Thirteen Years of National Emergency

Heard the News?

Just in case you missed the news, US President Obama quietly extended the country’s status of national emergency. I’m guessing you missed that bit of news. Though, you probably didn’t miss the fact the year is now 2014.

I know what you’re thinking… it’s 2014, and the terrorist attack which killed nearly 3000 people on September 11, 2001 happened in 2001. That’s like …13 years ago. Yup, 13 years. Yup, the US, the most (insert here: powerful/wealthy/nuclear-tipped/war faring/inch-measuring) country in the world, still running scared in a state of national “Oh GAWD, the sky is falling!” emergency.

It's a trap!

Thirteen Years. Seriously?

Do you know what you were doing during the attack? For millions of Americans, it’s the annual conversation-starter question, if ever there was one.

Continue reading Thirteen Years of National Emergency

The World’s 10 Most Expensive & Cheapest Cities To Live

You want to work abroad. You follow the steps, nail the interview and hear their salary offer.

Is it enough? How much is enough?

Sure, now you know how much you’re taking in. But how much will be going out? How much for a month’s rent, a loaf of bread, a gallon of gas?

For some cities, you’ll make more than enough to pay for a good life, plus sock away the rest in savings.

And for some cities, …well, you should have countered with a higher salary.

How should you have known? You could have known. Research.

For now, let me give you the 10 most expensive and the 10 cheapest cities. If your city isn’t one of them, read on.

Continue reading The World’s 10 Most Expensive & Cheapest Cities To Live

Who the Hell Is Terry Fox?

 

I have a small life lesson to share: Don’t ever ask “Who the hell is Terry Fox?” when you’re talking to a Canadian.

You can say “Hmmm, it’s interesting you bring up Terry Fox, tell me more?” or say “I’m eager to learn more about Terry Fox.”

But please, trust me, you don’t want be snarky when asking about this Canadian legend.

Continue reading Who the Hell Is Terry Fox?

45 Life Lessons, Written By a 90 Year Old

This has been posted on the Internets more times than my phone number on bathroom stall walls across the world. But, like in both cases, why not post again, hoping for more action?

  1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  3. Life is too short not to enjoy it.
  4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
  5. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Continue reading 45 Life Lessons, Written By a 90 Year Old

Canada’s a Magnet for People Unlocking Cell Phones

Did you catch the news that since last Saturday, it’s now illegal to unlock your phone? You probably did.

But did you hear how big the penalties are? For first-time offenders, we’re talking half a million dollars and up to 5 years of jail time! Yeah, that’s a serious f***-ing penalty for a new law.

If you’re a techno-phobe, left wondering what “unlocking” even means, here’s the skinny: A “locked” phone can only be used with one service provider, like AT&T. When unlocked, you can use the same expensive phone with Sprint, Verizon, etc. The common argument is “But I paid big money for that phone…why couldn’t I use it with any provider I want?” The industry answer is typically “You only thought it was your phone…ours and (you) will always be ours.

What does this mean for Expats like yourself?

When I travel, I take my phone with me. In fact, I’ll be taking my new iPhone 5 with me to Prague when I go in 2 weeks. I did some serious research before buying my iPhone 5. Even got Expat Yourself community members in on the discussion.

When I travel, I take my phone’s SIM card out and replace it with a local SIM. That gives me a local phone number and data plan for temporary use. But when a phone is “locked” – that’s not an option.

Luckily for most of the world’s travellers, this “locked” business really only happens with American cellular phone providers. (Yes, for example in Britain, everyone’s phone can freely be switched over from provider to provider.)

So, before an American travels abroad, he must first pay a small fee ($20-$50) to unlock the phone.

Oh, but not anymore. Now, that fee is gone, and replaced with jail-time.

Isn’t There a Hero In The House (or continent)?

But Wait! — There’s Canada to the rescue! In Canada, there’s much public discussion around a draft bill. The draft was initiated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. They made the draft public (imagine that!) and invited any and all feedback (and imagine that!!). Crazily enough, the public like it. Why? Because some of it is exactly opposite of what the US recently passed. Whether causal or coincidence, it looks like Canadian smartphone owners may soon be all the envy of American smartphone users.

Now, am I saying you should move to Canada to enjoy more features on your newest iPhone, Android, or smartphone? Of course not. That’s like suggesting you move from Provo, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada to access electric fuelling station for your electric car. There are far better reasons to move to Las Vegas…and there are far better reasons to move to Canada.

