I'm an American.
That means that I'm already where everyone else in the world wants to be in order to have that "American Dream". A lot of people outside the United States thinks of coming here as the way to “move on up” as shown here, here, and yes, even one of Michelle Obama’s speeches here.
You know . . . each family member has their own car, we have 4,000 square foot homes fully stocked with all the Pinterest-able and Instagram-able fixins, we have well-paid careers or we are well-to-do entrepreneurs, and we are the happy nuclear family with 2.3 kids that are always ready to pose for that family photo - all of that upward mobility as long as you're willing to work for it. At least, that's what we're good at showcasing on these media outlets and these internets (and yes, I meant to spell it that way).
What advertising (and dare I say prop-paah-gaan-daah . . . in my English teacher trying to help you sound out the word voice) doesn't show is that that car payments and car insurance can cost almost as much as our housing payments; the cost of home ownership is so far out of reach, that many folks just don't bother; unless you're in STEM or TECH, high-paying jobs are far and few in between; and that picture perfect family is not as normal as projected. Now, I know what you're thinking . . . and before you say, "You know how many people are dying to come to this country (in your you should be grateful voice) . . . or . . ."Off with her head" (in your White Queen voice) . . . or . . . "All countries have problems" (in your entitled spoiled brat voice) . . . or even . . . "I think you're overreacting" (in your couldn't care less voice), I recognize that these are broad-stroke generalizations, but when you add my identity of Black to American, those generalizations of the American Dream become a realistic obstacle course.
So, at first, I did give it "That good ol' college try."
I grew up in a single-parent household where I experienced a lot of childhood abuse and trauma. Add to that my public school education that only showed a video of a horrifically bloody childbirth and a parent whose best version of sex education included the words verbatim, "You stay away from those no good ass muthafuckin' niggas . . . you heard what the fuck I said!" So, abused and unloved, not long into puberty, I went to "look for love in all the wrong places", and became that all-too-well-known stereotype of being a teen mom at the age of 15, and was unapologetically thrusted face-first into the real world. I mean, shit was ruff. Shortly after becoming a mommy, I became a part of the hidden homeless (more commonly known as "couch surfing" or floor squatting") and I dropped out of high school. But later, I registered in an alternative school for "troubled youth", graduated, and did what I was expected to do - get a damn job - any job.
Like many others in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, I was given the prescription of a college education being the cure all to having “The American Dream”. Not just for financial gain, but to gain the respect and freedoms of being an American. So, I pulled myself up my raggedy ass bootstraps and worked hard to not only get my Bachelor degree, but my Master’s degree. I obtained sustainable and respectable employment. I rented apartments in great neighborhoods so that my daughter could go to “good schools”. I became friends and colleagues with the right people. I became a member of great social circles in society. I did what the American narrative told me to, but some things just felt . . . off.
College built my research skills, and now, I'm using that skill for my wellness.
While my college education has not afforded me the financially lavish lifestyle that I (and millions of others) expected, it did furnish me with a lot of perspective that allowed me to take stock of what was important to me, and most important, what was not. Originally, I lived to accumulate things in my home that "showed my worth", but after my research in urban sociology, visual communication, social psychology, and nonverbal communication in advertising, I slowly built a seemingly unpopular mindset on building my worth from a quality of life that included experiences, not things. I was entering into wellness without really knowing it. The most pivotal mindset shift came in two forms - observation through film and participation through service abroad. In undergrad, one of my class assignments included an assessment of a documentary about the healthcare system in America, "Sicko" by Michael Moore. At 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 49 seconds is where I saw her (in my whimsical childlike voice) - A Black American sharing her quality of life while working and living in France compared to the U.S. It was my first time seeing a Black American living abroad outside of being a part the U.S. military and it was the first time knowing that my wellness journey can expand outside the United States of America.
I was inspired.
The next year, I was granted the opportunity to experience service in Chennai, India. Working as a teacher in an orphanage that also doubled as a school, gave me insight to the external global appeal of "The American Dream" and the internal understanding of what really brings happiness and wellness. My experience there taught me just how happy and productive people were with so little things to show for it. I believe that the children and staff members gave more to me than I gave to them. From those two pivotal lessons, I began my wellness journey by decreasing American expectations and increasing global exploration. Enter my tumbling down the rabbit hole of research.
Shit! What have I gotten myself into?
I began my research for measures of quality of life across the pond in 2008 and it included the terms "globe trotter" . . . "expat" . . . "abroad" . . . "wellness" . . . "wellness abroad" . . . "health and wellness programs abroad" . . . "education abroad" . . . "happiest countries in the world" . . . and even the simple "traveler", while I have found a lot of written data about the expat experience, I also came across visual data that included many White faces and very few Black ones. Today, that is still the case - and there are significant reasons for that.
There are many barriers to U.S. citizens experiencing life, happiness, and wellness abroad, and some of those barriers includes:
That out of 328.2 million Americans, only an estimated 8.7 million Americans live abroad. That's only 2.3% of the population, so the abroad community is small.
The cost of visiting or moving abroad could cost a tiny fortune. From as little as a few hundred for a plane ticket to as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the permanent visa's financial requirements.
The belief that we have to achieve a certain level of accolades, social significance, and certain financial status in the U.S. before we can have that experience abroad.
Overspending, and thus, not saving, at a minimum of $315 a month and a maximum of $1,497 a month.
40% of Americans not having enough saved to even cover a $400 emergency.
All Americans, especially Black Americans, having little knowledge of geography and its historical and political significance.
All Americans, especially Black Americans, having little to no knowledge of their ancestral contribution to the world, and thereby, feeling that they have little to no right to explore it.
Fears of experiencing life abroad, especially for Black Americans, can also include:
How to get a job in a country where English is not the main language.
Where or if there is Black representation and/or community abroad.
Can they afford living abroad, especially where the [perceived] cost of living is higher than where they currently are.
Being unsure of racial tension, mistreatment, and/or intimidation.
Being unsure of laws, customs, and norms.
Being unsure of the norms in regard to religion/spirituality, gender, and/or sexual orientation.
How to volunteer abroad?
How to engage with the culture abroad?
How to socialize, date, or build a family abroad?
How to move abroad with a spouse and children?
Getting a partner on board with moving abroad when they may not want to.
Being unsure of where to go.
Being unsure of when to go (especially due to COVID-19).
The people that I've come across talk about international experiences for their wellness in three senses - of taking an extended weekend for a wellness retreat, taking a week-long vacation to an island near the U.S. to recharge, or by way of retiring to nations near the U.S., usually in Central and South America. What's more uncommon than young Americans talking about moving abroad is young Black Americans wanting to do the same. No matter your ethnic origin, building a plan for a permanent move abroad takes time, resources, opportunity, and money; but it really takes research. You may need the power of all the Gawds (in my southern grandma voice . . . and again, I meant to spell it that way), ferries, genies, and a pinch of pixie dust to successfully pull it off with your sanity in tact. Dear Lawd (in my southern grandma voice again), I am now one of those Black people. But I didn't come to this decision lightly.
Let me explain.
For the purposes of being on the same page, let's learn shall we. The word emigrate is to leave your home country and the word immigrate is defined by moving into a new country. The root word, “migrate”, (to move, change, or transfer) is mostly heard about under the terms of distress from war, poor economics, or political unrest.
This international journey for a better quality of life is traditionally expected in nations that are of the 3rd world, with pictures in your mind of people with little to no possessions that usually includes just the clothes on their backs. These people come from poor nations, have little to no money, and are of low skills and/or academic attainment. While that image may still hold some truths, there is an emerging migration of Black people who were born and raised in America, a very wealthy nation, that have obtained significant social and economic status, and that are highly educated.
Enter my ever-emerging reasons for my wellness journey outside the U.S.
Black Americans born and raised in the U.S. do not live in favor of the model minority myth, and thus, we [Black folks] know all too well that "The American Dream" to be extremely difficult to attain and maintain. As a Black woman in America, I have suffered with, and worse, I am most likely to have continued unfortunate experiences with systemic obstacles to that feeling of “American Freedom”.
My reasons (this list is not exhaustive and is in no particular order) for finding my wellness outside the United States includes:
The student loans crisis that has outpaced all other consumer debt noted here
Becoming a part of any community abroad means you have to be willing to learn a lot . . . like . . . a lot - about yourself and the communities that you're interested in. It may even involve you picking up a book . . . with a cover . . . and pages . . . with words printed on them.
But I'm here to support you (in my cheerleader voice).
After researching foreign country policies and opportunities, personally interviewing Black, Latin, and White folks that used to and currently still live abroad, and surveying populations that have always dreamed of life abroad, I have come to the conclusion that I’m not only ready to make my global transition, I want to share it so that others may find my pathway useful to their own.
Stac_y With No E ® was born out of pain, curiosity, and most of all, excitement for building pathways that are thought to be impossible for Black Americans. My life has included transforming from poverty to privilege, childhood abuse to building a loving family, teen mom to re-mom, weight gain to weight loss, cultural ignorance to cultural agency, self-doubt to self-esteem, bankruptcy to savings, and of being a high school dropout to earning college degrees. I am grateful for all of those experiences because they gave me the foundation that has built my compass of wellness - and it's pointed outside of the United States of America.
This blog contains a lot of data collection and no advertising, and if you feel that you got something useful from it, consider buying me a Ko-Fi or becoming a Patreon to help keep me sharing this awesomely-time-consuming information.
Do you find yourself dreaming of living someplace outside the United States of America?
Do you need help measuring what's important to you to better determine your wellness?
Ever find yourself saying "I just don't feel like I belong here."
What are your reasons for wanting wellness abroad?
Thank you for taking this journey with me,