My last blog post was 4 months ago. So much has happened since then and I feel confused. Do I write a post summarizing all the important milestones of the last 4 months or do I write different post outlining the steps we have taken and the obstacles we have overcome to get to this point? I wonder who my audience is and the purpose of this blog. I pondered that for awhile in deciding how I would “catch up” on this blog I have ignored. Am I writing to educate, entertain or is this an ego blog; purely for my own self gratification? For purposes of full disclosure, yes, this blog is to stroke my own ego and keep a record of this adventure for the future. I can only HOPE to educate and entertain along the way. So I concluded that I will jump into my wayback machine and make blog post as if I’m sitting in my home in the United States, 4 months ago, prepping for this big day.. And in Mexico, 2 months ago, on the beach enjoying a Margarita…And that long journey from Phoenix to LAX to Miami and then Colombia. Stay tuned
On February 11, 2017, while we were sleeping, our right to travel freely was revoked by the new administration. A new law took effect that allows the Internal Revenue Service to prevent American citizens from traveling abroad if they have a tax liability of $50,000 or more.
“26 USC 7345: Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain tax delinquencies
(a) In general
If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that an individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 32101 of the FAST Act.
(b) Seriously delinquent tax debt
(1) In general
For purposes of this section, the term “seriously delinquent tax debt” means an unpaid, legally enforceable Federal tax liability of an individual-
(A) which has been assessed,
(B) which is greater than $50,000, and
(C) with respect to which-
(i) a notice of lien has been filed pursuant to section 6323 and the administrative rights under section 6320 with respect to such filing have been exhausted or have lapsed, or
(ii) a levy is made pursuant to section 6331.”
A, B and C must occur before the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service may send a certification to the Secretary to revoke or limit your passport. Some exceptions apply, such as:
- You are paying pursuant to an agreement to which you are a party under section 6159 or 7122 of the code, or
- You requested a due process hearing or one is pending. Basically you requested a hearing arguing that you either don’t owe the debt, you don’t owe that amount, or you were never given proper notice, or
- You filed a joint return because you are/were married and you request that you, as a spouse/ex-spouse, be given relief for numerous reasons under section 6015 (b) and (c) of the code.
This new tax law affects U.S. citizens living within the states and abroad. Make sure your tax liability is satisfied or you have a written repayment agreement and that you file your taxes each year. Right now the amount is $50K but that is subject to change. So protect yourself and your family. Stay diligent with your taxes for you and your businesses. If you have not filed your taxes for prior years, now is the time to do so. I’m sure the next revocation law will pertain to student loan debt, so watch out for that as well.
Costa Rica is famous for its fabulous beaches and green pastures. It is a very calm and relaxing country. Plenty of horseback tours, mountain biking, boogie boarding, snorkeling, diving, kayaking or scenic driving.
Groupon is having a one of a kind deal on a trip to Costa Rica from one of these cities:
New York City
The details of this Groupon deal is below:
- Daily breakfast at all hotels
- Guided Rainforest hike in Arenal; surcharge applies for the week of Easter
- Economy automatic car rental for duration of trip
Hotel (7 nights)
- 3 nights of accommodations at Chachagua Rainforest Ecolodge in Alajuela
- 3 nights of accommodations at Hotel Isla Inn in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
- 1 night of accommodations at Park Inn by Radisson San José in San José
All of the above from $729.00 and is based on Double Occupancy.
Click the link below for this amazing deal
Information is from Groupon website. The writer of this blog does not receive a commission on this deal.
To determine what countries we will visit during the first year abroad, we researched flight amounts, visa requirements, safety and housing.
Visa Requirements – All the countries have a strict visa requirement and if they find you in the country without a visa or pass the time you can stay there without a visa, you can be deported or imprisoned. We don’t want to stay in a country with a strict visa requirement during the first year of our time abroad. South America and the Caribbean are just as flexible as the United States and the cost of living is cheaper.
Plane ticket prices – The ticket prices, of course, was the most important factor in deciding where we would spend our first year. It made sense to remain on one continent before moving on to the next but the cost of moving within the continent was more expensive than we anticipated. Of course these prices are speculative. We plugged in some potential travel dates and countries to determine prices. We realized that a flight from Colombia to Brazil, one way, is over 800.00. We had to find out if Brazil is a country that is on the must-see list or if we can pass on it lol. Surprisingly, our list went down by half once we started looking ticket prices.
Safety – Of course safety is an important factor.It took a lot to maneuver the online propaganda and fear. Every country but America is dangerous of course. And only the cities with white skin people are the safest. So we decided to look at claims of kidnapping of Americans, how these kidnappings took place and the warnings issued by the embassies. We looked at violent crimes against tourist and police behavior. More importantly, we spoke with people who lived in these countries to get first hand experiences.
Housing – This category was easy because of airbnb.com and homeaway.com. However, in the Caribbean countries, the cost tripled on these websites. So we looked at deals on resorts. Surprisingly, when we weighed in the cost of food and entertainment, living on the resort was cheaper.
We narrowed our list:
COLOMBIA – First stop. We don’t need a visa if we stay for 90 days or less. Medellin is pretty safe and we found a 6 bedroom house on airbnb.com for 1k a month.
Panama – travel from Colombia to Panama on a plane is 100.00 each or we can take a bus. It is riddled with petty crimes but very little kidnapping claims. Some violence but no more than America. We found a 5 bedroom home on airbnb.com for 950.00 a month. No Visa is required and we can stay for 6 months, but we are only staying for 2.
Costa Rica- beautiful and very safe country. Here we plan to settle into a rural area where we can pluck fruit off the trees. It will be a relaxing 30 days, staying in a 5 bedroom house, with no A/C lol for 750.00 a month. The bus runs only on the weekday and it stops at 4PM. No Visa is required but we will need a Yellow Fever vaccine since we are coming from Panama and Colombia.
Jamaica – no Visa requirement for 6 months. In Jamaica we are staying at a resort for 45 days, may extend to 2 months. The owners of rental homes in Jamaica charge an arm and a leg to rent their homes to travelers. We saw a few plantation style homes for rent lol. Kinda pricey and creepy, not really something I can stay in for that long. Safety in Jamaica is similar to the other countries. Beware of pickpockets, be safe at night, don’t travel alone, etc etc. We are looking forward to exploring the island.
Dominican Republic- a tourist card and a valid passport is required for the Dominican Republic. We are hoping to stay for about 3 months but we are slated for 2 right now. During our last visit to DR we made contact with a developer who purchased and renovated apartments there. We will need two separate units but the price for a 3 bedroom is 650 a month and a 2 bedroom, 550 a month. It is a gated community in Puerto Plata. Puerto Plata is relatively safe. My biggest concern is being mistaken for a Haitian and the prostitution that is legal there (I have sons) but we love DR and want the kids to experience this lovely country.
After the first year, we head to Canada and then Africa!!
Preparing for the big move is tasking. Everyone wants to keep some things that we just can’t lug with us to Colombia, let alone around the world. So I came up with a plan to reduce our belongings down to the bare minimum.
1.Clothing: The family must record the items of clothing they wear in a 14 day period. All items of clothing not worn during that period will be packed up and given to charity. The only exception is socks and undergarments. You can never have too much of those.
2. Entertainment: Without listing all of the things we own, we decided to limit the electronics. to anything that can fit in their carry-on bag and the laptops for school. They need one, maybe two video game consoles (as a family unit) but no physical games. If the game can’t download onto the console, then it must go to family or charity.
3. Books. I have a garage full of books. Books I’ve collected over the last 8 years. It is very difficult to get rid of books, especially now that we are moving to a country where English is not the first language. I tried to sell my books but I teared up with every sell. In order for me to get rid of my books, I had to find a charity that I felt was more important than me and my own selfish need to hoard my books. Most of my books are going to domestic violence shelters in the area and the rest to our local schools. Education and domestic violence are two causes I feel very strongly about.
