Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family's Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island

Rate this book
"A suburban family discovers that trading materialism for a simple life on a tropical island helps them reconnect in unexpected ways."
What do you do when life in sunny Southern California starts to seem plastic, materialistic and just plain hellish?
For Sonia and Duke Marsh, the answer was to sell their worldly goods and move to an unspoiled, simpler life with their three sons in Belize, Central America, a third-world country without all the comforts and distractions of life in the developed world.
Sonia hopes the move will bring her shattered family back together. She feels her sons slipping away from her, and her overworked husband never has time for her or the boys.
This is the story of one family’s search for paradise. In this memoir, Sonia chronicles a year of defeats, fears and setbacks – and also the ultimate triumph of seeing once-frayed family ties grow back stronger from shared challenges and misfortunes. For Sonia, paradise turned out not to be a place, but an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures – a close-knit family and three well-adjusted sons with a global outlook on life.

328 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sonia Marsh

4 books34 followers
Sonia Marsh is the award-winning author of the travel memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island. Her story is about chucking it all and uprooting her family—with teenagers— to reconnect on an island in Belize. Her memoir has received 8 awards, including 2014 Gold Medal winner in memoirs at the READERS' FAVORITE AWARDS and 1st Place, in the “Autobiography/Memoir E-Lit Awards 2012/13.
Sonia is the founder of the “My Gutsy Story®” series. The first anthology in that series, My Gutsy Story® Anthology: True Stories of Love, Courage and Adventure From Around the World, was a silver honoree in the 2013 Benjamin Franklin Digital Awards.
She has lived in many countries – Denmark, Nigeria, France, England, the U.S. and Belize – and considers herself a citizen of the world.
As a successful indie author, Sonia knows how to market books both online and in person. She is committed to helping authors succeed in selling their own books and offers "gutsy" book coaching to authors, as well as Webinars and Workshops. Contact her at: sonia@soniamarsh.com or visit her website: http://soniamarsh.com

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
39 (28%)
4 stars
54 (38%)
3 stars
31 (22%)
2 stars
12 (8%)
1 star
3 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Muriel.
Author 1 book11 followers
August 14, 2012
I am sure that this is a question that haunts any mother: what would you do if your teenage son was going off the track? Would you send him away to try to go and sort himself out? Would you try to deal with the issue yourself? Would you become depressed? Would you seek a family therapist?
Faced with such a situation, Sonia devised an innovative plan: she moved all the family to Belize for a year.
Her move surprised everybody, but somehow worked. Having a different pace of life and having to deal with the unexpected made the whole family more close-knit, and also more grateful of the small things of life -you know, the stuff we often take for granted, such as medical care or food in your local supermarket. They eventually came back to California and thrived.
Sonia’s novel is about the difficulties of holding a family together, trying to accommodate everybody’s needs. How do you make it work? What do you do when things don’t work out as expected? It is also a book about expat communities abroad and how your fellow countrymen behave when they have settled abroad.
I enjoyed each chapter of Sonia’s story, because she tells things in an honest, understated way. She explained, for instance, how to try to find the same food than at home, and how what works on the paper might be a bit more difficult to implement. Sonia’s book needs to be read slowly, chapter by chapter, to be fully appreciated. Her story is about resilience, and thinking outside the box to make it work. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Lynne Spreen.
Author 13 books183 followers
December 2, 2012
What an intriguing premise: a family moves from Orange County, CA to the country of Belize because the parents are worried that their three boys (adolescent to teenaged) are becoming corrupted by the culture of urban, privileged southern California. Also the father, an attorney, is discouraged and burned out from his high-pressure job.

In Belize, they encounter bugs, bad food, and scarce water. They receive the gift of breathtaking scenery, the pleasure of simple things, and the joy of becoming self-sufficient and making do with less. I couldn't put this book down. Sonia is a natural storyteller, and I enjoyed the book very, very much. I enthusiastically recommend it.
Profile Image for Sharon Lippincott.
Author 4 books8 followers
August 3, 2012
Sonia Marsh’s memoir, Freeways to Flipflops, gripped my attention from the first sentence and held me spell-bound through the last word. Lots of people dream of escaping to live on a tropical island. Few actually do. Author Sonia Marsh and her family did just that for a variety of reasons. The adults were suffering career and California Lifestyle burnout. One of their sons was heading down a very bad path. In desperation, they heeded the call of Belize, selling everything and moving to an island along its coast.

The sailing was anything but smooth. Their first bug infested shack was a nightmare, but they managed to find a more satisfactory one to buy. Or so it seemed. Until they ran afoul of local culture and got snarled up in island politics. Over the course of the year, Marsh gradually unwound; then the tension began building again. The subtitle of the book gives the ending away. They only lived in Belize for a year, but it was a transformative year, and the family who returned to the fringes of their high-rolling former neighborhood was not the family who had left it.

Marsh has done a superb job of crafting this story. While she writes of feeling mellow and discovering, for example, that she can, after all, meditate, she keeps the story pace moving so there is no chance readers will fall into a trance along with her. Her details are chosen with surgical precision, each serving a purpose, and her descriptions are often sublime. She doesn’t pull any punches. If she was as outspoken about Belize’s inbred politics and tourist-fleecing practices while there as she is in the book, it’s no surprise the natives closed ranks. Neither does she spare her family. A visit from her husband’s mother and aunt … I wonder if Marsh is still welcome for Thanksgiving!

