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It's a Smaller World After All

Purchasing a house is a big decision. Moving to a different city or state is a heavy lift. Building a life in a different country? That’s a whole other thing and for someone who isn’t a natural risk taker, it’s daunting. But sometimes, for one’s on sanity, you need an escape plan just in case things go sideways. 

When I finally made the decision to draft a “get on up outta here” plan, I had a romanticized idea of how my next act would look. My imagination created unrealistic scenes because a woman of my vintage isn’t going to have a personality transplant but hey, a girl can dream.

Picture this: Amelie, only Black. 

Me, an entirely new person, whimsically strolling through the streets as the crowds part, without a care in the world. Moving to my own rhythm, seeing, inhaling, experiencing and savoring the life and energy around me; all of my gleaming white white showing, looking all natural and not like those horse-sized veneers people are buying. Colors more vibrant, life more exciting and maybe, just maybe, I could stay out of my head long enough to meet a man who wouldn’t kill, rape or otherwise abuse me.  

My mind would be free to focus on all of the unwritten stories swirling around in my head for the past several years. Maybe I could start drawing again? 

I just have to find the place that will provide the freedom I envision. Where history and culture are celebrated. Where the weather is warm and I will fit in. Where there is little to no fear of gun violence. Not a utopia, but a place where I can live fully and freely.

When I was younger, I had a globe with a little switch that activated a lightbulb inside. I would spin the globe and look at the names of the countries, some of which no longer exist. I wasn’t thinking about where I would go. Rather, I was thinking of where I could go. The possibilities were endless because I had no concept of how those possibilities could be limited, not because of war or instability or environmental or global disasters, but because of who I am and the skin I’m in.

As I approach moving abroad as a woman of a certain age and many experiences, I’m a little wiser, a lot more cynical and frankly, I’m exhausted. What I want, what I demand, is simple enough: safe, friendly, low cost of living, good health care and a favorable exchange rate. The list may grow, but those are my main requirements.

My first search is the phrase “retired expats”. Seems crazy to even consider retiring at this age, but hey, the entire world seems a little “off” these days. I see a bunch of lists, many of which have some overlap. Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Malta, small towns in France and Malaysia. I’ve never been to any of those places, but I am eager to learn more.

Research is kind of my thing but you know what I don’t bother researching, at first? Anti-Blackness. When I add it to my list, it shrinks. I realize, “Oh, these are white people's retirement lists.” When I add another parameter to my search, Spain drops off. Malta? Gone.

I know anti-Blackness is not something that’s uniquely American. But, when you’re planning an escape, the last thing you want to consider is whether you’re just fleeing from one hostile place to another. It’s like, “Dang, can we go anywhere and just live our own Black a-double snakes lives in peace?” This vast world we live in isn’t so vast if you’re a person of color. I can’t simply consider whether a place will be affordable. I have to consider whether I will be welcome--whether it can be my home in not just location, but heart and spirit.

Right now, I’m focused on Costa Rica and Mexico. I’ve met many Mexicans throughout my life and they’ve always been kind, considerate, hard-working and welcoming. I think it’s a place where I can thrive and it’s close to home. But I wonder, will they see this American who is Black, as a rival or enemy? Or more like their ancestors, who welcomed many of mine who fled to Mexico to escape they tyranny of this country and their enslavers?

Costa Rica is more of a wildcard. I know little about the country and its people. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and that’s a prerequisite, and the health care is outstanding, but what else is there? Great food. High tariffs. Close to the United States. Tropical bugs and animals (yikes!). Can I deal with that? 

For now, I’ll continue to learn about each county and weigh my options. I’m as excited as I’ve ever been about the possibilities that lie ahead, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little nervous. 

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