Finding Lifestyle Freedom Around the World
Freedom is having total control of your life. Different parts of the world restrict freedom through laws and social pressure to act a certain way. People naturally migrate to where they will be free to live authentically. They want to be part of a culture that celebrates their value – not one that tries to change them. They want to work for themselves because they can do the kind of work they find most rewarding. They seek their place in a highly crowded landscape.
After a decade of perpetual travel since I turned 18, I look at myself now as a man without a culture or a home. Although I still tell people that I am from the United States, I do not feel any pride, loyalty, or identification with my roots there. California is just where I came from – an arbitrary place I happened to have been born and raised for a time. It is no more important to my present self than any of the other 45 countries I have been to since.
Home can be wherever you’re most comfortable – where you can be who you really are. Finding that place has been part of my quest since I began so many years ago. Looking beyond the imaginary borders which divide our species lets you choose the best each place offers.
A man of the world has the opportunity to bend the rules of each culture toward his own personal values. The more you travel, the more options you have to pick from.
“Flag theory” is the idea that the greatest security in life comes from diversifying one’s lifestyle, income, assets, and national alignment across different parts of the world where the best conditions for each can be found. It protects you from loss in the event of a major destabilizing event and allows you to avoid the weaknesses while taking full advantage of the strengths of any given place. It’s a powerful expression of a global identity in the modern world.
A person taking full advantage of flag theory might hold passports in two or three countries across different continents, be a legal resident somewhere else, bank in another jurisdiction, register their remote business elsewhere, and keep their property or other assets somewhere unrelated. On top of all this, they might spend most of their personal time as tourists in a place they have no other ties to. Because they are comfortable looking beyond national boundaries, they can benefit from the unique benefits afforded by each place. The lifestyle variations this opens up are endless.
For a global citizen without allegiance to any specific place, passports seem like glorified permission slips from governments of the world. Although they ostensibly grant greater freedom of movement, they are also effective tools for limiting the actions of the people. Historically, they have been taken away from citizens who did not pay their taxes or showed other unfavorable behavior toward their kings and leaders. In 2016, the United States passed a bill enabling the passport revocation of any citizen who owes more than $50,000 in back taxes – a liability further compounded by the fact that Americans are taxed no matter where they live or from where they derive their income.
Banking in another country seems like it should be a straightforward task. Just walk into a branch with your money and your ID and ask to open an account. Unfortunately, most countries that are stable enough to make storing money a desirable option also make it difficult to impossible for non-residents to keep their money there. There are exceptions, but due to the FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) regulations of the US, banks worldwide are pressured into reporting the details of any US citizen’s account activities back home. This negates many of the advantages of diversifying your funds in the first place and has made many banks and nations reluctant to work with Americans at all.
The best place to hold a passport depends on where you plan to travel with it and the amount of effort you are willing to put into obtaining it through official legal channels. For someone who travels extensively in Europe, getting a passport with visa-free access to the Schengen area is a good idea. Most developed nations outside of the EU will get an automatic 90-day allowance out of every 180 days, but citizens of third world nations can expect to have to acquire a visa in their home country beforehand.
Unfortunately, becoming naturalized as a citizen in most places takes 5 to 10 years of consistent residence, and possibly other requirements like running a business with a certain amount of taxable income. There are alternatives though, like the citizenship-by-descent program I was able to take advantage of due to my ancestry two generations back in Armenia, or various citizenship-by-investment options for people who have more money than time. The Caribbean island nation of Dominica will essentially “sell” you a passport for about $170,000 put into their approved government programs. If that sounds expensive, the cost of some other counties’ programs ranges into the millions.
I feel limited by the opportunities you have been granted by the place you arbitrarily happened to have been born, you should know that there are other options out there. You aren’t limited to the rules of just one place anymore. By being willing to throw yourself out there and make the most out of everything you find, you will break beyond the barriers in your own life to start living as the person you really want to be.