Guide to Leaving America (Book Review)
"Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America". By Mark Ehrman. Process Press, c2006, 336 pages, #0976082276, $18 (This is, technically, volume 2 in the "Process Self-Reliance Series" of books; volume 1 is, "Preparedness Now! - An Emergency Survival Guide for Civilians and Their Families").
This is one of nearly a dozen generalist books in this very specialized topic, most of which have appeared in the last 6 years. Such books are "general" in the sense that they do not dissect or, far more likely, promote a single destination country (like say the new Moon Handbooks series, which does include books devoted specifically to Central American destinations, including Nicaragua and Costa Rica). They are specialized in that they are directed not towards travelers or backpackers, per se, but towards people looking to relocate, usually permanently.
Unlike many of these recent works, this book by Ehrman is fairly substantial (well over 300 pages, not the equivalent of a few magazine articles milked into a short book), it does not utilize a giant font size (you can't read it from two meters away), no weird "artistic" layout (though some sections are nearly double-space, you wont find the ever-common 1.8" margins used), nor does it devote huge sections to everyday sorts of information (no 13-page chart on converting Fahrenheit to Celsius, and meters to yards, etc.). That said, the last nearly 20-pages of the work is devoted to "Web Resources" - many of which anyone could locate rather quickly on the internet.
The book covers the reasons leading so many people to leave (the author claims 300,000+ each year). And, it does a reasonably good job pointing out that there is not any one thing that is generating these numbers, even though there are a half-dozen or so core groups that make up the vast majority of ex-pats. Although each section has very specific entries (ranging from "Dual Citizenship", to "Health Care - How Free and How Good?", to "The IRS and You" (this is mentioned to show the target audience is the U.S., not North America or the Americas in general; this book, like most such books, points out that Canada is and has been a premier destination for U.S. expats, all the while when there are so many Canadians in turn becoming expats outside North America - something none of these authors question or really investigate), the sections are fairly broad in scope and are as follows: Why Did You Leave? (case studies); Great Moments of American Expatriatism; Ways to Leave; Getting In (visas, etc.); Foreign Citizenship?; Work, study or Slack?; Choosing a Country; The Top 50 Expat Meccas; Doing It (what is involved, where to turn, etc.); Web Resources. The official website includes a .pdf of the full table of contents, and also a few excerpts: http://www.processmediainc.com/press/mini_sites/getting_out/
Most books like this share similar traits: they assume you know little or nothing regarding the subject matter; they introduce you to places so diverse 90+% of them would probably not be on any one person's short-list (or even long list) of possible destinations; they are rather vague on most plans, conclusions and assessments; they often rank / compare places without providing a suitable account of their methodology or even a footnote indicating the source; etc.
These similarities are, or at least can be, particularly frustrating. The introduction is entitled, "Had Enough?" - and this is appropriately titled, given that most people who leave are seeking major changes (political, environmental, health, lifestyle, cost-of-living, etc.), and they do not expect to see them come any time soon. Though this book is not hugely different from some competing works, and as "basic" as it is, it does do a better job of catering to those people who are not simply looking for cheap real estate. When he profiles a country (way, way too briefly) he includes the expected entries on taxation and life expectancy, etc., but also the current legal status of abortion, homosexuality, and -perhaps surprisingly- the legality of cannabis. Nevertheless, there are some odd inclusions, and the list of countries (p.115) with a McDonald's easily could have been left out without detracting from the work as a whole.
This book has generally received very good reviews, perhaps especially from online buyers. I admit that even though I have lived in a half-dozen countries, before reading it cover-to-cover, I still found it interesting to casually flip through the sections and countries. That said, I was doing this without ever really considering a move to Vanuatu, Saudi Arabia, Israel, St. Kitts, etc., etc. etc. I find it hard to imagine there are countless people really looking to move abroad while never having ever been anywhere outside the U.S., and not knowing anyone who has, and having no special preference for where they might end up. Once you have even a slight preference for a region or culture or country, this book ceases to be of much value. If I did not have internet access, I suspect the book might seem like a godsend, but with www-access it is much harder to explain the over-the-top favorable reviews for works like this - and they are plentiful. A book like this is not "inside information" on possible destinations but, at best, a decent collection and presentation of public information (less you count the case studies). While it is surely not a waste of money, it is, at best, just a very basic starting point. In the end, the book is not really a guide to leaving America, as much as it is a $15 item likely to peek people's curiosity regarding doing so. If you are looking at a few countries or a region and have located a site (like nicaliving) or a message or chat board with a similar goal, you are already, easily, beyond books like this.