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When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, we joked that he’d be done within a few months. Comedians had a field day. He couldn’t gain any serious support, could he?
Until he started leading all the polls…and winning primaries.
Holy shit. This could actually happen.
And then the unthinkable happened.
Author’s note: This piece was originally published in March 2016. At that time, the idea of Trump winning the election was laughable at best. What an awful four years it’s been.
When Trump was elected, I wrote a post called Leaving is Easy. Fighting is harder. At the time, I was resolved to remain in the United States and fight as hard as I could.
As of September 2020, however, I am in the process of moving to the Czech Republic, where I’m able to enter due to my relationship with a Czech Resident and where I’m able to get a freelance business visa, similar to the German Artist Visa detailed below.
I’m leaving the US — but I’m not checking out. I will continue to be as politically involved as always, fighting for America’s most vulnerable citizens.
Additionally, this list is not currently updated for COVID. Many of these options are not available; for example, all Peace Corps Volunteers have been sent home.
If you want to get out of the US now, or in the next few months, I highly recommend booking a flight to Mexico. Americans can still travel to Mexico during COVID, they can stay up to six months at a time, and Mexico is full of safe, cheap, wonderful places to live. I spent the winter living in Mérida and loved it; my other recommended spots are Oaxaca and Mexico City.
“If Trump gets elected, I’m leaving the country!”
I know. Everyone says it. But there’s no way to actually do that, is there?
OF COURSE THERE IS! You could leave the country in SO many different ways — ways that are 100% legal and ethical.
Get a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand
If you’re 30 or under, you qualify to spend a year living and working in Australia or New Zealand! These are the only traditional working visas currently available to Americans.
In both countries, you can apply for the visa if you’re as old as 30; you can enter the country within one year of receiving your visa, which means you could start your year at age 31. Australia also offers the option of taking a second year if you spend three months working in “regional Australia” (rural areas and outside the most popular tourist destinations). Edit: I’ve since learned the second year is not available to Americans, sadly. Brits and Canadians can take advantage of this option, however.
You could spend your year bartending in Cairns or Queenstown, working on a winery in the Barossa Valley or Marlborough, working at a corporate job in Melbourne or Wellington, or taking on a hospitality job just about anywhere. And those are just a few of the possibilities.
Get a job teaching English abroad
Teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways U.S. citizens can get a job working abroad. Most countries only require a university degree in any field; others also require a TEFL certificate.
The most opportunity for Americans is in Asia. South Korea tends to offer the best packages: a competitive salary plus free housing and free flights to and from your home country. Many teachers in South Korea are able to comfortably save more than $10,000 per year and pay down debt or go traveling afterward.
Japan, China, and Taiwan also have great environments for teaching English with decent benefits. Entry-level teaching jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America tend to pay only enough to get by.
While many Americans dream of teaching English in Europe, it’s extremely difficult to work in the EU without EU citizenship and the jobs are thus few. Eastern Europe and Turkey are a better bet.
Options in the Middle East tend to pay the most but have the most stringent requirements, often a teaching certification and experience in your home country and/or an advanced degree.
This is just the most basic of overviews — head to ESL Cafe to learn anything and everything about teaching English abroad.
Join the U.S. Foreign Service
Dreamed of working as a diplomat around the world? The U.S. Foreign Service is your way in. If you’re able to pass the notoriously difficult Foreign Service Exam, you’ll be eligible to work two-year contracts in countries around the world.
The goal of the U.S. Foreign Service is “to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” Basically, you represent the United States while abroad.
There are several different tracks: Administration, Construction Engineering, Facility Management, Information Technology, International Information and English Language Programs, Medical and Health, Office Management, and Law Enforcement and Security.
You don’t get to choose your destination — you could be headed to any of 270 embassies around the world — but if you work in a hardship destination, you’ll often get preferential treatment regarding your next assignment. Like two of my lovely readers whom I met in Mexico last year — after working as diplomats in Pakistan, they got stationed in Cuba next.
Check out all the details on the U.S. Foreign Service’s website.
Join the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is perhaps the most famous volunteer program in America, starting in 1961 under President Kennedy. Volunteers are sent around the world in primarily two-year contracts working in the fields of Education, Health, Community Development, Environment, Youth in Development, Agriculture, and Peace Corps Response.
You don’t get to choose where you go — you’re sent where your skills are needed the most. That means if you speak Spanish, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Latin America; if you speak French, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Africa.
