We moved!!! …Thank goodness!…In 5 days, we move to a condo on the beach!..Yeah!

 

The view from our 5-day hotel room

We awoke yesterday morning to no working toilet even when adding water. No water came out of any faucet.  How would we shower? With bug spray all over me, I desperately needed a shower.

OK. We admit it. We aren’t as tough as we thought we were. After a futile effort of days of looking for a new place to live for the next 62 days, we considered taking a ship out of Belize to go anywhere.

With last minute cruise deals, we calculated the cost of cruising for the next two months.  It would have been about $10,000 for both of us, staying on the same ship to avoid moving and moving, actually less than we had expected. But, the prospect of putting out that amount of money made us both cringe. 

Yes, the $5000 monthly average for planning this cruise option was within our budget with all meals and “transportation” included but we’d have to pay for “extras” including beverages and Internet which, for that amount of time would easily total another $3000, making it out of the ballpark.

View of the resort restaurant from our 5-day hotel room

A few nights ago while sitting at our computers until after midnight, hot air swirling around the one-room little house from multiple fans, windows shut to keep out the bugs, we desperately tried to figure out an affordable solution.  Bug bitten, exhausted, feeling dirty with no hot water we started making no sense and finally went to bed.   

For the first time ever in our almost 22 year relationship, we were snappy at each other. I felt responsible since I’d booked this location. Had I known about the water situation, of course, I’d never have booked it. It wasn’t unreasonable for Tom to begin to question if this was going to be the quality of our lives over the next few years.

Anxiously, I reviewed all of our future properties we’ve rented, questioning if I was picky enough when booking them. They all seemed good. This was a fluke, not my fault. Of course, I wouldn’t book a house that was comparable to living in a tent with a bed.

After contacting literally every affordable property within 100 miles with no luck finally deciding against the cruise option, we had no choice but to drive around in the golf cart looking for “for rent” or “vacancy” signs. 

We’d put down a deposit of $100 on an adorable rustic resort in Placencia Village, Captain Jak’s but they didn’t have an opening until February 20, ironically the day of my 65th birthday.  Although not on the water, we’d have no ocean view and no AC.  The owners were wonderful, giving us a fair price and doing everything they could to accommodate us. 

The idea of leaving our former lives and loved ones behind was to be traveling with ease, not strife. We needed a hotel room if nothing else until the 20th but we didn’t want to move twice.  It was hard to think clearly in our circumstances.

Driving around in the golf cart along the highway, crazy traffic whizzing past us, we drove into a few resorts.  Entering into a resort on a long winding road with exquisite landscaping with flowering trees, walking paths, and even its own miniature golf course, we stumbled upon Laru Beya, a corporate-owned resort of villas, hotel rooms, restaurant, pool, and activities. This was going to be out of our league.

Had we planned a vacation in the past, this easily would have been ideal for us for a one or two weeks, hardly affordable for over two months.  Standing at the desk, we tentatively asked if they could accommodate us and if so, the cost. Again, we cringed deciding to see what they had available “for the fun of it,” we said.

By 3:00 PM yesterday we were lounging in these chaise lounges, relieved and happy.

A delightful hostess, Veranish (spelling?) showed us two identical villas, one the main floor, another on the third, both within 30 feet of the Caribbean Sea with enormous private furnished patios overlooking a sandy beach which was virtually a paradise.  We were smitten. 

Again tentatively, we ended up at the desk “trying to make a deal.” No dealing here. Take it or leave it. The main floor villa wouldn’t be available until February 10th. Could we take five more days without water? The rent per month would be $2500.  I’d negotiated them down from $5000 a month. They’d need the entire two months in advance to secure our possession from February 10th to April 9th. 

I wanted to commit, then and there as I scratched my dirty feeling legs. Tom wanted to discuss it overnight.  We left. The drive in the golf cart back to the little house was silent. Along the ride, Tom relented, with conditions:  no eating out, including Valentine’s Day, my upcoming 65th birthday, and on our anniversary, March 7th.

Not responding immediately, I began to weigh the pros and cons.  The grocery stores were sparse of protein sources, I desperately needed to eat. Unable to buy any raw vegetables, eat any salads, it’s difficult to cook anything except breakfast. 

Swatting the bugs, I reviewed our grocery expenditure since we’d arrived, a mere seven days ago. We’d already spent $325 US at the grocery store and eaten out once (we never made it to the Bistro) at Robert’s Grove for $87 for a total of $412, averaging at $58.86 per day for food.  Pointing this out to Tom, he didn’t budge on his conditions. “OK,” I said, “Let’s take the villa at Laru Beya for the 10th. Somehow we’d get through for six more nights.

Using Skype to make the toll free call to Tim, the manager at Laru Beya, we told him we’d take the villa on the 10th.  I offered to pay over the phone, but he insisted we could stop over in the morning to take care of business. We weren’t relaxed yet. What if someone booked it online overnight and it wasn’t available in the morning?

