I crossed into Belize on November 23rd, 2021 and I arrived at my home on November 25th, 2021 after spending just over two years biking just over 26,000 km’s to get here. The original plan was to always keep pedaling south to Argentina but my relationship with my property managers was deteriorating and the future did not look promising. I could risk biking further south but when I arrived home, I knew at that point that was not going to happen. Less than a month after my arrival home the husband of my property managers team flew to Canada. Within days of his arrival in Canada, he declared “a war” against me via email. Between him and his wife, they made every effort they could to make my life difficult here. I have no idea who won the war as I would not participate and at the time of writing this post, he is still in Canada. But without a doubt, continuing my bike ride was not an option.
In all honesty, I have no idea how to articulate how my first year in Belize has been. In the beginning, something told me to rest on an important lesson I learned when I got my AZ truck driving license. The first year as a truck driver would be hard, very hard. I am fairly active on social media posting all the cool and neat things I see and do here in Belize but the reality is that those photos do not show what real life is like. Life is hard, very hard. The stress, frustrations and challenges that I had to face almost daily definitely took a heavy toll on me this last year. I couldn’t imagine a traditional life in Canada. I have lived it. I could handle the lifestyle of a long-haul truck driver but that is not a traditional lifestyle. The traditional lifestyle that everyone else lives in Canada slowly sucked my soul of its life. Life in the jungle and surrounded by nature and wildlife gives my soul life. But at a cost.
With the decision to stay in Belize, I knew I needed to get right to work. I knew it would be tough and success would be a long shot at best. I just didn’t count on how tough it would be. I am pretty convinced at this point I am living a pipe dream.
[Pipe dream definition: an idea or plan that is impossible or very unlikely to happen.]
I had six priorities. Six items that I needed to accomplish for either success or required basic necessities to function here in Belize.
- Transfer my business license into my name
- Transfer my tourist license into my name
- Get a work permit to help facilitate my Belize residency
- Get my property deeds for my land purchased in 2010 and 2017
- Get my road repaired so that I can run my Airbnb and any other business venture I may start
- An internet connection at the house
Back in 2019, I had my house set up as an Airbnb. Given the investment and the fact that the house would sit empty for who knows how long this seemed like a wise move. Originally the business license was put in my property manager’s wife’s name. It made sense at the time. I was not in Belize during this time and transferring the business license ownership would be an easy process when the time came to transfer. Except I never counted on my property managers declaring war on me and refusing to sign over my business license.
A mutual paralegal offered to help me sort out this mess as he felt I was being unfairly treated (so he said). Nervously I accepted his offer as he was already familiar with all of my affairs. I only ever met this guy once but he had done a lot of work for me to get my house registered with the Belize Tourist Board in the past and he was working on my property deeds already. I had no one else I could turn to or help me. He tried every which way but the wife would not sign over my business to me. He then offered to incorporate my business for free and somehow through that process would be able to remove her name. I agreed. I signed off on the corporation papers back in May but would finally discover in October that he never submitted my papers to the business registry office.
It was quite an ordeal to get my house properly registered with Belize Tourism Board back in 2019. I made numerous attempts to get my accounts in order and or to make sure my account is current with them. No one there can be bothered to communicate or sit with me and make sure everything is in order. I have documented my attempts to reach out to them and have since given up trying. And with the drawn-out delays and headaches with my business license, I was not anxious to waste my time knocking on their door in case my lack of a business license becomes an issue (at the time).
The plan was to get a work permit fairly quickly as I was hoping that with a work permit, I would save time and money at Belize Immigration. Everything has changed drastically since my last work permit and regular visits to Belize Immigration in 2010. In 2010 a monthly extension stamp used to cost $50 USD and you would be in and out of Belize Immigration in 10 minutes. Now the extension is $100 USD and it took up to an hour and a half of waiting. And most times they give me a hard time about actually being in Belize. They once even wrote in my passport not to give me any more monthly extensions. To put the $100 USD monthly extension into perspective. Mexico is $35 USD for 6 months!
Also, the only work permit that I am now allowed to apply for is as a foreign business owner at the cost of $1,500 USD. In the beginning, I thought maybe I could qualify for a different category of work permit. I thought I might be able to apply under a different category and attempted to do so. My paralegal offered to help with this. He royally screwed me and that is when everything blew up in my face. I did not hide anything and the Labor Department approved me for what would have been a cheaper permit. Even though I did not realize I was doing anything wrong the Immigration department is convinced I am trying to rip the country of Belize off by trying not to pay $1,500 USD. The Labor Department says everything that happened is all my fault even though I disclosed everything and they approved my work permit first through an officer of the department and then an independent review committee.
