Haven’t you ever wished to escape the daily grind and move to an island? Well, Sonia Marsh, a real OC housewife, and her family did just that. For one adventure-filled year, she and her family gave up their Orange County lifestyle in favor of island-living in exotic island on the north eastern coast of Central America, Belize (formerly British Honduras). Her debut memoir is called “Freeways to Flip Flops – A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island,” and it chronicles her family’s time living on the island.
I featured an excerpt from my interview with the author on OC FAMILY, here is the full interview with Sonia Marsh.
MARCIE: When you were in Belize, did you always want to write a book? Or were you thinking, “This would make a good book.”
SONIA: I thought about keeping a journal before our family left for Belize. One friend encouraged me to write; she said it would make a great book one-day. When I e-mailed family and friends about our adventures and misadventures, they would say, “Wow Sonia, your life in Belize is so exciting compared to my daily routine in OC. Keep e-mailing me your stories.” When you move from a comfortable 5-bedroom house in OC, to a simple life in a hut with our 3 sons, ages 16, 13 and 10, you’re bound to have stories to share. Everything was so different, from our stinky well-water—a quick cure for taking long showers—to scorpions coming out the drain, to adapting to powdered milk instead of fresh. We had no TV or electronic gadgets, except for our computers, so our family spent time talking and growing closer to one another. My friends loved receiving our updates, so I kept writing every day.
MARCIE: Reading your book, I could totally relate to you as a mother (of boys!). How did the Belize experience affect you as a mother?
SONIA: I realized how much I worried about keeping my kids entertained in Orange County, especially during the long summer vacations. Everything costs so much, and since other moms were sending their kids to camps, Wild Rivers, theme parks, movies and eating out, in a way I felt like I was competing with them, trying to micro-manage my kids’ activities. I hated that feeling, and I also hated the way my kids and their friends took all of this for granted.
When we moved to Belize, my kids had to find ways to entertain themselves. They would fish, swim, catch iguanas, get coconuts from the trees, and dig holes in the sand to look for water, since this was scarce.
My kids learned so much from seeing kids happy with nothing more than a coconut to kick, rather than a soccer ball, or fishing with a wire and a hook, rather than a fishing rod. They also learned from kids in Belize, that education is a privilege, not a right. That made a huge difference in how they viewed their education.
As a mom, I learned that we often try so hard to please our kids with “stuff” but that’s not what they really want. When we lived a more frugal life, we spent more time together cooking, listening and talking. I realized it’s not important to think that our job is to please our kids all the time.
As a mom, I learned that each child is different, so each one learned something different from our year in Belize. My oldest learned that his family loved him enough to pull him away from a bad situation, but as a family unit, rather than send him away to school. He became less selfish and felt good about helping our caretaker’s four-year-old son learn English. He started bonding with his brothers.
My middle son grew more assertive and independent, and my youngest son far more compassionate. When we returned to Orange County, he decided he didn’t fit in any longer and has enlisted in the Army.
MARCIE: What’s next on your agenda?
SONIA: My kids are grown now. One is an engineer, one in college, and the youngest enlisted and finished his AIT (Advanced Infantry Training.) I now feel it’s my time to grow. Writing, speaking, motivating others to take risks in life, is where I see my life going. I also have a strong desire to do several things:
• Peace Corps work in Africa
• Teach English in a third world country
• Live on another island, perhaps off the coast of Panama for several months out of the year.
My husband and I learned some important lessons from our year in Belize. Now we feel equipped to avoid the mistakes we made in attempting to start a business in Belize.
You definitely have such a Gutsy Spirit, Sonia! You and your book are an inspiration. For now, Sonia’s next big adventure is launching and promoting her book “From Freeways to Flip Flops.”