The magic in the book is the way she ties the tense moments together with off-beat humor. Who would expect to smile at a description of spreading gumbo-limbo bark gunk on a boy’s back to cure a flaming case of poisonwood tree rash (worse than poison ivy)? Thanks to her deft description, I did just that, again and again.

This book has totally altered my outlook, at least my outlook on life in the tropics. From now on, every time I think about tropical islands, I’ll think of Freeways to Flipflops and wonder how closely life there resembles life in Belize. It’s that kind of book. It sticks with you.

This review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews
Profile Image for Rhoda.
586 reviews26 followers
July 20, 2016
Firstly, as I won this book as part of First Reads, I would like to thank the author for the chance to read and review this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book about a family who moved to Belize for a year. After some problems with their eldest teenage son, Sonia & Duke decided to move the family to Belize in order to try to mend the fractures in their family. This book is about the experiences they had and the trials they faced in living in a third world country. Interestingly, when things started to deteriorate for them living in Belize, the family had really succeeded in pulling together as a unit.

What I loved about this book was that the author wrote it as if she were writing a personal journal or a letter to a friend. It was no holds barred and no one was spared, including Sonia herself, who willingly wrote about her own shortcomings and errors in judgment. It was all so honest!

In the past I have reviewed another book about the author moving to a different country and her experiences there and commented that although interesting, the book was too polite - almost as if the author did not want to offend anyone. Not so here! I wonder if Sonia's mother-in-law is still speaking to her!! :-) This, however is what makes this book so enjoyable to read, as it's an honest account and the author writes in an intimate way so that you feel that you actually know her and her family! I was happy and relieved with their successes, yet felt like poking Sonia in the side when she clearly put her foot in her mouth!

This was an interesting, absorbing book to read and I greatly admire Sonia and her honest storytelling that made you feel that you were part of their family.
126 reviews3 followers
October 20, 2019
Met the author at book club yesterday, and she is a spunky lady with the brand, "gutsy living." Wouldn't we all like to think we were gutsy in some way? She relocated her family to Belize from Orange County California because her teenage son had become completely unmanageable. Her husband was also trying to escape the rat race of an unfulfilling career as an attorney. They discovered new insurmountable challenges, and Belize turned out to not be the anticipated paradise, yet they accomplished the primary mission of healing the family and getting their son back on track. My one area of disappointment is that my home of Orange County remained cast as the materialistic villain and did not benefit from any redeeming words, in spite of the fact that they returned here. I would argue there are all kinds of people and pressures in any location, and our job is to sift through and connect to those with whom we share values.
Profile Image for Regina.
57 reviews15 followers
October 28, 2012
I loved this look into the ups and downs a family experiences when uprooted and re-located to Belize. Witnessing the variety of impacts the move had on each family member, from positive to negative, yielded an interesting look into the different ways people respond to change. It proved an interesting cultural assessment of Belizian life, often a stark contrast to the well-off, materialistic lives the family had grown accustom to in California. I enjoyed getting to know this family through this depiction of one year of gutsy living on a tropical island. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Linda Kovic-Skow.
Author 4 books248 followers
December 11, 2014
Freeways to Flip-Flops recounts the real-life adventure of a family's move from Los Angeles to Belize to find a better, simpler life. Sonia, her husband and their three boys experience a few set backs before the move, but these pale in comparison to the problems they experience once they arrive in "Paradise." I often found myself wondering how they coped with such adversity. The story is told in an honest, straightforward fashion that will keep the reader turning pages until the very end.
115 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2012
Won this on goodreads and really enjoyed it! Fantastic real life adventure. I commend the author for taking the plunge and spending a year in Belize. What an awesome experience and interesting to read what they learned from it. Thanks!
Profile Image for Jill Paschal.
124 reviews3 followers
October 22, 2019
Admittedly, the title of the book is what drew me in. The writing has a lot left to be desired as it seemed like each chapter was incomplete or that the author was remembering as she wrote; more like journal entries. I can understand why after living in Orange County California why the author and her husband decided to make a big move to Belize (I myself live in the same county and can relate on some things she describes). However, the more I read, the more the author annoyed me! I mean really, what did you expect would happen moving to another country with 2 teenage boys and an adolescent?! Her constant complaining about her husband not working and her internal dialogue made it difficult to sympathize with her and her family. Yes, I understand that moving abroad takes courage, but it also takes research especially with children to somewhere as remote as Belize where there’s not only a language barrier but a cultural one as well. Of course your boys would find it hard to adjust! Only towards the end did Ms. Marsh begin to realize that so-called paradise can be found within and it does not take a move abroad with your family to discover it! To say she couldn’t meditate in Orange County because of constant distractions and always having activities and such was really just an excuse! It’s all in what you prioritize in your life and Ms. Marsh obviously prioritized her status quo! In the end they move back to California after a “grueling “ year in Belize just to move back to the exact same neighborhood they left! What?! You gave up wanting to be materialistic just to move back to the heart of it all? Yes, I gave the book 3 stars only because 2 seemed too harsh, albeit, well deserved!
Profile Image for Jeanna Barrett.
129 reviews3 followers
December 3, 2018
First off, the author is racist and uses way too many references to “Creole men” and “Creole drug dealers.” As an expat living in Belize with Belizean friends, this makes me mad. There are some okay “how Belize will change you” lessons in here that I agree with. Although there are a lot of wide sweeping, dumb statements by the author like how her kids were forced to survive off Frosted Flakes and powdered milk for a year. And how they took them out of the materials of Orange County and wanted them to survive off less. But then bought them a sailboat and jet ski. Poor them. 🙄 The sons do come across as entitled brats, so one could only hope that Belize changed them for the better. Generally it seems they made zero Belizean friends and relied on expat friends only, who burned them and squeezed them out of the island, so for that I’m not surprised and they kinds deserved it. Seems like a pattern a lot of people repeat here. Overall I enjoyed reading about someone’s experience on the island I live on, (even if it was poorly written), and I finished it within a day. I think I suffered through the insufferable author because I love Belize that much.
Profile Image for Sandra Bornstein.
Author 2 books18 followers
April 26, 2013
After visiting Sonia Marsh's website, Gutsy Living, I was intrigued. I couldn't wait to read her memoir. I wondered what would cause a family to uproot themselves from the comforts of Southern California and move to a Third World country. I also questioned what this family hoped to gain after they relocated to an unlikely location, Belize.

