When Ro and I decided to move to Belize, it was after many years of conversations about living abroad. Both of us had traveled a lot, and I had lived for a while in Nigeria years earlier. We had talked about moving out of New York City, which extended to us wanting to move out of the States entirely. There were a bunch of reasons for this, ranging from wanting a lower cost of living to wanting a better quality of life. The main reason for me, though, has always been to have a different and more expansive experience, one I imagined would be wonderful in many ways.
And it has been. There are things about living here that I absolutely love – being in the mountains of Cayo around lush jungle and nature with the Caribbean Sea only a few hours away, the inexpensive abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables, the slower pace and lack of emphasis on doing all the time, the feeling of community and connections I have with people, and the many flavors of Belizean culture. Every single day, I am glad to be here.
There have also been challenges. While a few of them are specific to Belize – poor quality of public transportation, for example – most of them have to do with the larger process of moving to another country. My experiences in Nigeria prepared me for some of that; I learned a bit about navigating an immigration system and finding ways to communicate with folks in a culture (and sometimes language) different from my own. Still, Nigeria is Nigeria and Belize is Belize, and this has been a completely different experience.
I had some ideas about what I wanted my life to be like when I moved here. I had fantasies about frequent trips to the beach, setting up my own business, living in a fabulous home and spending endless hours making art. Some of those things have happened, though in different ways than I pictured. There have been moments when I thought, This is amazing! I can’t believe I get to live here. There have also been moments when I thought, Really, Belize? What the entire fuck.
Moving to a new country and building a life is a lot of work. I knew that to be true before I came, and all things considered, it hasn’t been much cause for complaint. Compared to trying to build a life in Lagos, this is a cakewalk. While I appreciate the amount of freedom and autonomy I have here (every damn day), I also sometimes struggle with the same longings I had when I lived in New York – wanting to travel, wishing I had more time and money to do the things I love, desiring more fun and excitement in my life. I still have fantasies about laying on the beach for weeks on end and making art full-time.
I’m genuinely happy with my life here, though. Living in Belize allows me to have a different kind of hustle. It’s opened me up in a lot of ways – to new people and experiences, to understanding myself better. And it’s provided opportunities for me to draw from my many years and bring some dreams to life. At the end of the day, it isn’t a fantasy but it’s all good.