize, there is one thing they almost always say to me – usually in a golf cart on the way to get ice cream after a delicious fresh ceviche at a beachfront restaurant. Something along the lines of, “I can’t believe this is your life. It’s awesome!” I smile and nod, agreeing that it is, and then give them a reality check.
When the vacationmoon phase ends and you realize that you’re still the same person living the same life, maybe in a new location, the reality sets in. It’s life. We’re all going to have stressors of some sort. But being on an island, surrounded by natural beauty and a slower pace of life, that stress can be reduced. When we simplify and stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, we realize the ease in being happy. Anyone can do it; it doesn’t have to just be a dream that comes alive when It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere plays on your radio.
Most of my time is spent on the road, yet when I’m on the small 15-passenger Cessna Caravan flying over the Caribbean from the city to Ambergris Caye, Belize, I feel like I am coming home. And I say home for a few reasons. Home, to me, is where I feel comfortable. It’s where I have a community. It’s a place where I can navigate without having to rely on a GPS that always seems to be recalculating.
An evening out with my Belize family.
My friend, Mike Cobb, introduced me to Ambergris Caye, Belize, in 2012. His first visit to the island was in the early 90s. I’m only a couple of decades behind, but the growth that has occurred in only 5 short years has been exponential. Improvements don’t happen overnight and they’re certainly not guaranteed. Progress takes the mutual understanding and agreement that “item x” needs to be fixed, support on a bureaucratic level, and of course funding.
On Ambergris Caye, the biggest tourism tax collector in all of Belize (producing 2/3 of all tourism revenue that is generated in Belize!), infrastructure continues to improve to enhance the lives of the locals, expats, and visitors alike.
Some exciting highlights over the past few years include:
- In 2013, there was a country lift to full and open access to VoIP lines, including Skype and Vonage.
- In April 2014, paving started on the main northern road on Ambergris Caye.
- For the first time ever, in August 2017 fiber optics will be ready for use on Ambergris.
Talking about infrastructure doesn’t seem to tickle one’s fancy all that often. But seeing the before and after photos of progress is exciting. I was browsing Facebook a week or so ago and I saw a throwback photo posted by The Truck Stop, one of the most popular hot spots on the island. Two years ago, The Truck Stop was an idea, an untouched island lot with a few containers plopped on the land. Today, it is a must-visit destination populated by both locals and visitors to enjoy the warm outdoor ambiance, cuisine, and entertainment.
Photo credit from The Truck Stop’s Facebook Page.
This sort of infrastructure improvement is a telling sign that Belize is in the path of progress.
My good friend and colleague, Christian Burn, a born and bred Belizean who grew up on a ranch in Orange Walk, moved back to Belize, specifically Ambergris, in 2016. She studied at a university in Canada, first focusing on psychology then shifting to tourism once realizing the huge growth happening in her home country. Talking to Christian is always a great treat because she’s open to sharing her local perspective. Her hope is for her country to be profitable through tourism like many developed nations, and not to lose the sense of charm that makes her country unique. With dedicated outlets like Belize Tourism Board (BTB), Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA), Rotary, etc., there is a unified effort to move the country forward in the smartest way possible.
One of the primary reasons that Belize has remained near and dear to my heart plays a significant role in my quality of life, and it may be different for you. It’s that sense of community that I just don’t witness in many places anymore. Like being greeted by name by Tropic Air’s employee, Marlon, every time I descend from the puddle jumper’s stairs. Or the ladies at Big Tree Produce starting to make my all-time favorite smoothie without having to ask for it. Or Mike at Paradice Cream insisting on trying his new ice cream flavors even when I’m just passing by.
I didn’t move to Ambergris because I wanted to retire and hang out on the beach all day. I don’t do well sitting still – but if you do, then perhaps Belize is on your short-list. And if you’re more of a zoomer, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself busy on the island. Perhaps being the manager of an island B&B (tourism just keeps rising!), or running an international cuisine hotspot, if you like to cook. If you’re passionate about helping and teaching others, and have an entrepreneurial heart, the opportunities in Belize are abundant.
Volleyball with some colleagues & beach-goers at Secret Beach’s top destination, Secret Paradise.
So, Brett Eldredge, you got it right… for the most part. Island life is magical and many people live on island time (bringing the practice of patience into the mix that you may remember from the article a couple of weeks back). Ambergris caters well to those who want to kick back and relax, yet it also offers exciting opportunities for those who aren’t quite ready to take a seat.
This island is home.
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