Laurie Norton created the Tacogirl blog in 2007 and has been offering travel information about Belize ever since. Her blog has helped so many people plan their trips to Belize that it was awarded the Trip Advisor Destination Expert badge in 2009. In this interview, she shares some of the challenges of becoming a resident in Belize, why you won’t become a bartender in Belize and how she came up with the name, Tacogirl.
Wrobel & Co: You get asked this a lot and we also read about it on your blog. But for our readers, why the name Tacogirl?
Laurie Norton: Not long after moving here I found a Belize message board and needed a nickname to join. My first pick Beachgirl, was taken. Having just moved to Ambergris Caye, food was the next thing that came to mind as I was in love with the smells of street food in my new country. I thought Tacogirl was fitting to my new life, I had no idea at the time I had just branded my future business or that I was to become a writer. It goes to show if a dyslexic Canadian girl who struggled in school can escape Canadian winter, and become a world-famous writer, anything is possible.
W & C: It’s a very catchy name. Speaking of, where is the best place in Belize for tacos? Second place? Third?
Laurie: Orange walk tacos come in first place because of how they are made with fresh corn masa – so tasty. Since I live on Ambergris Caye, these next places are all favorites. La Fonda on Back St. for Al Pastor style pork tacos (minus the grilled pineapple) and Albertina’s in Central Park for shrimp tacos. Both options are low cost $3 and under. Carolines Kitchen, Elvi’s Kitchen and El Fogon all in town all great local restaurants for tacos.
W & C: We’re so grateful for your tips already! When did you move to Belize and why did you choose to move here?
Laurie: I made my move to Belize in 2006 and my driving force was to escape winter permanently and move to the kind of place I would vacation. While on my 3-week vacation in 2004, I instantly knew Ambergris Caye was my destination. I went back home and immediately started planning my tropical escape.
W & C: Winter has that effect on some people. (Note: Managing Partner, Ryan Wrobel, is from Buffalo, New York). What gave you the idea to start your blog?
Laurie: I started my blog for personal reasons and quickly realized due to posting a few links on the Ambergris Caye.com message board, I instantly became first career blogger in Belize and it turned into my business.
W & C: Are you a full-time blogger? What else do you do in Belize?
Laurie: Very much a full-time blogger, most people have no idea how much work goes into blogging. I also volunteer to help fill my time. in 2017, I started battery recycling on the island and I am working on collecting supplies to help the individuals and groups working to help reverse our trash problem and make Ambergris Caye go green (Check out https://tacogirl.com/eco-friendly-belize/)
W & C: Thank you for that, we’ll share it on our site. In your blog, you said, “The Belize government is very protective of its workforce and so if you are applying for a job that most Belizeans can do, such as bartender, you won’t get it. Starting your own business is always welcome of course and there are many niches that can be filled.”
What niches have you seen being filled over the last year or two? What interesting or outlandish things have you seen people (referring to expats) do in Belize to earn a living?
Laurie: As far as outlandish things not so much. Adventurous yes, Chris Summers and Christina Manzi are crocodile wranglers and run the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES.) Their job entails keeping both humans and crocs safe and away from each other (Check out https://www.americancrocodilesanctuary.org/)
Also inventive, in addition to the most delicious homemade Belizean Beef Jerkey, my friend Cindy started making a great environmentally friendly Belizean product with a strange silly name, The Banyan.
Generally, most people open or buy an existing bar, restaurant, tour business or shop. Some choose to generate income from vacation rentals. I have a few smart friends in the same condo complex that stay a few months a year because their condo is in the rental pool when they are not in it.
W & C: Makes a great second home! What were some of the challenges you faced when becoming a resident in Belize, becoming a citizen and/or acquiring your Belizean passport?
Laurie: Other than waiting, I did not experience challenges getting my residency. Having an understanding that my new country was still young and a pocket full of p’s, politeness, patience, and persistence helped a lot. Too many people get frustrated by the system here without taking time to remember Belize is a young country still. Imagine trying to get paperwork done in the United States or Canada when it was only 37 years old. (Check out “Why Belize Isn’t a Third World Country”)
W & C: Good point! Please describe what part of Canada you’re from and what you did before you moved to Belize.
Laurie: I was born in Quebec and lived most of my life in Ontario. Made my move from Downtown Toronto in Kensington Market area. I will never forget how cold it was that year and how ready I was to start my new year (2006) and my new life in Belize.
W & C: Do you own a home in Belize? If you do, please describe some of the challenges you faced with buying property and any tips for our readers.
Laurie: I rent. Whether you rent or buy, doing your due diligence is important. I did renovations in Canada for a while, not because I enjoyed it but more so because I wanted to know what was involved in doing a multitude of jobs. So far I have saved a couple of rental properties from a bad tile job and pretend locksmiths that bang the lock into place instead of recognizing it is not a good fit and that changing a lock should never involve loud clanging noises or wood screws.
W & C: Have you noticed a trend in people moving to a certain part of Belize? What would you guess is the allure?
Laurie: The idea of Ambergris Caye has always been a popular one and many people take the plunge. San Ignacio and Placencia are two other areas that are becoming more popular.
W & C: Favorite animal in Belize?
Laurie: My favorite animal is, tough call as there are so many great ones. Currently, I would have to pick the Blue Morpho butterfly as its shimmering beauty holds symbolic meaning for me.
W & C: Favorite drink in Belize?
Laurie: Blended iced coffee with chocolate and banana is my all-time favorite drink. Second choice Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lime.)
W & C: Favorite time of year in Belize and why?
Laurie: Fall is one of my favorite times of year here because I am still conscious all these years later (currently 13) that I am lucky not to have the impending dread of winter coming my way.
W & C: Where is your favorite place in Belize and why?
Laurie: I love the jungle because it is vivacious and vast. I remember laying in bed in my screened-in room at Caves Branch once and really listening to the sounds of nature. I could detect certain rhythms and patterns in the chatter of bugs. It was fascinating, I feel the same way about underwater exploring.
W & C: What are some of the amazing things living in Belize has afforded you?
Laurie: Belize has allowed me to be more spontaneous. I have had chance run-ins on the street leading to almost instant opportunities such as an overnight catamaran camping trip at Goffs Caye.
W & C: What should people expect when they visit your blog tacogirl.com, The Original Belize Blog Since 2007? Which sections are the most popular?
Laurie: People will get a wide mix of fun, information and ideas to help them plan their trips.
Interested in retiring or relocating in Belize as Laurie did? Contact Wrobel & Co, Attorneys-at-Law, and we’ll get you started on your Belize retirement or relocation journey today.
To learn more about retirement in Belize, visit our Belize Retirement FAQ page here.
This information was provided as a courtesy of Wrobel & Co. Attorneys-at-law. It is intended to inform, not to advise. No one should try to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of legal counsel. Please click here for the full disclaimer.