Book Review – Freeways to Flip-Flops: Living on a Tropical Island

FFlipFlops-s-Cover-SmallWill you find happiness, peace, and contentment amidst a world of luxury in a lake-front house in Orange County? Or will you find it better in a tropical island, amidst the world of simplicity, living in front of a panoramic Caribbean view? The Marsh family found the answer the hard way in Belize. Their adventures and misadventures were detailed in Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island.

I found this book by Sonia Marsh among the beautiful titles on the Novel Blogs reading list. It is an honest-to-goodness memoir, detailing how a first-world family survived a far-from-idyllic living in a third-world country. The book reminds me of Gautama Buddha, Mother Theresa, and other inspiring individuals who have the option of comfort yet chose a difficult path for higher sense of being.


Pictures in Words

I think one of the biggest challenges in writing the memoir is how the author will describe the place without providing photos. I was anticipating pictures will be part of the book. But not a single photo is there. It is not needed, anyway.

Sonia has beautifully stitched her words together to accurately describe places in Belize. She knew this is a foreign site for her readers.

When I was reading the part where she was describing the villa, it felt like I was there, enjoying every detail that her eyes laid on.

Villas Tropicales consisted of four almost identical two-story villas. Two were oceanfront, and two sat behind a rectangular saltwater pool. The one for sale happened to be right in front, with its own stretch of beach and palm trees.

I fell in love with the view before setting foot inside the house, a two-story villa with Italian limestone tile on the exterior walls, plus wood trim. It felt so right for the five of us…

Once inside the villa, I couldn’t believe the stunning, panoramic views of the Caribbean…

Unfussy and tropical best describes the décor of the open living room, dining room, and kitchen. Never in my life had I seen such beautiful tile: slices of rusty-red fossilized coral, with shells embedded in it. A spectacular mahogany vaulted ceiling embraced the open space, and a silent fan circulated ocean breezes, keeping the upstairs cool. I stepped outside the large glass doors opening up to a veranda, where a couple of hammocks overlooked the sea.

The memoir has more of these. Some scenes may not be as heavenly, but the details are easy to understand that readers can clearly visualize pictures with words, as if you’ve been in Belize yourself.

Here are some photos of Belize from Wikimedia Commons:


Raw Emotions

Reading Freeways to Flip-Flops is like riding the roller coaster of emotions. Readers will feel frustrated, disappointed, worried, and afraid while feeling excited, touched and hopeful in the next flip of a page. This emotional cycle will surely keep readers entertained.

Please note also that the memoir was published in 2012 and the adventure was in 2003. It’s amazing how the author kept the conversations seemingly real. It feels it’s happening real-time, even though almost a decade has passed.

Readers will be taken from the moment Sonia and Duke felt the pressure and need to move out of Orange County to the time they finally decided to move back home. The rawness of emotions will keep you feeling like part of the family—threatened by a defiant teenage son, hopeful for the promise of a tropical paradise, dreaming your entire life waking up overlooking a turquoise sea, feeling guilty over a son who’s suffering the “moving depression,” feeling closer to the new friends, and feeling betrayed by these same ‘friends.’ The turn of events is logically arranged, there is no hint of dissatisfaction or sign of confusing scenes.

Note: Sonia revealed how she kept the scenes real in her author interview.


Honest or Offensive?

Being someone who is born, raised, and living in a third-world country, I find some of Sonia’s statements rather offensive. I know a lot of people around me will easily judge over someone saying “dirty third-world hospital,” worries about syringes infected with AIDS, complains about “stinky water,” and smaller “king size” bed, politics, and easy spreading of rumors. I’m sure some expats will react on the “lazy beach bum” description. But after a second thought, though, I realized she’s just being honest—or frank to be more precise. After all, she’s just saying the truth. It takes guts to be this honest.

Her consciousness over other people’s feelings and her attitude is admirable. Only very few will admit to being a worrier or b*tchy, and for being imperfect and wrong.

Here are more pictures from Sonia Marsh site.



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.


It was amazing!

It was amazing!




After reading, I would describe 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.”



Sonia-Author-Photo-Red-Small1Sonia Marsh is a “Gutsy” woman who can pack her bag and move to a new country in one day. She’s a motivational speaker, inspiring audiences to take risks and get out of their comfort zone. She says everyone has a “My Gutsy Story”; some just need a help to uncover theirs. Her story, told in her memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island, is about chucking it all and uprooting her family to reconnect on an island in Belize. Sonia has lived in many countries – Denmark, Nigeria, France, England, the U.S. and Belize – and considers herself a citizen of the world.