Dateline: Tallinn, Estonia
The idea of Nomad Capitalist is that greater freedoms and greater prosperity exist beyond borders. Not only is no one place perfect, but the “first world” western countries that have a seeming monopoly on “liberty” and “opportunity” are rarely ranked number one — or even anywhere close — for either.
Yet the idea of picking up and moving somewhere else to escape from America is scary to some. Allow me to share my thoughts on ten questions you should ask yourself before becoming an expat.
I’m a big fan of the work Michael Snyder does at the Economic Collapse Blog. I’ve had Michael on my radio show and he’s a nice guy.
However, Michael and I share some of the same differences I have with many of the “freedom fighting patriots” who are hesitant to escape from America. I’ve said before that my being born in Ohio — a decision I had no say in — does not compel me to fight for my country.
In fact, I believe that no lines on a map are worth fighting for. All you are really defending is a government’s turf war. History shows us that those who got out were often the only ones left standing to even tell the story.
Recently, Michael featured his “10 Questions to ask yourself” before moving to another country. He and I share the view that there is an economic collapse coming in the United States, but he outlines in these ten questions why you shouldn’t be so quick to leave.
Allow me to respectfully respond by sharing Michael’s questions and answers (in italics), followed by my response.
1. Do You Speak The Language? If Not, How Will You Function?
If you do not speak the language of the country that you are moving to, that can create a huge problem. Just going to the store and buying some food will become a challenge. Every interaction that you have with anyone in that society will be strained, and your ability to integrate into the culture around you will be greatly limited.
As someone who routinely spends time in two dozen (or more) countries in a given year, I can say I have never gone hungry. Not even close.
It’s also important to not that I’m not spending my time in Belgium where people speak pretty passable English. I am a student of the world’s emerging and frontier markets, and I go to places most people would scoff at: Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Serbia, Latvia, Nicaragua and more.
I’ve never had a problem getting by. Need to eat? It’s as simple as finding a restaurant. It’s not that difficult to figure out what a restaurant’s menu items are, even if no one in the place speaks a word of English. Some restaurants, even in far-flung places, have menus in English, while almost every menu in China has pictures of every dish.
A Chinese friend of mine once had her parents visit her in Ireland while she was busy working late most nights, and they had to fend for themselves. The waitress at one restaurant helped them choose the dish by squawking like a chicken to show them chicken dishes, while moving her hands in a swimming motion to represent fish.
And if you want to cook at home, you just go to the grocery store. They’re the ones with pictures of red peppers and bananas on the front windows. Once inside, I’m sure you know what to do.
The point is, you can get by almost anywhere. In fact, most people around the world are keen to learn English. That doesn’t mean everyone, especially older people, will speak it, but chances are there is someone who will.
On top of that, you’d be hard-pressed to find any civilized (or even uncivilized) place without some expats from your home country. There is a community of like-minded expats in almost any country you would ever go to. Granted, you may not be accepted by every person in your new country, but if you’re thinking about an escape from America, chances are most of the people in your neighborhood already think differently than you do.
2. How Will You Make A Living?
Unless you are independently wealthy, you will need to make money. In a foreign nation, it may be very difficult for you to find a job — especially one that pays as much as you are accustomed to making in the United States.
This is one of the easiest expatriation “problems” to solve. In today’s well-connected age, it is easier to make money from anywhere.
Consider this, in my mid-twenties I ran a services business in the broadcast industry where I helped my clients air their radio shows on stations across the country. I had worked my way up to dealing with Fortune 100 clients and billion-dollar direct response companies.
Then, one day, I asked them if they minded if I managed the business from outside of the United States. They all said, “no”. So I spent days touring Europe and Asia, enjoying great food and sipping tea in cafes, and a few hours each evening making calls to vendors and clients in the United States.
Nothing changed except my location. And if I hadn’t told anyone my plans, they wouldn’t have known the difference.
If you don’t have a portable business, it’s relatively easy to create one. There are plenty of resources on location independent businesses out there to help you get started.
