You’re Free to Leave the Asylum

Escape to Mexico

An American passport can get you into 174 countries around the world. In many of those countries it’s possible to become a legal resident—or just keep renewing a tourist visa.

There’s no rule saying you have to stay in the country of your birth year after year.

Imagine you woke up after a multi-year slumber and turned on CNN during the U.S. primary season of mid-2016. You might not find it surprising that an ignorant bigot and a right-wing gun-loving Bible thumper are the leading candidates for president of the United States on the conservative side of the eventual ballot.

Then imagine you woke up after the election. You probably would be surprised to find the clown you saw on stage pulled off the win. You probably would find it hard to believe that the guy who has gotten the most primary delegate votes overall The guy who got the most electoral college votes (but somehow won without getting the popular vote) seems like a joke. He has spray-on-tan skin, an orange dyed comb-over, has been through multiple divorces, and has filed for bankruptcy six times. That’s before we even get to the complete lack of knowledge about what goes on outside our borders and an open support of torture techniques prohibited by international law. We could talk about him for days, or if you’re an American 24-hour news network, for at least a year non-stop.

Escaping America

Now that we’re seven months in an even his business community advisors have given up on him, what does this say about the volume of dense people that didn’t see this disaster coming when they voted? Who knew there were that many hiding under the rocks, with such a poor sense of character judgment? It’s like Idiocracy come to life, 10 years after its release. Instead of a pro wrestler, they voted for a reality TV star.

Who knows how much worse things will get, but I’m not too worried because I have a passport.

I can go to Mexico for six months just on a tourist visa, then move on to somewhere else and do it again, or come back there for another six months. I could go spend a year in India, or Peru, or Cambodia, or Albania. With a few visa runs I could do that in dozens of other countries or just keep moving.

cheap living abroadThe last big expatriate exodus was when Bush Jr. got reelected—I sure did meet a lot of those escapees in my travels. Some came back when the tides turned and the economy improved under a new leader. Others like the slower pace and better spending power on the other side and made it permanent.

Will we see a replay?

Who knows.

But if you’re having thoughts of escape, I’ve got a book for you. And some coaching if you’d like. After all, if you’re going to escape from a scary situation, why not turn it to your advantage as well? Go to one of the cheapest countries to live in and you’ve suddenly got…A Better Life for Half the Price.

When you get there, turn off the TV, mix a cocktail with fresh-squeezed juice, and take a nap in a hammock. Then take a nice walk and do it again the next day.

Soon you might forget that you were once stressing about this and you’ll react as an anchor on CNBC said this week when asked about “Trump risk” in the market. “Wall Street has written off our president as a non-factor. They will forge on assuming he won’t get anything done.”

Anywhere you go they’ll be laughing now when anyone says the orange one’s name, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay on and be part of the joke.

[Editor’s note: This post originally ran in a slightly different form during the Republican primaries. It has since been amended to reflect the final election results. Thus some of the comments precede the new publication date.]

  1. Erika

    This. So much this. I never thought politics would stress me out like this, and it’s such a deep, insidious feeling. Combined with the fact that the Portland OR cost of living is exploding – is why you’ve convinced me to rent out my condo and move to Guanajauto. I need to lose myself in another culture for a while, find a new perspective, and start saving money rather than barely scraping by. We and the dogs are moving in July. Know of any rentals? ;)

    • Tim Leffel

      Sounds good Erika. Set up a couple weeks in advance with a vacation rental that will accept dogs, then hit the ground running. A great number of places for rent there are not advertised online.

  2. Skylar

    I’d love to escape to a country that has no political party system anyways. I hate the 2 party system in America! Only thing it accomplishes is keeping everyone BBC divided

    • Wayne Bernhardson

      I like lots of things about Argentina, but its politics is even worse than the US.

      • Tim Leffel

        Yes, you can always find a worse place it seems, no matter where you are.

  3. Dennis

    Really? I’m not interested in your political opinions. Isn’t this a travel site? Adios I’m done with your site!

    • Tim Leffel

      You’re free to go elsewhere where your views will be validated. Free content, free country.

      • Wade K.

        You wouldn’t even put up my post. This is why liberals hate FOX News, you can’t control the message. The Democrat choices are every bit as wacky as the Republicans, but you’ll never allow it said.

