I need to thank Tom Barbitta for this blog post. In a comment from a personal Facebook post Tom asked what the story was with Belize. Well that’s the thing – it very much is a story. And like most stories this one will be hard to make into a short story. But we shall see how far this rabbit trail goes.
In a moment of boredom I suspect at some point in the year 1996 I asked a question that I actually didn’t really care about the answer to. The gentleman I was speaking to was named Dan Michalewicz and Dan was largely responsible for getting me into wholesale reptile business back in 1995. I won’t bother getting into that story here but my YouTube guy Brandon did ask me a little bit about the back story to my “reptile story” which you can watch HERE.
Anyways back to the current story. Now you have to realize that back when I was 20 my life revolved around materialism and the outside world was of no real interest to me. I tell you this so that you can realize that initially I didn’t care about the answer. Little did I know the answer would change my life.
Morelets Crocodiles – the big one lives wild in my fish ponds. The small one was a pet back in 2010. Since released
The back story to my question was that Dan and his wife Heather had been travelling back and forth to Belize from Canada for a bunch of years now. And so my question that I did not care about the answer to was – How come you and Heather travel back and forth to Belize? In my world it made no sense to travel somewhere for a few weeks and potentially spend $1000’s of dollars when you could spend that same money on a new TV, VCR or stereo that would last you years (a lot longer then a 2 week vacation).
Lots of species of birds can be found on the farm
Anyways with no agenda Dan told me about what they were trying to do/build in Belize [an eco-tourist camp] and what life was like in Belize. And what the culture was like and all the different things they see and experience in Belize. After about a 30 minute conversation my mind was blown! I could not believe there was such a world out there with all of “that” in it. Well from that moment I was convinced – I was moving to Belize! Yes that quickly and easily Belize became what it is to me to this day.
Red Rump Tarantulas
It took me a little time to get out of debt. I had maxed out my first credit card as every young person does. So somewhere in the late summer/early fall of 1997 I told Dan I was ready to move to Belize. He said that it might be good idea if I went for a 2 week trip first before I sold my house. [I had bought a house in Hamilton ON right before my 20th birthday in 1993]. Dan said he was planning is next trip in a few months in November 1997.
A 6ft+ Black Tail Cribo snake
Apparently they had planted 10 acres of rice (approximately) and the tractor that they had hired to harvest the rice had broken down and would not be repaired in time for harvest. If you don’t pick your rice quickly it will very quickly go to the birds – literally.
Spiny tail Iguana
Belize is a small country with a small airport. The type of airport where they pull up in a truck (with stairs) up to the plane and you disembark on the tarmac of the airfield. I will never forget coming up to the front of the plane and coming to the door. Looking around and seeing the airport completely surrounded by jungle. And then having the humidity completely envelop me. In that moment I was in love and I knew I was home. From that very moment I loved EVERYTHING about Belize. Never have I felt so at home somewhere.
Those 2 weeks were the best 2 weeks of my life and by January of 1998 I had my affairs in order and flew back to Belize.
Black Howler Monkey
What life is like
I honestly don’t know how to answer this question without writing a book. I live in the middle of the jungle, part of the village of Scotland Halfmoon, part of The Community Baboon Sanctuary on the Belize River in the District of Belize. We are central north and about a 45-60 minute drive from Belize City.
In many ways to over simplify things I describe life there very much like life at the cottage. You don’t buy nice things or unnecessary things. You always have mud on your pants, its hot and there are always bugs.
To properly describe the magic and beauty of where I live. I live in an area that has a large concentration of black howler monkey’s that have the loudest primate call(s) in the world and are extremely vocal day and night. We have a huge assortment of various wildlife from about 200 species of birds, large concentration of jaguars and large cats. We have crocodiles, turtles, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, tree frogs, killer bees and everything in between.
A Cane toad and Milky tree frog
Life is very labor intensive. We have no Walmart or Amazon.com. We live at the very end of a dirt road that multiple times a year becomes too flooded for vehicles to pass. All our supplies and provisions need to be driven or walked in. Some trips I have come in by canoe.
A particular bad year for our road
We are about a 45 minute walk from the main road and heart of the village. Walking from the farm towards the village our first neighbor is probably a 35 minute walk. We have no close neighbors due to the flooding of the surrounding jungle. The flooding of the surrounding area keeps people from trying to settle.
A ciclid fish attempting to swim across our road during a flood
We do have electricity, flush toilets and I have a hot water tank for heated showers. Drinking water comes from rain water off the roof and utility water is pumped either from the river or one of my fish ponds.
In the beginning there was a Belizean couple, Dan and Heather and me. Unfortunately both Mel and Hilda Hendy (the Belizeans) have both since passed. So while I continue to bike this bike ride only Dan and Heather are on the farm.
With Mel Hendy. One of my most treasured friends
Watching videos or during conversations people often fantasize about living in Belize in their retirement times. Belize is not for everyone; most people eventually want the conveniences and comforts of Canada or the US after a few weeks. You need an adventurous spirit for sure.