The other reality is that you don’t need the kind of money you make in the United States to live in any number of civilized places around the world. I recently shared three very affordable, highly livable cities in Asia where a single person could live for $1,000 a month, and a family could live for $2,000 a month or less.
With those numbers, you could save $12-24,000 and have enough to live overseas for a full year without worry. Since many of the world’s affordable countries have solid economic fundamentals, I have no doubt you’ll find a way to make money before that year is up. You’ll also benefit from lower expenses in many ways, such as not needing a car in many places.
Also consider that, if you already own a business where you live, you may be able to sell it and live off the proceeds. If you’re a bit older than I am, you may be able to live overseas with the money from even a moderately successful business, even though few in the United States would consider a mid-six figure net worth “fabulously wealthy”.
3. Will You Be Okay Without Your Family And Friends?
Being thousands of miles away from all of your family and friends can be extremely difficult. Will you be okay without them? And it can be difficult to survive in a foreign culture without any kind of a support system. Sometimes the people that most successfully move out of the country are those that do it as part of a larger group.
I can’t speak for you on this one, but I can say that the world is obviously more connected than ever. I frequently speak with friends and associates in the United States and other countries on Skype. In fact, a close friend of mine is going to visit me for a week in Poland next month.
If you’re single, I have no doubt you can strike out and make friends. After all, you’re likely already looking for new friends or dates where you live now. If you’re married or have a family, you will be able to enjoy your new adventure together and grow closer from the experience.
Meanwhile, education around the world can’t be much worse than it is in the United States, and international schools are available in countries as far-flung as Laos (if you prefer not to home school).
There are plenty of expat resources to meet people wherever you live. Meanwhile, it’s easy to stay connected with friends and family at home. You could even convince them to visit you and plan their own escape from America plan. When they see that they can take a flight without having someone grab their crotch, they just might want to join you.
4. Have You Factored In Weather Patterns And Geological Instability?
As the globe becomes increasingly unstable, weather patterns and natural disasters are going to become a bigger factor in deciding where to live. For example, right now India is suffering through the worst drought that it has experienced in nearly 50 years. It would be very difficult to thrive in the middle of such an environment.
Many of those that are encouraging people to “escape from America” are pointing to Chile as an ideal place to relocate. But there are thousands of significant earthquakes in Chile each year, and the entire nation lies directly along the “Ring of Fire” which is becoming increasingly unstable.
A lot of people in the offshore world do talk about Chile. Interestingly enough, many of my friends who live in Chile wish they’d stop, because they tend to engage in hype. Chile is a great place and a great free market economy, but there are arguably some potential issues with living there.
However, there are issues in every country. The Land of the Free has tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, blizzards, and more. Texas is going through one of the biggest droughts in history, too, yet the patriot movement frequently tells people to move to Texas.
In fact, one study suggested that if Las Vegas continued growing at its pre-recession levels, it would run out of clean water in just a few years. Fortunately for Nevadans, the US economy collapsed and the world’s gamblers realized Macau is a much nicer place (it now does six times the gambling revenues as Sin City, and growing).
Choosing where to go to escape from America is a matter of personal preference. If you’re worried about earthquakes, don’t live in Chile. If you’re concerned about typhoons, don’t live in the Philippines.
Don’t let weather stop you. The concept of Flag Theory suggests that you shouldn’t be living in the same place where your money is, which means you can live anywhere you feel safe. There are plenty of “third world” countries with cheap costs of living with perfectly reasonable weather patterns.
5. What Will You Do For Medical Care?
If you or someone in your family had a serious medical problem in the United States, you would know what to do. Yes, our health care system is incredibly messed up, but at least you would know that you could get the care that you needed if an emergency arose. Would the same be true in a foreign nation?
I can say with a straight face that I hope to never get sick in the United States again. Last year, I suffered a bad bout of tonsillitis in Malaysia and ended up in the ER. A couple hours later, I had consulted with a UK-trained doctor and received multiple medications from my own private nurse.
