"So, after all di years in di big big city...... how it all come to dis!?"
That is a real quote from a Belizean who visited us on our farm in our first year here in Belize. He was dumbfounded that we would choose to pursue the off-grid lifestyle we so cherish and were only barely beginning to found then. Part of his confusion was his mistaken assumption that everyone in the United States lives in a 'big big city' My husband grew up in the heart of Appalachia, about as far from big cities as one can get in the lower 48! That was nearly a decade and a half ago, but the variations of that question have continued to emerge from the lips of countless individuals over the years (So how you reach so low? Are you insane? Don't you get lonely? Etc.), and they all boil down to one basic inquiry.....WHY? Well there are many reasons we chose to abandon the trappings and trimmings of the modern American lifestyle we were born into and I could write a book about it, well, actually I AM writing a book about it! But to sum up the main points here, there are 4 main reasons:
The invasion of privacy and the assault on basic human liberties that is so prevalent in the United States is refreshingly absent from our life her in Belize. This freedom to live your life without being harassed by government beauracracy and regulations is a definite advantage over the highly regulated reality of life in the US. I am constantly forced to bend the rules or outright ignore them there, and I am no criminal! For example, there is a law that requires hotels in the US to have a maximum per room occupancy limit of 4 people, with the exception of a few higher end hotels which sometimes offer a 6 person 'family suite'. It has to do with fire codes, I am told. Bottom line is, when I have been traveling alone with my four, five, or now six children to visit family in the US, I am stuck lying about the number of kids I have, or else I would need to rent two hotel rooms, one of which would be 100% useless to me...What? Am I going to leave a few kids alone in there, I think NOT! In many areas of the US it is illegal to light a campfire let alone cook some beans on an open fire in your yard. Having a Pit latrine (which I much prefer, truth told) requires special permitting and would be considered child neglect if it was all you had for a household of 8. Building your own house is a huge paperwork burden and expense due to all the codes and professionals you are required to hire to inspect and or install things. It would have been impossible for us to do there (legally), being who we are. These are only a few examples of the ways laws, permits and regulations destroy personal sovereignty in the US, and their absence here (or at least an absence of enforcement!) is a major plus, to us! But biggest of all, the reality of pursuing economic sovereignty, without both of us working a full time job for an employer! To wake up knowing you have food and all your basic needs and if you have a little money thats cool too, and yet, not feeling too worried when you don't. Afterall no bills due anyway, though you might not get to buy an internet package............unless you sell some chocolate, or maybe do a workshop?! Or maybe this time you will bake a few cakes.. Yes, economic sovereignty is a happy thing, even if at times it means a very frugal existence! Take it as it comes! :)
When we first visited Belize in 2001, one of the most appealing things about it was the simplicity and slower pace of life here. Belize is an extremely laid back place. No one is ever in a hurry here. This, admittedly, can be as much a curse as a blessing when there is actually something pressing that you have to count on a Belizean to accomplish for you. We used to have a running joke that you will NEVER see a Belizean run. Actually it wasn't a joke, it was just a truth back then, but since then the trend of jogging with an iPod on your arm has caught on, in the capital at least, and we can't really say "never" anymore, only "seldom". When we first came there were no road signs, no police patrolling the road for unsuspecting speeders or seatbelt-less driver. There were rarely even vehicles, aside from the public buses, on the main highways at all in fact. Most people did not have a cell phone, or even a home phone, let alone an email address. It was, in a word, a far SIMPLER life. While there are many more road signs, police, vehicles and even smartphones kicking around Belize these days, the pace of life is still far simpler, especially BakaBush (kriol for in the Rainforest)
There is, in both my husband and myself, an essence of the original explorer. Daniel Boone would have surely been proud of us! We both love forging the way into the modern global frontier. The idea of starting a farm and an off-grid life together from scratch, in the Neotropical Rain-forest was exceedingly attractive to us both! How could it not be? It seems to be a cultural obsession to be quite honest. We love nothing better, as a people than to explore the untamed wilderness. The difference being that our focus is not on exploitation as an end goal but rather on reconnection with the WILD world!
This is the keystone in the arch of our lives! Without the shared goal for ever increasing self-sufficiency an sustainability we would have lost our nerve years ago! We literally carved everything we now have out of the raw Bush (ie jungle)! We generate our own electricity (which I am using now!) and set up all our renewable energy systems ourselves, the Ranger does the water, I do the wires! We grow, gather, or hunt for all our own foods (with the exception of a few non-essential niceties like imported Cheeses and Olive Oil! We built three houses here, entirely of recycled or locally sourced mostly renewable resources, and we are on the verge of taking the next big step toward total self-sufficiency by upgrading my dilapadated Toyota 4runner to a wagon pulled by horses or maybe Oxen! To look back and see that we came here with nothing but some cash in a bank account, inspiration and a ton and a half of tenacity; and now we have an amazing family, a farm that feeds and sustains all eight of us, and a one-of-a-kind learning Center, THAT is an empowering feeling!! It is so much so, that we must always be careful not to let our own pride get away with us. We are fully aware that all of our blessings and accomplishments have been bestowed upon us by the hand of the Most High Creator, and that none of it would be possible without his continued benevolence and graciousness! We are always seeking to bring more glory and honor to YHWH, for YHWH (God) is Good, ALL THE TIME! If you do not know that, it is because you do not know YHWH!