In this report, I share Why I Left the USA forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the USA and feel lucky to have been born there. Had I been born elsewhere, I may not have been able to create the life I live today. I still go back to visit family every other year or so. But I never feel the urge to move back again. I am going to show you pictures I took traveling all over the world, as I explain why I am not moving back to the USA.
You see, I am a slow traveler. That means I travel slowly around the world. I often stay in each city for a month. I often stay in each country for several months visiting several cities. Then I move to another country. I often explore several countries in the same region before I fly to another region of the world. I write reports about how to do this on the cheap. Whenever I have the urge to move to a new region of the world, I think about whether I want to explore a new part of the world or go back to an old favorite.
But, whenever it is time to move again, I almost never have the urge to explore the USA. I am always more excited to return to other countries I love or visit new countries. So, after 14 years of exploring the world, I never go back to the USA, except to visit family and friends.
At first, I thought I wasn’t getting the urge to explore more of the USA because, as an American, I had spent the first 46 years of my life living in the USA. But in 2015, I was forced to travel around the USA on business for about 6 months. Luckily, I traveled to some of the most beautiful parts of the USA, that I had never seen before. I absolutely loved the nature and landscape of the USA. But living in the USA again just felt odd to me. I prefer to live outside the USA now. Let me explain why I left the USA forever.
I thought it might be useful for me to admit to myself, and to try to explain why living outside the USA feels permanent to me now. It is time to admit to myself that I am likely gone … forever.
It tools several years living outside the USA for this feeling to fully develop. I don’t think I could have decided to leave my home country forever, while I was still living there. You can’t really compare your home country to other countries until you have been gone for a few years and look back. It doesn’t matter what someone else says. You have to look back with experience.
Once time has passed, and you not only know the differences but you feel them, you can look back and decide objectively. You can look back more clearly, with the experience of living in other countries, for a few years. You can come back and objectively see your home country after being gone for a long time. I have been gone for 14 years now but I think I knew it in my heart after about 3 years. I will still visit periodically, but living outside the USA feels forever for me now.
Here is why I left the USA forever.
Why I Left the USA Forever
So what was it about the USA that made it so easy to leave and never want to come back? Why was I only missing my family and friends? Why wasn’t I missing what I believed growing up was “The greatest country in the world”? That is what I am going to explain the best I can right now. What does it feel like … when I go home? Maybe my thoughts will help you decide if you should pursue this investigation further.
USA Rents: My total cost of living in much of the world is cheaper than my mortgage payment alone was in the USA. So my cost of living around most of the world today in 2021 is cheaper than my mortgage payment alone was, back in 2007, when I left the USA. So, despite 14 years of inflation around the world, things are still better for me. But for many people in the USA, their mortgage payments and rents have inflated substantially since 2007. Yet, most months, I still live on less than my USA mortgage payment was 14 years ago, when I left the USA.
Paying More–It Must Be Better–right?: Back when I lived in the USA, I read about how cheap most of the world is in comparison to the USA. I just figured the USA must cost more because it was better. Meaning, I would suffer a lower quality of life as I traveled the world. But after living in my first 20 or 30 countries it started to sink in. America didn’t feel better to me, whenever I went back to visit. America just seemed different to me. America values money. America values speed and convenience more than some other countries. America wants its burger in under 3 minutes. America wants its coffee in under 2 minutes. America wants its gasoline in under 4 minutes. So, the American lifestyle is just a faster lifestyle choice that you can make, but is it really better? For me, the answer turned out to be no. As I traveled around the world, I noticed almost every other country in the world values personal free time over money, speed, and convenience. Somehow I thought that saving all that time in America was giving me more personal free time. But I had to run so fast in the rat race while I was in America, I had less personal time, not more. In the USA, I spent all that extra time I saved, running faster in the rat race. That doesn’t feel better to me. I had less personal time, not more. So for me, it turned out America wasn’t better. Now instead of speed and convenience, I have something I really value–the personal freedom of more personal time. I found more personal freedom outside the USA.
