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Family challenges of expatriation

August 30, 2010
Frankfurt Airport, Germany

Though I’m penning this letter to you from the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, I will likely be somewhere over Nova Scotia by the time you receive it. My father is quite ill– I’m traveling to the United States to see him, as well as attend to some other personal business.

He’s a strong guy and I’m sure everything will be fine, but I think it will do us both some good to spend a few weeks together.

The rather unexpected nature of this trip has led me to think about the nature of family as it relates to expatriation and planting multiple flags.

I have met a lot of people, for example, who remain in a particular location simply because they find it necessary to stay near elderly parents, to be close to the kids, or because the spouse isn’t philosophically ready to take the leap.

I read a few comments about this just in our most recent post from Friday– such as Don’s remarks: Now if I could just get that one person in my life who’s the hold-up in me getting out of here…”

The reality is that sometimes the people closest to us aren’t on board with the same philosophy… or that we have overwhelming family reasons to stay in our home country.

This is simply a personal choice– people weigh the costs and benefits of staying vs. leaving, and major issues like family will (and should) have a substantial impact on the decision-making process.

For some people, the easy compromise is heading to a nearby country, like Mexico or Panama for North Americans, where they’re only a few hours away by flight. For others, a spouse’s unwillingness to leave, or the need to reside in the immediate vicinity of one’s family supersedes all other priorities.

I realize that I fall into a unique category; I’m happy to hop on a plane when necessary to come visit, but I’d much rather spend the bulk of my time exploring exciting opportunities overseas. I do, however, completely understand the logic of staying near family.

Regardless of personal priorities, though, everyone should still be making basic preparations. We are living in an age of turmoil– economic adversity, constant government bungling, resource shortages, environmental problems, social strife, the steady erosion of civil liberties, etc.

Given the social trends and the historical patterns of elected leadership, it looks like things are going to get much worse for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong– I am not making a prediction for doom and gloom, nor am I trying to stoke fear. You know me well enough by now to recognize that I’m an optimist, and frankly I don’t think that there’s anything to be afraid of in all of the coming chaos… if you’re prepared.

Ultimately, the solution to surviving and prospering in challenging times is to take steps towards becoming more self-reliant. Those who depend 100% on the existing systems– corporate jobs, fiat currency, the pension system, our food transportation network, law enforcement agencies, the government’s ability to ‘fix’ things– may find their lives turned upside down.

Making basic preparations does not have to be complicated, costly, or time consuming… it’s simply a question of putting yourself in the right frame of mind– are you the type of person who will wait for others (the government, employer, police, etc.) to fix everything… or the type of person who will solve your own problems?

With the right attitude, everyone can be the latter– self-reliant, prosperous, and solidly confident about the future… even if family obligations are holding you back geographically.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dil_man

    I like this post, it is important to realize that the word “self-reliant” is misleading as it is written. True self reliance can only be obtained with the collaboration of like minded friends and family. What self reliance really means is not being reliant on institutions, so the interdependence of like minded family and friends makes us for that.

    • Matthew Smith

      Dil… Glad you liked the article. Simon and I agree with your description of self-reliance completely. We shall be discussing this concept in much greater detail in the coming days.

      Now is the time for people to understand the context we’re in and position themselves properly… stay tuned.

  • jaxhere

    There are various factors which come into play in the decision to be an ex-pat, and some of those may influence a person to revert to being a “pat” or at least to stop traveling.

    I used to be much like you, prepared to up and travel on a moment’s notice but several things have changed in my life which were unexpected and could happen to anyone.

    We get older, and we all are at risk with suffering from infirmities both natural and accidental which come from aging and also just from being alive. Also, certain areas may put us in a more risky position to suffer afflictions or accidents. When these occur we may be unable or unwilling to travel.

    A couple of years back, after having had some very heavy surgical events, I traveled to the US and was appalled by the security measures in US airports for domestic flights. I was so disgusted at the treatment I personally received that I vowed that I would do all possible to avoid traveling through US airports even if it meant extra travel time and expense.