Tired and stressed we decided against the long ride to the Bistro for dinner, when now the prospect of spending another $80 for dinner felt especially uncomfortable. With another narrow package of the grass-fed ground steak in the tiny fridge, again, I made the bun-less sliders with bacon and cheese with a side of canned spinach and cooked carrots. Actually, it tasted pretty good.

Talking to each other again, we went to bed with a sense of uncertainty, both of us so much wanting this to work out. During the night, the owner’s dog started barking, unusual for this otherwise quiet dog. The owner’s outdoor lights suddenly flashed on as Tom bolted out of bed peeking out the windows. She had warned us about possible crime in the area during the night telling us to leave the outdoor lights on all night.

At night, we turned off the lights so we could open the windows before going to bed to get some relief from the heat. If the outdoor lights were on, we found, it attracted the bugs.  Oh, please.

Tom bolted out of bed another few times when the dog barked again. He left on the outdoor light. My heart racing expecting some terrifying event, I hid under the covers trying to keep the mosquitoes and no-see-ums from biting. 

If I’d been the crying type which I’m not, I could have cried then but, what was the point?  Men seem to feel helpless when women cry often acting unsympathetic and angry when they “can’t fix it.” I didn’t see any benefit to making my loving attentive husband feel any more frustrated than he already was.

Exhausted, we fell back to sleep.  At 9:00 am I awakened Tom, reminding him that Tim said he’d be in the office at 9:30. A short time later we were standing in the office of Laru Beya ready to pay our $5000 by credit card.  Handing Tim a card on which we had ample “room” we began to relax.

Oh, good grief!  Our credit card was declined!  How could that be?  I’d verified it, that very morning when Tom was sleeping.  I asked Tim to run it again for a smaller amount. He said “I did and it still wouldn’t go through.”

He handed me the phone. Making an expensive long-distance call on their phone, on hold for no less than five minutes, I finally got through to a rep who was apologizing profusely for “the inconvenience.”  They’d blocked the card when the $5000 charge came in the first time, assuming it was a stolen card. That explains why the smaller amount didn’t go through.

I explained, “I’d called all of our cards while in the US with the dates we’d be in various countries to avoid this exact scenario.”

Again she apologized, explaining that this large of a charge warranted a call from us for our protection. She approved the transaction and minutes later we signed the charge slip. I couldn’t do it fast enough. 

Tom asked Tim, “Do you have anywhere we could stay beginning today?”  I held my breath awaiting Tim’s answer. 

“Let me look,” he said. Minutes went by, again, my heart pounding as Tim investigated the options. “We have one room for $250 a night room we can give you for $182 a night with tax included.”  (He’d included the tax in the two month’s $5000).

“Yes!” we both said, “we’ll take it! Can someone come to help us get our stuff soon?” Tom asked since it all wouldn’t fit on the golf cart.

“Yes,”  Tim stated with certainty, “Of course, we’ll do that. We have a van. How’s 1:30?”

We hurriedly returned to the little house madly packing everything in sight. That early morning I had managed to eek out a load of laundry when water ran for a short period. It was still wet on the line. Hopefully, by 1:30 it would be dry. In a matter of an hour, we’d packed everything. When we moved in seven days ago, we had unpacked only enough clothes to get through a week, making the repacking easier.

Arriving back at Laru Beya by 2:00 pm anxious to unload our stuff, me in the van with Tim, Tom puttering behind in the golf cart (which we have to return by Friday), we realized that in our enthusiasm, we’d failed to ask what were we getting for the five nights?  As a beautiful resort, we mindlessly assumed it would be suitable. 

Maybe we didn’t ask on purpose, both knowing if they so much as gave us a closet it would be better than from whence we came. Alas, it was a nicely appointed, but, a small hotel room with a huge bath with running hot water, air conditioning, free Wifi, cable flat-screen TV, and no kitchen. The tiny fridge had no freezer to store the packages of sausage for the yet to be made pizza but instead a basic hotel room refrigerator. We’d make do. If the sausage spoils, it spoils. 

We loaded the remainder of our perishable items after two sturdy helpers (along with us) hauled all of our luggage up three flights of stairs to our new digs for the next five days when, on Sunday, the helper returns to move us to the first-floor villa.

Rather than count the days until Sunday, we decided to love every single moment in our hotel room.  Tom wimped out (his word, not mine) since now we have to eat out. No kitchen for five days.  We putted over to Robert Grove’s in the golf cart for another outdoor restaurant last night across the highway for their Tuesday night Mexican buffet. 

We couldn’t stop smiling, apologizing for our irritability these past few days.  Tom said, “If we had started out here at Laru Beya, we would have said Belize is pure Paradise.  We must come back here in the future!” 

