Tuesday, August 28, 2012

And So Begins Our Adventure

So there we were, retired in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, we had a lovely home in a great development and spent our time remodeling, doing volunteer work, and getting on with our lives.

But as the years went by (five of them to be exact), we started asking ourselves, “Is this how we want to spend all or part of our retirement?  Should we have some adventure in our lives?”

Don’t misunderstand – it wasn’t like we weren’t happy, but more of a case of, “Is there more for us?" Besides, Hendersonville is a real Republican stronghold and the daily papers often made our blood boil.
For a number of years, we vacationed in the Caribbean and daydreamed of living in a tropical setting. The sound of rustling palm trees, being close to the water, and having a laid back, simple lifestyle really appealed to us. We also felt that we wanted to get out of our comfort zone and experience a different culture. In short, we really felt antsy for some adventure.

But after visiting a number of islands, none really jumped out at us as a relocation possibility, mostly because of the outrageous cost of living. So we started exploring alternatives to an island as a new adventure spot.  Belize had been on our “bucket list” for a place to visit for a while, and as neither one of us had been to Central America, we decided to check it out.
Before going to any new vacation locale, we always do a fair amount of research to figure out where we want to stay, things to do, and to have some idea of the culture. Our trip planning for Belize covered all those things. And because it had the possibility of being a relocation option, we did even more. From buying and reading various books, scouring blogs and forums, to checking out online real estate, we spent countless hours on our computers gathering details. 
The more we read and learned about the country, the more intrigued we became. Belize is a small country – about the size of New Hampshire – will about 310,00 people. It’s tropical, they speak English, and many people had given excellent reviews as a vacation spot. As an added bonus, the Belize dollar (BZ$) is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a ratio of 2 Belize dollars to 1 U.S. dollar. Sweet!

We are not the kind of couple who likes touristy kinds of areas, crazy nightlife, or big hotels. Any time we’ve travelled, we’ve generally visited areas a bit off the beaten path and stayed in hotels with 20 rooms or less.  For our Belize trip, we decided to check out the Corozal district, located in the northern part of the country. Located right on a large bay, it is not a tourist mecca, (read no cruise ships), no duty free shops, big box stores or chains of any kind, in short, not much to see or do. Just a great sounding place to relax.

While checking some online real estate listings, there was one house, in particular, which caught our eye. We kept coming back to it, mostly because of the beautiful landscaping. But as we had heard there is no MLS in Belize and we didn’t know of any real estate agents, we thought we would see what contacts we could muster up once we got down there.

Then the first of many coincidences happened. When we booked reservations at the Copa Banana Guesthouse, the owner let us know that her significant other was a realtor. Hmmm, maybe we could get some details on properties during our visit after all.

In the meantime, we also were avidly reading a blog, Winjama – Our Adventures in Paradise, written by an expat by the name of Dave Rider. He and his wife live in Corozal Town, and his posts cover the gamut of their experiences in their move to and experiences in Belize and make for fascinating, funny, and informative reading. Knowing that Corozal Town wasn’t that big, we shot Dave an email asking if we could meet him at some local watering hole during our stay to pick his brain on a number of questions that we had. He not only was open to meeting with us, but invited us over to his home. And get this, his house is a stone’s throw from the guesthouse where we were staying.

By the time our March 1 departure date arrived, we were thinking that Belize may be an interesting possibility for a new adventure. Our game plan was to spend the two weeks there getting a feel for the place, do as much information gathering as we could, and see how we felt once we came back to North Carolina. Even if it turned out that we weren’t taken with the place, we would at least have had an interesting vacation to a country we’ve never been before.
Little did we know what the fates had in store for us and the other crazy coincidences that were about to happen.
To be continued

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