When are you coming home? The consistent and frequently asked question from friends and family back in the States. Heck, even strangers inquire after my end game and where in the world I may actually “settle down”. Whatever that even means. Whoever presents the question, however, the answer is typically the same: I’m not. Allow me to break down the 3 reasons why I’m in no hurry to return to the States.
As a serial ex-pat, I have temporarily taken refuge in several countries outside of the USA. First, in North Macedonia for three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Second, as a tourist on hiatus for roughly eight months in Thailand. And last, but perhaps not the least, as an immigrant to Spain. Each location revealing more about the realities of living impacting 60% of non-Americans.
Items like dryers, insulation, and soundproofing are considered luxuries in these places and were not readily available to me. Similarly, I became accustomed to the practice of purchasing what is necessary vs what was wanted. I moved away from the deep-conditioned habit of hoarding and moved closer to adopting a more sustainable existence with a global understanding of interconnectedness.
Speaking of sustainability, the most unattractive reason why I am in no hurry to return to the States is overconsumption.
Reason 1: The unflattering amount of overconsumption
Adopting a sustainable approach to life opens a person up to the realities of overconsumption. As has my cohabitation with younger, less globally experienced US citizens the last handful of years. Each of them defaulting to comments about how “broke” they are, yet make 6 or 7 trips to the grocery store per week. Is it truly necessary to have crackers, and cookies, and popcorn, and assorted nuts, and rice cakes, and chips all readily available to snack on for a week? The answer is no. But that deep-conditioned ideal of more, more, more is hard to break.
Overconsumption, in general, is a global issue but, in my opinion, it seems to be the worst in the United States. And it’s the most profound reason why I’m in no hurry to return to the States. I suppose it’s the entitlement that accompanies the wastefulness that twists the knife. The majority simply throw something out vs seeking a way to repurpose, recycle, or upcycle. Don’t get me started on single-plastic usage and water waste. It’s as if the masses wear blinders when it comes to the shared responsibility of planet health.
This isn’t true for all US citizens, of course. In fact, a large amount of US citizens care profoundly about the harmful nature of overconsumption. Even advocating for social change in that regard on a national scale. These citizens make me proudest to be an American while overseas. Their existence, however, doesn’t sway my decision not to return. Neither do the continued displays of political and racial tensions littering the media in recent months.
Reason 2: Race tensions are at an all-time high
As if political upheaval isn’t bad enough, the racial tensions in the States serve as another deterrent. When the people aren’t attempting a coup on democracy, they’re demanding equality and basic human rights. The Black Lives Matter movement reaching a fever pitch last year as an example. As a Black-American abroad, watching these events unfold in my home country warranted an array of emotions. Emotions were further amplified when messages poured in about the events that took place in the US capital in January.
To be fair, being Black and abroad doesn’t come without racist interactions. Being Black-American abroad does, however, grant me a welcomed level of privilege and respect. Further still, it connects me to other Black ex-pats in solidarity and grants me countless opportunities to debunk myths about my culture. Black-Americans are not a monolith, after all, and I relish the chance to break stereotypical assumptions therein. Especially as my quest for a more minimalistic existence continues. Making it difficult to justify paying high prices for much at all.
Reason 3: Too damn expensive
North America truly is too damn expensive, for everything. Thanks, Capitalism. After living in Southeast Asia and Western Europe, I can attest to this truth. Spending a fraction of the cost for housing, water, and Wifi, are more examples of why I’m in no hurry to return to the US. After more than five years of living abroad, it seems impossible to justify the cost of living in the United States. The price for renting a 3-bedroom place in Asia or Spain is three times less than it would be in certain States. Let that sink in a moment.
This slower pace of life leaves the space to work less because you need to pay less for things. I understand this directly contradicts what we, as US citizens, are conditioned to believe. In the States working two or three jobs to make ends meet is the norm. As is overworking oneself for the sake of earning more income just to spend it on more things. But it truly is possible to exist on this planet working part-time hours. You just have to be doing so in a different country.
A different mentality on material objects doesn’t hurt either. This is, of course, adaptable over time. For example, these days I’m far less inclined to purchase an expensive pair of heels because I have nowhere to wear them. All of this helping to curb the underlying need for things.
Will I return to the States?
The honest answer, only if forced. That is not to say plans to renounce my citizenship exist either. It’s simply the choice not to reside in the country on a permanent basis. When I go home to the States it will primarily be as a tourist. Bouncing from State to State to reconnect with close friends and family, like a tour of sorts. Making sure to grab a few favorite food items and clothing from the clearance rack when I do.
Ultimately, though, the excitement to return to my life abroad after visiting outweighs any desire to stay. Witnessing the overconsumption, being subjected to racial prejudices, and the cost of living serving as the 3 reasons why I’m in no hurry to return to the States.
Fellow ex-pats weigh-in in the comment section. Let me know if you agree or disagree with these ideals.
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