Our costs for 2 1/2 months in Belize….Plus photos…Plus a new mission…

 

The beach outside our door.

Renting a golf cart is the best thing we could have done!  After the rain stopped yesterday, we decided to go check out some local restaurants for our date night. Although it only goes about 10 miles an hour, we can explore this general area quite easily.  There’s not another town for about 53 miles so we’re best to stay within the approximate eight-mile distance of the peninsula of Placencia.

Around noon, we took off for Robert’s Grove Resort to check out their health club and three restaurants.  Not a golfer, the golf cart reminded me of the motorized cars at Disneyland that I so much loved to drive as a kid maneuvering between the high rubber bumper curbs. The putt putt sound made the ride all the more entertaining.

Wandering into Robert’s Grove, for a moment I wished we were staying there for the entire 2 1/2 months.  Almost a year ago, I checked their prices to discover that they were already entirely booked. Also, at $200 a night plus meals at another $150 a day (we checked their menus), the cost would have been $24,150 plus tips, plus laundry, plus transportation. 

The total to stay at Robert’s Grove would have been around $30,000. Our total cost for the 2 1/2 months in Belize including rent, golf cart rental, groceries, and dining out will be approximately $6800 total! 

After the inspection visit at Robert’s Grove Resort, we made reservations for dinner for their Saturday night buffet. Much to our surprise, they offered to pick us up at our little beach house at 6:45 and bring us back at no charge. We described how to find us as best as we could and planned to be standing on the road at 6:45 promptly. 

In order to drive to Robert’s Grove, we must go through a very poor rough looking town, not unlike North Minneapolis, 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. The thought of a ride in the dark, unlit street in a van, as opposed to a golf cart, was very appealing making the prospect of dinner all the more exciting. We had newfound hope that soon we’d start enjoying ourselves. 

Determined to find more restaurants, we decided to eat out most days while we had either a ride or transportation during the times we’d have the golf cart. At over $900 a month for the cart, we thought we might get it every other week, grocery shopping for the long week stranded in between. Maybe, if dinner at Robert’s Grove was good, we’d have them pick us up a few times in the weeks we were without wheels. This was a plan we could live with.

Deciding against the $39 a month for workout facility at Robert’s Grove due to it not having the equipment I use, we were on our way, tootling down the road to see what else we could find.

Suddenly, a sign appeared, “Luxury Condos for Sale, Coco Plum Villas” as we looked at each other, nodding yes at each other at exactly the same moment. “Let’s check it out.” Of course, we had no intention of buying a home in Belize but thought it would be fun as vacationers often do, in order to get a better feel for an area, to do a bit of house hunting. We wanted to see the more luxurious side of Placencia as well.

Below are photos of the exquisite grounds of Coco Plum Villas.

A man-made lake was the central focus of the development.

A friendly guard waved us through at the gate pointing us to the model, a short distance down the road.  We were in another world.  At considerable cost and design, they utilized the Placencia peninsula on the lagoon side, to build a massive amount of waterways surrounding by nature’s bounty of the area, a variety of palm trees, flowering plants, and trees of unknown origin. Birds were singing and although a cloudy, humid day, it was beautiful.

Another view of the lake.

To see a photo gallery of the area, click this link:
http://www.cocoplumbelize.net/placencia-photo-gallery.aspx

Another friendly young man welcomed us in the model home. It was interesting seeing the model condo, designed and decorated to utilize the space and views of the sea. Priced at $369,000, not unlike a price one we find in any ocean town so close to the water. Fantasizing for a moment, we asked each other, “Could we live here?” as we walked out the breathtaking grounds, the cabana bars, the long dock with a built-in bar at the end, overlooking expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.

Much of the land around the lake was undeveloped.

Tom answered, “The condo, yes, it’s great. The general location, no.” 

I agreed, “There isn’t a grocery store anywhere in the area that would fulfill our needs with the way we eat.”  One would have to have food products flown in and the cost would be prohibitive.  Eating out every meal would become tiresome and costly. For vacationers, for a week or two, it would be ideal.  But not for us down the road.

It then dawned on us that we needed to “reframe our thinking” a phrase used by Tony Robbins, a renowned life coach and motivational speaker whom my eldest son Richard and I made a point of seeing as often as we could, many years ago. His teachings had a profound effect on both of our careers in real estate, with me, retiring over three years ago after over 25 years and Richard still active in Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada with an illustrious career, still booming in this distressed market. 

A dock to the ocean.

Did we reframe our thinking? How did we do that? We talked.

As we drove away from the condo villas, smiles on our faces, we now realized a greater mission than we previously had dreamed of traveling the world.  At some point, we’ll need to settle down, due to health or tiring from being on the move. 

