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10.8.10

Escaping A Run-Away Train

So, you've decided that now is the time to leave Merica and see how the rest of the world lives.

It's not enough to want it, you have to figure out how to do it. You need income and usually a sponsor to get work visas in other countries. Most countries are not as tolerant of illegal workers as Merica has been for many years now. Some countries actively recruit workers with specialized skills, while others make it almost impossible to enter the workforce. If you are at retirement age and have the where-with-all, there are some countries that have special visas just for you.

This article is intended to be the opener for a series that will detail what I know and have learned of Asian opportunities. Some of the resources provided will help with other regions, as well. All of this is intended to be a guide, but by no means a definitive source. You will have to perform due diligence. Immigrations laws change constantly and I have enough work just keeping up with Indonesia. You must do your own research, too. There is a relatively large community of ex-pats worldwide, many of whom write blogs and sites to help others make the jump.

My advice will, of necessity, be focused on Indonesia, since that is where I have chosen to live and because I have nearly three years experience getting around here. Where possible, I will provide more general information and links to other sites with more resources than I have.

I will state this again...YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. MILAGE AND RESULTS WILL VARY. Moving overseas is not easy, especially with families and it takes planning and careful study. It is not, however, impossible.

With all that said, what is the first step? Easy! Remember what Yoda told Luke? "You must unlearn all that you have learned." Merica is not the greatest country on Earth, nor the most free, nor does it have the best of everything. The voice in your hear that keeps telling you that is a script that was implanted back in elementary school and reinforced by daily propaganda from the boob toob. You also need a sense of adventure and a willingness to take the Leap of Faith, because even with ample preparation there is always an element of risk in every choice. I jumped with one carry-on bag and one checked bag and a thousand bucks in my pocket. It now takes a truck to move everything I have after less than three years. So don't worry about what you leave behind, only about what you will do when you land.

Which means you will need a plan. Not just any plan, but one with several layers of back-up. I am on Plan G right now, so don't stop with Plan B or C. Think of at least three things you can do for a living and begin by applying for jobs in those areas. Target about three or four different countries that you want to live in. Sure, you can jump first, but why deal with more variables than you have to, right?

And don't forget the Traveler's Commandment: Figure out how much stuff you need and how much money you need. Double the money and divide the stuff in half. It works pretty darned well, in my experience.

I have traveled quite comfortably for three weeks in Europe with a camera bag and a carry-on. You can always do laundry, so minimal clothing is required. Some items that are indispensable are a towel, a can/bottle opener and a knife. You can always buy clothes as you go, so just enough for the expected weather and one good interview/work outfit will get you started. In other words, think small. You can also have things shipped over after you get settled.

But the big question remains: How do I get going?

Glad you asked. For starters, there is a very good book called,"Reinvent Yourself Overseas" by Scott McDonagh. A great website to go with the book is Escape Artist. I have personally used and benefitted from both resources. Between the two, you will find scads of links, articles, books, and official information on living and working overseas.

You will also want to visit the official government sites of your target countries. I have linked the Indonesian site on the sidebar of this blog. This will give you the latest official information concerning immigration laws and other laws affecting foreigners. For instance, in Indonesia in the past couple of years, they have changed the laws to allow foreigners to own apartments and houses, but they cannot own the land under them. Foreigners can also wholly-own some types of businesses, but the taxes and fees are onerous. If you have trusted friends in-country, you are better off going that route, if you want to start a business. Depending on the type of business, you may find that your destination country has certain benefits and supports, if it provides needed skills and jobs.

An absolute necessity is to thoroughly research the culture of your chosen countries, including rituals, beliefs, practices, and manners. The old maxim of "when in Rome, do as the Romans," applies in all cases. One mistake Mericans tend to make quite often is expecting everyone to accept and act like they do. This is called the Ugly American Syndrome. Symptoms include expecting everyone to speak English, only eating McDonald's and KFC, being oblivious to local manners, and trying to enforce Political Correctness on other cultures. Thirty years ago, when the dollar was king and everyone wanted to be Merican, you might have gotten away with it, but now it can be downright dangerous to your health.

Keeping a low profile is always advisable. Don't advertise that you are Merican and certainly don't rub people's faces in it. Learn the local language, don't go around telling everyone how you do it at home and don't try to convert everyone to Mericanism. After all, if it was that great, you wouldn't want to escape now, would you? Slow and easy does it. You can celebrate Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, just do it quietly in your home. I even go so far as to avoid places where foreigners gather, since those places are prime targets for more radical elements. You get a lot more respect and protection by mixing in with locals and spending your time down at the neighborhood watering hole. The more you show appreciation for your host country, the more backup you will have should problems arise.

In this part, I have talked about some generalities and best practices. In future updates, I will go into actual jobs and skills that you can use to break out, including one you were born into that is quite salable anywhere in the world. All you need is a little certification and a whole set of opportunities open up. I'll also go into some of the complexities involved in visas and work papers. Stay tuned!

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