Living in another country… the whys

I’ve often thought about living in another country in the not-too-distant future, most likely south of the border – central America, Costa Rica, maybe. There are several motivations for this – not the least of which is growing disenchantment with the US. I’m so unhappy with our politics and priorities that it just kills me to be a representative of our country and to send my taxes to support what we’re doing in the world.

I have a girlfriend who argues that in that case, one should work harder to elect the right people, so that our country does what we intend and prefer. That’s a valid argument. She says we have to take responsibility for what our country does, because it’s each and every one of our responsibilities to make sure we have a government with the right priorities.

I have a completely different instinct, and that is to vote with my feet (and my money). Ever since WWII, the military-industrial complex in the US has been growing. I can’t see it being reduced substantially anytime soon, no matter what administration is in power. And Americans in general don’t seem to share my values; I am reminded of this each election cycle. Apparently a large majority of them believe we are entitled to (or by some reckoning, are morally required to) be the world’s policemen. While there even may be some merit to the ethical arguments, I prefer to live in a country that keeps its hands off the rest of the world.

Hmm… I didn’t mean for this post to get so political :) Because that is only one of the reasons. One other is financial. I am increasingly finding it impossible to live in the US and get ahead financially in any meaningful way, while still having a reasonable standard of living. I’m not sure how I will provide for my old age, and I have this dream firmly imprinted in my mind of being able to live somewhere where I can see and hear the ocean – whether it be Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier, or the waves on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (a surprisingly nice town, as I found out this week).

I’d like to sell my house in the US, get more and more of my income streams online, and go international. My money would go a much longer way almost anywhere other than the US or Europe. I’d especially like to do conservation work in the south. I’ve tried doing it in the States, but in spite of my having all the right science degrees and experience, the big conservation organizations don’t seem to want my help, even as a volunteer (!). They want volunteers to pull weeds, plant trees, count salmon, etc., but not to do the long-range planning and data collection that I’m able and trained and willing to do.

Also, there’s the very simple reason that every time I’ve traveled in central America, South America, or Mexico I’ve loved it. This may have something to do with avoiding the big tourist traps and really seeing the places as much as is possible to do as a gringo, but it would be even easier as a resident. What’s a birder not to like about Costa Rica, for example? :) Speaking of Costa Rica, the central plateau has year-round temperatures of about 75 degrees, and is known as the garden state because of its profuse gardens, butterflies, and hummingbirds :) I could live with that!

How sweet to know that my taxes (what little there are) would be going toward improving the health care system in Costa Rica and not to the war in Iraq (oops, there’s those politics again). Yes, I’d have to learn Spanish, as well as possible to be able to work there. I don’t expect that to be difficult if I spend any significant amount of time there. Next blog… how to do it.

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2 thoughts on “Living in another country… the whys

  1. Anya W. says:

    Hi Teresa, I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. When I joined the Peace Corps in the 1990s, I was not a flag-waving patriot, but I definitely was proud to be an American. These days I feel quite differently, for all the reasons you mention in your post.

    This is not to say I don’t love my homeland–I do in many ways. But I am drawn to living in other cultures too. Living in China, I saw the good and bad of another country and its mindset. I’ve traveled fairly widely and I recognize that nowhere is perfect, everywhere has its issues, but ONLY in the US have I seen such widespread obsession with disposability and convenience over simple human connection and respect for others.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know you’re not alone in your feelings, and I wish you the best of luck wherever you decide to call home.

  2. Coppermoon says:

    I spent a year living in the islands and it was a fabulous experience – the internet was not what it is now but it would make all the difference, I think.
    The only part that was difficult for me was paying bills because of the slow mail – the internet would change that. I say go for it.

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