    I know that my travel habits are of minuscule importance to US authorities, but I’ve chosen to “vote with my feet” and suppose that if enough people were to do the same, perhaps some good might come from it.

    More to the point of my comment, however, is that this extra hassel in travel places an additional physical and mental burden on me which, I suspect, will result in my either being unable or unwilling to travel as much as I might have if I were younger and in better health. I suspect that there will come a point in my life when I will have to choose where I will remain for the rest of my days simply because of my age and physical condition.

    I think that I am already realizing that had I taken into account this aspect of life earlier when I decided to relocate, that I would have structured some of my affairs differently than I did because I now am seeing that I may have to un-do some of the changes that I made earlier to adapt to the new reality that becoming older brings to one’s life.

    I know that there are many things that are difficult to forsee and I wouldn’t advise people to delay making plans or changes simply because of what might happen, but I would encourage everyone, especially those who are younger, to be cautious in making committments, such as major investments in businesses or housing which may be difficult to change, and to seek arrangements which allow the greatest degree of flexibility.

  • RG Mich

    Simon: We wish you and your Father the very best. Please keep up the great work!

  • Tbraverman

    Finely written, well-balanced article. I’m faced with the challenge of an 84 y.o. mother living in a nursing home here in L.A., and my conscience would not allow me to leave permanently until she does. It’s a personal decision based upon the cycle of life, and I have no moral judgment against anyone who may decide otherwise for themselves.

    Meanwhile, I prepare for my ultimate expatriation by exploring current prospects (Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, Thailand), and will choose one (or more) by year’s end.

    • EllenNewYork

      If your mother is not terribly ill and unable to be moved, why not take her with you? When I took my very elderly parents and very sick father to Panama a few years ago with an eye towards relocation there, I met quite a few people with elderly parents in nursing homes there and in Costa Rica.

      • Tbraverman

        Thanks for the thought Ellen. Alas, she’s not ambulatory, suffers from dementia, requires G-tube feeding and 24/7 professional care. Ironically, I moved her from NY (Forest Hills) to here (L.A.) over two years ago.

  • John

    Your post was eye opener to me: Being an expat is nothing for me.
    When you are, you are an uprooted person without a fatherland. I have been living abroad for more than 20 years, only to learn that my preferred place is where I grew up, where I fit into the culture and where trust resides. An expat is always being hunted by all kind of scamsters, and if you honest you admit that.

    don’t get me wrong: loving your culture and your heritage has absolutely nothing to do with your government. It doesn’t mean any endorsement at all.

    I hope that a major uprise, even with violence, will happen in most 1st world countries and erase the powers there are.

    Nevertheless, I hope your father gets better soon.

  • Pronoiafan

    God Speed, Simon Black. Wishing your father a quick recovery. Thanks for your work.

  • Roshe! the real and read ur post with excitment
    I see myself as PT already.And as a single man i’m thinking how do i structure this to accomodate my future wife and kids?Any suggestion/s from you guys in the comment section?

    • Roshe!

      Also wishing your Dad speedy recovery.

  • Lrm

    In related-ish news: San Diego is the latest airport to add full body scanners (terminal one to start with), as it’s primary mode of security screening. Yes, it’s optional-awesome-so you can have the full pat down, instead.

    Just a mention, here is a link to the full list of international airports, worldwide, currently using full body scanners:

    Too bad-b/c SD has always been so easy to fly in and out of….nice airport, nice people, even airport security is friendly in SD.

  • Lrm

    Just to note-lol-CNN article on the subject says that ‘Obama’s economic stimulus plan is paying for the full body scanners’ ( think 11 new airports, if I remember the number correctly)….Economic stimulus? How is the economy stimulated via body scanners?
    At the very least, I’d like someone to try to sound logical when they lie to me. lol

  • Libero

    All the best for your visit. Both with your father and with entering hostile zone.
    Please make an extra small effort to make more of a note of the contrast you notice, as I’m sure you will. Meaning, the fairly “clear air”, lesser weight when you were just in Europe verses the almost immediate multi-ton weight and tension of entering back in the US. Ones who live there and barely or if ever travel, are in it and do not have anything else to compare it to therefore don’t notice. When you come from several places overseas and enter the US, it’s very apparent. As well when you are overseas and on occasion meet the stereotyped individual from there, you can immediate see the difference and long to go back to having conversations with others.