The opening chapter provided a taste of what they encountered in Belize. I immediately knew that life would be more difficult than they had ever anticipated. Unless the conditions changed, I immediately sensed that whatever they hoped to gain would be an upward climb. I predicted that they would return sooner rather than later.

The second chapter started to answer my first question. Sonia openly starts to discuss the dynamics of her family and her fears. Surprisingly, she doesn't shield any of her minor children from the possibility of embarrassment. Sonia talks freely about her eldest son's inappropriate behavior and the fact that materialism and entitlement issues were wrecking havoc with her household and that her husband needed a slower paced legal position.

After coming to grips with the dysfunctional nature of the Marsh family, Sonia shifts back to life in Belize in the next chapter. Additional hardships prevail. From this point forward, the reader follows the family's adventures as they learn to live outside their comfort zone. Sometimes the stories mirror the trials and tribulations of living as an expat in a foreign country and other times the tales are unique to the Marsh family. The story occasionally reverts back to their life in the United States so the reader can have a better understanding of their decision making process.

The pace of the book is inconsistent. Sometimes it flows freely and other times it drags. I was content to put the book down when I started to lose interest.

Having lived as an expat in a foreign country, I can relate to some of her cultural struggles and apprehensions. However, at times she appears naïve. Most people would do thorough research regarding, neighborhoods, schools, medical providers and business opportunities before moving in the states or abroad. Before I relocated from the Midwest to a mountain state, I did my homework and checked out schools and health care. For whatever reason, she preferred to punt. Perhaps, that was an intricate part of her desire to escape the comforts of American society.

Anyone reading the book will see why few are willing to leave behind an American lifestyle for an unknown Third World environment. Those willing to gamble have mixed results. Some end up disillusioned and return home while others learn to adapt and figure out how to fit in. In this particular case, the Marsh family was able to benefit from their time away and drew closer as a family, but at the same time could not adhere to their new community's ways. Their inability to conform ultimately sent them packing.

Much is to be gained from an expat experience. Living outside their comfort zone had a profound effect on Sonia's family. The lessons that she learned from her adventure will hopefully help others who face a similar situation..
Profile Image for Ian Mathie.
Author 9 books9 followers
July 30, 2013
To up-sticks and abandon the luxury of life in Orange County, California in favor of a beach front shack in Belize, taking three teenage boys with you takes a lot of bottle. To do this with relatively little consideration and planning, as Sonia Marsh and her husband Duke did, is either foolhardy or very courageous. With their hand slightly forced by the teenage troubles of their elder son, they took a bold leap into the dark, sold up and moved, lock stock and barrel to a Caribbean island community. Amazingly it worked.

The adventures described in Sonia's brilliant book Freeways to Flip-flops share the intimacy of their thinking and let us feel the pressures that pushed her and Duke to take radical action, forsaking the luxury and daily pressures for a more self sufficient life style. She lets us taste the excitement of her new adventure together with the slightly surly approach of her sons and the laid back `there's plenty of time for that' attitude of her husband such that we feel part of the family. And Sonia's descriptions of Belize and their new environment offer enough interest to excite and delight even the most reserved reader.
Inevitably uprooting a family from the fast moving prosperity of Southern California is going to create some sort of backlash. So it was no surprise that that they all experienced a degree of culture shock. Finding one thing after another they had previously taken for granted was either unavailable or didn't quite work the same way, they also had voracious mosquitoes to cope with and locals who held very different attitudes. Each member of the family struggled in their own way to come to terms with the differences and some bits never gelled, but eventually they all found a new equilibrium.

