OK, here it goes:
First of all, you should ask yourself why you want to leave the US. If it's just because of 9/11, remember that there are meddlesome governments and
cover-ups everywhere. And you could find a lot worse than what you're running away from.
Take South America: A lot of rich people I know are now putting up their tents in Argentina, in quaint places in the foothills of the Andes -- but if
the current government turned into a brutal dictatorship, they'd just pack up and move to one of their half-dozen other residences around the world,
whereas ordinary folks like you and me would be stuck there, with no place to go. I don't know about you, but that scares me.
If you've never lived anywhere else and want a big old adventure, I'd say by all means, live in another country for a while, just to travel the world
and experience other peoples and mentalities and languages, but leave yourself a way out, i.e., a way to come back if you wanted to.
Besides, it's true what one poster said: the US is the only country that requires its citizens to pay US income tax no matter where they live and
work. So even if you never make another dollar on US soil, you'll still have to pay income tax here, unless you give up your US citizenship, and even
then there's a lot of hoops to jump through.
If you just want to take up residence in another country, that's easier said than done. Most countries these days have strict immigration laws, and
you'll need a foreign spouse to petition for you, or a decent job offer so your employer can get you a work visa, or at the very least proof of
independent income/retirement income not generated in that country. No one will just let you move in and set up shop.
From personal experience, it'd be easiest to get a foreign girlfriend and marry her, so you can live in her home country. That would help you get
integrated in the culture and would also be helpful in navigating other bureaucratic hoops, e.g., in many foreign countries, as an American you won't
be able to open up a bank account anymore. Due to the pressure from the US government and endless swaths of regulations, few foreign banks want to
deal with the hassle nowadays and refuse to give bank accounts to US citizens.
The best places to consider:
- Belize. Beautiful surroundings and the main language there is English, a big plus. Then again, I don't know if I would want to live so close "to the
beach," in the event of a cataclysm.
- Panama. Same thing, English spoken, modern amenities, but from what I hear a nice place to live and thrive.
- Uruguay. If you speak Spanish, a great place to go and try a sustainable lifestyle.
- Argentina. THE place to go... I know many millionaires and multimillionaires, and this is where they all flock to right now.
- New Zealand. If you can get in, there's lots of space for everyone and you can try self-sustainable living if you're so inclined. Plus, they have a
great health care system. However, I don't know how cataclysm-proof they are, so I'd still check that out; and immigration laws are pretty
- Mexico. As with Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile, etc., personally I'd be worried about drug lords, kidnappings (especially of foreign citizens in the
hope of getting a ransom), rampant crime and government corruption, etc. If you're less risk-averse than I am, give it a shot, but I wouldn't go
- Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, China, etc.). Many of them are cheap and fun places to be for a vacation, but would you want to live there? Having an
Asian spouse might make things easier and more pleasant.
- Europe. A no-no for all the reasons outlined by me and others above; plus living expenses and taxes are usually much higher than in America, unless
you want to try an Eastern European country. Downside: many of them are still rather backwards and have rather totalitarian governments.
Here's why I will most likely stay here:
Unless you go to an English-speaking country with a mostly white population and a similar mentality to the US (or only hang out with other expats),
you will always be an outsider. No matter how friendly your Thai buddies may be, ultimately they'll always view you as a foreigner; you'll never
REALLY be one of them. And when TSHTF, you want to be among people that form a support group around you; people you know and trust; people who don't
view you as "the rich white guy from outside the village." (And most places where you'd go, you'd be known as the rich white guy, even if you're just
scraping by on a lower-middle-class income here in the US.)
And even in countries where you're not sticking out like a sore thumb, you'll likely still be viewed as "not one of us." Take the rich people I know
that are all moving to Argentina now: let's say for the sake of argument that TSHTF for real; total economic collapse, major natural disasters,
whatever. Let's say paper money becomes worthless.
How long do you think will it be before the super-friendly natives will develop a major grudge against the rich maggots living it up while they have
nothing? How long before the devoted maid, housekeeper, cook, and tutor are giving you the finger (or worse, cut your throat) and tell you to take
care of your own #?
Let's say the place where you reside experiences a major earthquake and lives are lost. How many natives will remember that you may need help too; how
many will risk their life for you; how many will include you in their little clans when they huddle down together to provide food, warmth and
I'd rather tough it out here, with people I know and who will work together with me and my family to provide the basics in the event of a catastrophe.
That's just me, but in a crisis you want to stick to those near and dear.
If you want to bug out, there are other possibilities too. E.g., personally I find American cities depressing; I'm now living in a rural New England
community and am quite happy. It takes a while to gain the trust of the people here, but once you do, you couldn't find more loyal, honest and
Also, there are so-called "Intentional Communities" all over America (and in other countries as well), some of which are trying to figure out new ways
of living -- communal, sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyles. If you want to join others to grow your own food, raise your kids and live as much off
the grid as possible, this might be the way to go.
Bottom line is, you'll need people around you. I think it's not so much where you live, but with whom you live that will matter in times of
edit on 2-3-2011 by sylvie because: (no reason given)