    Each time people return back to the US from overseas they tend to notice and report how it has become more and more tense in the air, a sort of invisible weight on the people and their minds and spirits.

    Simon, be extra conscious of this, compare-contrast, and please report back here after you leave the US again. This is one of the many reasons why people are leaving there, this tension in the air, this sort of gut wrenching feeling throughout day to day life there. Like something major is wrong, because it is.

  • Lrm

    I also want to mention that in many (most?) european countries, homeschooling is illegal or severely regulated. In most 3rd world countries, you can get away with it if you are an expat with resources, but you will not be the norm. In the US, homeschooling is: 1) gaining ground, (250k children in California alone are homeschooled) 2) runs the length of the spectrum in terms of styles/beliefs (from unschooling to school at home, from religious to a-religious, montessori, waldorf and ecclectic).

    In europe, naturally, the state is all-knowing, and protecting your child from religious parents seems to be their main issue…[even though many homeschoolers are not religious.]
    I just mention this, b/c paradoxically, there are several states in the US that are the best places to homeschool. All the while, the US becomes more police state like….strange contradiction.

    Increasing numbers of high schoolers are realizing they can dual enroll and get college classes out of the way early, truly canonical texts [John Taylor Gatto's 'Underground History of American Education-it was modelled after prussia, germany's schools], and creative individuals modelling ‘College without High School’, are definitely changing expat and pat lives…

    It’s interesting and ironic that the US is the bastion for freedom and innovation in this regard…no doubt b/c of it’s size and diversity in terms of state rights and interests. The New Global Student is another great resource/book-i borrowed it from the local library-and she has a blog…they schooled their 4 daughters internationally thru high school and college, doing it on the cheap, with very high quality results, and their daughters all graduated 2 to 3 years early [from college undergrad]. They live in Uruguay currently.

    These are all good resources and food for thought, when considering/worrying about going abroad with a family. There is NO need to do expensive international schools, per se. You do need to be flexible, creative and bold with regard to making your own path and being on the forefront of a new trend. Also, this all speaks to Simon’s assertion that we need ‘multiple flags’, not one single flag in a new country. So, keeping your foot in the door in the US, if you are american, would give you the chance to homeschool, get a US transcript [or GED, for that matter-the stigma is gone in favor of the practicality/quickness of GED vs. wasting hours a day in a classroom learning often useless/outdated/biased info.], and still have options for enrolling in a US college-though many others are cheaper and high quality throughout the world.

    Regarding homeschool, though, heck: Even princeton and Harvard have homeschool applicant sections on their website-it’s the new en vogue, and of course they want to usurp all the independent-minded talent their can, so this talent can be mined and used to serve the system/status quo.

    Anyway, just sharing what i’ve found as a parent contemplating getting out of dodge. We are already homeschooling and our children are not cut out for the traditional school path; they prefer the freedom of their own schedule, already!!!!
    Good luck to all-

    • Libero

      Thanks Lrm.
      I strongly believe in homeschooling. A proper leverage over the child to teach proper subjects, to get away from biased and infiltrated public schooling. As well as in areas that have become highly corrupted morally, it is nice to shelter from that, not excessively, but a good deal of an amount. They can still have neighborhood friends of course, but what helps is that the majority of their times is spent under the positively protective umbrella of good influence.

      I find what you mention about Europe interesting. It is a fascinating scene being played out these modern times. There are a good deal of people who contemplate either the US or Europe for their safer havens. I have experience with both, as well as several regions of the globe. There are several pluses of Europe, but I do have to admit, also downsides of Europe, and pluses of the US.
      We can not forget all the turmoil that was in Europe not so long ago. It’s fairly quiet now, but such another ripple could occur in the near future.
      Many are harping on the US and understandably so, but wouldn’t it be quite ironic if it is the US and its people that eventually clean up all this mess (media, banking, schooling, etc.) and infiltrated, other-countried’is-interest occupants in its government and end up being the once again safe haven for other countries to model and seek.