Most people I’ve known to serve in the Peace Corps describe it as life-changing. It’s a fantastic way to serve your country and make lasting contributions toward building a better planet.
For more, visit the PeaceCorps.gov.
Find a job abroad
I know it sounds daunting to find a job abroad when you don’t know anything about it, but Americans do it successfully every day!
The U.S. State Department has put together a comprehensive list of resources for finding work abroad, no matter what field you’re in.
Study abroad or get another degree.
Are you still in college? Studying abroad will be one of the most valuable (and fun!) things you do in your college career. Here are the lessons I learned from my semester in Florence in 2004.
Already have a degree? This could be a great opportunity to get your master’s abroad! Several countries offer you the option of getting your master’s in just one year, unlike the standard two years in the United States.
You probably know that several countries offer free university education to their citizens. Well, several countries offer free university education to international students as well, including Americans! Don’t speak the local language? They offer degrees given in English as well.
It was big news when Germany began offering free education to international students in 2014. Other countries include Brazil, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden.
Many of these countries also offer stipends, making getting your degree infinitely more affordable than in the U.S.
If your job has an international office, see if you can transfer.
This isn’t an option if you work for a small, independent, local business. But it could work if you work for a larger company.
I used to work for a company with offices in Boston and London, and plenty of people migrated across the Atlantic in each direction. The company took care of the sponsorship and all the red tape.
Another option: if your company has an international parent company, see if you can find a job abroad in one of your parent company’s other companies.
See if you can start working remotely
If your job is mostly doable online, you may have the ability to start working remotely and set up shop anywhere in the world.
Note that this is something best done little by little. Start by doing exceptionally outstanding work for awhile, then ask your boss if you can work remotely one day per week. Make that your most productive day of the week. If it goes well and your company is pleased, keep negotiating for more time working remotely.
If you’re able to transition to working 100% remotely, keep in mind that you may need to stay within the same time zone or in a destination where you have excellent internet. Still, that’s a small price to pay for working from, say, a beach town in Costa Rica!
Look into the German Artist Visa
Entering the EU long-term is a major challenge for most Americans, but one of the easiest ways in (aside from getting a student visa) is to get the German “artist visa.”
“Artist” is a relative term here. In this case, it means freelancer. If you’re able to prove multiple contracts paying you enough to get by, that may be enough for you to secure this visa and live in Germany.
Most people with this visa choose to live in Berlin due to its art scene, expat scene, and relatively low cost of living (albeit one that continues to rise). Increasingly popular alternatives are hip Hamburg and artsy Leipzig.
Check out Travels of Adam’s guide to getting the German artist visa or, alternatively, a student visa.
Become an au pair in Europe
If you love kids, don’t mind living with a family, and want to live like a local, becoming an au pair could be an excellent option for you. Many Americans become au pairs by finding a job and family online, then registering for a student visa to give you a year in the country.
The student visa could be for as little as a few hours of language study each week; some countries, like France, are notoriously lax about whether you actually attend class and many au pairs decide to ditch the classes entirely.
Being an au pair could be the time of your life — or a complete disaster. The best thing is to know exactly what kind of experience you want — how many kids and how old? Living with the family or in your own apartment? Urban, suburban, or rural environment? Would you be expected to cook or not? — and finding a family that fits your needs well.
Ashley Abroad has a great resource for getting started as an au pair.
Save up, quit your job, and backpack the world for awhile
Yes. You can absolutely do this. Plenty of people around the world travel for months at a time — it’s very common for people from other western countries, but far less popular for Americans.
If you want your money to go the furthest, stick to a cheaper region. Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Central America, and Eastern Europe are all great options. You can live in parts of these regions on less than $1000 per month if you want to (but that amount doesn’t include start-up expenses like flights, gear and insurance).
Here’s how I saved $13,000 in just seven months. That was almost enough to sustain me for six months in Southeast Asia from 2010-2011, but keep in mind prices have increased a bit since then.
Move somewhere cheap for awhile
Not in the mood to be traveling all the time? You could just move somewhere. Many countries have visa policies that allow you to live long-term by leaving the country every few months and coming right back. (Be sure to check on your country’s latest visa regulations, as they can change at any time.)
I still think that Chiang Mai, Thailand, offers the maximum value for a great price. As a solo adult, you can comfortably get by in Chiang Mai for less than $800 per month, or even less if you’re part of a couple, and there are plenty of amenities for the many expats who live and work there.
