For months, I have heard rational people say that if Trump/Clinton becomes president, they will flee this country rather than be under tyrannical rule. It has even gotten so serious that Cape Breton, an island in Nova Scotia, Canada, has an entire campaign that welcomes Americans that refuse to live in a Donald Trump America.
Let’s face facts, you can’t just flee with no plan. If you are going to leave, at least make sure to consider the basics and have some fun in the process. As a human behavior scientist and the author of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, I have gotten crushed by a bull in Pamplona, almost fell off the Ghost Tower of Bangkok, and nearly froze to death in Antarctic waters. None of that may scare you as much as either a Trump or Clinton America. For those looking to escape before everything falls apart, here is a definitive guide that will show you how to get away while having some fun.
1. Create a mission.
Wandering the world aimlessly for four years until the next election will lose its luster quickly. Keep it interesting by setting goals. Every year I set a travel goal. In 2013 I went each month to the craziest event on Earth (Running of the Bulls, Burning Man, Cannes, etc.). Last year, I visited all seven continents. What goal will give you purpose and excite you?
Will you learn 4 new languages, go squid fishing in Borneo, or visit each country in Europe? Maybe you want to go visit all 7 wonders or eat at the best restaurants across South America. The important part is in selecting a novel mission that will be a stretch to achieve.
2. Surround yourself with great people.
The key to finding happiness, adventure, peace of mind, etc. is in selecting the right friends. Research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler shows that everything from divorce to obesity can be spread through our social networks up to 4 degrees away. That means your friends of friends of friends that you have never met are affecting you right now.
If you are escaping with a team, select people who are optimistic, fun-loving and open to taking on new experiences. After all, it would suck to be on the road for four years with a drama queen. The people around you have the power to influence your emotions and outlook on life, so choose them wisely. Happiness spreads, but so can misery.
3. Disconnect from media completely.
If you are connected to the Internet or your smartphone, it will be too tempting to constantly check on the demise of the US. Go someplace remote with little to no connectivity. Visit Antarctica, it’s the warm season now. Stop by Kalu Yala in The Jungles of Panama. Stay at one of Thailand’s remote islands.
This has two main benefits: For one, you will be distracted in a healthy way. Second, after the emotional strain of this campaign, being surrounded by nature will fundamentally restore your energy and focus. Research from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that people who spend time in nature have better focus and cognitive abilities.
4. Develop an entirely new skill set.
Unless you inherited your money, like some of the candidates, you are going to need to earn money to survive. In most cases, any money that you earn as an American citizen abroad, will be taxed, which means it will go to support the president’s agenda. The key is to find jobs that pay in cash or bitcoin, which often means manual labor. Maybe it is time for you to finally become a chef, learn woodwork and carpentry, or become a professional hacker who makes massive amounts of bitcoin on the dark web.
5. Consider becoming a dual citizen.
You can travel continuously with an American passport, if you are strategic about the days you stay in each country. But, what if Trump/Hillary wins a second election? Eight years is a long time to be a vagabond. At this point, you may want to find a place to settle. You will either have to get a working visa (which takes time and may be denied), marry a local, seek political asylum or know the right official to bribe.
If you are going to move somewhere, make sure to consider the language barrier. I once dropped myself off in Nice, France, with no place to stay. I didn’t speak the language, and either I would convince a stranger to put me up for the night or I would sleep on the street. The language barrier was significant, so make sure you are ready to tackle the issue.
6. In case they come after you.
If you are really paranoid that the president will try to bring you back, there are twenty-some-odd countries that don’t have an extradition treaty with the US. This means if the US government wanted you, these countries would not be required to send you back. Of them, the most fun and exciting may be Bhutan, a constitutional democratic monarchy that measures its success not by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but by GNH (Gross National Happiness). If you are gonna be on the lamb, you should at least maximize your happiness and learn from the people of Bhutan.
7. Hide in plain sight.
Depending on how bad it gets in the US, there may be international backlash. When exploring rural Argentina, I found myself surrounded by angry socialists. If I spoke in English they would have assumed I was their capitalist enemy and would have attacked me; I spent much of my time hiding.
In situations like this, you may want people to think you are from another country. A simple solution is to practice saying Canadian phrases like “Eh?”, talk about hockey, and stitch a maple leaf flag on your bag. If you are a whiz at faking accents, you could try being from Australia, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, or South Africa.
Regardless of who wins the election, now you have a plan. You will either need to flee for sanity, or get away to celebrate. No matter what happens, use this as an an excuse to explore the world and experience adventure.
To learn more about my crazy experiences, from battling Kiefer Sutherland in drunken Jenga to convincing the duty free sales girl in Stockholm Airport to leave her job and travel with me within 10 seconds of meeting, pick up a copy of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure