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'It’s a whole world, let's explore it' | More Americans leaving US amid rising political divisiveness, cost of living

International Living reported a 1000% increase in web traffic after Roe Versus Wade was overturned.

ATLANTA — Do you ever think about hopping on a plane, and never coming back? Corry Deal-Strunk and Matthew Strunk from Calvert County have.

“We have joked that ‘oh my gosh we have got to get out of here,’” Deal-Strunk said.

Jen Dewberry from Prince Georges's County has too.

“Wouldn’t it be something to be the grandmother who lives in Portugal?” she asked.

International travel experts say they aren’t alone. Americans' interest in moving out of the US is on the rise.

“I think that people are beginning to wonder if the U.S. is as great a place as they always thought it was,” said Jennifer Stevens, Executive Director for International Living a worldwide resource for Americans moving overseas.

In October, International Living hosted a boot camp for people looking to retire abroad. Hundreds paid for access to information on everything from buying a home in another country to finding an ex-pat community in dozens of overseas nations.

Stevens said countries are “absolutely” reacting to the trend by recruiting Americans to move to their nations by loosening restrictions on travel and work visas allowing Americans to live abroad for years without renewing the visa, or in some cases, indefinitely.

Becky Gommell traveled to the retire abroad seminar from Marble Falls, Texas. She said she and her husband are planning to leave the country in the next 12 to 24 months.

“As a joke, he had said if President Biden got elected, we’re gone. We’re outta here. And it happened,” Gommell said. “And we’re outta here.”

In fact, politics are pushing Americans on both sides of the aisle to pack their bags. International Living reported a 1000% increase in web traffic after Roe Versus Wade was overturned. Meanwhile, the 2016 election of Donald Trump, George Floyd Protests and the COVID-19 Pandemic all significantly drove up clicks for “Where Can I Live?” a consulting business for people who need help with the logistics of moving to another country.

“Moving abroad for most people is a huge undertaking,” said “Where Can I Live” CEO Alison Johnson from her home in Barcelona, Spain. She said politics and divisiveness aren’t the only factors pushing Americans to leave the US.

“These include cost of living in general, especially at the moment,” Johnson said. “Cost of health care comes up often, safety and security, especially those with smaller kids.”    

At the retire abroad conference in Atlanta, people I spoke with said the moving abroad trend is less about people who are fed up with our country and more about Americans looking for a different life experience.

Then there is the growing number of “digital nomads,” Americans who can work remotely, even internationally, post-pandemic.

“It was more like okay I don’t have to make a lot of money, I don’t have to work as hard,” said Jessica Ramesch, who now calls Panama home.

“I think that there's always a risk when you're running from instead of running to,” Ramesch said. “I think your reasons for going abroad have to be deeper than that.”

Which is why Dewberry and the Strunks traveled to the conference. Dewberry, a recently retired widow. The Strunks, who found love in their 40’s and now want to spend their years together on a beach somewhere that’s *not* in America.

“I think our heart and soul will always be in the United States,” Mr. Strunk said. “We will always be United States citizens. We will be United States citizens wherever we go.”

“It’s a whole world,” added Dewberry. “Let’s explore it.”

The State Department said they don’t offer estimates of how many Americans are currently living abroad because U.S. citizens are not required to register travel to a foreign country. Previous state department estimates put the number at around 9 million, which included active military stationed abroad.

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