One can almost smell the smells, taste the fresh fish and feel the warmth of the Caribbean as you read this book. The frustrations are almost tangible and the family's successes made me want to cheer. At the same time, little vignettes about the local culture offer insights to a new and exciting environment along with reflections on the family's reasons for going in the first place and their slowly changing dynamics.

Their return to Orange County after a year was in no sense a failure. Despite the fact that Belize is an English speaking country, unfamiliarity with the local culture and the economic environment meant Duke's efforts to develop profitable employment were mostly doomed to founder. Nevertheless, the family achieved an evolution that was worth all the pain and which has been sustained since their return to California.

Freeways to Flip-flops offers a sense of excitement at new horizons. At the same time it can be tense and strained then laugh out loud funny. But all the way through it is engaging and compelling reading.

Honest, inspiring and easy to read and become absorbed in, this is superb memoir writing. It is a book anyone thinking of moving to another country should read and anyone whose family dynamics are upset can learn from.
Profile Image for Kathleen Pooler.
Author 4 books31 followers
July 30, 2012
Sonia Marsh’s writing voice in Freeway to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on Tropical Island is so genuine and convincing, I felt I was not just reading a compelling story but that I was watching a movie I was in. In her first chapter, she pulls me right into her story with a harrowing scene of the first storm encountered since uprooting her family to an island in Belize, Central America. Once I knew she had uprooted her family, I wanted to know what ever possessed her to make such a drastic decision. She immediately answers this question in the next chapter as she weaves in the circumstances that have led her and her husband to sell everything and move to a tropical island. Through honest reflection, excellent character development and well-paced scenes filled with just the right amount of sensory details, I see a family burdened with societal expectations, materialism and a teenaged son who is going down the wrong path. I feel the desperation of this family to make a change and by the time they are closing the door to their Orange County,California home,I am relieved and excited for them.

Her story moves along smoothly through vivid scenes depicting the lush tropical surroundings, the laid back local people, the relatively primitive housing arrangements and lack of amenities that the family has to adjust to. The writing is crisp, and engaging and continues to make me, the reader, feel involved and invested in the experience. Sonia weaves in her reflections masterfully and honestly which adds both depth and clarity and makes me empathize with her. I found myself putting myself in her place and rooting for her.

She intertwines the light and dark messages of seeing her family come together, her oldest son become a serious student, the beauty of the turquoise, crystal clear water and flourishing plant growth with her concerns about the subtle changes in her husband’s motivation to work, her younger son’s health and difficulty adjusting to the move and the frustration of dealing with the local people’s lack of concern about time. I feel her discomfort while sensing her resolve to make it all work for her family.

She crafts a compelling turning point when a business decision on the part of her husband wreaks havoc for the locals and clouds their vision of the paradise they thought they had moved to, leading the family to make a decision about their next step.

Then she brings us full circle to a satisfying conclusion which signals growth and transformation for this family. Through it all, we see a typical family who set out on an adventure and return from it changed and renewed. This stunning memoir with a solid story structure, authentic characters and a universal and believable message left me feeling entertained and inspired.
Profile Image for Doreen.
Author 3 books85 followers
August 27, 2012

In the epilogue, Sonia reflects, ‘Had it not been for a leaking toilet, we might never have healed our family.’ Readers are offered an intimate glimpse into the mind and emotional state of a mother whose fears about the deteriorating state of her family become the courage that sets into motion an extraordinary journey.
Throughout my read of this captivating memoir, a question continued to sit with me. “How far off the ledge of conventional normalcy would I step in order to regain the integrity of my family?” Sonia Marsh and her husband, Duke, chose a very risky unconventional path in order to repair the rift that was beginning to shatter the stability of their family. Sonia and Duke did not do a trial run in Belize, a third-world country that is without most of the comforts of home. Their gutsy move involved the sale of house, car, furniture, appliances and most of the comforts that living in a more civilized country has to offer. For this family of 2 adults and 3 sons, everything had to fit in 10 suitcases. The snafus regarding airline accommodations for Cookie had me clenching my hands as Sonia jumped through tons of hoops in order to later get her dog on board and keep her safe.
By far, the gutsiest move to me was Sonia’s willingness to openly write about the hardships and reactions during this physically and emotionally demanding journey. Duke and Sonia’s three sons, Steve, Alec and Josh gave her permission to bare their most intimate human reactions and feelings. Imagine having so much less and renting a thatched ‘palapa’ hut with gaps in the walls made of ‘skinny pimento tree trunks.’ Though temporary, the family had to make do with ‘stinky water’ and all manner of creepy crawling insects like ‘half-inch ants, huge roaches and scorpions.’ Even after the family moved to a beachfront villa, the availability of potable water was usually an issue.
Stories of adventure are my favorites. FREEWAYS TO FLIP-FLOPS offered me many thrills relating to climate issues, physically demanding hardships and challenges involving cultural differences. More endearing to me, however, was Sonia’s honest revelations of each family member’s thoughts and emotions. She masterfully wove these together in a way that reveals to the reader the emergence of her family’s renewed ability to cherish each other again. In the epilogue, we read, “All of us, my sons included, have learned to take risks in life, to embrace adventure and to accept different ways of thinking about life’s challenges.” How much was the Marsh's risk worth? In my point of view, the risk was priceless.
Profile Image for Sylvia Morice.
Author 13 books2 followers
September 12, 2012
How many of us have dreamed about moving to a tropical island paradise to spend the remainder of our days relaxing by the crystal clear water, enjoying a cool drink with a little pink umbrella sticking out of the glass, and sleeping at night with the sound of waves lapping onto the beach mere feet from our rooms?

