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Moving to Belize

Feb 12 • Categorized as Living in Belize

Escape Artist Belize Launches Relocation Services

Expat “Lessons Learned” – in Belize

location of Belize

My husband Mike and I first visited Belize in February of 1999. We had signed up for an international lifestyle tour to show us around the country for a week. We traveled via private small planes, from one region of Belize to another. At each location knowledgeable speakers gave us a quick overview of their lifestyle in Belize. They explained why they chose to live in the region, and what they were doing for a living.

At that time, I was not contemplating a move, or retirement. Mike and I were just looking for an investment… A place to vacation and scuba dive… After the tour ended we returned to Ambergris Caye. We walked the beach daily, interrogating enthusiastic expats. After a few days we decided that The Isla Bonita was the best place for us to invest and spend out free time.

Life in the Belizean School of “Hard Knocks”…

Fast forward a few years. One thing led to another. After buying our first property near San Pedro Town, Mike immediately started designing a home/apartment building. He jumped into construction as soon as he could, finishing Mi Casa within 1 ½ years. After spending time in Belize, we both decided we liked the idea of moving here long-term.

Next we started kicking around ideas for a business. I couldn’t consider leaving my VP position in a Fortune 500 company without a decent alternate income stream. We encountered many challenges during this period. But, with much excitement and determination, we successfully opened the San Pedro Family Fitness Club in April of 2003. It was the first, and is still the only family fitness facility on the island that’s open to all locals, visitors, and expats.

Ann Golf Cart in San Pedro Town Belize

Ann Golf Cart in San Pedro Town Belize

Mike sold Mi Casa to buy the property where he built the San Pedro Club and our next home. He designed and built an attractive duplex on the property. We still live on the property and share the duplex with our best friends. But Mike’s plan was to build a development consisting of a series of duplexes identical to ours. It was to be the first “fly in” community…

We ran into numerous challenges and financial landmines along the way. For the next four years we operated the popular San Pedro Club, and marketed the fly-in development with our savings. Then a local beach resort approached us. They suggested that we join forces, expanding our property and amenities, and establish a new company. They convinced us to form a Joint Venture. It was finalized in January of 2008, five years after the San Pedro Club opened.

At that point, I walked away from my corporate VP position and moved to Belize.  The income from the new venture was supposed to replace a decent portion of my past income. Mike and I were still in our 50s, so not mentally or financially ready to “retire”.  So we wholeheartedly jumped into the new development with business partners we had known for several years…

Throughout all of this, there were numerous ups and downs. We lost more than our fair share of savings.  We had plenty of fun, meeting unusual and fantastic people along the way…But there were many dark days, and disappointments…

The Value of “Lessons Learned”

It would have saved us a significant amount of money, time and heartbreak if we could have turned to a “reputable” expert for advice… Someone who had already learned these types of lessons… We could have avoided at least a few landmines along the way… We would have gladly paid for their advice.

Honest, seasoned advice would have saved us thousands of dollars, wasted time, and energy.

But at that time there weren’t expat relocation/business advisers with a “proven” track record.  It really was like the Wild, Wild West. We did ask other expats, and Belizean friends, who seemed knowledgeable for their input and advice. Some did give us good advice. Others gave us poor advise. And we learned the hard way that some of our supposed advisors were less than ethical.

There were few people we could really trust when it came to the difficult decisions. So we stumbled through the processes and decisions, hoping for the best.

The bottom line – we learned most of our lessons the hard way.

Finding an Advisor You Can Trust

Fortunately, there are more options these days. You’ll find a variety of Belize expat relocation specialists to choose from. The key question is still, who can you trust for critical relocation and life transition advice? Recently I’ve noticed a series of newbie expats in Belize calling themselves “Relocation Consultants”. Many have not even lived here more than a year!

It’s been interesting to watch recent transplants, with no track record, sell themselves as relocation experts. This is easy to do by setting up a blog. For some it’s not a question of providing quality, ethical service to struggling expats.  It’s just their means to fund their own relocation to Belize. For others, the intent may be there, but the experience is not.

My goal has always been to help each visitor I’ve met with decide whether Belize is the right place for them. Once they reach a decision, I often help them pinpoint the best region for them. Next come the decisions such as:

  • Whether to rent or buy
  • What volunteer options are a fit
  • Whether they can work in Belize
  • How they can make money from Belize
  • How to start up or buy a business
  • Immigration/retirement residency options
  • Medical care and insurance
  • Other insurance, etc.

I’ve been amazed by the diverse questions sent to me over the years…

In the early 2000s I began writing articles about living and moving to Belize. In 2008, after moving to Belize full-time, I began spending much of my time assisting expats make lifestyle decisions related to Belize.

During the last four years I’ve also been a Belize Correspondent for Live and Invest Overseas, and International Living, two high profile lifestyle businesses. In those roles, I responded to the questions sent in by their readers about Belize.

My passion is showing visitors and potential transplants the wonders of Belize. This is my adopted long-term home. I’m a committed and enthusiastic ambassador. You’ll find numerous hard copy and on line articles, and blogs that I’ve written on line, describing the virtues of Belize. Over the years I’ve advised hundreds of people considering a move to Belize. The advice is always tempered by the lessons we’ve learned through direct personal experience spanning a period of 13+ years…

Escape Artists Belize – Assisting Relocating Expats

Last Thanksgiving weekend was a turning point in my life. That’s when the new owners of Escape Artists Belize contacted me. We met that weekend. They asked me to consider establishing a Relocation Services consultancy for their new Belize franchise. They had read my articles and blogs, and listened to my conference presentations for several years. They watched me interact with visitors and clients at international conferences.

They explained that I was the person they needed to complement their team. Several different options were discussed. But they were most keen to have me lead their Relocation Services.

This was quite an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me.The more I talked to the new owners, and heard their future plans, the more excited I became.They quickly convinced me that I was the best person to assist Escape Artists Belize members who were considering transitioning to Belize.
After much consideration, I realized that this calling fit perfectly with my past experience. And I knew it would give me great satisfaction to assist expats considering relocating to Belize.

The Future is Bright

I did accept the Escape Artists Belize offer. So you’ll be hearing regularly from me in the future. I’ll be blogging about the Belize that I have grown to love. And we’ll be developing exciting new offerings in the future. So be sure to click on the Relocation Services section regularly.
But this is a brand new service that we’ve just launched. It will grow and change as we determine how to best meet our readers needs.

In the meantime, I’m here to assist you if you’re considering a transition to Belize. We are assembling a package of services to make your transition easy. When you need input and guidance, I’ll be here to help…

To learn more about how Ann can assist you with your personalized relocation needs see this article and contact us.


About the Author: Ann Kuffner

Ann Kuffner Ann Kuffner is an expat who lives in Belize fulltime. She and her husband are living the expat lifestyle dream, on the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye. In 1999 she and Mike visited Belize on an investment tour.

At the end of that trip they bought property on Ambergris Caye. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Ann was ready to become a full-time expat.
That is when she walked away from her VP position in a Fortune 500 company, fed up with corporate politics… She has never looked back.

To learn more about Ann visit her Author’s page on the Escapeartist Belize web site where she is a regular contributing author.

Connect with Ann at her G+ page.

For Expert Relocation Consulting Services from Escapeartist Belize

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