The Labor Department made me reapply for my work permit and go through the whole headache all over again.
Business License, Tourist License, Work Permit, Immigration end of year Update
At the same time my second work permit application was approved is when I discovered that I had been screwed on my business corporation which would make my work permit void. I was forced to close my Airbnb. On the flip side, this has removed a considerable amount of stress. I have a horrible road that can’t be driven down by a normal vehicle 80% of the year. With no Airbnb, I don’t have to worry about the road (right now). You will read about my road situation soon. With no Airbnb, I don’t have to worry about a work permit which saved me $1,500 USD. And the Belize Tourist Board has never contacted me (anyways).
As far as Belize immigration goes; I now travel to Belmopan for my monthly stamp. They are polite and efficient there. They do not accuse me of wrongdoings, or ask me ridiculous questions that are none of their business. They do not send me away to get bank statement photocopies and other B.S. They don’t threaten to kick me out of the country like Belize City used to do. You have no idea how much stress and anxiety Belize City Immigration would cause me every month. And that anxiety would stay with me for the whole month because I never knew what they were going to try to pull the next month. I don’t think I even slept during the month of September. Keeping in mind if I had ever been kicked out of Belize, I would instantly lose my house and everything I had been working for the last 20 years. The only problem now is that I now spend an extra 3 hours on a bus going back in forth between Belize City and Belmopan to get my stamp there. But for my mental health, it’s worth it.
I bought my house on a ¾ acre lot in 2003. The process was simple and with no problems. In 2014 I bought a joining ¾ lot. Apparently, the surveyor never signed off or submitted the survey properly. A land deed was never submitted to me. In 2017 I purchased 40 more acres (10 acres plus 30 acres) from the same person. In the process of that transaction, the owner passed away. Because of the probate of his last Will and then Covid-19 government delays, those land deeds have never been released. I am waiting 8 years for one land deed and five years for two land deeds. My paralegal strung me along all year with this issue also. He kept telling me that we were still waiting for probate to be completed and that everything had drawn out for so long because everything had been shut down and stopped when Covid-19 hit which of course made sense. In October I visited the Supreme Court of Belize to discover that the owner’s Will had never been submitted.
In early December I had to hire a lawyer to track down my deeds. It’s anyone’s guess how long all this will play out and how much money this will cost me.
Reflecting on my situation with my business license, corporation papers, work permit and property deeds I am pretty much that guy that you read about in the newspaper that got screwed and ripped off royally. The level of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights this guy has cost me is mind-blowing. The financial expense is yet to be determined. This guy strung me along and wasted about 10 months of my time this year. Because he is also a Justice of the Peace in November, I submitted a 3,000 word formal complaint against him to the Attorney General Office of Belize. At this point, they have never acknowledged my letter. When I get further clarity from my new lawyer about my land deeds I may follow up with the AG of B. My new lawyer has been in touch with this guy and I don’t want to jinx anything prematurely.
For many years I authorized as a joint expense with my property managers to get our road fixed properly. We live on a two mile dead-end dirt road that ¾’s of the year is impassable. Almost no work has been done on our government road in the last 20 years. With an impassable road, I can not operate an Airbnb properly or any other future endeavor. I paid out $3,000 USD to a heavy equipment operator who advised me to have him scrape out the muck off the road with a bulldozer and replace it with sand. Then in the dry season, he would return and put a layer of rock over the sand. The guy never returned in the dry season to put rock over the sand and then the rainy season hit. The road became a muddy disaster all over again. This guy wasted my $3,000 USD.
****Edit update. After 18 months since my arrival in Belize including 9 months of hounding government officials on May 27th, the government dumped and spread 13 dump truck loads of stone on my road. This was my first major victory in Belize.
Within the first week of arriving in Belize, I looked into getting a proper internet connection at my house. I reached out to the main Belize internet provider. I was told for 7 months that they did not have the equipment available. Five months ago, I was told they have the equipment but now they need to upgrade the service. I have never heard back from them.