I purchased Sonia Marsh’s book, Freeways to Flip-Flops, from Amazon when it came out in eBook format in August. I’ve been a fan of Sonia’s blog, Gutsy Living, for quite some time now and knew she was finishing a book about her family’s move to Belize, a tropical country just south of Mexico. The location has long intrigued me so I was interested in learning what Sonia discovered during her time in that country, hoping her words would help me decide whether or not it was a place I at least want to visit.

I was not disappointed with the book. Sonia relates the story of her family, warts and all, and how she and her husband decided to uproot everyone from their comfortable life in California and transplant them, hook, line, and sinker, to a small island where internet signals were hit-and-miss, food was not always in abundant supply, and tropical breezes could very quickly become hurricane-force winds, knocking out power and turning small boats upside down in a matter of minutes.

Sonia tells her story in a down-to-earth voice, sparing the reader nothing when it comes to documenting the tensions that can abound in a home with three adolescent boys, a husband and a wife, all trying to figure out their places in the world. Sometimes I felt like a voyeur, peeking in the Marsh’s window and witnessing a sibling argument, harsh words between mother and son, or a make-up hug between a husband and wife after a disagreement.

As I followed the family through their months in Belize, I realized that paradise is indeed a place inside us, a feeling of peacefulness and wholeness rather than a physical location, just as Sonia said that she realized something similar. I also realized that uprooting an entire family, including teens and pre-teens, to a foreign land is not something I would want to attempt. However my family is grown now and I’m on my own—so who knows?

If you are interested in reading about real life on a tropical island (not the travel brochure air-brushed versions of life that promoters would like us to believe exists), then I highly recommend that you add Freeways to Flip-Flops to your list of books to read.

Check out other book reviews on our blog: Have You Read This? Indie Picks by Indie Chicks http://indiepicks.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Susan Weidener.
Author 8 books22 followers
February 10, 2013
All of us dream of escaping a deadening routine and life, but few act on it. In this memoir, Sonia Marsh takes us on a wild journey of risking what families rarely do . . . sell the house, chuck all the material possessions and move to a Third World Country.

Sonia's husband, Duke, is exhausted from traffic jams and the endless commutes that characterize life in Orange County, CA. Her oldest son, Steve, is headed down a defiant and possibly destructive path. Sonia's desire to "heal" her family and teach her three sons that there is more than video games, materialism and competition, leads to a path of drastic change. Despite her reservations after a visit to Belize and her own intuition that Belize may not be right for her family, she and Duke take the plunge anyway. The ups and downs, the steps and missteps, of moving from California to Belize, are both comical and heartbreaking.

Sonia soon finds that dreams collide with reality. She deals with a son who dislikes change and misses his friends back in California, a husband who can't let the "dream" go, an oldest son instant messaging his girlfriend back in California until 3 a.m. They are a homesick family trying to find their way back to each other.

"In Belize you didn't have to fit in, it was okay to be different," Marsh writes. But even that myth fades when the Marshes discover a social caste system where those in the bigger villas look down on those with less. The also discover unfriendly expats, rats in their oven, cock roaches that eat their way through ziplock bags . . . Then walking the beach one starry night in their flip-flops, the family looks up to see a shooting star and senses the possibility of magic, the beginning realization that beauty is not so much a place, as a state of mind, of being connected to one another as a family. That and the adventure that comes with trying something different and taking a risk, brings them together and is an important life lesson to be shared and savored.

What makes this memoir worth reading is the honesty of the author; not sugar-coating the family's experiences and interactions with each other. I would have liked less description of the family's lifestye in Belize and more reflection from the author. "I always felt it was impossible to escape mentally unless I escaped physically," Marsh writes with honesty and insight. I wanted more of this . .. a deeper glimpse into who Sonia Marsh is when she isn't juggling all the balls, dancing the dance, of trying to be the best possible wife and mother.
Profile Image for Bonnie Kassel.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 26, 2013
I admire people who have the confidence and strength to make a change instead of sitting around complaining. But what Sonia Marsh writes about in Freeways to Flip-Flops, only a fraction of the people on the planet would have the courage to do. Sonia didn't grow up feeling rooted to one place. She had an international background which allowed her to look out in the world for a solution to problems. When all three of her sons demonstrated a sense of entitlement absorbed from living in California, and the eldest began to spin out of control, she and her husband moved the entire family to Belize in Central America.

I thought this would be the perfect book to take on vacation, expecting luscious descriptions of turquoise water and tropical fruit as the Marsh's discovered paradise. But Freeways to Flip-Flops turned out to be about much more. The author was completely honest in her descriptions of herself and each family member, as well as the country of Belize itself. I laughed out loud picturing Sonia dressed in a little cotton spandex dress from Victoria's Secret meeting the expat community at a party for the first time, cringed reading about the bugs in the house and mangy dogs in the street, and felt my blood boil at the reaction of small petty minds when she and husband tried to start a business. I loved this book and the more I read, the more I liked Sonia. By the end of the book, I felt as if I knew her.