4. Last but most important, are all of our physical pictures, birthday cards, father and mother day cards, and artwork that we have collected over the years. This was a hard one and it brought back a memory from my childhood. I don’t have many pictures of myself and my brother when we were kids. I’m sure I can count on two hands the amount of childhood photos we possess. My dad moved us around a lot and he carried all of our stuff in a duffel bag. I’m not sure what happened to that duffel bag, whether he sold it for drugs or lost it before he went to prison, but the bag and all of our pictures are gone. Fortunately, we live in a different technological age. So for the next 3 months, we will scan and upload every picture, card, artwork, etc to our cloud and pray that we never lose access to it. It is hard throwing away all of the physical copies but the risk of losing it all is way too great and I’m not willing to take that risk.
All other items are headed to the dumpster or goodwill.
It is painful to leave things behind that took a lifetime to accumulate. Not furnishing or electronics, but little things like the painting our daughter made in high school or the bag of certificates the children got for their grades and attendance over the last 18 years. Or even the coffee maker that finally brews our coffee just right and my first semester law books that I still own.
What we discovered in this process is that the tie to these items are all emotional. And emotions is something you can take with you. I don’t need the books to remember what I felt on the first day of class and my daughter doesn’t need to see her painting to know how far she has come in her talent. We use these items to remind of us of a feeling we had at a certain point in our lives. That feeling is something we can carry with us in our memory. We only hope that this new journey is worth the sacrifices we are making and the people and things we are leaving behind.
As the deadline to renew my passport is drawing near, I researched online if there are any passport concerns I should be aware of. I read that the new passports, as of July 2016, would have chips embedded in the book. However, my children received their passports last month and it looks exactly the same as mine, no chip.
In addition, the pages in the new passports are said to be reduced to 28 stamp-approved pages, rather than the standard 52 pages available in the past. Again, I don’t see this change in the new passports.
A couple of things we had to do differently when we obtained the passports for our adult kids though, included a new birth certificate with a new seal. Their original birth certificates were not accepted. The new birth certificates are smaller and don’t contain the time the children were born. For the passport photos, my children had to remove their glasses and were not allowed to smile.
Tip: You will receive the passports quicker if you pay by money order.
We are waiting for the last three birth certificates so we can order the passports for our 13, 15 and 17 year old children. Although my passport does not expire until the end of 2018, I will renew before sometime in the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted if we encounter any difficulties or changes.
So we found a place to stay in Colombia through airbnb.com. It is a 6 bedroom, 2 bath house for 1000.00 a month, all utilities included.
In doing some research, we asked some expats currently in Colombia about the area and we heard that this area is not the most ideal. It is great having resources(wonderful people) willing to share vital information.
We did some research of our own and found out that this neighborhood was riped with crime during the Escobar era. We also learned that Medellin, Colombia is not as safe as some people promote BUT neither is America or any other country.
We are not moving to Colombia because it is safer or to get a better life. Colombia is just one stop on our tour of the world. And it certainly will not be the most dangerous place we land. We are chasing culture and beauty. We are chasing experience. We are not running from anything! And we are never scared!
The only question I’m asked when I tell people that we are leaving the country is why?Trump? Police? What’s the reason? I understand how important it is for us as people to understand each other, to pick apart the decisions made by others or even to give our personal opinions. I’m never offended by the question or the assumptions. It comes from those that don’t know us well or know our history; its cool. To be honest, any reason I give you will not sufficiently satisfy the scenario you have made up in your own mind. What reason would a black family, majority males, leave the United States on what appears to be a whim? The only legitimate reason is fear. When actually, it is fear that kept us here this long.
The United States is a bubble; a protective bubble to some. A lot of time and money is spent cultivating Americans to believe that this is the greatest country in the world and if we decide to go somewhere else, the opportunities so readily available to us here, will somehow diminish. The United States could very well be the greatest country in the world. It could be the country that provides the most opportunity. It could be the safest place to raise kids. It could be. But we can’t make that determination from within this well crafted bubble.