In early November I found out that a local provider in my immediate area is upgrading their system so they would be able to service me. Then Hurricane Lisa hit. I am still waiting to hear from them. For thirteen months I have been trying to get a proper internet connection with no luck.
****Edit update. After 18 months on June 2, 2023, I finally got my internet connection. You can read about that gong show HERE. This is my second major victory in Belize.
There you have it. Six vital important tasks I needed to complete as soon as possible and not only has none of them been completed the worst possible outcome that one could hope for has been my results. Basically, a year of effort was wasted. Can you imagine if I continued on with my bike ride?
Let’s focus on some positives
Before I arrived in Belize, I thought I might take it easy for a bit and reflect on the next chapter of my life. That did not happen. Pretty much from the first day I was home, I have virtually gone none stop. It is unbelievable how much work is required to maintain a house and property in the jungle. Every day you battle the elements. I have tried to focus on what was in front of me. While I have 42 acres of land besides the house only about 5 acres are cleared. I have 3 acres (of the 5 acres) that had about 300 baby and young coconut trees planted on it. I also have 2 acres (of the 5 acres) with 2 large fish ponds with about 50 mature coconut trees planted there. Both sections of land were very unkept and overgrown with bush when I arrived home.
Lots of amazing creatures to find. A Yucatan Banded gecko
The Coconut Field
The day after my arrival a bushhog showed up to cut the grass and bush down. I had to manually clean around the 300 coconut trees and remove some fallen trees. Over the last year, I quickly planted another 100 coconut trees on the plot. I also raised fruit tree seedlings from seeds. So far, I have planted over 300 assorted fruit trees that include 165 soursops, 52 lime, 36 lemon, 27 cashew and 26 starfruit seedlings. I also purchased about 30 assorted fruit trees (mostly citrus) from the Belize agriculture fair last May. For the last 6 months, we have had fairly heavy rainfall. Many seedlings are under stress. I anticipate some losses in the future.
In the meantime, I have done a pretty good job of keeping the field and trees maintained all year. Every 2 months or so I start at one corner and clean under the now 700 baby and young trees with a machete. The bushhog came one more time in May and I am desperate for him to return as soon as the field is dry enough.
The ponds took a tremendous amount of work and over half a year to get cleaned up of overgrown bush. No bushhog could help me with that as the planting areas are on huge mounds of dirt from when the ponds were dug by an excavator. In recent months I have started planting seedlings along the ponds. I have planted 75 lime trees, 32 custard apple trees and 13 jackfruit trees there. I have also recently planted and have over 100 papaya seedlings come up. I have also done a pretty good job in keeping all this area clean and maintained. ***Edit update. Very few of the papaya plants survived the upcoming dry season.
Soon after my arrival, I start planting as many fruit tree seeds as I could get my hands. Trees don’t exactly mature overnight. It has become a bit of an obsession of mine. Without the internet, I can’t get a regular day job. And with no idea when I would actually get internet, it was important for me to be as productive as humanly possible. Planting seeds made sense to me. I have obviously planted way more seeds than I have actually germinated. Besides the 440 odd seedlings I have planted in the coconut field and at the ponds, I also have 80 soursops, 200 lime, 60 lemon, 30 custard, 30 orange, 34 starfruit and 55 pomegranate young seedlings that are still too young for planting. Plus, many 100’s of other seed bags with seeds waiting to see if they germinate.
At any given time close to 1,000 seed bags in inventory
I could be wrong, but I am convinced that if I am to be successful in Belize long term, I need a greenhouse. Back in June, I started that greenhouse. I figured if I didn’t start building a greenhouse as soon as possible someday my savings would be way lower and I would never have the courage to start building it. The greenhouse is framed. To fill the space on my property where the greenhouse would fit allowed for a 1,000 square foot structure. During the framing stage, I decided (last minute) to incorporate a tiny apartment (12ftx10ft) into the greenhouse. There was more than enough space. This would allow me to rent out either the house or the apartment someday. The apartment is only framed and sealed (exterior siding) but not finished. The apartment will likely remain unfinished until a permanent use for it is needed.
The greenhouse sits largely unfinished and very little work has been done on it in months. Painting has been sporadically done depending on a heavy rainy season. My current biggest issue is that since the greenhouse was started, I can’t get the materials required for the floor down my road. I need a dump truck of cement mix to continue work.
The plan for the greenhouse is to get into aquaponics and hydroponics and of course, germinating lots of fruit trees and lumber tree seeds.