        • Wayne Bernhardson

          In truth, people dislike Fox “News” because it’s ill-disguised propaganda that, nevertheless, fools the most willingly gullible among us.

  4. Jack

    Tim, I suggest you consider creating a separate political blog and keep such vitriol there. You have been, and despite this single atypical outburst, remain my go-to travel writer and in addition, an apparently good guy. However, keep in mind that not all your devout readers share your views. Remember, there is a reason why good barbers-in-training are instructed to avoid discussions on religion and politics… it’s bad for business.

    • Tim Leffel

      No, it has been great for business Jack.

      If I wanted to attract more traffic I’d spout off my views more often, not less. Yesterday after I posted this was the second best traffic day so far this year, best day ever for newsletter sign-ups. So no, I won’t keep it to myself, especially since the current political climate is driving sales in a big way for every book about moving abroad, including mine. I’d be crazy to ignore those market forces. Politics and moving abroad are inextricably linked, whether it’s immigration or emigration.

    • Wayne Bernhardson

      To me, it sounds like a pretty fair and balanced view of the Trumpeter and his main opponent.

  5. jon

    Tim, I’m fine with your political views and I would much rather travel and hang out with others who aren’t offended by it. Hopefully, those who don’t share your views and aren’t nauseated the ” dense people that can crawl out from under a rock” that gave us, say, George W. Bush- will stay home.

  6. Jillian

    For the first time in my life, I’m getting fed up enough to move. After I vote of course and see what happens, but when the gun nuts and the religious minority are having this much influence on elections, I’d rather go where it’s safer and cheaper. And where I can afford my own health care without working for the government or a big corporation. Enough already!

  7. Eric B

    Travelers talk about politics all the time. And they’re usually open-minded enough to keep from getting offended when others don’t agree with them. They also get their news from multiple sources. Those who don’t travel much are the most rigid. It’s probably good to put out a litmus test like this so the rigid ones will leave in a huff and go back to their favorite brainwashing source.

  8. Gary

    As much as I have a disdain for political views expressed in something like a travel-oriented blog, I do say that the assessment given by the writer is spot on.

    To wit: when traveling earlier this March in the Mexican Yucatan, the natives’ first response to me upon learning that I was an American was “So what do you think of Donald Trump?” Yikes.

  9. John

    Way to go, Tim! How true, but a lot of the weaker-minded experience cognitive dissonance and “can’t handle the truth.” You have a gift for humor, too. Keep it up!

  10. DML

    OK all you haters….leave this travel site if you wish, but Tim is not just making this stuff up: “On March 1, the first of this year’s Super Tuesdays (thus far), Canada’s immigration website experienced a severe spike in Internet traffic as reports trickled in that Trump had won 7 of the 11 states which held Republican primaries and caucuses.”

    You can read the whole article here:

  11. James

    My friend just got back from Nicaragua and hadn’t checked the news in two months. She was quite surprised to find the state of affairs of America.

    It was also surprising though that she hadn’t heard of any of the recent terrorist activity. Makes you realize that much of the world does not have to worry about those kinds of things.

    • Tim Leffel

      We worry because we have four 24-hour news channels telling us to worry. That’s their business model. Plus we have news streaming on our phones all the time. It’s easier to turn off the noise in most other places.

  12. Junior B

    Love this post! If you don’t like being stuck, don’t put yourself in a prison of your making. Nobody says you have to be tied down with a ball and chain of possessions and bills. Just go where the grass is greener (and vote by absentee ballot, don’t forget.)

  13. Karen Janford

    I am going to leave The United States because of Obama. Under this administration, my health insurance cost doubled last year, and this year’s increase, it will almost triple. The deductible is five thousand dollars. I can afford it, but I am going to revolt. I’m done with the US.

    • Tim Leffel

      His attempts to fix it have been stymied by the for-profit health care companies and the congressmen they pay to support them. You’re probably in a state where the directives that would have capped costs weren’t followed, and Medicare expansion was blocked, leading to decreased options. My costs have stayed flat under the new plan, but the pre-existing conditions exclusions are gone, so overall we’re better off. And for the first time in history, fewer than 10% of Americans lack health insurance.

