Freedom outside the “land of the free”: 10 reasons why I left the USA

TL;DR — I abandoned life in the United States for Latin America. Why? 10 reasons, including reducing my taxes abroad, experiencing new cultures, and enjoying a healthy lifestyle.

Three years ago, I left the United States, my home country and the only country I’d ever known. In this post, you’ll learn 10 reasons why.

I think this will ruffle some feathers.

1. To escape the US’s move in the wrong direction

2020 and everything that transpired really opened my eyes to the goals of many governments in the West: more government control, more regulations, freezing bank accounts, closed migration routes, woke ideology, central bank digital currencies, and taking control of people’s assets just because they disagree with their opinion.

I believe Western governments are vying for more control over individuals’ lives. And I don’t want any part of it.

Once I left the West, I realized I don’t owe my home country anything. And you don’t either, whether you’re from the UK, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, or Nepal.

As citizens and taxpayers of a country, we’re essentially customers of a corporation. If the taxes you pay don’t return the quality of life you expect, you are fully within your rights to explore other options. Just as you would if that new streaming subscription just wasn’t worth the monthly cost.

You were coincidentally born into those borders. And there’s about a one-in-a-million chance that’s also where you’d be the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, and free-est.

Is it time to explore other options?

2. To escape American cost of living

Home to 10 of the 20 highest cost-of-living cities in the world, the United States is the 8th most expensive country.

Expensive cost of living cities

When I first left the country three years ago, I had just started my own company. I was doing great right out of the gates, but to make more profit in my business and extend my runway, I wanted to reduce my costs.

And because my business operated entirely on the internet, an easy way to cut expenses was to leave the country.

On that journey, I found that so many people around the world had found and taken advantage of this arbitrage between a developed-world income and a developing-world cost of living.

Tim Ferriss wrote about this in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek:

Earn dollars. Spend pesos. Compensate rupees.

Cost of living across countries

If you earn a high leverage currency and spend a lower leverage currency like pesos or rupees, you can afford a much better lifestyle in a low-cost foreign country like 🇦🇷 Argentina, 🇮🇹 Italy, or 🇹🇭 Thailand than your high-cost home country.

Now, three years later, I’m lucky to make 4-5x what I was making in the United States. But at the time, it was nice to relieve some pressure, cut costs, and benefit from this arbitrage.

3. To experience other cultures

For someone who grew up in the Midwest like me, foreign cultures are just fun and novel. It’s fun to experience new things, new adventures, new people, new languages, new customs, and new norms.

If you’re not familiar with Sahil Bloom’s luck surface area concept, you should be:

The more things you do, the more people you meet, the more places you go, the more lucky you’ll become. It’s simple really.

However, I will say this – The novelty of travel does wear off after a certain amount of time. So make sure this isn’t the only reason you’re leaving your home country.

4. To experience better weather

I have a home on the equator in a place called the City of Eternal Spring – Medellín, Colombia – and I love it. All throughout the year, the weather stays about the same, between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (about 25 to 30 Celsius).

Compare this to where I grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where we were lucky to see a single day above freezing 32 F (0 C) from October to April. Half the damn year we froze our asses off.

Weather in USA vs. Colombia

But it’s not cold that’ll kill you. It’s the lack of sun. More sun equals better health.

5. To learn a new language

I’ve always wanted to learn a new language. Now that I’ve spent three years in Latin America, I’m fluent in Spanish. There’s no better way to learn than through 1) daily conversation and 2) full immersion.

A new language hasn’t only opened my mind in a way that I can’t really explain, but it’s opened doors! I can communicate with 600 million more people than I did just three years ago. That’s insane.

Think of all the business opportunities and relationships a single extra language in my backpocket has exposed me to. Speaking of luck surface area!

6. To surround myself with happier, friendlier people

The old saying, “keeping up with the Joneses,” is completely real. Americans are always trying to one-up each other.