Transportation: As soon as I land in the USA, I start hemorrhaging money. I use the phrase ‘hemorrhaging money,’ carefully because that is what it feels like to clear customs in the USA and walk on my home soil. Almost no part of the USA is livable using public transportation. So, you may need to rent a car in most parts of the USA. So, before you even leave the airport, you spend hundreds of dollars on a rental car and insurance. Even if you have family pick you up from the airport, and you stay at their house, it is difficult to get around without a car. Do you ride public transportation or do you get an Uber taxi everywhere? Ridesharing like Uber, Lyft, and Grab, cost $10 to $25 USD per ride instead of $2 to $5 USD in most other countries? That adds up fast. So do you ride public transportation instead? Buses stop only every 20 to 30 minutes in much of the USA if they are still running. But you need to make 2 to 3 transfers for most trips each way. With 20 to 30 minute waits between each transfer, plus ride time, it takes 2 to 3 hours to get anywhere with public transportation. You can’t just rent a scooter for a few dollars per day like you do in many other foreign countries. So unless someone has an extra car lying around, you may end up paying more for a rental car per month in the USA than you do for a furnished apartment in most of the world. So, you start hemorrhaging money before you leave the airport.
American Food is Homogenized: Every city has the same chain stores and restaurants. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in America, you end up in the same place. The same chain food is everywhere you go. But think about it for a second. If you had to buy 8 million tomatoes per day to make 20 million burgers, do you think you could find 8 million perfectly ripe delicious tomatoes every single day? Compare that to a family-owned restaurant. If you needed to buy forty tomatoes today for your family-owned restaurant, don’t you think you could find forty perfectly ripe tomatoes today? I think you could if your family name was based upon quality food. That is why I like smaller family-owned restaurants. So, I like discovering family-owned restaurants with new and different foods for me to try. So, the fact that I can’t find the same corporate food around every corner of the world doesn’t seem to bother me. I think it is a good thing. The diversity of food you experience around the world is what makes travel fascinating. I learned pretty quickly that I preferred learning the different nuances of family recipes. I like the surprise. I am a student and the world is my teacher. America always seems the same when I return, with very few nuances. Yet, the prices are three to four times as much. Why should I pay more money for the same experience I have had hundreds of times before? I like how food turns out when a family member has to find the best forty ripe tomatoes each day.
I Miss ‘Shoe-String Restaurants’ when I am in the USA: There are no ‘shoe-strings restaurants in the USA. What is a shoe-strings restaurant you ask? In most of the world, somebody tells grandma that her food is the best in the world. So, she decides to try selling her food. So, one day she decides to cook all day. Then she goes to a busy street corner at 3 PM that night. All she has is a propane gas range and an ice cooler with her food in it. She puts out a table with a large sign … “$0.50 USD Tamales.” When I see a sign like this around the world, I buy Grandma’s tamales. Do you know what will happen if you buy Grandma’s tamales? You buy the tamales and it is the best thing you have ever tasted in your life. You end up going back every day for a week because you can’t get Grandma’s hot tamales out of your mind. By the end of the week, there is a line around the block. Six months later she has made so much money, she opens a restaurant where her whole family works. Grandma adds just a little more equipment and she has a family-owned restaurant that sits 20 people. She started a business on a shoestring. That is what I miss when I am in the USA. People need $200k (minimum) in the USA to start a restaurant. Grandma doesn’t have $200k. She only has $20 USD to start. That is why I don’t find Grandma’s food in the USA.