It gets better: it turns out the hospital I visited in Kuala Lumpur was rated the #1 hospital in the entire world for medical tourism. The reality is, good healthcare exists everywhere. Even in western Europe, healthcare costs are a fraction of what they are in the United States. As long as you’re not paying into the tax base of some bankrupt European government, what do you care?
Like most other things, the idea that American hospitals are the “best on earth” is a ruse. The United States is believed to have the most freedom of speech or the highest standard of living, but neither of those claims are true. Nor does the US have the best hospitals.
Somehow, people in every country in the world get sick and survive. I’m not saying you should move to Rwanda, but any of the places on your escape from America checklist will likely have more than adequate medical care at much lower prices.
And you can forget Obamacare.
Sure, you can find some clinic in the ghetto that looks sketchy, but there are actually more than fifty countries around the world setting up international-grade clinics for medical tourism.
6. Are You Moving Into A High Crime Area?
Yes, crime is definitely on the rise in the United States. But in other areas where many preppers are moving to, crime is even worse. Mexico and certain areas of Central America are two examples of this. And in many foreign nations, the police are far more corrupt than they generally are in the United States.
In addition, many other nations have far stricter gun laws than the United States does, so your ability to defend your family may be greatly restricted. So will your family truly be safe in the nation that you plan to take them to?
With all due respect, this is a stretch. There is crime everywhere. Compare your idyllic suburb to the idyllic suburbs of any other city in the world and you’ll get the same results. At least in the suburbs of other countries, little kids are running around and playing outside rather than smoking pot or playing computer games in the basement.
It is true that gun laws around the world are more strict. As much as I believe in gun rights, I also believe that if your only goal is to protect your family, you’ll be better off in any number of other countries, even without a gun.
Economies are the great influencer of crime. As the US economy gets worse and more people are left without jobs, without food stamps, without government checks, or without whatever other largesse they’ve been promised, some will turn to crime. If you think crime statistics in the US are bad now, just wait.
Simply put, the vague threat of “high crime” with no proof other than one’s own fear is a bad reason not to escape the USA.
7. Are You Prepared For “Culture Shock”?
Moving to another country can be like moving to a different planet. After all, they don’t call it “culture shock” for nothing…
And there is a very good chance that many of the “amenities” that you are accustomed to in the U.S. will not be available in a foreign nation and that your standard of living will go down.
So if you are thinking of moving somewhere else, you may want to visit first just to get an idea of what life would be like if you made the move.
Again, with all due respect, I believe this is a duplicitous argument. How many preppers are storing years of food in underground bomb shelters in the US? Do these people believe all of the “amenities” they enjoy today will exist after some apocalypse?
Of course you should visit a place before you settle in. That, or at least commit to a limited period of time, like six months. No one is suggesting you sell your home and buy a house in Singapore tomorrow.
It is true that other countries have their own cultural practices. I would submit that in many cases, this is a good thing. American culture is full of kids watching shows like Jersey Shore and idolizing basketball players while shunning hard-working businessmen.
If culture shock means living in a place that values hard work, sign me up. This is largely within your control, however.
If you like the laid-back culture of the Latin world, move to Mexico, Central America, or South America. If you like a culture that values reading literature and going to the Opera, move to central or eastern Europe. If you want to live in a thriving business culture, move to Asia.
Someone who wants a neat, orderly system might be better off in the United States. Yes, motorcycles in Vietnam drive on the sidewalk during rush hour. I’ve yet to hear of anyone being killed by this, but they do. And the local police don’t care. I happen to like that.
However, there really is a place for everyone. Singapore is about as “civilized” a place as you’ll ever find. It shatters the myth that high “taxes are the price we pay for civilization”. One of these days, I’m going to literally eat off the street there.
Again, those looking to escape from America should understand that there is a reason they want to escape. All of the “civilization” in the United States comes with the high price of Big Government, high taxes, and a growing police state. Perhaps it’s really a lack of civilization you want.