Like most things, "life is what happens while you're busy making plans" and everything didn't turn out the way they thought it would. But the Marsh family grew closer as they were forced to rely on each other and her children were changed forever in the most positive way. As adults they will be more likely to take risks, embrace adventure and most importantly, accept different ways of thinking. Sometimes we all need a reminder that life's too short to play it safe. In the most enjoyable entertaining book, Freeways to Flip-Flops is just the reminder most of us need.
Profile Image for Janet Givens.
34 reviews4 followers
August 9, 2013

In Freeways to Flip-flops, Sonia March writes a saga of relationships: with her husband, her sons, her neighbors, other expats in Belize, with the locals of Belize whom she had once thought were her friends, and finally with herself. She writes with candor (and in a voice so clear, I swore I could hear her) of her fears of losing her oldest son, her tendency to worry too much, her disappointment in her husband, and her naïve assumptions of how to fit into the culture of Belize. She writes of her drive to “have an adventure in paradise,” to live a slower life, and to get her family -- three sons, one husband, and her -- to reconnect.

The first few chapters of the book move back and forth between Orange County (LA) California backstory the “present” in Ambergris Caye, Belize, and Sonia uses different logos at the start of each chapter to help the reader acclimate. That is helpful.

The book settles in Belize as she learns new lessons: water is scarce, time is relative, dirt is subjective, and finally, “paradise is a state of mind, not a place.”

Tension evolves throughout the story: will their three sons settle in, will they be able to make a living, and why are the locals so against them?

At the end, with the turquoise waters she had longed for just the year before in front of her, Sonia now longs to buy Brie and Boursin cheese from Trader Joe’s. Lessons learned and children reconnected, the family returns to Orange County.

Twenty-odd years ago, I was faced with a similar adolescent son acting out. So, I found her decision to move her family to Belize nothing short of remarkable. With her husband backing her all the way, hers was an option not available to me. I chose the more traditional path, hauling my family of four into family therapy, which has, in its own way, a culture of its own. It certainly taught me a different way of seeing the world.

For both of us, our decisions changed our lives. And we both have our oldest sons to thank.
Profile Image for Madeline Sharples.
Author 9 books67 followers
August 12, 2012
From the minute I started reading Sonia Marsh’s memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops I wanted to know how her story was going to turn out. I felt like I was reading a thrilling mystery: about a family deciding to sell everything and move to a tropical island in a third-world country in Central America. Though they were motivated to get away from materialistic Southern California and to resolve the growing problems with their teenager, the oldest of three sons, I wanted to know if a move to Belize was really the best choice.

Author Marsh provides a series of gripping scenes throughout: living in a primitive and bug-infested hut, sailing the rough seas to take her boys to and from school, finding competent medical and dental care, finding the right schools for their boys, becoming an entrepreneur in foreign country, interacting with natives and other expats from the United States, and most important of all, experiencing the ever-increasing bonds of caring and love that her sons developed toward each other, their parents, and others in their community.

This book especially appealed to me because my family and I lived for a time on a remote island in the South Pacific. Although my children were much younger when we were there, I experienced some of the same things that Marsh depicts: the laid back nature of the natives, feelings of isolation and boredom, a limited amount of good food and other supplies, and lots of wondering about why we decided to uproot ourselves and families in the first place.

Marsh absolutely kept me reading with her fast-paced well-developed story, short chapters with catchy titles, and her compelling, honest, and heartfelt narrative. I continually rooted for her, and in the end I’m glad she found that her year in Belize was so worthwhile.
Profile Image for Belinda Nicoll.
Author 1 book10 followers
August 23, 2012
Sonia Marsh takes you full circle in this thoughtful memoir about a family's rite of passage. Worried about their oldest son's unwanted behavior, Marsh and her husband decide to opt out of glitzy California and move to the echo-friendly island of Belize with their three sons and the family dog. In short, easy-to-read vignettes, Marsh sketches the family's ups and downs as they try and engage with a Robinson Crusoe type of existence in a place where the attitudes of locals and other expats are really not all that `friendly.' A year later, thanks to island politics, the Marsh family once more finds themselves with their backs against the wall and decides it's time to return to California.

Having lived all over the world as a child, the author is no newcomer to expatriation, so you know you're in good company given the nature of the story. She writes from the heart, and you feel her passion for the beautiful landscape of Belize, her need to be accepted by the other residents, her concern for her boys who don't adjust all that well initially, her irritation with her husband for lacking in entrepreneur spirit, and, finally, her indignation at being ousted from certain social circles and the business community.

