In just 2 weeks, all this election bullshit will be over. For god’s sake, I’m so sick of hearing about it, I would rather sleep through the next weeks.
What I can’t stand the most, is how “close” these candidates have been throughout the whole process. Unfortunately, those in charge (whoever they are) will forever only offer you 2 choices. So, it’s truly a decision to choose the lesser of 2 evils.
But, really, why so close? Ever wonder what people actually see in Romney? Do people simply follow their favourite party, no matter what?
Ever wonder…what does the rest of the world think? What about the entire world (for any non-travelers, I mean all those countries outside the USA’s borders)? If the rest of the world voted, Romney could kiss any dream of being elected bye-bye.
Notice just ONE COUNTRY LIKES ROMNEY (ever so slight more) over Obama: Pakistan.
I’m not sure why Pakistan. If anyone out there can explain it to me, I’d love to hear why.
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.
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.
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:
Less separation of Church and State (more lenient on having “any” religious prayer, at legislative government meetings)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Congratulations to us; my wife and I just bought a house. Normally, not a big deal, but I think we differ from your normal homeowners…
This is our third house in 10 years.
This is our third house in our third country.
We are not rich
Big profile difference in 10 years: Since house #1, we had 2 kids AND our salary is just one third what it was 10 years ago.
To be clear, we don’t have 3 houses now. We sold house #1 to help buy house #2. We now own 2 homes: one in Prague, Czech Republic and one on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.
Again, not a big deal. And I’d say it’s very possible by almost anyone.
Our home now is Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, with our house located about 1200 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. During the quiet nights on the deck we both see and hear the surf pound on the rocky shore. It’s magical for us and the kids.
How Did We Do It?
I could say it took steadfast sacrifice, determination and hard work to get here, but that’s a load of BS.
There are also the “soft costs,” like leaving your (stable?) job, having to say goodbye, having to clean house. Then again, many would call these things benefits, not costs.
What are the Biggest Benefits? Feeling a unfamiliar freedom, openness, experiencing new culture/food/people/space. Kids get enormous benefit, too, way beyond what adults are capable of. With just a small experience abroad, children benefit for the rest of their long lives. How about you career professionals? Professionals will see substantial value added to their CV or résumé.
How? You decide and believe it will happen. The “how” will follow.
Why this is important: Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
** It’s important to take regret into consideration. Looking beyond today’s costs & benefits … how about in 10 years? Will you regret your decision?
“Oh Fac” rhymes with “Oh Tack” That’s how you pronounce the acronym OFAC, or the Office of Foreign Asset Control.
OFAC is the US Treasury Department’s special branch to answer “Who’s Your (Terrorist) Daddy?” The OFAC has just published their most recent list of terrorists. (Sorry, suspected terrorists; it’s easy to get caught up in the Salem-esque witch hunt fervour.) In their 522-page report (yes, over five hundred pages, in very small print), they list the names, aliases and other associated infobits like passport numbers or birthplaces.
Take Mr. Khalfan here. He’s got about a dozen aliases, birthdays and even the cutest nickname I’ve seen in a long time, Foopie. Now, while Foopie was born in the same place as rock legend Freddie Mercury — Zanzibar, Tanzania, that’s all that Foopie and Freddie share in common.
NOTE: Don’t go searching to find your name – it’s not here. It’s not on this list. With proper emphasis, it’s not on this list.
No, this is the list of foreign terrorists (hence the “F” in OFAC), not suspected Americans. Let me know if you find the list with a “Parker” or “Smith” in it.
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)
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”?
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.
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!
In case you missed it, this is Part 2 of a series of why people are leaving (as they run the f*** away from) the US. Part I is here.
Reason 2: Adventure
When I say “adventure” you might picture backpackers. Or maybe the young, single crowd, no-responsibilities type. No. At least, that’s not how I label me and my wife.
How about sleepwalkers? That’s how I label us. I and my wife are classic sleepwalkers through life. Or at least we’re prone to be if we’re not careful about it. And I believe if you’re reading this blog, you might be too.
Who’s a Life Sleepwalker?
Like I just said above, we are. We all are. Is it human nature? We get more settled, more stuff, more routine. Cruise control sets in and we sleepwalk through life.
A few weeks ago, a new friend, Vernon wrote in to me. He asked about our reasons for travel. I mentioned we once lived in Korea (mid 90’s) but then moved to the States. He asked “Why did you leave the States after having spent time in Korea?” I’m guessing Vernon half-expected we left because we were frustrated with the US.
Nope, not frustrated, except with ourselves. We longed for adventure. My then girlfriend and I came from Korea and decided to live together and find work in beautiful New Hampshire. After a few years, we got married. Then we got a house. Then we had a baby. Slowly, over about 10 years, we went from Korea to absolutely rooted. We were lulled to sweet slumber.
Bored or Sleepwalking?
Are you bored or sleepwalking? There’s a difference.
