Expatriation: A Primer

Written by Will on . Posted in Expat Life

Within minutes of the major news networks calling the 2012 presidential election for President Barack Obama, facebook came alive with people who were outraged with this particular result.  I saw a great number of people stating that they were leaving the country.  I figured since I have several years of experience living outside my native country that this could be a great opportunity to act as a consultant and posted a tongue-in-cheek status to that effect.  If only these people were serious.  The same idle threats were made by people outraged at GWB’s re-election, but at least for that group, Canada made sense, but they didn’t leave.  Let me spare you some of your valuable time right now; if your only motivation for leaving the U.S. is your disappointment with the presidential election, stop pouring emotional energy into the notion of expatriating, you’re not going to do it, deep down, you realize how easy you’ve got it in the U.S.

Before I continue, I’m going to state a few generalizations about how I view the current crop of would be expats:

  1. Their core value system revolves around being right-wing, conservative Christians
  2. They’re strongly opposed to gay rights
  3. They’re angered by the thought of socialized health care
  4. They think their taxes are high
  5. They think gas prices in the U.S. are high
  6. They’re misogynistic
  7.  They believe in strict immigration laws

With that list of beliefs & values in mind (ignoring the irony of #7), I will, through the process of elimination, attempt to find their Utopia.

The country that seems to be mentioned most often as a destination is Canada.  Given its proximity to the U.S. and mostly English-speaking population it’s an easy choice.  However, Canada does have socialized medicine, recognizes gay marriage, higher gas prices than the U.S. and recognizes women’s rights.  The Obama haters might want to give Canada a pass, as well as Australia, New Zealand & wide swaths of Europe for the same reasons.

The USA’s neighbor to the south, with it’s seemingly endless supply of small arms and Catholic majority seems like it would be a more agreeable choice of locations to expatriate to, but the conservatism of Mexico pretty much ends there.  In the long-term, it seems fairly likely that Mexico would consider joining Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of our Americas, that coupled with the fact that the Mexican head-of-state is, well, a Mexican and higher gas prices than the U.S. Mexico no longer seems like a viable option.  Most of Latin America can be discounted for the same reasons (though socialized gas prices in Ecuador and Venezuela are much lower than the U.S.).

I’m going to get the entire continent of Antarctica out of the way by saying that my experience there was socialist to the core.  Housing, clothing, food and healthcare all provided to me by what wasn’t a government, but was the closest thing to it and was funded by tax dollars.  Guns are strictly forbidden, churches are few and far between and science is highly regarded.

There are a few places in Africa that might be considered, topping the list are Somalia and Sudan/South Sudan.  These places were mentioned mostly because you won’t be bothered by pesky governments, gun ownership is requisite to your survival and religious extremism is viewed as paramount.  The biggest disqualifier for the entire continent of Africa is the number of black heads-of-state and that’s one of the primary reasons you want to leave the U.S.

We’re now left with Asia, a vast and diverse land and I opine that there’s got to be a place for you here.  Cambodia, with its recent history of actively killing smart people seems like an excellent choice.  Too bad about Cambodia’s crack-down on guns, but if you’re not opposed to dealing with the Russian mafia, guns can certainly be had.  Since I’m talking about Asia, you’re probably thinking that the ‘one-child’ policy and Communist history are good reasons to leave China completely off of the list.  Not so, you see, if you were to do some independent research you might discover that the ‘one-child’ policy is less a policy and more a guideline.  Also, you’ve got to admit that China seems to have figured out the Capitalism thing and I think that in the long-term China might be a good choice.  Especially if they stop taking such a dim view on religion.  My number one choice, however has to be the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula.  Once you stop focusing on the differences and instead consider the similarities, I think you might find the religion quite agreeable.  Women are viewed less as people and more as property.  English is widely spoken.  Government stays out of the day-to-day affairs of people, provided they toe the religious line.  Homosexuality isn’t tolerated at all.  Gas prices are some of the lowest in the world and the economy is booming.  Oh, and as a bonus they have very strict immigration laws, whoops!

The Worst Hostel in South America

Written by Will on . Posted in Budget Travel, Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in South America, Nomadic Lifestyle, Tips, Travel, Travel in South America, Travel Nightmares

kitesurfing mancora peru

My first time traveling to Peru could have easily been my last. My first impression of Peru was the beachside resort village of Mancora. Mancora embodies everything that is horrible about over-touristed travel destinations, including the worst hostel ever!

Mancora is well located on the coast of northern Peru. The beach is actually quite nice, has great surf and predictable afternoon breezes that

attract surfers and kite surfers.

So, why do I think Mancora is so horrible, and what about this hideous hostel experience? First, the beach in Mancora isn’t open and accessible without going through either a hotel or a restaurant, it’s like trying to get out of a casino.

And the hostel…so, here’s the deal: I had made the mistake of booking a Loki hostel ahead of my arrival in Mancora. Booking ahead meant that the money was already spent…always a risk, I know, but the pictures looked nice, so I went for it. Loki hostels are a chain operating in Bolivia and Peru. They’re foreign owned, operate in a handful of already over-touristed destinations and add to the ugliness of tourism.

