By Don Murray: Internationalliving.com
“We have been traveling to Belize since 1997 and have never found a country with more caring, welcoming, and positive people,” says Lisa Cyrier. “And it’s gorgeous, too. We can travel from the beach to the rainforest in just a few hours. And the tropical climate suits us just fine.”
For three years now, Lisa and her husband Ronnie, 46 and 48 from Chicago, Illinois, have made their home on the island of Ambergris Caye. But this couple aren’t ones for just lazing on a beach all day. They enjoy an impressive array of water-based activities on Ambergris.
“We can take our pick from snorkeling, kayaking, boating, fishing, or maybe we’ll take the paddle boards out,” says Lisa. “We aren’t fully retired yet, so we can’t spend all day, every day just lounging around. But I can’t imagine a more wonderful place to hang out. Some days, the weather and the water are just too hard to resist, so we go play. Freedom is the key, and we have set up our lives to allow plenty of freedom to do what we want to do, when we want to do it.”
Ambergris lies just offshore from the Belize mainland. The world’s second-largest reef system is nearby, providing unlimited opportunities for fishing, diving, snorkeling, boating, and photography. And the weather is as warm and tropical as you would expect on a Caribbean island.
In October 2014, the Cyriers “said goodbye to the American Dream and said hello to our dream,” says Ronnie. “From the outside, others saw us as successful, with a beautiful lake house, a nice boat, and lavish vacations. But the truth was that we worked tireless hours just to keep our businesses going and to maintain our home.”
“We just became fed up with the rat race, said enough is enough, and we planned to make our leap. We wanted to live the life we really wanted, on our schedule,” says Lisa.
Within three years, Lisa and Ronnie sold everything they owned, except for some internet-based businesses. They boarded a jet bound for their new life in San Pedro.
Ambergris was the perfect place to begin their expat adventures. “The official language of Belize is English and the government is stable. And the kicker for us was the government’s plan to encourage expats to settle here,” says Ronnie. “It’s called the QRP (Qualified Retired Persons) Program, and it provides tax incentives and rather easy qualifications. A modest income, clean criminal background check, and a health certificate, along with proof of income, passport, and the normal documents you would expect, and it’s done.” Being a QRP allows you to import your personal effects into Belize tax-free within the first year of your arrival. You also pay no tax on international income.
Home for the Cyriers is a lovely, 1,500-square-foot condo (for which they paid cash). Their dream life costs them about $2,900 a month, including their boat fuel and maintenance, golf cart maintenance, all food and drinks, association fees, and health insurance. This is typical of expats on Ambergris, who report living well on around $3,000 a month, including condo rentals near the beach starting at around $1,100 a month (prices fall the farther you get from the sea).
“Ronnie and I often joke that we could live for 25% less if we stopped drinking, but living on an island and spending so much time on the water, we don’t see that happening anytime soon,” says Lisa. “This island lifestyle isn’t available at any price in the U.S.
“We expect to do more traveling in the coming years. Is Ambergris our forever home? Maybe not. But coming here was the best decision we ever made.”