Madison Avenue Defined Success: Have you seen the show MAD Men? Advertising executives define what success looks like in America. And because we are socialized animals, many of us spend parts of our life trying to acquire the externally defined markers of success. All of the advertising we are exposed to tells us how to attract the best life possible to ourselves. The advertising images created in our heads, over decades growing up in America, tell us how to be happy and successful. We need a certain car and we need a certain kind of home before we have ‘made it in life.’ But we need to get a better car and house every 5 years to remain happy and successful. We are told that, if we can ‘make it’ in life we will be eligible for the perfect mate shown in the ads. We believe that our family and others will congratulate us if we can achieve these external markers of success. Many Americans work all of their lives to create a life that reflects these externally defined images. So when I return to America, I see all of these people driving the newest model cool cars. They are wearing whatever the stylish new clothes are. They have a pile of Amazon delivery boxes at their front door each day. Each time they buy the dream again, they get a bit of a rush for a few days or weeks. But they are eventually bored of their new acquisitions and they need to purchase the next new thing to remain in the winner’s circle. God forbid if they are caught walking around with last year’s phone or car. How sad would they feel if their neighbors saw them driving that old car? Life turns into a string of thrills people need to feel to know they are winning again in life. Many end up with an entire room full of things they never seem to use. I remember doing it myself while I was still living a stationary life in America. I would buy myself things periodically sort of like bribing myself to get back to my desk on Monday morning. But there is sort of a compounding social effect when people see others enjoying a new toy. We all know about this, but it was really hard to believe it affected me when I lived in the USA. When I visit the USA I see all the new toys people have. I even start thinking, “Maybe I need this new toy too”? But then I remember, I have only one checked bag and one carry-on. The new toys won’t fit. But this crazy consumerism has some permanent consequences. People are not saving enough for retirement in America. They are spending too much to keep up with the Jones. Many work their whole lives and some end up losing their jobs before their retirement accounts are mature. Many only have social security when they retire. But I don’t see this same kind of crazy consumerism when I am living outside of America. When I am living outside the USA, I don’t see people running so fast to keep up with externally defined references of success. They are not so programmed to accept externally defined references.
Visiting America Became Sad for Me. I had moved to India for work in 2007, so I was living outside the USA when the US Economy crashed in 2008. I didn’t watch the consequences of the crashed economy slowly unravel. Because I wasn’t living in the USA when the economy crashed. Instead, I only saw the results once per year or so, when I visited. So, when I saw the results, they felt drastic to me. I saw hundreds of homeless people living under freeway overpasses. I thought, “Is this America or some third-world country?” The really odd thing was, many of the third-world countries I knew about, didn’t appear to have as many homeless people. So, I just felt sad for these homeless Americans I saw living under the freeway overpasses. These were not all alcoholics and mentally ill people. Many were normal middle-class Americans caught in the wrong place at the wrong time … after living according to the same rules I did growing up. There but for the grace of God go I.
I literally have one hundred other reasons why I left the USA forever. But this video is already too long, so let me conclude for now. Here is my short answer.
I Love My Life Outside the USA: Is it all a bed of roses? Absolutely not. The first 6 months were some of the most challenging days of my life. When I first left the USA, it was like putting on clothes that were too heavy, too tight, and didn’t fit right. I didn’t know how anything worked. I had to figure it all out. I didn’t know where to eat, I didn’t know what to eat, and I didn’t like being in a world I didn’t understand. I was uncomfortable. Why were these people doing stuff so differently? Why don’t they just do it as we do back home? I was always thinking, “We do this better than them! Why don’t they know?” But after about 6 months I finally started to get my groove on. I started to see what the world was about. By the end of the first year, the world started to feel like home to me. And when I went back to visit the USA, the USA just felt odd to me. Plus, I started hemorrhaging money whenever I landed in the USA. I was hemorrhaging money for a world that I was just not that into anymore. And each time I returned to visit the USA, it became more and more clear to me. I have left the USA forever. Sure, I may move back for a year or two someday to travel around the USA in a small RV, but as far as putting down roots in one place in the USA for more than a few months? I just don’t see that happening for me again.
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This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the YouTube Channel for VagabondBuddha.com. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?