Here Thar Be Monsters!

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To Jump or Not to Jump

Thanks to my colleague George Ure of UrbanSurvival promoting my blog in one of his columns recently, I have been receiving some excellent and thoughtful letters from new readers, including folks here in Indonesia.

One in particular, from B.H. in The Panhandle State, got me to thinking, which is frequently a dangerous thing to do. What followed was my characteristically long-winded response, which seemed to lend itself to a post of my own. I don’t know how helpful I was, but perhaps I added some perspective that will help with his dilemma, to whit:

Dear Mr. Grover;

I am living in Oklahoma on a small ranch with the wife and 4 kids. We departed CA. 3.5 yrs. ago, knowing what was coming and now have a small but practical eco-farm. We have zero debt. being 63. getting SS for who knows how long (kids get checks too as long as they are under 18....

I was born in the Philipphines, my dad being american and I have lived there on the island of CEBU before as recent as 2005. Kids are 4, 3, 11,13......

Question is this:

should I even consider living abroad with a large family like this.? I know full well just how you describe life there in Indonesia as being ditto in Cebu for example, w/0 the ramadan factor....

Just give me an "if I were you".......answer. Being here is great, nice piece of property, productive but still with all the changes going on here and the proximity to the Gulf (not as close as Ure though) I think changing locations (going north) is only a partial fix..........Living abroad is very different, simple and the lack of trauma (that's going on here) is not benign but different in many ways.

Thanks for your reply, I just put your blogsite in my favorites.

First of all, thank you for your thoughtful letter. I have taken a little time to consider my reply, so please pardon the delay. I deeply appreciate your support in adding my blog to your favorites. i will endeavor to keep it interesting and entertaining for you.

With regards to your question, first let me say that what I tell you cannot possibly fit all people and all times, but perhaps I can offer a little insight with my own experiences that will help you along in your decision.

As far as living abroad with a family (one or ten doesn't really matter, I think), I have always been of the opinion that a day's worth of travel is worth weeks in the classroom. So just from a purely educational standpoint, I would think living overseas would offer your family a unique and valuable educational experience that can never be had from a textbook. My father moved us (six children and wife) to Dublin in 79-80, and for me it was the eye-opening experience of a lifetime. Even now, 30 years on, my siblings and I reminisce fondly about the experience. Some of us still speak a little Gaelic, others have friendships that we have maintained there, and for me, it launched a year and a half backpacking tour of the world that was my coming of age experience. The value of the experience to your children is incalculable in terms of the opportunities and memories they will receive.

In terms of the reasons you gave for ex-patriating, that very reasoning figured heavily into my own decision to leave. As you say, you left California because you saw the writing on the wall, and I felt much the same when i left to take up residence here. I have very deep misgivings about the direction and leadership of the country, and I felt that staying was tacit complicity with all of it. Furthermore, my work horizons were quickly narrowing and leaving has proved to be a great way to expand once again and try new things that would not be available to me at home. I have gotten into businesses that would have been closed to me in the US, as well as met people in both casual and formal situations that most likely would not have been in my social circle otherwise. This fact alone has made the move more than worth it for me.

Not that it has all been a bed of roses. There have been both real and spiritual crises that would not have existed in more familiar surroundings. Certainly, going blind and nearly going bust a couple of times has made for some serious situations. However, being so far from home has also given me the motivation to push ahead where I might have given up otherwise. Having no reverse forces you to figure out how to go forward. Or put another way, that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

In the end, my choice to come to Indonesia was based on one primary factor. You see, when America dies, it will leave a vacuum that will suck the whole world in. No part of the world will be unaffected when such a large hole is left in the balance of power. I chose a place where most people are survivors. They know how to survive because they must do it every day. They are used to hardship and doing without. Americans are spoiled and lazy, and when they don't get what they want, there will be major trouble. So many people I know will devolve into a chaotic state if the electricity goes out, or the water doesn't come out of the tap, or the shelves are empty at the store. They will panic because in their entire lives they have never faced such a thing.

