“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Wayne Gretzy
In October 2004 my wife and I sold everything we had, packed up our two small children and moved to Belize. We had never even visited Belize but a friend of ours bought 165 acres in the jungle and was looking for someone she could trust to set up a business there. I left my idyllic life as a fishing guide and the comforts of home for the unknown challenges of Third World living. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
We arrived in Belize to oversee the final stages of construction on a restaurant and our home. Two months later we opened for business serving food and renting canoes to people visiting a nearby national park, Barton Creek Cave. The many challenges of our business included the cost of getting supplies down 9 miles of bad dirt road, the uncertainty of daily business & thieves. We established good relations with many local tour guides but we also unknowingly extended our hand to a few unsavory characters and eventually that bit us in the backside, as it does.
Four and a half years later we shifted the focus of our business to hosting backpackers. Initially we had them sleeping all over our restaurant deck for free and made money by feeding them and getting them on tours. Eventually we bought a bunch of tents that we would rent and a couple years ago we built a dormitory style bunkhouse to house our young travelers. During the course of this time we brought a few university groups in from the US to do some community service work in the area and we hosted a couple church mission groups as well. Financially, we often struggled but we live in such an amazing place that it seemed palatable.
Running Barton Creek Outpost gave us the chance to meet an array of interesting people who were traveling the planet. Some carried large backpacks, hopped busses and hitchhiked while others were in customized Land Cruisers, VW Busses, motorcycles and bicycles. I admired their courage, enjoyed their stories and often wrote reassuring emails to their parents who hadn’t heard from them in weeks. Many stayed with us for a month or more and I am grateful for the insight into the lives of so many young people. In many cases they left here & wrote glowing reports about us in online forums although there were a few disparaging remarks. Who knew I had a “…condescending, alpha male attitude”? (This, from a Los Angeles florist. We rest our case.)
After hosting international travelers for 8 years we have recently decided to make a big change. No longer will the Outpost host overnight guests! No longer will my wife be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen making meals for travelers! (To be fair she was only pregnant 19% of the time.) No longer will we be obliged to answer the same questions over and over! (“How did you end up in Belize?” “How did you find this place?”) No longer will our holidays be exclusively devoted to other people’s enjoyment! No longer will we have the steady income from travelers who sought us out through internet, guidebooks and online forums! No Mas!
The past few weeks have been very nice. The Outpost is our home and it feels more like it today than ever. I have taken over the homeschooling of our 14 year old daughter and we are learning Algebra together! My 11 year old son and I are sharing the joys of long division! As I lie in a hammock and write this I can gaze out over some of the most beautiful jungle scenery Belize has to offer. Due to the recent rains there are a few mosquitoes hovering around me but I have had Dengue Fever twice and I don’t think I can get it again. Maybe I’ll Google that.
Over the last 8 years I have learned how to build websites. Mostly I have muddled through on my own but some friends have also helped me along the way. I recently started Belize Websites and now spend the better part of my days on my laptop building, updating & marketing websites. Belize is not a country full of opportunity but there is no question that business in Belize needs to be dragged onto the internet. I am building websites for a few people and I have just launched another one of my own, www.ForSaleByOwnerinBelize.com. I offer people the chance to list their homes, property or businesses for sale, no up-front cost but a 2% commission if I provide them a buyer. Additionally, I operate www.CraigsListBelize.com where people can list all kinds of stuff for free. The real estate listings appear on both sites and in the last 5 days have averaged about 500 views per day. The numbers rise weekly since I have been putting my efforts into marketing the sites. I only launched the For Sale By Owner in Belize site just over a week ago and am getting new listings every day. The Craigs List Belize site has been up about a year. I have sold 12 acres of ours and two of our vehicles through that website as well as many things for other people. I am hopeful about the future of the business those sites can create.
We are about to list our house on a couple of vacation rental by owner sites so we are doing some improvements there to get that ready. It also looks like we will subdivide a few lots from the 165 acres here and sell them to people who we can stand to live next to. We will offer our care-taking services to buyers who want to build and may not live here full time. We can also oversee building efforts when that time comes. The Outpost facility & swimming hole would be a kind of community center to the few owners we would selectively bring in. Our new neighbors may consider renting their homes through us for vacation rental in their absence.
In addition to the real estate side of things my wife is focusing her energies on making the most of things here at the Outpost. Jacquelyn is doing an incredible job of putting flower arrangements together and we sell those. For years we have operated a quasi-nursery here and she is ramping up her efforts to sell more potted and bagged plants & flowers. We are also making Barton Creek Outpost available to rent for daytime events, luncheons and retreats.
There have been major changes in our lives since we moved to Belize. We have adjusted the focus of our business more than once, we had the two new children that are currently playing at my feet, we have made new friends and we have lost people close to us. Prior to making this decision we gave it much thought and prayer and sought counsel from several people we respect. I am a big fan of people who will tell me the truth when I ask them and appreciate the input we received. This is a huge change for us and we did not make it lightly. As soon as the voice in my head stops asking me what I’ve done I’ll probably sleep better but in the meantime, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”