      I believe there are some very wise people in the US, ones you do not hear so much about and who the very future of proper leaderment lies in. Ones who can truly take proper action.
      I believe there are lessons being learned in the US specifically, not being as strongly learned elsewhere, and it is these lessons that quite possibly will cause America to once again be the positive leader for the world.

      In summary, let’s not completely believe that the US is fully gone (although it sure can appear to be so), and that other places are surefire retreats. Future times have proven to take some very interesting turn of events.

      I say, diversification. ;) Keep some tie to the US if possible, because ironically, a person may end up returning there of all places as surprisingly some proper courses of action may end up taking place to make it once again an at home land.

  • EllenNewYork

    I wish your father a speedy recovery.

  • Steveloy

    Simon, you hit the nail on the head. Our family is close and we need to be close. We have chosen Costa Rica to live. Now I need a second passport from somewhere. Then I will start a business. I am dedicated to this and I wait anxiously for your instruction on second passports. God bless you and your father and hope all is well. When you get the seminar going, sign me up

  • Noemail26

    LOL, my email bounced back.

    I wish your father well and welcome back home.

    Ann- New Orleans

  • Laurie

    I just want to say that I am very sorry to hear about your father’s illness. I will be praying for him and for you. I hope that your visit with him will be very close and meaningful for you both. It possibly could be the last one you will ever have, so do take your time and spend as much time as possible with him. You never know when it’s someone’s ‘time.’ It could be his time now. You and he are in my prayers. God bless and may God be with you on your trip and visit. Blessings,
    Laurie in the U.S.

  • amerikanka

    Simon, hope you enjoy your time with your father. My own father has done some land speculating and frankly has a poor track record – yet really thinks I’m out of my mind to have purchased some Adriatic island property for next to nothing. Then again, even though my father is 83, it is I who is the one with serious health concerns that can’t be properly dealt with in Croatia. It took me a years to get past his disapproval – and prove that my own investment was sounder than his own, but now I know I must be realistic with my own illness and treatment, and I do not have the means to be flying back to New York every 2 months.

  • Barry

    May your father have a good recovery. Best to you both.

  • Jai

    Best wishes to your father for a full & speedy recovery.

    I gave up the expat life & returned to the States when my father was ill. “Life” intervened & I ended up “stuck” when there was never any intention to remain. It is nice to think one has no family, no ties, and is “self-reliant,” completely free to come & go as one pleases. But without family, without partner, one has no “team member” to share the load. Dil-man brings up an important point. It is vital to have a personal support system, a family, a team you can totally rely on. And that becomes even more vital when you are far from so much as a friend-since-childhood, and have not a single surviving relative. As we get older, or if events intervene, we come to understand more than ever how important it can be to have a real family.

    It’s good you can get back to your father. Cherish whatever time you have together for you never know if or when you might see each other. And pray you can get back to living your own life as you choose without events intervening.

  • Rob

    Hi Simon,
    Just wondering if you have any info or advice on buying an investment shop front/retail property, and how that would compare to buying a residential investment property in your suggested South American and Asian countries?

  • Joe


    How do I break the news to family that I am going to PT? It has been advise that any PT keep themselves a low profile. What is the best way to share the change in my life without sabotage my purpose of PTing.

  • Cyprian Gwozdz

    Thanks for this message Simon, which touches my situation right now. After traveling over USA and India in 2008/2009 and spent 1 year at my home. Right know I am waiting for plane to Port (Portugal). I found out myself a bit demotivated of comfort I was living for last 12 months. This is why I decided to put myself under a pressure and completely change environment. I am going to find job and new place to live for next few months. It was nice to spend time with my family, friends etc, but it is even better to try myself, how good I am in completely strange country with only 10 kg bag (with my MacBook and bunch of cloths) on my back. I love traveling and changing of environment, because of my senses, which become really sharp as soon as I go into urban wildness :)

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