To know where I’m going, know where I’ve been
I, too, once had a dream. My dream was to simply retire from the military, own my own little redneck bar, and drink and sing karaoke till my heart’s content; hopefully having been wise enough with my money that I didn’t need to concern myself with running off the customers who didn’t like my horrible singing. That dream came to an abrupt end when I returned from combat and was rudely informed by some little snot-nosed shithead that I couldn’t smoke in bars anymore.
I suffered through several more years in the military until I had grown fully disillusioned by the bureaucracy, red tape, and success defined by ass-kissing instead of results and performance. I started getting involved in politics only to find out just how corrupt that game really was. I returned to my childhood home to find that even though people were friendlier, they were just as miserable as everyone else. Finally, after years of trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, I decided it would be better to move someplace where I was comfortable than to try to make the place I was living comfortable. Thus began the search…
Selection process part 1: Freedom and Free Markets
I knew that I wanted a place where free markets existed. Whether this came in the form of a true free market or a free black market didn’t really matter to me as much as avoiding places that were successfully stunting growth with overbearing regulation. The general idea was that if they were able to stunt the free market, stunting freedom was inevitable, which would naturally lead to only criminals being free.
This ruled out most of the U.S., Western Europe and the rest of the declining economic powers. So I directed my attention towards the growing economies. Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America all have great opportunities, especially with the rapid rate of technology improvements and intellectual mobility.
Selection process part 2: Violence and Politics
The next step was to look at current geo-political situations. The Middle East for Americans? It can be done, but you’ll be looking over your shoulder constantly.
Asia has some great things going for it, but there are a few countries there that are on the verge of war on a daily basis. While China is leading the world in opening its markets, it’s still leading the world in stomping on its citizens. India and Pakistan are barely holding each other at bay from nuclear disaster. Vietnam isn’t exactly pro-American. The Philippines are engulfed with religious violence.
Africa is the epitome of political instability with no end in sight. The so called Arab Spring is only the beginning of a new wave of regional instability as far as I can tell. South Africa is destroying its natural resources as quickly as it’s politically convenient. The Sub-Saharan region is a cauldron of terrorism in various forms.
Now, I’m fully aware that there is no region on earth that is free of turbulence, but these three regions in particular are so ripe with problems that it has a significant impact on the lives of almost everyone there. The other problem is that I could never come close to fitting into any of these three regions. I couldn’t walk down the street without being recognized as a foreigner no matter how well I assimilated if I chose.
Selection process part 3: Quality of Life and Mobility
These two concepts play together so closely that I can’t break them apart. Weather and environment were significant considerations. While Africa and Asia both have places with great weather and land, they are not in abundance and it would further reduce my options. If there’s a place with great weather in the Middle East, I must have flown over it because I sure never drove through one. This sealed those three regions’ fate for me.
Eastern Europe also isn’t well-known for its weather. Most of my memories of Eastern Europe involve great summers and putting socks on parts of my body they weren’t meant for in the winter. There are of course some nice Mediterranean wonders, but I’m limited in options again and they’re not exactly economically stable at the moment. The other problem I had with Eastern Europe was the multitude of languages. In order to have any real mobility I would have to learn dozens of languages. I’m just not that smart.
Conclusion: Latin America
Latin America has real economic potential, deeply-rooted moral structure, lots of countries with great weather that speak Spanish, and just enough real problems to keep the governments gainfully employed without fear mongering and oppressing their people. There are also parts of Latin America with a heavy enough European influence that I could move to without sticking out horribly, and a diversity of great climates is available. While certain countries may not be ultra American-friendly, most highly encourage tourism and immigration.
At the time of this writing, I have about three months and 5 countries under my belt in Latin America. This is hardly enough to make any sort on complete decisions, but my experiences thus far are very encouraging. There have been a couple countries I’ll be happy if I never step foot in again, and a couple that I can’t wait to get back to.
You’re encouraged to get involved as this gringo travels through Latin America in search of the greenest pastures. www.thisgringotravels.com