      I’ll grant you it’s a very broken system though and that’s not going to change until we join the rest of the developed world in making health care a basic human right. One of the biggest benefits to moving almost anywhere else on the planet is you’ll get more care for a lower price, including where I’ve lived three of the past five years in Mexico. We pay more and get less, year after year.

    • Wayne Bernhardson

      Were it not for GOP obstruction, the Affordable Care Act would have even more effectively reduced the number of insured US residents.

  14. Eric

    You could not be more correct Tim! I left the country to Mexico for 2 years and had to come back for family reasons.

    Ugh. What a mess and what a clown we have in the White House.

    Last time I checked, wasn’t your site an OPT-IN place?

    I opted-in because I don’t want to live in a country where the quality of life, work and health coverage is so awful.

    Keep sharing your perspectives and know there are plenty of us who agree with you. The others are either too scared to leave or don’t share your viewpoints. That’s why they can Opt-OUT!

    • Tim Leffel

      Yeah, I just love it when people complain about the article they just read for free and could easily close the browser on if they don’t want their beliefs to be challenged. I imagine that lack of logical thinking ability is what leads them to be duped so easily.

  15. Kate Green

    Awesome post Tim. Thanks for not caving to the worries about offending people and losing money. I have even more respect for your work (and not simply because I totally agree with your view:) We are expats/TiCKS/worldschoolers who have always traveled but my snapping point for this next 3.5 years is that I don’t want so much of my money going to buy ridiculous walls and bombs. If you have a job that allows working at a distance, the tax savings for staying out of the US for 11 months can pretty much pay your rent in so many places. Currently in San Miguel and living well. Thanks.

  16. Robert Becker

    Hi Everyone:

    I don’t usually leave comments. I just mostly read about all the different things that people say and laugh to myself when the “ignorant” people voice their opinions! Everyone is obviously entitled to their own opinion, but unlike D. Rump, it would be wise to get ALL the CORRECT facts and not make immature ASSumptions!!

    I am in my mid 50’s older than a lot of people who read this and younger than others. However, I can say that I have seen A LOT of changes (unfortunately) for the worse in our country (USA). EVERYTHING is about politics and who would stand to gain the most power, influence, control, and money! The rest of the country be damned! It’s terrible what’s going on in the US right now! So much hatred and violence!! I can DEFINITELY see movies like V for Vendetta and especially, The Purge coming to fruition as that’s exactly where we are headed as a nation!

    I left the US (for the second time) last Septemeber and moved to Asia and NEVER regretted it!! I have met so many wonderful people (and some idiots) and the cost of living, the environment, and the general way of life isn’t as high or as hectic as in the US. Is it perfect? No place is. The whole world has lost its mind! The best we can do is find a place to settle down and live your life as best and as comfortably as you can! But, as an American citizen, the long reach of our (corrupt) government can be felt anywhere we go, ESPECIALLY with the FACTA/GACTA laws that screw you over for deciding to reside and work overseas! THERE IS NO ESCAPE!!!

    For me personally, I just chill out, for the most part, read the occasional stories of stupidity and utter arrogance that D. Rump and his posse of idiots who run unchallenged ruin and destroy what’s left of a once proud nation. But, as the old saying goes, let history be the judge!!

  17. Wade K.

    Trump wasn’t my choice for the Republican nominee but what is going on with the Press is unprecedented in our history. Much of what people think of Trump has been molded by the Press. And granted Trump isn’t a sympathetic character but the whole Russian narrative, the racism issue from Charlottesville is all an attempt to bring his presidency down. Why? We obviously they don’t agree with his stance on immigration or his attempting to curb spending, among other issues. HE didn’t win the election fraudulently, he campaigned vigorously in states that Clinton took for granted. They both knew going in, as well as the Press and just about anyone familiar, is that what matters is winning the Electoral College. Clinton should have assured people in the Rust Belt she’d work to bring them jobs. She didn’t, and it cost her the election. Yet Democrats just can’t believe she lost to who they consider a buffoon. Next time put up a candidate who doesn’t have trust issues and who’s more politically savvy. The reason you have someone in the Oval Office you hate so much is you expected a deeply flawed candidate who made tactical errors to easily beat someone you felt was beneath you. The same someone who got awarded along with Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks for his efforts in advancing minority rights. The same one who used to hobnob with Bill and Hillary. But he’s a Republican now and must be destroyed. The histrionics and hypocrisy is enough to make me leave the U.S.. Our country has turned into a basket case and EVERYONE, not just the Right, are to blame.