Bored is when you’re lacking stimulation. You need a hobby or passion. Note: careful not to confuse boredom with procrastination. That’s self-inflicted resistance against what’s important and is only posing as boredom. (When I blow 2 hours on Digg, I realize I’m procrastinating)
Sleepwalking is when you’re lacking uncertainty or adventure. You need to take a step (or tw0) out of your comfort zone.
Sleepwalkers aren’t just in their comfort zone, they’re spinning around in there like a toy top.
When life seems like it’s moving “fast enough for us,” — then you might be sleepwalking.
If in 5 years you won’t remember what you did today, last week or last year — you’re probably sleepwalking.
Trust me – the months/years will drop away like you wouldn’t believe. Do something that spooks you awake.
Problems to Fix: Boredom and “Sleepwalking”
Bored? Swallow the frog!
If only bored, fine, seek out a hobby. Or tackle your to-do list with fervour. See “Swallow the frog”
Sleepwalking? Three Questions
If you suspect you’re sleepwalking, ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. Is my life “comfortable” but not giving me comfort or peace of mind?
If you answer ‘yes’ – you just might be sleepwalking
2. Do I find that the days (weeks, months) seem to be the same?
If so, you may be sleepwalking (or actually sleeping in a coma)
3. Do you have a vision of how life will be better in 5 years from now?
If not sleepwalking, life can be better when taking aim at something.
Like I said above, we had it all: the house, the careers, a solid network of great friends, and the infant (and even a cat). We were so “set” we felt we were almost sleepwalking. That thought made us miserable (okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but you get the idea).
How did we fix it? We spun the globe, picked 3 cities. Three cities we hadn’t seen before but were curious about: Auckland, Barcelona and Prague. I sent out CVs to recruiters in each. We sold the house, quit our jobs and put all our crap in storage.
In 3 months, we were living in Prague.
Would we do it again? We did. Fast forward 4 years. We find ourselves owning another house (our flat in downtown Prague) and we popped another child. (What can we say? Our house-warming parties are super fertile!)
Then, come summer 2010 – we’re here in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Adventure is the primary reason my wife and I had left the U.S. for Prague in 2006, and we are NOT your stereotypical backpackers. In short, adventure drives people of all ages, all kinds, and all sizes, to make what seems to others some rash decisions. And when you’re sick of the status quo, you do whatever needs to be done.
Want to do a final test? “Pinch yourself.”
That’s how we wake ourselves when sleeping, right? Then “pinch yourself” awake from sleepwalking by stepping well outside your comfort zone. Take a Leap of Faith and Scare Yourself Silly.
Some Ideas How to Pinch Yourself Awake:
At work, organize and present a topic completely unrelated to work. (think Toastmasters)
Try a new sport – take up running, skateboarding, swimming. Less experience, the better
Get a major adrenaline rush – do a bungee jump, skydive, tell a Baptist to go to hell (testing if you’re still with me)
Contribute to the community – volunteer as a pollster, in a food kitchen, read books at a daycare
Take up an instrument – you’re not getting any younger….go ahead, dust off the guitar
Move abroad. (oh, you knew I had to add this one, right?)
Hope this has been helpful. If you have any comments or thoughts for me – leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.
Last week I said out loud that I’m feeling homesick because on December 5th was the holiday “Mikulas” in the CzechRepublic. My five and a half year old daughter remembers celebrating it last year and I wish I could have taken her this year.
Wait…”homesick?” — what the hell am I’m thinking calling Czech Republic “home!” Should I? Shouldn’t I?
I’m confused….so I’m writing this post.
Where Is My Home?
I could do research. I could read other people’s blogs. I could analyze my feelings. But deep down, I know what I’m feeling. I’m feeling homesick for my last home – Prague, Czech Republic.
BUT – I’m not Czech. And I only lived there 4 years. Hell, toward the end, I wasn’t even enjoying life (at least the job part).
So, why am I homesick today? Truth is, I have no freakin’ idea. Any comments or help from you is greatly appreciated. But I know I miss it there, especially when I look out the window of my current life. Guess I’m still heavily in some transition phase.
What Makes a Place Home?
I’m racking my brain trying to think why I have homesickness for a place I met just less than 5 years ago. I’m racking my brain trying to understand what makes a place “home.” Questions to ask – answers tell us what’s “home.”
Where am I living today?
Where did I spent the majority of the last 5 years?
Where did I grow up?
Now, here is where I am truly f*cked. I get three different answers for those three different questions: 1=Canada 2= Czech Republic 3=US
Let’s try again.
Where am I living today?
Where did I spent the majority of the last 5 years?
Where did I grow up?
Where does my native land’s tax authority (IRS?) consider as my home address?
Where are the majority of my friends?
Where is the majority of my family?
Where do I have any assets (income property, businesses, savings) ?
Where is my “banking” done?
If I’m feeling homesickness, where would I go to fix it?
If I’m feeling culture shock where’s the “normal” place?
Okay — that’s a more complete list. Still, for me, “home” is split between 3 places (US, Canada, Czech Republic), and not so evenly. In fact, it’s Canada x3, Czech Republic x6, and US x3. (some questions got multiple answers)
Where is home to you? Where are you answers for 1-10? What am I missing? I really want to know.
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