Upon checking in, I was immediately adorned with a wrist band that I would need to get in and out of the gate. Now, I can understand that maybe management thinks that this practice is in my best interest – you know, keeping the “bad” people out, but in reality, the wrist bands are about branding for Loki. This presents two problems. 1) I can be immediately identified by thieves and other ne’er do wells as a patron of Loki and marked as someone who must be an absolute sucker. 2) I’m forced now to be a walking advertisement for what amounts to be a corporate franchise. A bit ironic, methinks.

So, having been marked with the Loki brand, I was now free to roam the dusty streets of Mancora. I like beer. I like to drink beer poolside. Loki has a pool but their beer selection is limited and the prices are hyper-inflated. I did what any logical person would do and purchased some beer at the bodega outside the gate. I wasn’t allowed to take the beer back inside the hallowed Loki grounds.

The folks at Loki claim:

We are a group of backpackers
who met in Lima, Peru and over a
number of nights out decided to build
a hostel

I wonder if they, as a “group of backpackers” would like to be treated the way they treat their customers?

Peru Bullfight Video (Warning: Graphic)

Written by Will on . Posted in Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in South America, Travel, Travel in South America

Ultimately, I travel for the experience. Without immersing myself in the local culture, I may as well stay home. Bullfighting is an important part of Peruvian culture, though it is losing favor. I can’t say that I’m glad that it happens, but I can say that I’m glad for the experience.

Not to judge, not to condemn no condone but merely to observe

Ten Things to Love About Taiwan

Written by Will on . Posted in Expat Life, Global Travel, Living in Asia, Nomadic Lifestyle, Travel, Travel in Asia

You may or may not know that I recently spent a year in Taiwan, living & working in Kaohsiung. I went there not really knowing much about the island nation, and had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised and really fell in love with the place. Here are 10 things that I really loved about Taiwan:

  1. The People:
  2. My previous experiences traveling in Asia, especially India, had my guard up. You know the deal, thousands of touts & hustlers all descending upon you at once.

    People in Taiwan are extremely helpful and friendly with no underlying agenda.

  3. The Public Transportation:
  4. Taipei to Kaohsiung in an hour and a half! Love it! Cruising around the city in a CLEAN subway. Love it! Train ride along the scenic east coast. Love it!

  5. Taxis:
  6. Am I really saying I love taxis? Absolutely! They’re inexpensive, metered, and almost everywhere. It was often more economical to take a taxi than to pay to park, and without the burden of a car while out on the town you’re free to drink!

  7. The Haircuts:
  8. Heavenly. Seems an odd thing to love, but seriously, if you haven’t had a haircut in Taiwan, get your ass on a plane NOW!

  9. Technology:
  10. I love my gadgets and they were readily available in Taiwan. I also love to roll my own gadgets and there’s an entire district in Kaohsiung devoted to selling electronic components. It’s as if radio shack has a farm (but you don’t have to give your phone number to buy a resistor).

  11. The Liquor Laws:
  12. Eager to get out the door but don’t want to leave your beer? No worries, just take it with you. It’s like Las Vegas in that regard. Want a beer at 7AM on Sunday? No need to drive to the next county or state where the churchies haven’t ruined it for you yet – just go to the store, damn near any store and grab a cold one ANYTIME. Going home from a hard day’s work but don’t

    A betlenut girl attends to a truck driver

    A typical scene at the betlenut girl stand Photo Credit - Tobie Openshaw

    want to go through the ordeal of finding parking so you can buy a beer? Just pull over to the betle nut girl stand and a negligee adorned beauty will RUN with a beer to your window. You can do this while stopped for a red light. Awesome!

  13. Taroko Gorge:
  14. This is Taiwan’s National Natural treasure. I’ll be writing about it at some point in the future with photos and the whole bit. For now, take my word for it. It’s GORGE-ous!

  15. Love Hotels:
  16. This was one of those things I figured I had to experience before I left Taiwan (by ‘I’, I do mean ‘we’ – I didn’t go to the love hotel by myself). Drive-thru check in, parking garage right by your door and ‘Batman’ themed room? How romantic is all of that! Really! I expected it to feel sleazy in that run down hotel on the interstate frontage road kind of way. The place was quite surprisingly classy.

  17. 7-11:
  18. Pay your parking (there are no meters in Taiwan – they use a different system), pay your utility bills, buy concert tickets, airline tickets, cassette tapes, scotch, wine, Bailey’s & beer, even get a tea egg or some salty squid bits. Taiwan 7-11 redefines convenience. And they’re everywhere.

  19. The Low Crime Rate:
  20. Ever left something in a taxi? When it happens, you usually figure you didn’t need it that bad anyhow, or you figure that you’re never going to get it back so why bother. Lost cause right? I left an iPhone in a taxi in Taiwan. I got it back – took a couple of days of tracking it down, but I got it back. We had another phone – one of those $10 throw-away phones pretty much. It also got left in a cab. Got that one back too – from the bar where we had caught the taxi from.

    Violent crime is almost unheard of in Taiwan.

The parking garage in the 'Batman' themed room

The parking garage in the 'Batman' themed room

A room in a Taiwan Love Hotel

So that’s the short list. There’s so much more to say about my life in Taiwan – Use one of the follow along buttons below to keep up with what’s new.