Canadian Freedom

How To Start Your Own Country

 

Make Your Own Country and Live There!

Brainstorming time.  What do we need?  There are lots of options, but we’ll start with the 3 basics: Land, People, and Government.  (do we even need that last one?  We’ll see…)

Land

land is yoursYou need a place to plant your feet. And your flag.

This could be a continent (but I think they’re all spoken for), or a peninsula, or an island.  If you’re going ultra-cheap, a raft and anchor works.

You need land for obvious reasons: you need a tree or two for your hammock, a vegetable garden for eats, and depending how likeable you are, you might like a wall.  Yup, you need land.

Where to get:

Going with islands, there are plenty for sale.  Yes, some cost millions, but some are actually affordable.  Here are a few examples:

#1: Dokis Marina Island, Ontario, Canada

Nestled in beautiful Ontario, Canada.  Cost: $225,000.  Sure, at half an acre, it’s small.  But it comes with a house, and a 19′ boat.  Best of all, the detached cabin can sleep 4 of your closest friends (who happened to drop by).   More info here

#2: King’s Island, Denmark

It’s a fortress & artificial island.  Cost: $12,000,000.  17 acres with 200 room estate.  Complete with dual Hawk missile defence.

Best of all, it’s located 15 minutes between Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden (2 of my favourite cities).  More info here

Kings Island

 

#3: Isla Gatun, Panama

It’s 3/4 acre large island in a manmade lake.  Cost: $30,000. (WOW!)  No house, but construction possible.  Complete with cellphone coverage from mainland Panama.

Best of all, it’s … $30,000.  More info here

If you want to try “shopping” for your own island, try HERE (islands for under $250,000)

People

we the peopleMost important thing for a country, second to its land: citizens.  Odds are, you’re starting with a population of 1: you.

But is that enough?  If you’d like company, convince your spouse or buddy to share the “founding father” duty.

Before you know it, you’re building up your new country’s credibility with cool stats like Birth Rate and Immigration!

 

Government

The law of the land.  Maybe this isn’t a positive thought… maybe your old government made you want to get out and start a new country.  But whatever the case, having some ground rules is necessary.  At least, that’s what the United Nations says is needed before you apply for sovereign nation status.

The easiest way is to assume you’re a libertarian (small government & personal liberties are a good thing).  You’ll want to rule very simply and leave everything to its inhabitants.  But wait, both the Gov and the inhabitants are one ….you.  Cool!  Done.

What are you waiting for?   Get out there and grab your land!  Here’s a shopping list

Optional other stuff

You got land, people and government taken care of.  What else is there?  Oh, you want to invade someone?  And someone to loan you money for it?  Well, let’s keep going…

Military

Not necessary for everyone, but helps if you’re a dominatrix or you like entangling alliances.

Side note facts: About 15 countries, or 7% of the world’s nations have no military.

Another 6 or so have no standing army, but some sort of national police/defence presence.

A prime example of a country that feels no need is Costa Rica.  If they can swing it, why can’t you?

Industry

coconut tradeYour new country might have natural resources, like wood, fresh water or coconuts.  You laugh, but there are a lot of countries out there that don’t have coconuts.  If they want to buy yours.  How do you handle that?  That’s your industry.

And you can earn money from your own personal skills.  Maybe you’re a great writer, singer, cabinet maker, coconut husker, or whatever.

Given your valuable skill or natural resource, you just need to find a market for it and make payment simple — those are the 3 essential steps to a startup, according to Chris Guillebeau in his recent book “The $100 Startup.”

 

Bank

Okay, this is a tough call to even touch on.  However you decide, I only suggest you back up your currency against something of true value, e.g. gold, silver, …coconuts.

When you start declaring your currency as “legal tender, because we say so!” …well, you’re no better than the guys you left.  (see fiat money)

Bottom Line

You know, all this talk about making your own country…. it’s not really necessary.  You can bet there’s already a country out there that’s just like you would do it.  It may be easier to just move there!

Go on out there… try them out!

 

Drop a Comment

If you think I’m missing a key ingredient (or have too many), let me know.  If you have a buddy you’d like to come with, send this their way.

Freedom from Religion

Loads of reasons why you should spend time living in another country: personal growth, career advancement and personal liberty.

Here’s another biggie: freedom from religion.

In countries like the US, Turkey, or Indonesia, religion is a vital part of the culture.  And for some people, like me, we need a little break away from that, to experience life on our own terms.

