Several years ago, in response to insane real estate prices and ever-decreasing civil liberties, my partner and I decided to do something drastic: leave the United States. I found an online resource called Escape from America magazine, which offered information on other countries across the globe to which Americans were relocating. We chose Boquete, a beautiful town in the mountains of Panama. Perhaps a bit impulsively, we bought some land there. 4 years later, we’re still here in the U.S., albeit in the mountain city of Asheville which suits us much better than Seattle.
I often hear friends talk about leaving the country “if the shit hits the fan”. And I admit, it is nice to know that I could escape to Panama and pitch a tent on my land if I really needed to. But when I really think it through, I have to conclude that if things did go crazy (and maybe they already have?) that the U.S. is exactly where I want to be.
If you read survivalist or self-sufficiency books and websites, most of them will tell you that the most important thing to get you through a long-term crisis is a community of trusted neighbors and friends. Who is the first to be targeted when times get tough? Foreigners, outsiders. That is not a unique feature of Americans. That is a common human trait throughout the world. Move to another country and when the chaos spreads there, you will then be the outsider.
And you can’t just show up in a new country, bags in hand, and expect to be allowed to stay. Panama, for instance, only allows you to stay for 90 days at a time. Most expats get around this by taking their passport to Costa Rica every 90 days, getting it stamped, and coming back into Panama. But unless you have a job skill that is rare, you had better have an income stream. Panama will not allow you to work without a work visa, in order to protect jobs for their own citizens.
There are plenty of great reasons to move abroad and plenty of places that welcome Americans, including Panama. It would be a wonderful place to live and we may still end up there one day. And I am sure that at this point, there are other countries which have far better economic opportunities than we now have here in the U.S. I am only suggesting that moving abroad because it is safer from an unknown future difficulty is not necessarily the smart move.
Instead, we changed our focus to where/how could we best enjoy a good quality of life here in the United States. Asheville has a mild climate in summer and winter, which means you can grow food just about all year long. It is protected by the mountains from most natural disasters. And the people here are absolutely wonderful. In 4 years of living in Seattle (13 years for John), we were not able to build the strong community of friends that we gained here in just our first year.
We’re building our little homestead in Asheville and building up an invaluable community of people. We have no intention of going anywhere any time soon.