Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Truly Rich Life on This Idyllic Caribbean Island

A Truly Rich Life on This Idyllic Caribbean Island
By Dennis Gelinas
As a child I spent many cold and unpleasant winters in northern New England. Like most other kids from the area, a lot of time was spent stuck indoors, watching TV during those long winters...
Hardly surprising that, by the age of 18, the palm trees of Hollywood started looking good to me. But in reality, it wasn't the place for me; the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and neighboring Baja was still a tad too cool for my tastes.
Eventually the tropics beckoned me farther south. After exploring the magnificent mountains of Colombia, and both coasts, I was hooked on Central and South America. So, as a young 1960s hippie, I started to split my time between summers up north and spending long winters anywhere south of Mexico.
One year, while preparing for my annual migration down the Pan-American Highway on the Pacific coast, a friend called me in distress from a place called Belize. Where? "Used to be British Honduras," he told me. "Now they call it Belize." A storm had passed through and he had left his sailboat tied to a tiny island. It had been torn loose by the wind and run aground in the shallow sand behind the world's second largest reef.
So I headed to Belize to help my friend out. The "island" turned out to be Caye Caulker.
The laidback atmosphere on this charming little island immediately brought me back to my childhood in rural New Hampshire. Small children frolicked in the quiet, unpaved streets. Everyone knew everyone. People greeted each other with smiles and banter.
Although I left the island behind that summer, and although I made many more trips to warmer climes, Caye Caulker was firmly stuck in my mind. In the years that followed that trip, I made South Florida my U.S. base of operations and stayed there from the '90s into the noughties. But in 2005 I decided it was time to opt out.
Having seen much of the tropical Americas and then having done my homework, I decided on Belize for a few specific reasons:
  • Permanent residence is relatively easy to get in Belize. Just spend a calendar year in the country and apply.
  • The tiny island of Caye Caulker—sister island to the better known Ambergis Caye—is perched 20 miles off Belize City (and its international airport).
  • The temperature rarely drops below the 70s F, thanks to the surrounding warm Caribbean.
  • Photography and fly fishing, my two passions, are world class in Belize. And the reef, with all its splendor, is only one mile offshore.
It's been 10 years since I made the move to Belize and life is good. I was fortunate to meet a wonderful Belizean gal and her three beautiful children, all of whom I adore.
She happens to be skilled at cooking my favorite cuisine, Middle-Eastern—which has led us to open a Middle Eastern cafe on Caye Caulker called Aladdin's on the populated north tip of the island, across from the caye's best beach.
I always wanted to circle the entire globe, a feat too deep for my pockets...but thanks to the cafe, we get to meet great people with fascinating stories of adventures far and wide. They fill in the many gaps in my travels and keep me up to date with what's going on in the world.
These conversations all take place daily as we gaze at the azure sea 60 feet across the dirt street. We're happy living on Caye Caulker. Though the cafe will never make us wealthy, I'm living proof that you don't have to have lots of money to feel truly rich on this tiny island.