Archive for October, 2005

Go South Old Man

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 20th, 2005 | Email this to friend

August 22, 2005

Why have I moved from checking the pulse of Asia to revisiting South America? And why Brazil?

Brazil is categorized in investing circles as a developing country. Which means it’s a poor country with lousy infrastructure and unfathomable corruption OR it is a country overflowing with natural resources and on its way to becoming a first world country.

Brazil is both, the former being a legacy of its past, and the latter its growing reality. From developing country to an emerging one. While America has focused post 9-11 on security and imperializing Iraq, Brazil has been busy setting up a partnership with China – one based on supplying the world’s growing super power with raw materials.

Why should Americans consider moving to Brazil?

Europeans rediscovered Brazil and have been moving and investing there in droves, most noticeably over the past five years. In fact, so many Portuguese have bought up Northeast Brazilian land lately, that lawmakers in Brasilia are trying to pass laws limiting the amount of Brazilian land that can be purchased by the former colonizers.

In Brazil I repeatedly met with surprise when people learned that I was American. So few Americans visit Brazil, much less live there. Yet, certain regions are filled with French, others with Portuguese., and although I didn’t make it there, Southern Brazil is full up with Germans.

Sixty-nine percent of North America’s population is between the ages of 40 and 59. That’s a lot of aging baby boomers who are or will soon be concluding that their dream of owning a home is a pipedream. And that they’re going to have to continue working like indentured servants just to stay even.

There is hope though, that by moving across the U.S. border, an American’s financial picture can brighten considerably. Not only can one buy a house, but they’ll have access to quality health care, delicious fresh food, clothing, a warm, laid-back environment – and still have money left over to squirrel away in savings! The cost of living in America has soared, while the benefits of being an American dwindled.

I’m betting that American zenophobia will have dissipated within the next five years – after most of America’s corporations have taken many of their (American) employees with them. As anyone who reads or watches the news knows, this process is well underway.

While immigrants chasing the American dream will continue to stream across North America’s borders, I believe that aging Americans who have tired of the game, not to mention gone broke, will head South. Younger ones will follow as business opportunities and a better life beckon them.

Case in point: Huge numbers of retirees travel regularly over our northern and southern borders to buy medications, to have dental work done, to have surgery, to buy second homes. How long will it be until they decide it’s cheaper and easier just to move acrossthe border? And how about the number of major corporations moving to foreign countries, and the jobs opening in those countries. How long will it take young Americans to realize that an American salary goes 10 times further in a foreign country?

Planned foreign communities are popping up in exotic locations. Foreign banks are beginning to offer mortgage financing abroad. And hey, consider the sheer numbers of expatriates who have already retired to Mexico and Costa Rica.

The mass migration has not only begun, it is in full swing. “Go west young man!” has become “Go South Old Man.”

I am back in Brazil to meet the expatriates who have already arrived. To get a feel for the land, the community, the culture, the politics, the economy, and ultimately to find out if Brazil is a place where I’d be willing to tie up my horse.

Gypsy Soul

Posted by Robin Sparks on October 10th, 2005 | Email this to friend

I have a soul connection with other expats I meet in the world, an unspoken understanding that I don’t have with non-traveling Americans. When I meet another world traveler, it’s as if I have come home, found my tribe. It is not uncommon for me to run into someone in one country that I met in another. And I can tell within a moment of conversation back home if a person is a citizen of the world. It’s not so much what they say, as a way of being.

My gypsy soul rules my roost – home is here, it is there, it is everywhere! I really do need a base, or so I think sometimes, and so I am told nearly all of the time.And so I continue to look for community, and a place where I can live comfortably doing work I love. (Or at least leave my stuff while I’m gone.) Maybe I should consider hard core journalism being on the scene to report what’s happening behind the scenes at the planet’s latest disaster. Maybe not. Working for a non-profit? Perhaps. But non-profits as far as I can tell, are in serious need of good business managers and an army of organizers, not more story tellers.

As for San Francisco, I love the intellectual stimulation I get living here sometimes, though, I wonder if I’d like NY better or at east as well. I’m a little up to here with the disproportionate number of gays in this part of California (that is sooo non- P.C. to write much less say, that I’ll probably be banned from the Bay) and the waaay left political leaning, so far they’re about to fall into the Pacific, non-tolerant of any other point of view than their own, and the way we are so serious (lighten up San Franciscans! Wear some color for God’s sake! Get out of your heads and into your bodies!) I sometimes wonder why I am living in one of the places where numbers-wise, I am least likely to find a partner. And even if I were to meet a wonderful straight man, he would have to be a traveler – how many American men do you know who can travel more than 2 weeks a year? But the biggest obstacle to my settling into this wonderful city, is it’s high cost, and it’s low opportunity to earn money as a writer.

If I were only willing to trade my time for money, I could call this most expensive of cities, San Francisco, home.

I do love the fact that on any given day or night, there is a dizzying array of things to do from the literary, to the artistic, to the crazed and silly, to the outdoors. I could never be bored here. And that’s huge.

Ideally, I can do both. Live in SF and elsewhere. I’m also enjoying a new friendship with a wonderful gal who I sense is growing wary after my last trip to Brazil, and my two upcoming trips in the next two months, and my constant musing about where to go next. Is she going to disappear again? I can feel her thinking.

A friend emailed me today with the solution. The live aboard boating life!. A sailboat – a home that I can live in while I follow the sun, explore the world, and with the right pilot for a mate, we’d be at home, among a fleet of sea gypsies. Sort of like my parents’ generation with their RV’s. Only instead of big wheels, we’d have big sails.

But what about storage?

I sailed today between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge with an international group of six. Lots of interesting talk about life in Europe. I can’t wait to get back to the Mediterranean. This summer! Beginning with the June trip in Turkey. That is (as everyone on the boat agreed) one of the most amazing countries, a bridge between east and west. Turkey has a quality that will not last, indeed, is already changing as it prepares for acceptance into the EU. There is no city like Istanbul.

It’s lonely being an American who wants to be an International. Most of my country kin are entirely happy, never living a day anywhere outside of our borders. And they are suspicious and wary of those who want to leave, at least that’s been my experience. I’ve gone through a number of friends and boyfriends, each gradually pulling away as I leave again and again. If I’d just stay, they say I’d grow an army of friends here. I say, if you’d just travel, we’d be closer.

Almost all Europeans leave their country to live elsewhere for at least one month per year – it is the reason I believe that they have a wiser perspective about world affairs and personal values.

I am most inspired to write when I am on the move, literally, as when riding on a train, a bus, or sailing on a boat. Who knows? With a little wind in my sails, maybe I will finally finish The Book.