Just Say Goodbye, A Self-Exile Primer I/III


Fed Up?

The Turncoat Chronicles-CoverSo, you’re finally fed up with the seemingly endless string of cynical,  self-serving, and ruthless  magnates, politicians, and generals, and the infirm society they have created for you and your fellow Americans.  You’re frustrated, ashamed and depressed. You really want out.  You’re convinced, ready to make your move.

Would you like to hear a few suggestions from someone who’s been through it, and who has met a lot of people over the years who have achieved the goal that you aspire to? Maybe I can help you out. Expatriating one’s self is like any other worthwhile project; it requires some planning. You don’t just pack your bags. First you think the whole thing through, consider your alternatives, make preparations, and cultivate contacts, both in your home and destination countries—you’re going to need all the friends and business contacts you can get.

Heady Stuff

This is one of the most exciting and rewarding times in the process of leaving. You’re actually beginning to act, to make choices, to savor the taste of change. This is the stage of active dreaming, and it’s heady stuff. Everything is possible. You get to choose your destination, make work plans, marshall your resources and do endless research on the Web. During this stage you can permit yourself the luxury of taking it easy and making careful plans.  Now that your mind is made up, there’s no urgency. More-careful preparation will save you surprises down the road. And you’re lucky, because leaving your country is not a cataclysmic, all-or-nothing act.  You get to test the water before diving in.

Be Discreet

First of all, be discreet. Do your best not to publicize your move as a protest or  flight from an insufferable situation.  That will only complicate matters.  The fewer explanations you have to give, the better. And don’t worry about the legal aspects; they will sort themselves out in time.  This is, after all, a long-term project.  I arrived in Spain to stay at the end of 1968, but I didn’t renounce my American citizenship and take Spanish nationality till the early 1980’s. It was a 15-year process.  If they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to become Spanish, I would have said no. I wasn’t ready yet. But, little by little, the country and I began to understand and appreciate one another, and over time—a matter of years—a bond was created which I wouldn’t trade for anything. So don’t be impetuous.  Don’t try to renounce your citizenship.  Under current American policy they won’t let you, anyway.  Don’t burn your passport. Don’t burn your bridges. You’re an idealist, but you’re not stupid.

Shall I give it to you straight, in two words?  Just leave. Come up with a project which will take you abroad. Do your homework. Make a plan. Then do your best to carry it out. It doesn’t even have to be long term or definitive. Make your first goal something feasible: “I’d like to spend a year teaching English in Italy.”  Why not? Go for it! As my old boss, Charlie Craig, used to say, “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have to go back home and get a job.” When I came to Spain I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life here.  My initial goal was to stay out of the U.S. for five years, an objective which seemed to me wildly extravagant at the time. That was more than 40 years ago. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a wife and family, a house and garden, dozens of Spanish friends, then a whole clan in Spain, and enough animals to fill the Ark.

The “Business Plan”

A candidate for expatriation needs something very like a business plan, and if you’ve ever written one, you’ll recognize the similarities immediately.  Though you’re not primarily interested in profit, you’ve got a project and you’ve got a product.  Your project is expatriation and your product is you. You’ve got some resources and a timetable. You may be surprised to hear that your most important resource probably isn’t economic. It’s probably moral; call it conviction, desire, or aspiration. Mere money won’t get you where you want to go. You need vision, heart and a sound value system.

Though it’s a spiritual endeavor you’re embarking on, your expatriation project lends itself perfectly to a businesslike SWOT analysis. You’ve got Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and they can be written down and analyzed on a four-square matrix. This simple exercise is not only fun, but it will permit you to get a clearer idea of what you’re about to do, what your chances are of success, and maybe even how to head off disaster. How to go about it? Look it up in Google.

Next, in Part II, How to Get Started
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