What you will find on the “Aspiring Expat” blog

First, a little more about me so you know who I am and where I’m coming from. I plan to offer tips and tricks but I’m just starting out so those will come in time.

I planned to start this an an old-school “web log,” meaning I’d just log my own personal research into becoming an immigrant to a new country and be able to “log” it all here along the way. However, intention is pretty important in life, so I want to share my intention in starting this blog and what I plan to post for you here.

I’m an early-40’s single American woman who can’t eat gluten — so my travel adventures will be viewed through that lens. Yes, traveling gluten-free has been a nightmare in the past. Also, I’m at an age where — if I want to immigrate to a new country — it’s now or never.

I’m in the middle of the United States during a global pandemic. My state is a “red zone,” and so travel anywhere is challenging right now with quarantine rules and restrictions. (Not that I see too many people following the rules, after all, this is “rugged individual” America). At this point, I’d be lucky to drive to Oklahoma for a Whataburger. (I am close to Stilwell. Well, it’s a few hours away by car, that’s my definition of “close” when it comes to cult-favorite burgers).

By the time borders open up again, who knows what the state of the world will be? Or when that will happen? Where will I be able to travel to outside the U.S. and when? I can’t answer these questions right now. The world economy has taken a huge hit — to understate the problem. The travel industry already appears decimated. I live in the “Air Capital” of Wichita, Kansas. Named as such because generations ago this became a hub for building aircraft. With two Boeing planes crashing last year killing 346 people, personally, I think we are overdue for a new industry. Yet we kept getting call centers as of 2019… In short, the global pandemic is changing everything for everyone.

I’ve thought about becoming an expat for the last 10 years. I was furloughed in 2009 and began heavily applying for jobs in 2010, ended up here in Kansas at the end of that year. My other choices were between one job closer to the East Coast and another outside the country. The Eastern U.S. job didn’t pay well enough and the job abroad fell through. But before it did, I began to research how I could move overseas…and a desire to become an expat began.

Side note: Don’t wait ten years to do something. Just do it. It will scare you, but the time will pass anyway. You’ll age, if you’re lucky. If you’re not, you die without doing any of the bucket list stuff.

Packing two suitcases and taking flight to a whole new country sounded amazing to me a decade ago and it still does now. I’m older and a little more experienced. From what I’ve seen so far, I feel like I’m in the middle of an underserved population. The digital nomads I see online all appear to be in their 20’s. The Americans I see leaving the U.S. to live abroad as expats — but not digital nomads — who are putting out blogs, websites, and podcasts are the over 50 crowd…

Here I am, as always, the Gen X chick stuck between the two groups…

I don’t have a Boomer savings or pension; I’m not a 20 or 30-something either. I may not own as much stuff as a Boomer (less to get rid of prior to travel), but there are visas favoring the younger set. Of course, the over 50 group seems to have fewer options as well. I never noticed until now that there are travel benefits to being younger. But here I am. In my early 40s and ready to travel… I should have done this at a younger age. We all should have. But here we are.

Will I go through with it? Will I follow this idea all the way through to becoming an expat successfully? Or will I go the digital nomad route? Will this just become a travel blog? There’s a good chance this will become a travel blog first as I desire to visit before moving somewhere — but, given the instability of the world — I may not have that luxury. No matter what happens here, it will be an evolution. I think that’s all I can promise.

Comparing travel, expatriation, and immigration options will be a key part of this blog. Do I need to hire a service to help me immigrate? How do you move across the ocean? Can I travel and visit first before committing? I’m documenting all of this. Along the way, if I review some suitcase brands and hotels or flights, that would be OK, too. I want to share what I learn as well as my opinions.

This is a lonely process. No one is coming with me; my family have reasons to stay in the U.S., such as children who are in school and elderly parents. I know there are people who move regardless of these issues, but this is what loved ones have told me so far as to why they can’t join me.

I have high school friends who have become expats, but in my current circle, few world travelers. I’ll be hoping to make new connections around the world. There’s also the question of my skill set. Will another country find my skills desirable enough to let me in? Where are my skills in demand? Or do I learn new skills in order to be able to immigrate?

My background is in journalism and social work. I woke up this morning thinking, “Well, if nothing else, I can say I produced TV news in the U.S. during the pandemic…” Which now seems like saying I covered a war zone in a foreign conflict. The world has changed so much in less than five months; I can’t imagine what I’ll be saying in January of 2021.

Last year was really rough for me. I was underemployed, on food stamps, and faced homelessness for 11/12 months of 2019. This year, I am getting back on my feet as many face the struggles I know well. I don’t know what the future holds for the U.S., but I am not sure I want to stay back and find out. I can’t help but wonder if maybe the U.S. was meant to dominate only the 20th century, and that’s over now… This country may not have that level of success ever again.

I can’t help but wonder if I can have a better life elsewhere — a thought I’m sure my great-grandparents had before they came to America at the turn of the century. Where can I go to experience more opportunity? Better health? Better work-life balance? More freedom? More time off? Pair my wondering with my wanderlust and here you have this blog.

The U.S. is 15th on the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index for 2019. But at the rate of things lately, I can’t help but wonder if this country is about to fall farther down the scale…

There is far more than this country’s current politics that have made me want to leave. There is such a wide gap between “haves and have nots.” Healthcare is a nightmare. Jobs have been a nightmare. I’m fortunate to have a good one now but I am so new it will be years before I have enough vacation time to travel the world. This is normal in the U.S.; you’ll never get more than two weeks vacation time unless you work for the same company forever. If you get sick and want to still get a paycheck, your employer takes whatever time you have. There goes your travel time…

I have a friend who is a genius at making his vacation time work for him so he can travel the world. It’s also pretty safe for him to travel as a solo male… I’m fairly certain he will allow me to interview him about this at some point for this blog! Which means a podcast is coming (or I didn’t spend 22 years in radio!)

The obvious issues right now for those who love travel is we simply can’t do it. The U.S. passport gets you nowhere now. That’s temporary, but still sad.

So there’s another thing I’d like for this blog to cover — the comeback of the travel industry hit so hard by the pandemic. What will travel look like from now on? When will we begin to fill airports and flights again? My few friends who have traveled have been posting photos of mostly empty airports.

One one hand, it seems like the best time to travel! Everything is clean and there are no crowds! I am are hearing flights are cheap.

But on the other hand, quarantines here can change every two weeks as they are re-evaluated. Flights can be cancelled or postponed. It’s hard to make plans. One friend posted photos of LAX with most of the shops closed.

What if the curve becomes a bell again? This happened to a friend who was visiting Peru in March when the pandemic began. She got stuck there for weeks with the U.S. government requiring its citizens to pay thousands for a flight back. Other countries weren’t doing that — they simply flew their citizens back home and covered the cost. My friend had lost her job while there on business and had to pay the expenses of staying in Peru for weeks, then forking over thousands to fly back to the U.S., then quarantining, then flying back home.

So much remains to be solved. I’m here for the task and ready to learn. There’s so much I don’t know! Such an un-American thing to say, right? We think we know it all here, that we’re “the best.” But I am discovering we haven’t been “the greatest country in the world” for a very long time… The more I open my mind to what’s out there, the more I learn, the more options I see…

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