I love to find out how, when, why people moved to Belize from abroad. Whether they just moved a few weeks ago or a few decades ago like my interviewee, Ana – there can be a wide array of reasons given…but I find they all basically boil down to the same thing.
It all comes down to this: I moved to Belize because this place, this island, made me feel happy…like the world was full of possibility.
The warm weather, the ocean, the diving, the people, all of it yes…but most often, if you let the person talk enough…the reason is that Belize makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Like somehow, even though you weren’t born here, Belize just feels like the place where you are SUPPOSED to be.
It’s my reason 14 years…it was Ana’s reason 20 years ago.
Here’s Ana and her family just a few years ago – living on Ambergris Caye. Also, falling in love here doesn’t hurt 😉
So…I sat down with Ana, who I’ve known for quite a few years, to get her story and found it a bit startling at first – her story was SOOO much like mine. Surprising.
But then not surprising at all…
Our interview took place at the Blue Water Beach Villas. A building of condos, 1 and 2 bedroom, right on the beach AND in “my” neighborhood. At about 6 miles north Ambergris Caye. I’ve never been inside before – though I drive by twice a day (to and from town) – so I got to take a peek.
I’m working with Vacasa now – they are sponsoring my blog – and in the beginning, I didn’t know much about them. They are a large company/network that deals in home/condo/vacation rental management as well as vacation rentals – across the US, in Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica.
So this was the perfect chance to grill Ana, take a few pictures of one of the condos that they manage, and…well…here’s the scoop.
A little something for everyone.
Ana was born in El Salvador but left in the early 1980s (when fled the country due to civil war). She moved to Southern California with her family, attended college and got her MBA at Pepperdine. She loved to travel as much as she could – and loved to SCUBA dive.
In 2000, after being laid off by her corporate job, in her early 30s, Ana decided to take a solo trip to Belize. She stayed at Changes In Latitudes Bed and Breakfast – a 6 room spot just south of San Pedro town.
(Let’s pause to say: HOLY MOLY! I too had just left my corporate job, I too was in my early 30s, I too stayed at Changes in Latitudes – my first trip to Belize ever in August 2006.)
Ana fell in love with the island…and soon spent her mornings helping the other guests at the B&B plan their days and their tours and she kept extending her trip. Just one more month…and then another. The owner of the B&B, Lori, asked Ana if she would be willing to take care of the business for 6 weeks so that she could return to Europe to visit family. All was ideal…until…Hurricane Keith – the last BIG storm to hit Belize. (Let’s all knock on wood right now)
You can make out the Yucatan peninsula above but not Ambergris Caye – Belize is right beneath that horrible swirl.
A Category 4, Keith caused significant damage as it hovered over the island for days. Damage in Belize, and across Central America in the last days of September/early October of 2000 was significant. You can read more about it here (About 10% of Belize’s population was evacuated from their homes – including the entire town of Corozal).
TMM Charters Belize, then a 21-boat boat charter company on the island, had its office in San Pedro. They suffered extensive damage to the boats, to their dock, and to their office. One of the owner’s brothers came over from Denmark to help with the clean-up…and…well…he just happened to be young and handsome and…Ana and Erik fell in love.
They first met at the super-popular Barefoot Iguana Nightclub which was THE HOT SPOT at the time. The building is still there…you’ll recognize it if you’ve driven south of town or been to Roadkill Bar.
Photo from AmbergrisCaye.com
And now I do the fast-forward version: They got married and stayed in San Pedro. They have 2 kids, 15 and 17 years old. Both attended the Island Academy here in San Pedro through the equivalent of Middle School in the US. Ana’s daughter then went on to Belize High School in Belize City and just graduated! No small feat – the school is a 1.5-hour water taxi commute each way from Ambergris Caye to Belize City)- that she makes me a small group of students each day! 2x a day! AND IT WAS WORTH IT because…
At the end of ths summer, Alexandra is going to the University of Southern California (USc) – the school she chose out of a number that she was accepted to.
Ana’s son is headed to Denmark next year for high school.
And just last week at BHS graduation…so exciting.
I’m going to share Ana’s information at the end of this post – so that you can talk to her about vacation property management or renting a short-term or long-term place but also so you can talk to her about kids and the island and education. I get SO many emails about this topic…and it’s such an important thing to square away before you move to Belize.
Before I wrap this up…
I asked Ana a few other questions…about changes on the island. Big change? The size of buildings! When she first moved to Ambergris Caye, Oasis del Caribe was considered a HUGE building..bordering on outlandish! And the visitors. Ambergris Caye used to be a destination that mainly attracted dedicated SCUBA divers and flyfishermen…now it’s a sun and fun destination for younger travelers, for budget travelers, for everyone.
I also asked for tips on becoming part of the community. It’s very easy to move to Belize and stay part of an expat group…here are her suggestions – one I have embraced and one…IS SO HARD! But I am going to make more of an effort….
- Attend local events and embrace the culture- like the yearly Mothers’ Day dinner held by the Town Council each year. Attend parades and festivals – even…I mean ESPECIALLY ones that you are unfamiliar with. Dia De San Pedro is coming up this week!
- Try to learn Spanish. Although English is the national language of Belize and just about everyone speaks it, very FEW Belizeans speak English at home. Many speak Creole when with friends and family but in San Pedro – most folks speak Spanish at home. She promises that you don’t need to be fluent…it’s just nice and appreciated if you make the effort.
Ana has worked in property management most of her time in Belize – from when she was asked to help out with B&B-sitting to taking on more and more units and homes and making it a business – Ambergris Caye Vacation Rentals.
But the vacation rental business has changed in the last 5 or so years – I remember when my parents used to rent a summer cabin in Upstate NY for our yearly vacation thru an ad in the local newspaper! Photos? What photos?
Ana, with her strong operational skills and all her local knowledge and connections, teamed up with VACASA. To combine the on-the-ground know-how with the technology and large marketing network.
So…if you are looking for a place to stay in San Pedro – or anywhere in Belize (they have a network throughout the country) – or are considering property management – contact Ana.
Or…if you have questions about moving to Belize with kids!
Thanks for letting me grill you, Ana. 🙂 I hope you don’t reget it.
For VACASA’s Belize listings, click here.
For information about vacation rental management, click here.
OR to chat with Ana directly – this is her email address. [email protected]
And as always, thanks for supporting my sponsors! They allow me to do what I love – and get you the scoop.