Now, for Americans, what I just wrote above might sound unpatriotic, immoral, or even blasphemous and illegal.  If so, see? …case in point.

Inseparable Mix of Politics and Religion

Outside of a church itself, religion is most tied up in politics.

Pretty soon, the US will vote who will be President for the next four years.  The two “choices” given to Americans are:  the incumbent, President Obama, and a challenger, Mitt Romney.

Ask the average American what religion Romney follows and odds are great you’ll hear the right answer: he’s a Mormon.  How does anyone know?  Well, aside from his stealthy wealth and charm, his religion is big news.  And, if/when he gets elected, Romney will become the country’s first Mormon president, even bigger news.

Ask the average Canadian what religion Romney follows and odds are good you’ll hear another right answer: who gives a shit?

Well, Americans do give a shit because it’s not just big news, but, to the average voter, it’s practically necessary.  The candidate’s religion is a prominent decision factor to liking him or not.  A candidate’s religious strength provides a measuring stick to his morale character.

To Canadians, the concern is almost non-existant.  For example, Bloc Quebecois party leader Giles Duceppe happens to be atheist.  I’m doubtful that even 5% of Canadians know that.  And fewer would care or weigh it against whether to vote for him.

Compare that to American politics, where a noticeable lack of mentioning God demands explanation and apology.

About the First Amendment

About now, readers in the US are screaming at me “Hey – we got the First Amendment!  We have ‘separation of church and state’.”  Not true, read on.

Yes, the 1st amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, among others.  But careful how you interpret that freedom.  Does it mean that religion can’t be intertwined with government (you can’t tie together church and state)?  No, not really.  It’s more correct to say the first amendment guarantees no laws can be passed to infringe on your freedom of religion.  So, we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  And stemming from our historical roots, the US government passes laws to grant religious institutions the freedom to flourish and spread their word.

In the US, community meetings (often called Town hall meetings) often begin with a prayer.  Yes, that is totally normal and expected.  What the first amendment guarantees, is that you can’t exclude other religions from those Town hall meeting prayers.  Meanwhile, if a candidate were even rumoured to be atheist, that would make headline news in mainstream media.

UPDATE:

Now, in May, 2014, the Supreme Court just ruled in favour of allowing opening prayers at higher government meeting levels. Opening prayers allowed at Council and other legislative meetings. The Court’s decision was split 5:4 in the end, but check this out…

Most interesting:

  • ALL 9 judges agree religion can be in a government forum without endorsing a particular faith.
  • ALL 9 judges agree that such a public forum doesn’t have to be religion-free.
  • But, only 5 felt such prayers can speak to a certain religion (read: Christianity).

Not surprisingly, the deciding majority (the 5 judges for the decision) are Catholic, while the dissenters (the 4 judges against) are non-Christian.

This should alarm you if you’re American. The decision does 2 things, very plainly:

  1. Less separation of Church and State (more lenient on having “any” religious prayer, at legislative government meetings)
  2. More exclusionary to non-Christian religions.

I tell ya, the US is going beyond just allowing religion in state affairs. It’s encouraging those of faith (and only one faith) to feel supported by the US.

UPDATE #2:

Immediately famous as of minutes ago: the Hobby Lobby ruling.

June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court with another major ruling. Now, corporations are allotted the same “religious freedom” as individuals to the effect of denying its employees’ birth control coverage. Yes, if the company’s owners are staunchly against birth control, they can deny (otherwise) mandatory health care coverage to its employees.

WTF? Come on, really?

Read the whole ruling here

 

Millions of Years or Six Days? A Personal Story

How about evolution versus creationism?  Did Darwin get it right, or did it happen as the Book of Genesis spells it out?  Did animals evolve over millions of years or did it just take six days?  What’s your belief?  I’ll share my beliefs, then and now:

Back in 1997, when I met the beautiful girl who is now my wife, I was fairly religious.  I didn’t often go to church, but my faith was blind and strong.  I sincerely believed in creationism… that God magically created the Earth and all its creatures in just 6 days.  And I told my new girlfriend what I believed.

Well, luckily for me, she was one patient young lady.  Since she is a geologist (and btw, not American), you can guess that she doesn’t share the same belief that Earth was created in six days.  …I’ve learned a lot since then.  Thanks babe!

Before I draw the ire of many religious people … (too late), I only mean to highlight how important religion is in US culture.  And that there’s little a citizen can do to escape it.  For those religious people:  not everyone believes it as you do….or wants to be convinced otherwise.  And, as you travel the world …beware how strongly you argue your beliefs.

