Tag Archives: Belize

Millan Lives Large

10 Jul

MillanWe have never spoken of our competition. Yet, when I am on island it is always a race to see who reaches the kitchen first. Making the morning coffee is an honor that goes to the earliest of early birds. I know my friend Millan takes great pride in beating me there.

Sometimes I let him win.

Like this morning. It is 5:30am and I am sitting on the steps of the palapa watching the beginnings of the day in the east. Millan hands me a cup of black coffee, strong and hot. Back in his village, he grew this coffee. Planted and tended the bushes. Picked and dried the berries. Milled them, roasted the beans, brought them here on the bus, ground them, and made this cup just for me. This cup of coffee represents his way of life.

It is a part of him.

Millan lives large. He came to me with the island in a package deal and turned out to be more valuable than the real estate. He built the island and all the structures on it. Millan works hard. Like most Mayans, he believes that life is work and that work is life. He is a man of many talents. He can build things, fix things, farm, fish, cook, and deliver babies.

He has nine of them.

His home is a small, dirt-floor thatch structure with a comal in one corner. It is where the family hangs their hammocks each night and where they go when it rains. He keeps improving it, but it is fundamentally no different than what his ancestors lived in 900 years ago – only his has a solar panel to power a lightbulb and charge a cell phone.

That is my fault.

Millan’s smile radiates joy. Looking deeper you find strength and peace next to the happiness. He seems to have it all figured out. He is my Belizean Dalai Lama. I am pretty sure he doesn’t care how many friends he has on Facebook or how many likes his latest post received. Millan would be mystified to learn that that is a thing.

He is a man of substance.

He makes me want to be a better person; to hone character, to find joy in simplicity, to endure in the face of adversity, to value work for its own sake, and to always smile. Our competition will continue. Tomorrow, I will make the coffee and serve it to him.

He deserves it.

On Owning an Island

27 Jan

1599244_765606880160596_3227542613482179672_oI blame Jimmy Buffett for many of the questionable things I have done in my life: running away to Mexico at seventeen, moving to Hawaii at twenty-one, buying several boats, surfing in hurricanes, and, most recently, buying an island in Belize. Finding Margaritaville has been a life-long obsession.

As an avid SCUBA diver, I had been to Belize many times. My kids learned to dive there. We explored caves, hiked to waterfalls, climbed Mayan ruins, sailed the atolls, and fished the reef. We made friends in the country and fell in love with the diversity of the culture…and, especially, with the ocean.

There are over 400 cayes (pronounced “keys”) in Belize. A beautiful barrier reef runs the entire 190 mile length of the country and it is home to the only coral atolls in the western hemisphere. The turquoise colored seas, abundant ocean life, and white sand beaches make it a water sports paradise. We love it.

Just over a year ago I started surfing Belize real estate sites on the Internet looking for a little place that would serve as a home base for a thorough exploration of the country. We were looking for something simple, easy and inexpensive that would not be a burden and, most importantly, would not interfere or prevent us from enjoying travels to other destinations. That is when I first saw a listing for Portofino Caye. “Own an Island,” the ad said.

Book a flight, build a spreadsheet, talk to banker, negotiate with wife, listen to Marley, dream rum-fueled dreams, make an offer, and get handed the keys (actually there are no keys because there are no locks.) Margaritaville is mine. Seven and a half acres of sand and palms with luxury accommodations, a few well-placed hammocks, a fleet of boats, a competent local staff, and year-round warmth and sunshine. The backyard has a coral reef and lobster can be picked out of the water for dinner.

Now dubbed Royal Belize, it is the only luxury private island in the country rented exclusively to one guest party at a time. There are five bedrooms across three separate villas, a large open-air palapa for lounging and dining, plenty of lounge chairs, and acres of sand and water for all to enjoy. The island combines the benefits of an adventure destination with luxury accommodations in an exclusive setting. When we are not SCUBA diving the barrier reef, we are fishing or enjoying the jet skis, kayaks, standup paddle boards, beach games, kite board, and catamaran. Or maybe just laying around in the sun or shade with a cold beverage. We have found it is the perfect place for adventure travelers and lay-around loungers alike.

Most people come for the amenities of an all-inclusive, private island vacation, but wind up falling in love with the caring staff that anticipates their every desire. The team does whatever it takes to create “WOW” and seeks to make every visitor’s dreams come true. Their mission is to create unforgettable experiences while making new best friends for life.

The past year has involved a tremendous amount of work. In addition to revamping the marketing and management of the resort, the team has converted the island to solar and wind power, renovated the villas, upgraded the infrastructure and the boats, expanded the kitchen, and replaced most of the furniture and equipment. Herman Wouk’s novel Don’t Stop the Carnival has been our how-not-to guide. It is the story of a guy from the states that sells his business, moves to the Caribbean, buys a resort, and learns many lessons the hard way. It is an eerily prescient book that everyone with this dream should read. We are still alive and have quickly developed an ability to remain calm in the face of each new catastrophe.

The Royal Belize brand stands for luxury, privacy, adventure, sustainability, and philanthropy. In 2014, we helped seven non-profit organizations raise over $150,000 at charity auctions by consigning trips at large discounts and allowing the organization to keep the profits from the sale. We also support a number of youth libraries in different villages throughout Belize. As a member of the Getaway2Give Collection the resort generates additional charitable contributions when G2G members vacation on the island. The entire Royal Belize team is committed to fulfilling the philanthropic mission.

For our family, owning an island in a tropical paradise feels like living in a fantasy world. We have enjoyed taking friends, colleagues, and family members down several times over the past year. We love it so much and want all of our friends to share the experience. Please come for a visit. Let us know when you plan to arrive. We may be out fishing or diving. There are margaritas in the blender. Help yourself.

My Log Book

8 Aug

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I have been SCUBA diving for over 25 years. Destinations have included The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Greek Isles, Hawaii, California, Florida, a mine in Missouri, and every divable spot in Mexico and the Caribbean. There were times over that period when I was very active and times when life got in the way and I was only able to get in one trip a year. Regardless, I have been religious about keeping a log of every one of my several hundred dives. It is my personal SCUBA history book.

In the early years I wrote about the things I saw. The book is littered with the words ray, shark, turtle, eel, and every manner of reef fish large and small. The sharks were identified by species; nurse, bull, lemon, whitetip, blacktip, hammerhead, and tiger (no great whites yet). I once saw a turtle as big as a VW bug.

When my son and daughter took up the sport about eight years ago, I continued to log our dives together and the frequency of them increased dramatically. Diving became a family affair. I loved getting them alone on a surface interval to chat about the things we saw on our first dive and talk excitedly about what we might encounter next.

Soon after we began diving together the entries in my log book began to change. I still noted the special things we had seen, but there was much more written about the people we were with. The entries were now about new friends made on trips; kind souls that emailed photos from their fancy underwater cameras; interesting folks with good stories; and friends that I have introduced to life under the sea. The memories made on these trips are less about morays and mantas, and more about friends and family.

As I peruse the log book entries from our new second home at Royal Belize I find precious reminders of the people I love the most.

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