    • Emily

      All the press is doing is broadcasting and commenting on his unhinged rants and his tweets. They could do that without any analysis whatsoever and make him look like a buffoon. As most Republicans are now saying, his wounds are self-inflicted.

      • Wade K.

        The Press has repeatedly had to retract statements that weren’t true. And if you follow major newspapers like the Washington Post and NY Times you’ll see everything is written in the most unflattering, critical way possible. Not his words, their’s. And that the tip of the iceberg. Look at venues like Salon for constant vicious smears. It’s way beyond anything he says. But in fairness he does himself no favors with the tweeting. He bullied his way into the presidency and that strategy isn’t working anymore. Anything but presidential.

        • Tim Leffel

          I’ll put any legit member of the press up against this record when it comes to falsehoods:

          • Wade K.

            The whole Russian collusion theory is one big falsehood. What did Van Jones say, that it was a “nothingburger?” Trump certainly gets his facts wrong, but how is that vs a media that has tried it’s best to make something stick to get him impeached? It’s a feeding frenzy. But I don’t think he acts presidential, seems to have personality disorders, and I wish we had nominated someone else. But look at Mitt Romney. There’s probably been very few candidates ever as qualified to fix an economy as him. And he had a positive record as governor of one of the bluest States reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats. And yet the Press smeared him as a rich white guy to help Obama. It’s an obvious fact that most of the mainstream media is liberal and doing it’s best to get Democrats elected. For Trump of all people to get elected in the face of that should tell you the mood of working class Americans, especially in the Rust Belt. He told them what they wanted to hear, she played to her base. We know the result.

          • Tim Leffel

            Yes, rural voters have a disturbing tendency to vote against their own self-interest if the story is fed to them strongly enough on Fox News. Or believe that there’s nothing to the Russia collusion and hacking story despite how many close aids (and his son) had meetings with our main adversary.

            Sure, it’s all the media’s fault, all over the world. The poor poll numbers are just the media trying to make him look bad. When they read out his tweets on the air, they’re just picking on him. And on and on the “we’re the victims” (of minorities, of immigrants, of the media, of too much free trade, of too much regulation, of Chinese currency manipulation, etc.) mentality goes. So they get so angry they go have a rally brandishing assault weapons and torches until someone gets killed. Then it’s not really their fault, you see. “It’s on both sides.”

            You’re welcome to take up this discussion elsewhere, but please move it off this post. If you’re thrilled to be living in the USA under the current unpopular regime and feel a need to defend the racists, then keep at it. This post isn’t for you.

  18. Emily

    Wow, this post speaks to me like nothing I’ve read in a long time. I vote, I call my congressman, I go to rallies, I stay informed. But what finally made me feel liberated was to say, “I don’t have to put up with this if I don’t want to” and I moved.

    I now spend 1/5 what I used to for health care and most of my other expenses are 1/3 of what they used to be when I was an educated woman trying to deal with the proudly ignorant rednecks surrounding my city of Charlotte. Most people have built a prison for themselves that they can’t escape. I could escape and did. I’m in Cuenca, partly because I already knew people living there, but I think anywhere I would have gone would have been an improvement in safety, health, money, and the lack fo 24/7 madness on the TV.

    • Wade K.

      So basically anyone who’s not a Democrat is a racist? I didn’t post anything that wasn’t true. And this controlling the message by squelching other opinions is exactly what’s taking this country down a very slippery slope to a place we don’t ever want to be.

      • Tim Leffel

        No, but the president clearly is, which is why the neo-nazis and white supremecists are feeling validated and bold now. You can easily find alternate news sources anywhere, so this blog doesn’t need to be one. Take the rest of the comments to a news site. Or start your own blog.

  19. Natalie

    The title of this post is so funny. ;)

  20. Chuck Smith

    Actually, maybe it’s closer to Idiocracy than you suggested: they voted for a reality TV star *and* a “pro” wrestler:

    • Tim Leffel

      Yeah, that’s true Chuck. Love that movie.

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