I grew up in NYC. I grew up believing that if I can’t make it in NY, I couldn’t make it anywhere. That NYC held the greatest opportunity for me to grow and succeed. And yet, NYC was not very good to me. By far the most growth, the greatest opportunity and the most success I’ve had in my adult life occurred here in Arizona. A state that I imagined was filled with hillbilly white people living in trailers, fighting over land owned by Native Americans and dragging Mexican people on the back of pickup trucks. Yes, that whole scenario played out in my head when anyone said the word, Arizona. Even in this new world we live in where information and pictures are readily available, I still had that ignorant vision of this place.
So you can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to this state surrounded by beautiful mountains, at times fresh air and stars that appear so close you can reach out and touch them. That the people here are more diverse in their thoughts and in their religion than in their color. Much more tolerate than in NYC. But the most pleasant surprise was the opportunity to finish school, to open a business and to live in a safe place.
Could I have grown in New York? To be fair, I did leave NYC 8 years ago. Perhaps my growth was just natural, occurred primarily because I got older. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that age is not a factor. I believe that people grow from experiences alone. It just appears that growth comes with age because you experience more, obviously, as you get older. But think about the people that are still stuck in the same place, fearful of leaving their own bubble. Have they grown? Are they succeeding? There are times in your life when you have to move forward. And by forward, I mean on; move on. Granted, we move on more than most and not every move is a great one, but every move affords us the opportunity to have different experiences. In those experiences we fear less and grow more.
So why the move? I want my kids to experience more and fear less.
Why do I want you to stop asking? Don’t spend your time wondering why we are leaving. Spend your time evaluating if fear is the reason why you are staying.
Hello bloggers and readers!!! Today marks the final day of doubts about our decision to move out of the country. All 8 are now completely and without reservations, on board to become expats with the family’s decision to leave the United States. We’ve spent months sorting through visa requirements, expat blogs, social media pages, crime, police killing stats and real estate websites (I’ll get to that another day). Today, we rest. We have decided on a destination for our 5 kids and my mother. The next place for our black family to call home; a carefree home.
This is my first time blogging but I decided to call it documenting. Documenting in a public diary, my thoughts and the steps taken to make this drastic move out of America. It is not in my plan to write the why. I’m sure you can make a few educated guesses, but I will explain the how in the hopes that others will follow. I plan to vlog or video blog and post hundreds of pictures and links. I hope to entertain and motivate; to educate. More importantly, I hope to accomplish a carefree life for our family and to inspire others to hope for the same. First I really want to thank our inspirations, Young Black Expats (http://www.youngblackexpats.com/) for being trailblazers. You guys are wonderful.
Now a true introduction…
We are an African American family of 8 planning our move out of the county, future expats. Our family consist of me, of course. I’m a wife and mother currently moving my law practice from a brick and mortar to completely online. My husband is a producer and publisher of comic books/graphic novels and is now developing online games http://www.openworldcomics.com/ His comic books are distributed through Diamond and he recently completed a successful kickstarter for the upcoming video game ‘Versus’ https://www.facebook.com/versusfightinggame/. My mother is joining us on our journey. She is recently retired and is currently working on her youtube channel providing tips and tricks for healthy living over the age of 55. Stay tuned for that!
Our oldest daughter is studying Biology at ASU with plans to work remotely as a patent illustrator. Our son is studying Communications at Estrella and has an online wrestling blog, http://radilewisjr.blogspot.com/, where he rates and reviews wrestling matches. Our 17 year old is developing an online trivia game focusing on gamers and a youtube channel. Our 15 year old artist is developing an online comic strip. And finally our 13 years old is working on a youtube channel to showcase his music. I almost forgot our german shepherd, Buddy, who plans to become the loudest barking dog in Colombia!!
Follow us all as we take the necessary steps to travel the world beginning the Summer of 2017. Our first stop, Colombia!!!