How do different religions accept evolution?
Side note: How Do Different Religions Accept Evolution?

Again, if you are religious and you are talking with others about it, then beware your convictions will be tested or debated.  Hey, who knows, you might be set free from them!

US Does Not (& Will Not) Offer Freedom from Religion

The US is one of the most religious countries in the world.  In one survey, the US ranks 5th among a sample 30 countries.

Back on evolution versus creationism, the US is second only to Turkey in how many people don’t believe in evolution!

Politicians are hell-bent on introducing “alternative theories” to evolution to biology class curriculums.  The latest new creationism law happened in Tennessee, when its governor sidestepped debate by avoiding both signing and vetoing it.  “Intelligent design” is just a new label for an old argument.

Evolution isn't just a theory
AP – Books against the theory of evolution are sold at an outdoor stand in Dayton, Tenn., 1925, scene of the John Scopes “monkey trial.“

Think of Your Kids, for Christ’s Sake!

Our kids inherit our future.  In 20 years, we expect (and will need) our children to run the show.  For the entire next generation, all things yet to be discovered, improved upon and manufactured, will be by our children.  Cool thought, right?

So, I ask you now: Do you want your kids to creatively think for themselves or blindly believe “God will see us through”?

Bill Nye, a.k.a. “the Science Guy” on TV, asks similar scary questions.  In a recent Youtube video, Bill Nye pleads parents to spare their children from the oversimplified world of creationism.  His argument is, if kids are forced to abandon all the evidence (fossils, astronomical distances and spans of time, minute changes in species), then those kids learn to abandon reasoning and scientific deduction.  I totally agree… do you?

 

Closing Thoughts

Like most all posts, I only ask to consider travelling outside your country.  Travel and explore the world.  Visit with others and get to know them, their way of life.

And, in the name of religion, why not go out to understand and appreciate all that splendour.  Don’t you owe that much to Him?  :-)

 

If you agree with these thoughts (or staunchly disagree), would you please share it?  It’s going to take a LOT of awareness to make any amount of change.  Thank you in advance for sharing this with friends and family.

If you have any additions, corrections or personal stories to share, I welcome all as a comment below.  Check out what others have said, and add your own.

best, -Jeff

 

Happily in Canada, And Why Not?

Delayed Due to Happiness

Forgive me readers, I have sinned.  I abandoned my blog.  Well, “abandon” is a strong word, but yeah, for many months, I haven’t posted.  Sure, thought about and wrote several drafts, but hadn’t hit publish, so I abandoned it.  I’m sorry and  I’m back.

Why did I avoid writing for so long?  Maybe I’m just too content here.  After almost 2 years here, I feel completely at home here in Nova Scotia, Canada.

And after 2 years, finally I realize, being so happy is no reason to keep quiet on this blog.  In fact, my being content here serves as more proof for others to seek their own new HOME, wherever that may be.

My Transition Was Tough – But the Lesson was Sweet

Another reason I posted so little in 2011 was the year made for a tough transition.  I struggled going from corporate worker to stay-at-home dad.  I struggled moving from gorgeous Prague to urban-hell Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  And I struggled even more with personal matters from the past.  Thankfully, I have the world’s most supportive wife who I can also call my best friend.  She and she alone is the reason I am happily living in Canada today.

eastern passage, nova scotia

And thankfully, we left urban-hell Dartmouth and bought a house in a quaint fishing village.  Our new surroundings: Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Now, as we walk off our driveway, we can glance down the street at the water, the Atlantic ocean – a dream come true.  Possible here in “the passage.”

So content I am, in fact, that I felt somewhat scummy to write how others could seek happiness elsewhere.  I mean, how can I relate to others’ motivation to move, if I’m more than happy to stay?  Sadly, it took several more months to realize, it’s perfectly healthy to find happiness somewhere.  I just happen to had found it in Eastern Passage, NS.

And I still believe it can describe anyone.  And like the time without publishing here taught me, only thinking about something doesn’t make it happen.  Results require action and so here I am, starting over at Expat Yourself.

Happily finding peace in Canada — happily helping you find yours wherever you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Are People Leaving the US, Part 4

Reason 4: Patriotism

I hear you…”Wait, Jeff, patriotism?  Seriously?  How can you call someone wanting to leave…a patriot?

To answer, I remind you that around 250 years ago, when families were so frustrated by their country’s tyranny (England), whose ancestors had fled, they chose to struggle in a new country (United States)?  They desired a free life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, we call those people our founding fathers, our country’s first and original patriots.  (Happy 4th of July today, in fact!)

