September 24, 2012

Book Review: Freeways to Flip-Flops

Sonia Marsh is a gutsy lady living a satisfying retirement. Taking a cue from her Gutsy Living blog, she has recently published a book that certainly qualifies her for that title. Freeways to Flip-Flops is the true story of Sonia, her husband, Duke, and their three sons moving from suburban Los Angeles to Belize. 

That alone would be worthy of a story or two. But, the reason for the abrupt change of lifestyle makes Sonia's tale truly compelling: to save her marriage and her family.

Duke was a stressed out, over-worked, over-committed lawyer who had little time for his family. The three boys were becoming products of an Orange County culture that stressed acting privileged, experimenting with drugs and teenage sex, and weakened family ties. 

After serious warning signals that all was not well in the Marsh household, Sonia and Duke took the radical step of selling all their possessions and moving to a hut in the jungle over 2,000 miles away.

Freeways to Flip-Flops is the story of one year in their lives. It is the story of their struggles to adapt to a completely foreign culture and environment. There were moments of pure terror during storms. The frustration of having extremely limited food choices took its toll. Living conditions were primitive. At times fleas were washed off that evening's pasta so dinner could be served. 

Attempts to earn extra money for the family were thwarted by the locals. Duke lost his telecommuting lawyer job due to poor Internet service and the constant hassles of just getting through the day. A move from their first house (a shack, really) to better conditions came with unexpected hurdles and costs.


Through it all, the family not only survived, but began to grow closer. Their self-centered, indulgent lifestyle was slowly replaced with one of concern for each other. Rebellion against the limits placed on life in a third world country evolved into acceptance and then preference for a simpler lifestyle.

A year later the Marsh family returned to California, changed and matured in a very fundamental way. The search for paradise became not so much a place but a state of mind and an appreciation of the beauty of simple things.

Sonia is a blogging friend who has worked hard on this book and establishing herself as a gutsy lady. She was born in Denmark, lived in West Africa and Paris, and attended college in England. She has lived a fascinating life, but nothing could have prepared her for a year in Belize. I highly recommend this book. It is available at Amazon.com.



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.


17 comments:

  1. I always thought Belize was supposed to be a lovely haven for expats.....I'll have to read her blog and book!

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    1. Belize is a tropical paradise with a large number of expats. But, as Sonia detailed in the book, a physical paradise wasn't her end goal: it was the development of a new mind-set for her family that meant paradise was found with each other and within whatever that society provided.

      Her story is a very realistic portrayal of the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful parts of life 2,000 miles from home.

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    2. Roberta, it depends on whether you're alone, with a family with teenagers, and whether you want to work or not. Visiting Belize is quite different from trying to start a job and trying to get enough water and food to feed your family, depending on where you live. HGTV paints a different picture than what real life is like. Also when you try to support a family, that's another story. I don't regret our year in Belize at all, quite the contrary, I just write a true story about our year in Belize.

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  2. Bob,
    Thank you for reviewing my book and for the excellent synopsis. I wanted to point out that Belize is a popular destination for retired Americans. We met several couples who could not afford to live on their social security checks in the U.S., who moved to Consejo Shores, a retirement community close to the boarder with Mexico. They were willing to live a simple life and eat local food: chicken, rice and beans, and not splurge on American imported goods. Medical expenses are a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and are sometimes free, or the hospital asks for a donation. When our son was hospitalized, due to a severe allergic reaction to touching a poisonwood tree, the local hospital with Cuban doctors, simply asked for a donation. My husband and I have learned that the best way to work in a country like Belize, is to either have an Internet business, or do something that does not compete with the locals.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the review, Sonia. I wasn't sure which parts to emphasis, but the day-to-day reality seemed most important. There are lots of travel books that present the physical beauty of Belize (and it is a gorgeous country) and how Americans have found a very affordable alternative to the States.

      Your story is about something else: thinking you are finding a getaway only to learn life follows you wherever you go. It is how your family dealt with those circumstances that makes your book a fun and important read.

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  3. Bob,
    I never really thought about how my book paints a picture of "reality" the good and the bad, as I was writing it. I just wanted to tell our story. Thanks for pointing that out.

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  4. Bob, Thanks for the tip. Goin' right over there to check it out.

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    1. Tom,

      Look forward to hearing from you. Have you visited Belize? I did fall in love with all the adventures we had and the beauty of the Caribbean.

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  5. I had the pleasure of reading Sonia's book recently. I highly recommend it for anyone thinking of retiring to a foreign domicile, or even if you just want an entertaining read. It was a lot of fun, and imagining the family's circumstances was an easy thing to do, since Sonia has a particularly good writing style. Had a friend who intends to make it to Belize someday (he is currently in the FL Keys); I'll have to make sure he reads this book first.

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    1. Hi Chuck,
      Thanks for reading my book and recommending it. People ask me if I regret our move to Belize, and my response is, "Absolutely not." Even though we couldn't start a business there, this was the most adventure and "gutsy" thing we ever did. I want other people to follow their passion. I learned so many lessons that I'd like to share with others about the "expat life" in Central America.

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  6. This does look like a good one. I bet you had fun reading it.

    B

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    1. Hi Barbara,

      I hope you enjoy my memoir. If you do, and have friends i a book club, I am available to Skype and answer questions you and your friends may have. Just e-mail me at sonia@soniamarsh.com. Thanks.

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  7. Solid review. Sounds like a book for my list when I retire---again :>)

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  8. I loved Sonia's book! She is truly a gutsy woman. Her book makes you think long and hard about whether you really want to chuck it all and have an adventure. I'm so happy it all turned out so well for them.
    b

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  9. Thanks Barbara. Strangely enough, i have absolutely no regrets about our move to Belize. I now look forward to another adventure.

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  10. Keep on working, gгeаt job!
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