I really could write a book here. Let me know if you have any questions I can elaborate on.
Black Howler Monkey’s
History of my assets
As mentioned I moved down in January 1998. Unfortunately that move only lasted about 3 months. After getting down there I realized that I didn’t have a plan. Like many decisions in my life – I made this grand goal and then accomplished it and then was left with – well know what?
After 3 months I decided to go back to Canada to pursue my business ambitions which you can hear about in more detail in the YouTube link posted above. But I vowed to return to Belize. Return I did but not until the last part of 2002 for 3 weeks. The result of this trip was the desire to purchase land to build a house on. In 2003 I would return to Belize because Dan had sent a letter and suggested that maybe I would be interested in purchasing their house on a ¾ acre lot of land. I agreed that would be a good idea and came down to finalize the sale and spent 6 months in Belize.
A sidenote – the ¾ acre lot was surveyed from the original farm that the Belizean couple owned. They owned 2 – 30 acre pieces of land (side by side).
Fast forward to 2010 when I would spend 11 months in Belize I purchased another ¾ lot that would connect my directly to the Belize River giving me “river frontage.”
In recent years, first Hilda and then Mel passed. Mel was probably one of my most cherished friends and I think about him often. During this time their son Wayne took control of the farm. Wayne is a city boy and has no interest in being back in the bush with us. In 2017 I was able to negotiate 10 acres of the original farm and the second 30 acre parcel. So in total I have 41½ acres in Belize with a home.
Most of the farm over the years (even before I purchased my pieces) has become reclaimed jungle. The 30 acre piece is all jungle with 2 large fish ponds (300ft x 50ft x 10ft deep) that we had dug by excavator in 2002. Much of the 10 acres on the main farm is also reclaimed jungle but I have over the last few years planted about 400 young coconut trees that get sporadic maintenance.
My fish ponds – before and after
Having a house and the history of my home is another book in its self. The house was originally a simple plywood house with a steel roof, unfinished inside. A main bedroom, bathroom, spare room, open concept kitchen – living room. Over time the plywood rotted and was replaced with a plycem board (plywood mixed with cement).
A facelift with plycem
And then shortly after I started driving a truck (2013) I got an email that said a tree behind my house had grown so large that it was actually pulling my house in 3 different direction and they believed it was only a matter of time before the house collapsed on itself. Given what this house had cost me over the years and that my priority was now saving money for this current bike ride I should have just let the house cave in on its self and worried about a house down the road. Unfortunately I was finally making real money and it “seemed” to make sense to deal with this issue now while there was money. This would lead to one of my most costly expenses of my life.
Rebuilt 4 ft off the ground thanks to the tree in the background
Long story short. The plan was to rebuild the house 4 feet off the ground. Three weeks into the project our Canadian dollar tanked to the US dollar (we use to be par and then over night dropped to $.70ish). The price of everything when up by 30% and the budget tripled the original estimate and dragged for a few years. All I have to say is never build a house unless you are there from the very beginning to the end. I could go on and on about this but it would be pointless. Needless to say my “nice simple” home is a fancy house.
The kitchen and bedroom
History of my trips to Belize
I don’t actually get to Belize nearly as often as I would like. Since 1997 I have probably spent between 3-4 years in total over the last 23 years. My longest trip was 11 months, the second longest trip was 6 months when I originally purchased my house. Usually my trips are 2 weeks at time hopefully twice a year. But sometimes only once a year and often a few years between visits. My last trip was in 2018. Of course I plan to visit during this current bike ride.
The front deck
The other thing, while I have travelled over much of Belize and experience quite a bit there are many things and places I have never been. I enjoy my home and farm so much that I am generally happiest there. Generally my 2 biggest goals during a visit are to get work done and see as much wildlife and creatures as possible. Most all the creatures I can hope to see during a trip actually live on or near my farm so there is actually very little need to travel anywhere but my farm.
When this ride is over
When this bike ride is over the plan is to move permanently to Belize. I only hope I have a few dollars left in the bank to take care of my immediate needs. While I have other ambitions that I hope to start and hope that possibly this bike ride might open doors for me to pursue. My most immediate goals will be to build and start a chicken coop (for eggs & meat) and to start some gardens for fruits and veggies. Hopefully between getting that in order and possibly having a few coconuts for sale that will be enough to keep the lights on.
My plans, goals and ambitions is start a tree farm nursery to raise seedling trees for reforestation of rainforest and jungle. I have recently started preliminary plans on making this a reality even while I am on my current bike ride. Stay tuned for details and if trees and reforestation of rainforest and jungle or the country of Belize happen to be on your heart or passions please reach out to me.
Over the years I have planted over 400 coconut trees on the farm. Most are young juvenile trees
Looking for a vacation to Belize?
Check out my Belize website and consider a vacation in the Belizean jungle. Find everything and an Airbnb link HERE
I have tried to keep this post as brief as possible. When people ask me about Belize I can talk for hours. From the moment I landed in this country in 1997 I have been so in love with this country. I happen to think it is one of the best countries in the world.