Where we will live is totally up in the air.  In our year’s long journey, somehow, somewhere, we will find a place that spells “home” deciding to spend whatever time we have left in this world in a beautiful setting (with a good grocery store) whereby our family can visit and feel they are on vacation.  We may do this someday.

With a new mission naturally falling into place, we are rejuvenated, our enthusiasm has been given a burst and we can be at peace wherever we may be.  Thus, as we choose, we can explore real estate at the numerous upcoming ports of call, arranging for a real estate agent to pick us up the pier and show us a few properties for sale.  As a former agent/broker for many years, I often showed homes to prospective buyers, knowing full well that they hadn’t yet locked in an area.  That is what agents do.

Last night at 6:45, we both outside on the dark road as directed waiting for the Robert’s Grove marked van to appear to pick us up.  We figured they’d find us since the Little Cottage was located on their map of Placencia and we gave them the milepost numbers.

Standing in the dark was scary.  Lots of pickup trucks drove by with the bed filled with people sitting on the edges, honking and making noise.  Each time we saw a vehicle go by we had to stand close to the road enabling the driver to see us.  By 7:00 pm and no driver, we had to make a decision. 

Do we go back inside the humid little house and call it a night with nothing defrosted for dinner.  Or, do we take a chance and drive the golf cart in the pitch dark the three miles through the scary town?

As we sat in the driveway in the golf cart contemplating our move, we noticed a golf cart go by with what looked like tourists. We opted to follow them.  There’s strength in numbers.  Driving as fast as he could, Tom reassured me we’d be safe.  My heart was racing.

Along the road, there were about six speed bumps that were raised pedestrian crossings. To cross them, one had to slow down to a snail’s pace. It’s during that time that a potential attacker could have easy access to golf cart occupants. As we sped up after crossing each of the speed bumps we sighed a sigh of relief to again be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at Robert’s Grove Habener Restaurant, the smell of unfamiliar spices filling the air while live reggae music pulsated through the restaurant. Immediately, we alerted the restaurant staff that the driver never arrived by 7:00 pm resulting in our driving on our own. We were pleased to know we hadn’t missed him since she explained he was running late, as much as 1/2 hour. We’d only waited 15 minutes. She called him to tell him we were there since he had yet to arrive to pick us up.

Seated at our cozy white linen-covered table and chairs, we finally relaxed ordering a drink. Tom was anxious to get to the buffet. We’d hardly eaten in days with the problematic tiny stove, the running water issues, the tiny refrigerator with little room to stock fresh foods befitting our diet. 

After a few sips of our drinks, we sauntered to the buffet delighted with what we found:  huge lobster tails, Belizean roast chicken, fried conch (which I couldn’t eat due to the breading), piles of fresh large unpeeled shrimp on a bed of ice, and a whole roasted pig cooked to perfection. Various rice concoctions, salads, fresh fruit, bread, and rolls, completed the buffet along with a full table of what appeared to be delectable desserts. 

I asked the waiter if the water was purified and he assured us it was which is typical for hotels not wanting sick, angry guests stuck in their rooms with the “revenge” unable to spend more money and, in this day and age, writing derogatory reviews.  We felt safe to finally enjoy some ice in our water.

There were numerous items of which I couldn’t partake, but more that I could and I piled my plate twice as high as Tom’s.  The lobster was sweet and tender, the chicken, seasoned the Belizean way was falling off the bone, the sausage was spicy and moist and the pig. Well, I “pigged out.” It was a feast. Tom went back for another lobster tail. I had taken two to start and didn’t go back for seconds after eating my entire plate of food. 

The music was so loud we could barely speak instead of preoccupying ourselves with our food, the ambiance, and the good feeling of enjoying “being out.” The bill for everything, including our drinks and a generous tip for the attentive waiter, was $78 US, a deal by our standards. We’ll definitely go back again soon. 

The drive back was less scary and uneventful. We now felt comfortable driving the golf cart at night and of course, we’d be as mindful as possible. We can’t spend our world travels being suspicious of every corner, but we can and will be as cautious as is practical and possible.

This morning, I swept the piles of sand off the tile floor in the little house and on the patio, boiled more water, washed off the tabletops and kitchen counters with rags dipped in cold soapy (there’s literally NO HOT WATER in the little house!) hoping the soap would somehow sanitize everything.

At noon, an hour from now, we’ll hop into our golf cart driving in the opposite direction as yesterday, find a restaurant for tonight, and hopefully discover more interesting areas to explore.  We’ll take more photos. 

Today, I received a comment from a reader kindly requesting me to post photos of the distressed areas as well.  Next time we go to Placencia Village, in the next few days, we will definitely take photos and post them.  Thanks, Anonymous.  We’re happy to comply.

We recovered from the virus/cold, we got on the ship. We’re getting used to the heat, my 25 bites are becoming less itchy, the sun is shining, its 80 degrees and we’re good.  Yep, for the moment, we’re good.