a wandering woman writes

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Vote, yes - but with your feet?


Attention American expats!

There's an election coming up in November, and why yes, in fact, your vote DOES count. Majorities in the House and Senate make a difference, and however you decide to vote, 2 1/2 years away from the mother ship have shown me just how important a responsibility voting is.

I once heard my college roommate's father, a solid self-made Hoosier, call the act of not voting "unconscionable". That adjective's stuck with me a long time.

Jimmy Carter's been out encouraging expats to vote, and both the Democrats and Republicans have organizations and websites aimed at Americans living abroad. My Chicago absentee ballot arrived last week.

I've had change on my mind lately, and responsibility, and action. I made the mistake of growing up under a sign that read: "Somebody asked me why I didn't do something, til I realized I am somebody". These days, I find myself pondering my own role. Where is the line between being "the change I'd like to see" and trading the often troubling big picture for my own peaceful serenity?

So I was intrigued by a recent Expatica article, titled "End of American Dream? Why Americans are leaving their country".

Says the article's author, Paul Stiles:
Now here is an interesting fact: the United States Government does not keep track of its expatriates.

There are statistics on immigration, but not emigration.

Since the US government does not monitor the flow of emigrants, it has no idea how many people are leaving, or why.

Good point, says the Marketing me.

He goes on to compare countries to consumer markets, with reasonably well-off citizens easily able to change brands, or countries, when a product (country) disappoints them. An interesting idea. And very true. He talks about the current flow of people, from less developed nations to the US, UK and Ireland, for example, and from the UK and Germany and other Northern European countries to Spain.

Certainly some Americans have left out of frustration and dissatisfaction with the way things are going at home.

But Stiles throws in a surprising call to action.
After inviting American expats to respond to a survey about why they chose to move to Spain, he closes with this:

We will publish the results in a future article.
Until then, just remember: the most powerful vote is with your feet.

Say what?

I didn't move for political reasons. I moved because I wanted to see the world from another viewpoint, because I wanted to see myself in another culture and language, and because this was the life I wanted to live, right now.

And thankfully, any of us can leave any old day. For any old reason.

But should we consider that move a vote?

If the US government has no idea who emigrates and why, which Stiles himself tells us, are you really voting -or even stating an opinion - when you hit the road? Will anyone pick up your message?

Now, I suppose you can hope your move dramatically affects the economy - that you're sorely missed enough to make your statement just by your move. And there's no reason to believe Stiles doesn't mean to encourage leaving AND continuing to vote from afar.

Still, I have an idea. This year, let's move our feet wherever we'd like.

But let's VOTE with our pens.



  • Very good article - interesting. While I'm not an expat (yet), I've given much thought to 'voting with my feet'.
    This time around it is SO hard to feel good about any of the elections. I will vote to get rid of present govt., but their opponents are often only different, not necessarily better.
    There are two women in NM fighting out a House race who have yet to do anything but sling mud. Infuriating, disgusting...and I have to vote for one to get rid of the other!

    By Anonymous kate, at 4:21 PM  

  • Hello,

    I find your blog quite compelling and creative in your approach to living in Spain as an expat.

    I am writing to you to see if you would have any interest in entering TransitionsAbroad.com's Expatriate Writing Contest by any chance, as you seem to have compelling stories and experiences:

    We are hosting a writing contest to celebrate our 30th year as both a magazine and a Web portal. The winner receives $250, second place $100, and third place $75, with $50 for honorable mentions.

    The deadline is 12/31/2006.

    The topic is as follows and more details can be seen at: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/information/writers/expatriate_writing_contest.shtml

    TransitionsAbroad.com invites you to enter its 2007 Expatriate Travel Writing Contest.

    Professionals, freelancers and aspiring writers are invited to write articles which describe their experience living abroad. Making the move to live abroad is for many the ultimate transition -- often the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, in other cases the result of chance and circumstance. We are seeking inspiring articles which also provide in-depth practical descriptions of your experience moving and living abroad, including discussions of immigration, personal and family life abroad, housing, work, social interactions with the natives, food, culture, and potential prejudices encountered.

    Apart from practical considerations what were the most important physical, psychological, and social adjustments necessary to integrate into the local communities? Feel free to include anecdotes about locals who may have aided in your adjustment to the physical conditions and social mores of the host community, as well as the role of expats in providing information and support.

    A listing, sidebar, or reference to the most important websites, publications, and other resources which have aided you in the cultural adjustment process or enhanced your current life abroad is encouraged to help others who may find themselves in similar situations or even similar locations.

    In sum, we do not seek diaries or personal blogs, but your own perspective in which the host country remains the primary focus, such that the color and taste of the people and land remain in the foreground.

    Please see the Living Abroad section of our site (www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/living/index.shtml ) for some examples of the types of articles we are seeking and see our writers' guidelines (www.transitionsabroad.com/information/writers/writers.shtml ) for a sense of our editorial preferences.

    TransitionsAbroad.com will publish the top three winners' entries and will provide links to the authors' website or blog if so desired.

    Thank you for your time,

    - Gregory Hubbs

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:31 PM  

  • I meant to say Thanks for the info, Gregory. I know TA, and like it.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 4:30 PM  

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