Before starting the large greenhouse, I built a small 10ft x 8ft enclosure to grow watermelons. It needs to be enclosed to keep iguanas from eating my plants. I currently have a few plants growing but I have still had difficulties with other pests.
Because of the never-ending delays on the main greenhouse today I actually finished building two small screen-covered greenhouses on my deck to grow vegetables.
When I was building the greenhouse, I also built a chicken coop and have recently been raising chickens. I have learned a few lessons the hard way but the other week I got my first chicks. Along with my main coop, I have 1 double hen house enclosed in chicken wire and just finished building a second double hen house and am about to enclose that house in a pen also. I am considering raising meat rabbits also.
Chicken coops. Notice the mud.
Some other Experiences of 2022
I have seen lots of wildlife since getting to Belize. I have found quite a few boa constrictors, 2 adult Fer de Lance snakes (venomous) and caught my first Red eye tree frog ever here in Belize. On December 20th I came across and got a great photo of a Northern Tamandua (anteater) in my coconut field and my prize sighting of a mountain lion at my ponds and only 25 ft from me on October 13th.
Northern Tamarandu (anteater)
On November 2nd Hurricane Lisa a strong Category 1 hurricane with sustained 75 mile an hour winds hit Belize. This hurricane caused a bit of yard damage with a few large trees being knocked down. It took more than a few weeks to clean up the mess. Probably the worst part of the experience was that I was without power for 23 days, which really, really sucked. I was probably one of the very last people in the entire country to have his power restored.
I had two mini-vacations and visited two places in Belize I had never visited before. I went to Caye Caulker for a few days and on a second mini-vacation, I went to Hopkins.
As of May, I have started sleeping in a hammock instead of a bed. Actually, I have not slept on a bed since I arrived. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in my loft (attic). But the first 5 months I was in Belize I was getting sick on a regular basis and my allergies have been pretty bad. One night I said enough is enough (with lying so flat on a mattress) and I moved into my hammock in the living room and I haven’t slept in the loft since. ***Edit note. In the new year, I started sleeping in the master bedroom of the house.
In August I started taking cold showers. Not cold as in when you turn on the cold water faucet in North America. My utility water comes from the Belize River and is stored in a vat. I have a hot water tank that I can turn on and off via a switch. Now about 95%+ of my showers, I don’t bother turning the hot water on first. It’s still too cold for my liking but I realized with so much misery this last year I figured if I can handle all “that” surely, I can live without hot water and save a few dollars on my power bill.
Since early October I implemented a new habit in my life. I started taking a day of Sabbath every Sunday. This is a first for me. I have never really taken a Sabbath before. I was convicted about it reading a chapter of Isaiah and also realized that no matter how hard I work on the farm I can never and will never get caught up. Most of my Sunday days are now spent in my hammock napping and reading a Christian-authored book.
At the end of July, I started writing my book about my past bike ride. I work on it sporadically but so far; I have written 50,000 words and completed the first draft of my Canadian section/crossing.
At the end of October, I became three years unemployed. Two years on a bike and one year here in Belize. Very tough to deal with, and savings are dwindling quickly.
Lots of snakes in 2022
2022 in Review Conclusion
Two years of perfect timing and amazing experiences of crossing paths with people on a bike. Even the perfect timing of getting to Belize one month before my property manager left Belize and then BANG! Everything goes wrong and I am left with what the heck am I doing here and why am I here. Very disorienting. I largely live with no purpose or direction. But damn have I been working hard.
It’s amazing how for the two years on a bike I could never have imagined in my imagination what an amazing experience I had. And in my first year in Belize, I could never have imagined such a living hell in my imagination. What a living hell I have had this past year. I can hardly wait to see what the next year brings.
I recently read a book that suggested writing 5 words or phrases about your life or your interpretation of your life. I am not exactly sure if some of these interpretations are actually one and the same. But the 5 thoughts that came to mind are:
1) Completely alone and complete betrayal. Trust no one
2) Complete discouragement
3) Beaten with no purpose and barely surviving
4) Hopelessness and lost
But just like magic I get up every morning and do it all over again. I guess that’s the power of adventure and nature.
In the interest of not concluding this post on a negative note I have come up with 5 words or phrases about the future:
1) daily adventure
2) abundant nature and wildlife
And in the first week of January 2023, I did wake up to a possible new dream.