This is a feature of the ultra-competitive American society, not necessarily a bug. Thanks to that entrepreneurial culture, I’m very easily intrinsically motivated – meaning I can motivate, inspire and incentivize myself to grow my business, my bank account, and myself.

Once you experience something else though, it may change your mind – and your chemistry. Living in a less competitive, less achievement-focused culture over the last three years has actually been a nice break from that always-on culture. It’s nice to relax and not talk business after a hard day of work.

And because Latin America has a more relaxed daily culture, the difference in attitudes are striking. Everyone you encounter – from airport staff and taxi drivers to maids and restaurant workers – are all so happy, so welcoming, and so warm. Especially if you speak Spanish.

I love that.

7. To live a healthier lifestyle

I’m healthier and fitter here in Latin America. I love my outdoor gyms, sunny midday workouts, and access to some of the best food in the world. Beef is all grass-fed, and I have easy access to natural, organic fruit.

In the United States, highly processed, seed oil-dripping, industrial sludge fast food is really cheap and accessible, while healthy food is hard to find and expensive.

In Latin America, fast food is a very expensive luxury, while cheaper food is generally healthier. Weird how that works, eh?

8. To legally reduce my taxes

Ah yes, the joys of being a U.S. citizen. If you aren’t aware, the United States taxes its citizens no matter where they live in the world – even if you spend zero days in the country.

Only one other country does that. And it’s war-torn Eritrea. Try pointing that out on a map 😅

But there are still ways to reduce your American tax liability (just not to zero) especially if you live outside the country. Spent fewer than 35 days in the US this year or established tax residency in a foreign country? Your first $126,000 of income is exempt from personal income tax thanks to the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).

Apart from taking advantage of the FEIE, I was able to legally reduce my taxes by moving my state residence to Florida (which has zero personal income tax) and converting my business infrastructure from an LLC to an S-corp.

If you’re not a US citizen, you’re lucky. Your path to lower or even zero taxes is ten times easier. Check out this essay to learn the three steps to never pay income tax again.

This is not financial advice, so do your own research and get an accountant to help you.

9. To diversify my nationality stack

In 2020, I read the book Sovereign Individual. Not only did that book teach me that as citizens of a country, we’re merely customers and the taxes we pay are the price of our quality of life.

But I also learned that investment diversification is just as important as life diversification. If you’re constrained to life under a single government, corporation or authority, you are putting all your eggs in one basket. If you tweet something or do something at work that those authorities don’t appreciate, they can censor you completely and essentially control your whole life.

I don’t want anyone to have that kind of leverage over me. Do you?

Diversifying your nationality stack means having citizenships, residency permits, bank accounts, income streams, and businesses in countries around the world. And like investment diversification, this strategy effectively reduces your risk and sets you up for a peaceful life.

Since I left the country three years ago, I’ve invested in real estate in foreign countries, started earning through multiple income streams, gained residency on the way to citizenship in a couple countries, and opened offshore bank accounts.

Just in case. 😊

10. To experience a new adventure

Before I quit my job and left my home country, I wrote my own obituary.

My big realization? At the moment, I wasn’t living the life I had dreamed of. And what I was doing on a daily basis – the habits, routines, and progress I was making – wasn’t going to lead to where I wanted to go.

I had big goals. I wanted to learn new languages, experience new cultures, travel, start my own businesses, impact a lot of people, own homes around the world, and be a ridiculously fit.

Writing my own obituary triggered that realization and a lot of momentum toward those goals. Because the last thing I wanted to do was die with regrets.

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences. And hence, there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

Three years later, after leaving my home country with just a backpack, I’m happier, healthier, wealthier, and freer than I’ve ever been before.

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If I were to dedicate the next Freedom Files YouTube video to you and one challenge you’re facing right now, what would that issue be?

Typically, I get something like the following:

  • I can’t find a remote job
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Let me know by emailing or DMing me. I’ll write about it publicly because many others likely have the same challenge as you do.

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I started an online business, lived in 10 countries, learned a new language, bought international real estate, and got residency in Latin America – all within 2 years.

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