Meanwhile, I fill my days in Southeast Asia enjoying hour-long massages for $10 and eating tasty hamburgers in western-style cafes with fast wifi for $5. As countries grow, more and more entrepreneurs overseas are offering Western products and services.
If you complain about the horrible GMO foods in the United States, you can’t chastise a country for not having McDonald’s. That said, most countries do have a McDonald’s or KFC these days, and if they don’t, some local entrepreneur has knocked off the concept very well.
8. What Freedoms and Liberties Will You Lose By Moving?
Yes, our liberties and our freedoms are being rapidly eroded in the United States. But in many other nations around the world things are much worse. You may find that there is no such thing as “freedom of speech” or “freedom of religion” in the country that you have decided to move to.
When I was a guest on a radio show recently, I told the host that the key difference between the United States and the emerging world is that while emerging market countries don’t enforce laws they have, the United States enforces laws they don’t have.
Heck, the US is a country where cities are now “cracking down” on people using their cell phones while WALKING.
The NSA spying program is totally illegal, but who stops it? The US government does what it wants with impunity. Meanwhile, people in Asia are opening businesses without permits — and often without even paying taxes — and no one does anything about it.
I’m all for freedom of speech, and there are no doubt some places that should be avoided. But it is silly to say that because a handful of countries throw people in jail for being Christian, you can’t find one of more than 200 countries worth moving to. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.
The very reason I don’t desire to “stay and fight” for the United States means I don’t care as much about fighting for any other country, either. Again, you must divorce yourself of the notion that you are simply a slave owned by some lines on a map.
It’s true that Singapore restricts public protests to specific places. But what exactly are you planning on protesting? I would like to submit that some people who claim they’ve considered an escape from America merely enjoy the idea of protesting more than they do actually solving the problem.
It’s easy and cathartic to complain about how bad the government is, but it takes effort to actually do something about it. If you like holding rallies and picketing, by all means, don’t move overseas.
If you want to live peacefully and be left alone by the local authorities, I can say I’ve personably been to countries on human rights watch lists and not even seen a cop, let alone been hassled. Actions speak louder than laws on paper, and the fact that the US imprisons five times more people per capita than “evil China” means something to me.
9. Is There A Possibility That The Country You Plan To Escape To Could Be Involved In A War At Some Point?
We are moving into a time of great geopolitical instability. If you move right into the middle of a future war zone, you might really regret it. If you do plan to move, try to find a country that is likely to avoid war for the foreseeable future.
If your desire is to escape the USA, you already live in a country involved in wars. Lots of them. And unlike countries like Latvia, Georgia, and Singapore which some Americans take issue with because of fear that Russia or China will invade them, the country you live in is the one starting the wars.
10. When The Global Economy Collapses, Will You And Your Family Be Okay For Food?
What good will it be to leave the United States if you and your family run out of food? Today, we are on the verge of a major global food crisis. Global food reserves are at their lowest level in nearly 40 years, and shifting global weather patterns are certainly not helping things.
I’ll admit, as a capitalist, I’m more worried about escaping high taxes and weak economies than making sure I have food.
However, there are plenty of countries with excellent soil and great agriculture. Two I like a lot for expats are Nicaragua and the Philippines.
Nicaragua‘s volcanic soil is some of the most fertile on earth. Not only could you live there and sustain yourself, there is a huge arbitrage trade in helping other farmers harvest food they don’t even have enough time or money to get to.
Of course, the average American is not prepared for a food crisis, either. And you can have a backup food supply anywhere you live, not just in the United States.
I certainly respect those who have ties to the place they were born and are reticent to leave. However, it’s important to understand the real challenges that come with an escape from America.
In my mind, most of what keeps people from escaping is mere propaganda. The rest of the world is getting by just fine without being part of the United States. And more and more foreigners I talk to say they have no interest in living in or even visiting the US.
If you want to escape the USA, there is nothing stopping you but yourself.