A Late, Late Checkout: Why Americans Are Permanently Relocating to Vacation Destinations
By Ben Mones
Good vacations come in quite a few varieties of spirit and space. A sandy and secluded beach retreat, a loud and hazy music festival, or a fast and furious ski trip all offer their own blend of serenity from the day-to-day demands of working life. Financially strapped families have even embraced “staycations,” retreats that require no travel at all.
It’s really the length of a vacation – the amount of time spent away from home – that dramatically changes the experience. Your notion of “home” itself may even change after enough time away. A weekend retreat is quite a different trip than a three-month sabbatical. Beyond that, the word “vacation” may not even describe what you’re doing.
There is a man who has been to the edge of vacationing and back. Ty Sawyer has spent the last few years exploring the most remote corners of the world, gathering life experience, friends, even fodder for a TV show. As host of KoldCast’s Another Shade of Blue, Ty proves that the notion of a vacation can be bent beyond our expectations.
You are watching Episode 1 of Another Shade of Blue: The Big Island
Is Ty relaxing? Is Ty working? Is he at home away from home, or truly gone? A photojournalist by trade, Ty has made it his mission to capture and share vivid portrayals of planet Earth’s wild side for viewers to vicariously enjoy.
Mr. Sawyer’s lifestyle is a more extreme version of a developing trend: Americans are moving abroad at a startling rate, leaving behind our massive coffee franchises, drive through car washes, and even Thanksgiving. They’re not settling a few miles away in Canada. People are now calling places home that were once reserved for the annual family getaway. What’s behind it and what’s at stake?
A Brief History of Flight
A quick look at the history of Americans moving abroad contextualizes today’s trends. In the early 20th century, Paris became a haven for some of America’s most prolific expat writers. Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Twain all placed pen to paper over baguettes and black coffee, forever romanticizing life overseas. Following two World Wars, many servicemen carved out lives for themselves abroad after falling in love with the women they met there.
Today, people are waving goodbye to the ole’ US of A because of the three domestic issues dictating our upcoming presidential election: jobs, healthcare, and education.
Working for the Weekend
If you can’t find a job in the United States, you might be able to find one abroad. Americans’ skills are valued more heavily in certain emerging economies. Sonia and Duke Marsh of Orange County, CA packed up their lives, kids included, to live in a remote shack in Belize. Duke was able to work overseeing legal transcription and even started a property management business. Ultimately, they missed Trader Joes too much and returned stateside a year later, but their lofty sojourn proved realistic. Ty Sawyer’s own Belize excursion highlights how great of a lifestyle change it was.
Click to watch Episode 12 of Another Shade of Blue: Belize!
Not to mention, there are a few other national economies that are actually expanding. Take Australia, where job growth hit an eight-year high this summer. If kangaroos and rugby turn you off, head 5000 miles north to Seoul, Korea. Perhaps it’s not the most traditional vacation spot, but today an American college grad can make $80 an hour teaching English, and that’s easy living.
Health Without Wealth
Beyond pursuing a new career, some Americans are moving abroad to find quality medical care. Foreign markets are free from many of the regulations and taxations that bog down the evolving American healthcare system. Cuba, to many people’s surprise, is exemplary for its high-quality healthcare. A number of procedures and prescriptions that are blocked by the FDA domestically are legal and abundant internationally.
We have to look no further than south of the border. Tijuana, Mexico is a hotspot for the ailing traveler. The $60 million Angeles Hospital is the largest in the city and offers some of the most advanced treatments available worldwide. The healthcare is not only high in quality; it’s also low in cost. Americans with medical conditions that require frequent hospital visits – dialysis patients, for example – are moving to these types of locations to receive continuous treatment without shelling out. Injured pro athletes do it all the time, and while their stays are shorter, they spend considerable time abroad getting healthy.
Too Cool for School
The Matador Network, an online community devoted to the expat experience, has found that continuing education is a fraction of the US cost in several appetizing countries. Two years spent soaking up the culture of Barcelona can also leave you with the parting gift of an advanced degree and only $6,000 in tuition fees. The same goes for a stint in South Africa, or if Sweden is more your meatball, it’s free. It’s no surprise then that the number of Americans moving overseas to attain a degree has tripled in the last two decades.
The advantages of moving abroad are clear, yet the practicalities of community and familiarity keep most of us around. Perhaps it’s the addiction to regular trash pick up, the taste of buffalo chicken, or the World Series. The American experience we draw from everyday – the challenges of fulfilling the American dream – shapes our individual and national identity. We are still a very young country and our way of life is still a work in progress.
Ariel Nishli contributed to this story.
Ben Mones was imported to Brooklyn from the west coast in an egg transport truck. He claims to have come up with the idea for the League of Nations and likes to use big words like “egg transport” and “truck.”