That being said, Marsh's audit of that year is positive--thanks to the experience, her family adopted new values: they all became less materialistic and functioned better as a unit; the boys became more independent, helping with household chores and communicating better with each other. Most importantly, Marsh realized that paradise is a state of mind not a place. Even though we're living in a global world, change is never easy. And yet Sonia Marsh makes it sound easy, as she's obviously trained in taking difficulties in her stride. It's a great read; don't miss it.
Profile Image for Madeline Sharples.
Author 9 books67 followers
November 30, 2012
From the minute I started reading Sonia Marsh's memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops I wanted to know how her story was going to turn out. I felt like I was reading a thrilling mystery: about a family deciding to sell everything and move to a tropical island in a third-world country in Central America. Though they were motivated to get away from materialistic Southern California and to resolve the growing problems with their teenager, the oldest of three sons, I wanted to know if a move to Belize was really the best choice.

Author Marsh provides a series of gripping scenes throughout: living in a primitive and bug-infested hut, sailing the rough seas to take her boys to and from school, finding competent medical and dental care, finding the right schools for their boys, becoming an entrepreneur in foreign country, interacting with natives and other expats from the United States, and most important of all, experiencing the ever-increasing bonds of caring and love that her sons developed toward each other, their parents, and others in their community.

This book especially appealed to me because my family and I lived for a time on a remote island in the South Pacific. Although my children were much younger when we were there, I experienced some of the same things that Marsh depicts: the laid back nature of the natives, feelings of isolation and boredom, a limited amount of good food and other supplies, and lots of wondering about why we decided to uproot ourselves and families in the first place.

Marsh absolutely kept me reading with her fast-paced well-developed story, short chapters with catchy titles, and her compelling, honest, and heartfelt narrative. I continually rooted for her, and in the end I'm glad she found that her year in Belize was so worthwhile.
Profile Image for Ionia.
1,430 reviews66 followers
March 20, 2013
My kids have grown so used to me saying "If you need me I'll be on my island (meaning my office,) that it has become a family joke. The difference between Sonia Marsh and me, is that she actually really did go to the island!

I developed a great respect for this author throughout the course of reading this book. While most of us only dream about doing something like this, the pioneering family in this true life adventure actually did it. They threw caution to the wind and really lived life!

What I loved about this book, other than the obvious adventure it presents, was the way the author allowed us to glimpse inside her true life. Where many memoirs tend to shelter the things the author doesn't wish to shed light on, Sonia put it all out on the table. This made for a very honest and natural feeling in this book and also warmed my heart. Her love for her family and her children in particular was so apparent and so paramount in this book that I think any mother could relate.

The issues she brought up about the cultural differences and the adjustments they had to make as a family were astounding and at times just plain hilarious. I still shudder when I think of the tree incident with the ensuing rash. It makes me itch just thinking about it. I now know that I would be horrible on an island. I hate bugs.

The other thing that gave this book value, in my opinion, is the way it ended. Rather than a book full of we did this and that and now we're done, the author talks about what her experiences have taught her and how things have changed for herself and her family because of how they lived.

Overall this was an amazing story, and I hope many others have the chance to experience it. Tender, heartwarming, exciting and most of all real.
Profile Image for Mary Gottschalk.
Author 6 books24 followers
February 12, 2013
As someone who has repeatedly stepped outside her own comfort zone, I was fascinated by Sonia Marsh’s tale of her family’s experiment with living in a third world country when their prosperous California life-style began to feel too materialistic. Their attempt to adapt to the unfamiliar environment of the tiny Caribbean nation of Belize offers a host of insights that are useful whether you’re moving to another country or just to a different city in your own country.

Marsh writes, often humorously, about the way that cultural differences affect day-to-day life. Housing styles and standards. The education system. The food that is (or is not) available in the local market. The bugs. Trying to establish a bank account.

But what I found most compelling about Marsh’s story was her descriptions of their interactions with their neighbors in Belize, whether they were local, permanent ex-pats or transitional folks like themselves. What seemed, in the early days, to be an idyllic and supportive if somewhat chaotic community proved to be anything but idyllic. Once Sonia and her husband Duke tried to structure a life for themselves based on “the American paradigm,” the community seemed to rise up in protest, occasionally in a way that was frightening.

It is to Marsh’s credit that she looks back on this as a learning experience, one that caused her to recognize that there is no universal “right answer.” In the final analysis, Marsh chose a life style that is more California than Belize — but it is a life style that has benefited from incorporating the best of what she found Belize.
Profile Image for Biography Book Reviews.
4 reviews14 followers
November 9, 2013
Here's the full review: http://biography-book.com/book-review...

Freeways to Flip-Flops as an enlightening memoir that is a meditation in itself. Everyone can relate to the stress and problems that the Marsh family has experienced. Maybe everyone is also dreaming a beautiful escape somewhere. People from third-world countries will most likely choose California, while people from first-world countries will dream of moving to a place like Belize. Everywhere, there are struggles to survive—be it in California or Belize.

This book is a testament that the physical location does not matter in finding your paradise. People who can find peace and happiness within their heart are in “paradise” wherever they go. As the famous yoga quote says, “Let your mind be undisturbed, like a lotus leaf in murky water.”

