The Election is Not a Good Reason to Leave the US

We’ve seen in the past few elections the occasional threat/promise, “If my candidate doesn’t win, I’m leaving the country”. It used to be that no one took that too seriously, it was just something you said to show your extreme displeasure with the other candidate.

In this weird election cycle however, we heard this a record number of times from both sides of the aisle. It seemed like no matter who won, at least half the country was going to get the hell out. Even worse, this year it looks like the winning side would be thrilled if that happened. It is a really sad time in American politics and society, that things have come to this. The only thing America seems to be able to agree on, is that “things would be a lot better if everyone who disagrees with me just left the country.”

Now that the election is over, there has been an uptick in the number of inquiries into organizations that provide information and assistance for wanna-be expats. As a writer for International Living and their sister publications, I’ve also seen more email and questions.

Let me offer some simple advice if you are thinking of leaving the country solely out of fear of a Trump presidency.

Don’t.

In my experience both as an expat and as someone who talks to expats all over Ecuador, I have found that the people who are most successful at living in a foreign country are happy because they were running towards something, not away from their problems.

My wife and I have lived on the Pacific Ocean in the resort town of Salinas, Ecuador for three years this January. We love it here, and have no plans to move back to the US anytime soon. But we did not decide to come to Ecuador to flee anything in the US – with the possible exception of freezing weather.

Our number one goal was someplace that is warm all year. We had found from traveling around the States that if you go far enough south to be warm in winter, you would be broiling in summer. Then we discovered the Ecuador coast, with weather usually between 70-90F, and no chance of major storms or hurricanes. We also had traveled enough outside of the US to understand we would find cultural differences. We were excited by the chance to experience that new culture, and to learn a new language. Although we certainly benefit from the lower cost of living, we were not running away from financial problems either. We could afford to live just about anywhere – we chose to live in Ecuador.

That is not always the case among expats. I have talked to people who left to get away from a bad relationship or marriage, people who left because they could not afford to live on their retirement in the US, and yes, even people who left because they did not like the political climate.

Although there are always exceptions to the rule, that is the type of expat that has the most difficulty adjusting to life outside the US, and some never adjust at all. They tend to form attachments solely with other expats and spend as much time as possible in expat enclaves, interacting with their host country as little as possible. They may refuse to learn the local language (some even evince pride at their refusal to learn), reject local foods and culture, and indeed try to recreate their life in the US in miniature as much as possible. Naturally, they feel isolated, alone, and at some point they can start to resent everything around them and feel especially bitter towards the US.

This is not good for anyone. Let’s face it, emigrating to a foreign country is not for everyone, and is not something to be taken lightly. It is much easier to be happy as an expat if you feel like you are building a new home and a new life to expand your world, not burning bridges to escape a bad situation.

Although I do expect to see an increase in the numbers leaving the US to live abroad, I really do not anticipate a mass migration. The fact is, many people are just not in a position to leave the US. They are tied by their jobs or family, or just lack the resources to make such a move. I do believe that for people who have already done the preliminary work or were considering the move before the election, then yes, the election may be the last straw that pushes them to take that leap.

There are many wonderful places around the world where expats can choose to settle. There are many compelling reasons to consider life in a new country, and I can testify that it can be a rewarding and positive experience. But I encourage you to take a good, long look at yourself and your reasons for leaving, and ask yourself: am I leaving because I want to live there, or because I don’t want to live here?