On the other hand, most Indonesians have a month of food in the house and tanks of water everywhere for both drinking and washing. They are used to not getting things easily and having blackouts regularly. They do everything with nothing. People still have skills and on my block alone, there are women who make clothes (and I mean starting with making the cloth), men who build things and an attitude of neighborly assistance that has long since died in America. When TSHTF, I want to be surrounded by people who know how to cope. Additionally, Indonesians are practical and realistic, unlike many Americans who refuse to see the obvious simply because it is too terrible to contemplate (it can’t happen here!).

So I guess all of this is to say that I cannot make your decision. I can tell you my reasons and my experience, and I can assure you that, for me, it was the very best decision I have made in a while. I can tell you that on the worst days, the schools here are better than American public schools on their best days. Yes, there is a steep learning curve when entering a new culture, but if taken as a challenge rather than a hindrance it becomes an exercise for your mind and keeps you alert and fresh. You will make mistakes and wrong decisions, but for me it is another reason I came: to learn. In three years, I have learned three languages, the customs and cultures of a dozen different peoples, and had amazing experiences that I could never have found in the safety of my homeland. For every bad experience, I have had a dozen good ones. And in so many ways, I am more free here than in the Land of the Free.

Do the classic test. Make a list. On one side, label it Pros, and the other label Cons. Start thinking of every reason you can to do and not do something. If you find your Pros getting longer, then maybe you should seriously consider it. If you decide to jump, have a Plan A, B and C. You WILL get to Plan C, so having one means success. In some areas, I am already on Plan G. You can cover many variables, but never all of them, so at some point you will have to take a leap of faith. That part gets easier with every leap. Certainly, the bird in hand is worth two in the bush. But if you have one scrawny bird and there's an entire flock in the bush, it might just be worth it to go for the gold.

I have offered you what I can. It's not much, some platitudes and experiences, and there's no magic bullet here, but to paraphrase Thomas Paine, I prefer the animating contest of freedom to the shackles of illusory safety. The one thing that finally kicked me in the seat of the pants was the thought that I will die, of that there is no doubt. So, do i die with my boots on or pass quietly with tubes in every orifice and regrets on my mind? Many years ago, I read a book called The Journeyer, a fictionalized tale of Marco Polo's adventures, which left me with something of a lifelong motto: I don't want to die with the regret that I didn’t go there or do that. Fear of the unknown is a killer, and from the other point of view, something is only unknown until it is known. There is really only one way to know if you can do something, and that is to do it.

One test I learned a long time ago that has seemed to serve me well is this: if you want to choose a path and all the doors swing open in that direction, then it is the right path. If on the other hand there seems to be nothing but obstacles, then Universe is giving you sign posts. When I made my choice, everything fell together like a thousand-piece puzzle. If you find yourself being drawn in a certain direction, then it may be the one you are supposed to take. Listen to your gut.

I hope my lengthy rant has helped some small amount. i wish I could offer you The Ultimate Answer, but really that lies within you. As the leader of your family, you must choose what is right and good for your family and you. The kids will gripe a little at first, but the adventure will grab them eventually. Your wife may worry about having food and shelter, but you know you can provide that. So, what else is there? Air conditioning? A car? A mortgage? Friends and family? Everyone will think you are crazy until you succeed, but they do that already. How many reasons not to go are real, and how many have you built around yourself like a fence? The thing about fences is that they keep things out, but they also keep things in.

My prayers go with you in your choice. If I can help with connections or information, please let me know. I will give whatever help I can. If you decide to leap, you will find many of us out here that form sort of a support group. We offer each other information, advice and connections to people and services. We all know what it’s like and why we are here, and we all stick together. Believe me, no matter where you go, you will find ex-pats already ensconced. You won’t be alone.

One reason I didn't choose the Philippines, is they are a magnet for typhoons. So, I chose an island in an earthquake zone surrounded by volcanoes instead. LOL!

Sampai jumpa!

PS-I have attached an article you may find helpful. Also, with your kind permission, I would like to post your letter and this response. Maybe it will help others, as well. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous25.7.10 are a nice men who help me to see and to get a shit door before...and how nice you are when you send shit Chinese door too to annoy my house....hahahhaha......and how wonderful who you are to blame other for all that shit try to check yourself who shit your life, me, you or people surround you???? I guess you know if you are not bumped your head into all shit door....cause that all shit door will come back to their owner one day....hahahahha ^^


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