Other popular options for expats? Oaxaca, Mexico. Ubud, Bali. Bangkok, Thailand. Medellin, Colombia. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (particularly Panajachel and San Pedro). If you have the ability to live in the EU, consider Berlin, Germany; Lisbon, Portugal; Budapest, Hungary; Prague, Czech Republic; or any town you can imagine in Spain: Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Barcelona.
Get a second citizenship based on your ancestry
Several countries offer the option of getting a passport based on your ancestry. I’ve known Americans who have gained Irish, British, Italian, and German citizenship due to their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents being born in those countries.
The best part? Gaining EU citizenship means you can move around freely within the EU, not just the country where you hold the ancestry!
Do research this first — every country is different and has its own conditions. Some don’t offer ancestry-based citizenship at all. (While my great-grandfather immigrated from Italy, I don’t qualify for Italian citizenship because he naturalized before my grandmother was born.) Here’s a guide to obtaining citizenship in European countries.
Israel also offers citizenship based on the Law of Return. You must either be Jewish by birth (meaning your mother or grandmother is Jewish) or a convert to Judaism.
Keep in mind that this could potentially take years, depending on the country. It took three years for my friend Mike to get his Italian citizenship. (Then again, as someone who lived in Italy and visits often, they are not the most organized of nations when it comes to this kind of stuff. Or anything else, frankly.)
Fall in love with someone from a different country, get married, and move to their country.
I know a lot of people, particularly women, dream of this — meeting a handsome fisherman on a Greek island, or a brawny Australian at a beach bar in Thailand, and falling in love and it being destiny and your friends being so jealous.
Well…as someone who has lived in another country for two different boyfriends, let me tell you that the reality can often be quite difficult, even if you have a good relationship. Living in a different country is like fighting through hundreds of cultural differences every day, and there can be a chasm in your relationship if you’re struggling while your partner is surrounded by everything he knows and loves. It’s much harder if you don’t speak the local language or you’re living in a small town.
Whatever you do, make sure you have a strong support system on the ground. Make sure you have interests, activities, and a social circle outside your partner. Most importantly, make sure your partner understands how challenging it is for you to be there, even if you’re happy most of the time. Make sure he makes an effort to travel to America, too.
You’re the one who is sacrificing here. Even if you were excited to move there. Even if he supports you financially. Even if you work online and have the freedom to live anywhere.
Just move to Canada!
Everyone says they’re moving to Canada if a candidate they hate is elected. Well, this guy actually moved to Canada when George W. Bush was elected. That link gives you an overview of ways for Americans to move to Canada today.
But in all seriousness…
I know this is a tongue-in-cheek list, but I seriously hope you’re not voting for Donald Trump. (I know I’m preaching to the choir here. The kind of person interested enough in other countries to read a travel blog is not the kind of person who would support a xenophobic presidential candidate.) Please do everything you can to keep him from being elected.
But there’s something else I want to say.
In the past six years, I’ve met many American travel bloggers who have said something along the lines of, “I just don’t like it in America. I don’t want to live where I could be killed in a random shooting or where I could be bankrupted if I’m hospitalized. I don’t like it here anymore, so I’m leaving.”
I get it. I was like that. Parts of me still feel that way. But not anymore.
I recently moved back to the U.S. after more than five years of travel. There were many reasons. One is because I am sick of doing nothing. I want to be here and fight to make my country better. And I’m getting started.
All of us can run away. Believe me — there’s stuff about America that keeps me up at night. Frequent school shootings and a Congress that refuses to pass any kind of reasonable legislation like closing the gun show loophole. Black Americans, including children, being killed by the police for no reason at all. The racism, both overt and subtle, that our president receives on a daily basis. Out-of-control elections and candidates supported by corporations. The possibility of a religious ideologue being appointed to the Supreme Court.
So why do I even bother? Because when you choose to be inactive, you’re giving power to the opposition.
If you choose to travel, or to live abroad, that’s wonderful! But don’t use it as an excuse to check out of America completely. Donate money to causes that will make America better. Donate your time to causes and see if you can help online. Get absentee ballots, familiarize yourself with candidates in every race, and vote in every election. These things really can make a difference.
If you do decide to leave the country if Trump is elected, be sure to buy travel insurance first! If you get seriously sick or your trip gets cuts short for a family emergency, travel insurance can save you thousands. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.