Yes, I do consider someone who believes strongly in personal freedoms as a patriot.

It’s Not Your Fault if You’re Blindly Patriotic

Don’t take it personally, but if you believe the United States is strong or “going well,” that’s not patriotism.  Blind belief in the government does not make one a patriot.  It never has.  A patriot thinks for his or herself.  A patriot questions authority.  Patriotism is not blind faith in a government.

No worries, it’s not your fault.  It’s just a matter of timing.  Not so long ago, the US encouraged freedoms and liberty -even proudly founded herself upon them.  Today, however, we have the Patriot Act (wiki and critique) which goes way beyond discouraging liberty.

 

Benjamin Franklin, a Domestic Terrorist?

Before you start whistling the Star Spangled Banner, be careful.  The patriot of yesteryear is now a potential bad guy for the US government today.

In fact, if Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin were around and talking today, they would be jailed as domestic terrorists.

The Department of Homeland Security labels someone a domestic terrorist when they …:

  • make “expressions of libertarian philosophies.”
  • express “fears of Big Brother or big government.”
  • “declare Constitutional rights and civil liberties.”
  • exercise self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • homeschool (if you teach your kids outside the Dept of Education’s curriculum)
  • buy certain books (in fact, these two by name: One Second After and Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse

(source for these here)

Question: if I publish the above, should I fear any consequences?  Sure, I don’t picket in front of the white house, but here I am, suggesting you abandon the US for reasons above.  Does that alone make me a target?  Take the case of Susan Lindauer, a well-connected, productive and intelligent woman who voiced her concerns too loudly against the US govt.  Her world got spun around so fast it made me sick to my stomach.

Okay, So How Do I Protest As a “Patriot”?

1. Leave.

Leave now.  Cash out your chips like you’re leaving the casino.  Sell your home, your securities (funds, stocks, options) and cash out your pensions.  Take the money and run.  Run like the wind.

2. Reinvest.

Decide on a new place that more suits you and your patriotic needs.  When you (and your cash) land in a safer, freer, more stable country, then the patriotic thing to do is reinvest in that country, for yourself.  Purchase property and/or a business there.  A new life requires new equity and new income.

3. Protect Yourself (at tax time).

US citizens must file a tax return every year.  And that goes for US citizens living abroad, too.

Yes, when living abroad, working abroad, even if earning zero US income, you must still file a US tax return every year, plus a couple extra forms just for expats (more on those below).  Yeah, I think it’s bullshit, too.

BS or not, US citizens are required to report their worldwide income, regardless of residency. You know what?  To my knowledge, the United States is the only country that requires this of its citizens.  Write me if you believe otherwise and we’ll talk.

 

p.s. Two Extra Forms at Tax Time (for US citizen expats)

I’ve written about tax time before, but these 2 forms are too important to ignore: the 2555 and the FBAR.  Filing out those extra forms isn’t optional.

Yes, the Internal Revenue Service tries hard to persuade any US citizen against living abroad.  Well, as a patriot, you don’t care what the IRS is against.  Right Benjamin?

The 2555 is the “Foreign Earned Income” form, which basically says you can earn up to $92,000 tax free (for 2010).  (Remember: Even if you earn under $92,000, you must still fill out this form to say you did.  In short, you must file, even if you simply didn’t earn anything or owe anything – that’s the IRS for you.

The other extra tax form for expats is the FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).  You can thank the Department of Treasury (not IRS) for this one.

The FBAR requires you to list your foreign bank accounts (and report the highest balance you had over the year).  I have filled out the FBAR for many years and I’ll never stop, because I’ll always have foreign bank accounts.  Thankfully, the FBAR is actually relatively easy. The last good reason is, over the past few years, the Dept of Treasury has gone crazy in prosecuting non-complying expats.  (Remember the idea of hiding money in a Swiss bank account?  Not any more)

If you’ve never heard of the FBAR and you’re considering filing it, read this article here.

The tax filing deadline for US citizens living abroad is June 15th (postmarked as mailed out).  For the FBAR form, the deadline is June 30th (must be received by).

 

Anyway, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while and I’ve got to publish it.  I wish you all a Happy 4th of July, wherever you are.
If you’re in the US, celebrate your home’s independence.  If you’re outside the US, celebrate your own independence!

 

If you’re looking for other popular reasons people leave the US, read up on Frustration, Adventure and Seeking an Improved Life.