This memoir may not be humorous, but it is certainly not boring. The author didn’t promise a laugh, anyway. It made me worry too much, dream a lot, experienced broken hearts, and see a flickering light of hope. The honesty of this memoir makes it an entertaining read. It’s more than just entertaining, in fact. It is enlightening. That’s why Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island deserves these 5 stars. It must be read by everyone, especially in today’s world of worldly possessions and depression. It’s a good gift, and can serve as a bible, not just a mere passing-time reading.
Profile Image for Katherine Sartori.
Author 1 book15 followers
May 22, 2013
Sonia Marsh's gutsy move from California to Belize may seem radical to some. But not to me. Having raised a difficult teen myself, I could identify with her desire to uproot her family when I read how her son began hanging out with undesirables and defying his parents at every turn. When teens act out, parents fantasize and search for any means possible to reclaim their children. The difference is, Sonia and her husband did something VERY unusual about it.

This memoir flows very well; I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down. But above all, I loved the story because it is so honest. Unflinchingly, Sonia avoids sugar-coating the difficulties she & her husband faced, enumerating their problems as a couple, parents and expatriots, and describing the very excruciating visit of her in-laws as well. But it is her love for her sons that fills almost every page, and her desire to establish bonds in her family in a place faraway, in order to shut out the hustle of US materialistic concerns, electronic media and TV, plus negative peer pressure. In the end, Sonia candidly admits that she made some mistakes but the positives her family gained outweighed the negatives.

This book is a must-read for anyone, even if you know you'd never leave home. After all, who hasn't fantasized about "running away" when life closes in? Ms. Marsh entertains and inspires readers, but also gives them a heavy dose of reality in her story, Freeways To Flipflops.
Profile Image for Michelle Bendetti.
2 reviews2 followers
August 22, 2012
"Freeways to Flip-Flops" is quite different than I thought it would be. Who hasn't said they want to throw it all away and move to a tropical island once or twice? I know I have. So when I started this book, I thought it would be an entertaining account of a year spent in a tropical paradise, just like a week vacation only longer. I was wrong! This book is so much more than that. From the reasons that the author and her husband decide to leave Southern California to the actual living conditions in Belize, this was an engaging, very realistic account of what life is like on a third-world tropical island and the critical time leading up to the escape. Things that we take for granted in our everyday life become a challenge to acquire when in Belize-whole wheat bread or milk. But what was amazing to me was how the family came together in trying times such as during the tropical storms when the power would go out or when some of the locals turned out to not be not exactly welcoming of the "American Way". This book is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish-and it leaves the reader thinking about what it would be like to throw it all away for a year to follow a dream, passion or a curiosity. Don't miss this one!
Profile Image for  Gigi Ann.
628 reviews29 followers
August 13, 2012
I had been looking forward to reading this book by Sonia Marsh for a few years now. And I must say I found this book "Freeways to Flip-Flops" an exciting book to read from the first page right to the end. It is filled with her year of adventures in Belize with her family. She chronicles all her experiences of living in a third-world country including the many ups and downs they experienced, especially living in a different culture, and way of life in Belize.

I found it interesting how when Sonia and Duke begin to plan their adventure of moving to Belize, they were hoping to find the 'Paradise' they were both longing for. However, as they slowly found out, to much of a good thing doesn't always make a 'Paradise.' It was refreshing as time went on they became closer as a family, and I especially liked the fact that as more time went by they came to realize that 'Paradise' isn't a place, but a state of mind, and 'Paradise' can be found anywhere you live, if you set your mind to make it so.

I really enjoyed reading this book. And my thanks to the author Sonia Marsh for providing me a copy of this book to read and review for an honest opinion. Thanks Sonia.
Profile Image for Andrea.
24 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2014
Sonia Marsh's memoir about finding her own paradise by moving with her family to Belize hooked me from the first action-packed chapter. As a person who has always fantasized living abroad, I was interested in this story about an Orange County family who sells everything and relocates to a tropical paradise to find their family's center. Who doesn't want a fresh start from time to time?

Told in an engaging and clear narrative, Sonia details her family's struggles, the practicalities of moving to, living and working in a place that is vastly different from her family's norm, and the lessons they learned along the way. Adventures and trials abound, which tested her family's bonds and reinforced my belief that the fierce love of a family can beat all odds.

I came away from this book in awe of this family's vision and fortitude, and impressed with the path their individual lives took after a year of living in Belize. I recommend Freeways to Flip-Flops to anyone who knows how trials can strengthen bonds within a family, and of course to anyone with a nomad's spirit who thinks that living in paradise sounds like... well, paradise.
Profile Image for Rita Gardner.
Author 5 books42 followers
March 14, 2014
From the first chapter, Sonia Marsh’s book had me hanging on to the rails of their boat, the Island Ferry, praying it wouldn’t sink in the storm that was threatening their family. The family’s decision to leave the comfort of Southern California living (complete with an electric boat in a placid lake) to move to Belize and the paradoxes of a third-world culture was either a brave choice or a foolish whim, and it both disconnected and then connected the family in ways no one expected. “Freeways to Flip-Flops” recounts new worlds, surprises, joys and disappointments during their one-year living experiment. The reader roots for both the parents and the three sons who miss their friends and former life. The book is a rollicking ride on a bumpy sea, but I never wanted to jump ship. Marsh brings us all safely to shore with a new definition of the word “paradise.”
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.