Rat Races and Moving to Belize

A view of the Caribbean Sea near Caye Caulker, Belize. December 2012.

Remember that week-long vacation I mentioned?

Done. One week in Belize with a side trip to Guatamala.

My friend and I stayed in jungle lodges and guesthouses, forded streams on foot, took a day-long caving trip, bathed in rainwater, followed residents on impromptu hikes to unknown destinations, and hopped on boats with locals. On many occasions, we felt glad our mothers didn't know what we were up to. (Sorry, Mom! But hey: I came back alive!)

I highly recommend pushing your boundaries with travel. (Don't get me wrong: I love taking time to relax and rejuvenate, too.) We learned a lot about ourselves and the places we visited.

And we learned that many Belizean locals aren't natives.

We met people from El Salvador and Guatemala who'd relocated to Belize for job opportunities and a better economy. (Interesting aside: In Belize, they have the same immigration debates we have in the States.)

And we met people from first-world countries--England, the United States, France, Canada--who'd chucked it all and moved to Belize. One couple hadn't even visited the country before relocating from England with two dogs. They purchased property in the Cayo District, fixed it up, and decided to invite tourists. Another couple visited Caye Caulker from Indiana and decided to move there to start a yoga retreat. (By the way, a hotel rooftop watching the sun set on the Caribbean Sea is the perfect place to do yoga.)

I don't know what the lives of these two couples were like before they moved to Belize. But other first-world relocaters we met had run to Belize to escape the stress of their previous lives.

Do people need to toss it all to escape the rat race?

Although it's possible to change one or three things and shift focus to decelerate and shake off pressure, a person has cultivated his current life--house, work, business and social networks, hobbies--in his most recent framework. Everyone expects a certain demeanor or activity from him. His environment encourages old habits.

It's easier to overhaul than adjust.

In many cases, addicts, criminals, and people who have lost weight relapse due to environmental factors.

People can drop pounds, addictions, and criminal activity in health spas, detox facilities, and prisons. When deemed "rehabilitated" or "set on a good path," they return to places where their friends use drugs, eat copious fast foods, and undertake illegal activities and where their routines remind them of an awesome high, the criminal thrill, and a prework stop at McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin.

Familiar environments encourage familiar lifestyles.

The rat race not a "bad habit" for everyone. Yet some people want to get off the track. So is there a way to step out of the rat race without jumping into an entirely new world? I'm not sure.

What do you think?

(And before you worry: I'm in no way needing to escape the rat race. I'm happy just where I am!)

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Reader Comments (2)

They used to call it the Tahiti syndrome. Go off and find that simple life. Lead a bucolic existence in the wilds.

I recall some writer saying that success was it's own trap. You get a little successful so you buy a car and a house and you have to keep working to keep these things or maintain them. So you work harder and spend less time at the house and drive your car to pieces back and forth everyday to the office.

If you ever stop working you risk losing these things. So you make compromises. Longer hours, junk food, less time with the loved ones.

One day you take your mandated vacation time and you enter a place where the rules are totally different and you gain some perspective on your situation. Travel broadens the mind (terrible cliche, I'm sorry). You step out of your cubicle and ask yourself is this the life I really wanted?

A tiny few will say "yes! I love what I'm doing and how I'm doing it" This is the group that is most adored and envied group in the country. People love what they do but resent them as well.

Most will say "no, but what choice do I have?"

Some will say "no, I'm done with it and I'm moving to pago pago to live under a coconut tree" These are the dreamers that took action. If they are successful they join the group at the top.

A tiny group will say "no, but maybe if I change a few things it might make it better." They are willing to keep the situation going but they also recognize that it cant stay the same forever and that some accommodation has to be for their needs.

What does it all mean? Well firstly, most people don't like the lives they lead. To one degree or another they do not like how things are going and they may or may not be willing to make the changes necessary to improve that life.

To those few that do like the way their lives are going I say keep going, keep doing it. But keep humble. Realize that you are living at the pinnacle of the human experience but most others are not.

December 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

I think we all need to be aware of what sort of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses vortex we're getting sucked into and try to counteract it whenever and however possible. Nonetheless, if someone has let it get too far out of hand and suddenly sees that lifestyle adjustments are needed for happiness, I do believe he finds that it's harder to adjust than to just chuck it all and start over somewhere else. Which is sad, really, because although there might be a lot of bad in his current life, there's likely a lot of actual and potential good as well.

December 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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