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  • Jami Brouillette

Five Surprising Lessons Owning a House in Belize Has Taught Me Over The Past Year

Buying a house is a significant milestone, but purchasing a home sight unseen in another country takes the excitement, thrill (and stress level!) to new heights. If you've perused any of my previous blog posts, you're well aware of the exhilarating journey my husband and I embarked upon when we bought a home in Belize just over a year ago. And let me tell you, it has been one wild ride - an adventure of epic proportions, to say the least.

Just like life, our journey with this house has seen its fair share of twists and turns. Our original vision was to homeschool our kids while splitting our time between the U.S. and Belize (hence the blog name). But as the story unfolded, our plans took unexpected detours. Our children found their place in a private school, and our summer getaway in Belize got trimmed down to a month. Then, our month-long summer adventure had to be rescheduled altogether due to busy sport schedules and professional commitments. Life throws curve balls, but we are learning to roll with the punches and make the most of every twist in the tale.

While these changes have been disappointing at times, I've gleaned so many valuable lessons along the way. From navigating cultural differences to facing daily challenges of maintenance in a tropical climate from afar, we've gained invaluable insights. While some lessons were practical and specific to our situation, the most profound ones have universal applications. In this blog post, I aim to share five unexpected lessons that owning a house in Belize has taught me.

1. Time is Relative:

One of the most surprising things I've learned in Belize is that time is relative. In the US, we are used to schedules and deadlines, but in Belize, things move at a slower pace. If someone says they'll be there at 10am, they might show up at 12pm, and that's just how things are. While it can be very frustrating at times, it has taught me to focus on what I can control rather than the things I cannot. I have learned the hard way that my response to a situation is often the only thing I truly have control over. While I can't say that I will ever be able to entirely embrace this lifestyle, I have learned to appreciate the beauty that comes with taking life at a slower pace and appreciating that which I can control rather than dwelling on the things I cannot.

2. Perspective is Everything

Coming to the realization that time is a relative concept has been both intriguing and, at times, slightly frustrating. However, what truly opened my eyes is the understanding that not only time, but also happiness, contentment, gratitude, desires, and expectations are all subjective and relative.

Let me give you an example. Picture this: you find out that your child has been unexpectedly cut from a sports team or you receive the wrong order at a restaurant. Initially, these situations might seem distressing. But here's the thing - when you've had the opportunity to spend time in a developing country where there are no sports teams for children to be a part of, and where many kids go hungry every day, suddenly the perspective changes.

Experiencing different cultures and immersing myself in their ways of life has a unique way of humbling me and making me more grateful for the comforts and freedoms that I enjoy in the United States. Remodeling our home in Belize, for instance, exposed the limited resources available there, which has made me appreciate the conveniences of our modern world more than ever before.

In this grand pursuit of understanding, I am slowly discovering that there is always something to be thankful for; we just need to be open-minded and actively seek it out. The world is vast, and it has so much to offer - the beauty lies in our ability to truly see it.

3. Everything is Negotiable :

In Belize, with its vibrant markets and rich culture, everything is up for negotiation. From the price of a loaf of crusty bread fresh out of the oven to the cost of a property adorned with lush tropical gardens, nothing is set in stone. Experiencing life in such a dynamic environment has taught me the importance of being assertive and advocating for myself, whether it's haggling over prices or standing up for my beliefs.

What truly fascinates me is the art of bargaining that Belize has embedded in its everyday life. The lively exchanges, the friendly banter, and the thrill of finding common ground with sellers can turn the buying process into an enjoyable adventure. Exploring this country has not only sharpened my negotiation skills but also opened my eyes to the diverse array of cultures and perspectives that make up our world.

Beyond the marketplace, Belize has taught me an invaluable lesson about flexibility and adaptability. In a country where resources may not always be abundant, it becomes second nature to do thorough research and never shy away from negotiating. This mindset has transcended into other aspects of my life as well, reminding me to challenge the expectations I place on myself and the plans I make.

I'm learning that even my own aspirations and ambitions don't have to be etched in stone. Embracing a flexible mindset allows us to navigate the unpredictable currents of life with grace and resilience. Belize has given me the gift of realizing that negotiating isn't solely about striking a deal—it's about negotiating the ever-evolving journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

4. Appreciate the Beauty of Your Surroundings:

Spending time in our home in Belize has deepened my appreciation for the exquisite beauty of nature. I can't deny how much I miss sipping my morning coffee by the sea. Throughout the summer, I occasionally found myself yearning for days spent paddle boarding on the pristine Caribbean Sea, exploring ancient Mayan ruins, hiking through lush jungles, and swimming in refreshing, crystal-clear waterfalls. On the flip side, I also cherished the moments spent strolling barefoot through the soft, emerald-green grass of Indiana, grateful to be free from the worry of encountering scorpions, tarantulas, or venomous snakes.

After braving snakes and scorpions just to do my laundry, those "pesky" little insects that come with mid-west summers seem way more tolerable. I have enjoyed the cooler Indiana summer temperatures, the (relative) lack of humidity, the beauty of hydrangeas in bloom, and the miracle of life as we watched baby robins emerge from their shells and grow into birds taking their first flight.

Although not the Caribbean Sea, my days were filled with lounging in the cool comfort of our pool, free from the worry of reapplying sunscreen. During the same time, I witnessed my children relishing the freedom of riding their bikes through our neighborhood, making lifelong friends along the way, chasing fireflies at dusk, and indulging in sweet cherry tomatoes plucked straight from the vine. These experiences have given me a greater appreciation for the natural world and its fragility. They have also been an excellent reminder to savor the specific joys of the exact place you are in while you are in it.

5. Embrace Change:

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is that plans change and things don't always work out as expected. The original plan was to spend extended time every summer in Belize, but that plan had to be adjusted due to other commitments. We've learned to adjust and accept changes gracefully, knowing that the end result can still be just as rewarding. It's remarkable to think that if we had stuck to our original plan of spending a month in Belize this summer, my children would have missed out on countless opportunities for growth and exploration.

Because we chose to reschedule our trip for this winter, my son was able to gain some valuable life lessons and build wonderful friendships while participating in three different little league baseball teams. As Dean dominated the baseball diamond, my daughter attended every open gym volleyball practice her school offered and earned a coveted spot on her school's "A-Team." Finally, as a family, we were able to celebrate the Fourth of July together and enjoy fireworks - something we had all greatly missed during our past two summers in Belize.

While these were the highlights of our summer, it's important to note that it was far from perfect. We all caught a terrible stomach bug that nearly put an end to our Fourth of July plans, Dean experienced his fair share of disappointment earning several second place trophies, and I spent way more time indoors writing than outdoors appreciating the beauty of nature. Overall, however, we chose to appreciate the gifts that occurred as a result of our change in plans.

The past 16 months have been a roller coaster of a journey, but they have taught me so much. Our home in Belize ended up being a great catalyst to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. From the importance of community to the value of simplicity, I've learned to appreciate the little things in life and to embrace change. While owning a house in another country isn't for everyone, it has been an incredible adventure for me and my family, and one that we are truly grateful for.

I hope my story has given you some insight into why I haven't posted on this blog in forever - and more importantly - I hope it inspired you to try something new. It certainly doesn't have to be buying a foreign home - but whatever it is, I firmly believe embracing change can open up surprisingly rewarding possibilities in your life.

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