While this is a story of two people on their own adventure, it’s important to realize that we had some strong reasons for leaving the U.S. Although as upper middle-class, educated white people, life was pretty comfortable for us and we probably could have survived the Trump administration, we were painfully aware that this wasn’t so for many others. Life for many of our brothers and sisters was becoming more and more fearful with every day that passed under Trump.
Hate crimes and terror attacks within our borders were up, while a fast-moving and seemingly deliberate war by the Federal government against its citizens was in full force. The EPA (under a corrupt politician with ties to the very companies he was supposed to police) dismantled regulations ranging from protecting open lands from harmful exploitation to rules preserving safe drinking water and clean air at a dizzying speed. The Justice department (under an appallingly racist former senator) vilified immigrants and imprisoned or/and deported them, ripping families apart and in some cases removing people from the one country they had known for most of their lives. Under a corrupt GOP-controlled Congress, affordable healthcare and social programs were gutted in favor of large tax breaks to corporations and wealthy investors.
People of color were openly attacked and the President encouraged it through his complicity. Cops were called on African-Americans for infractions ranging from falling asleep in the common room of the dorm they lived in, leaving an AirBnB rental without waving to the neighbors, having a picnic in the park, waiting for friends in a Starbucks… the list goes on and on. And while having the police called for such trivial things seems like a slight annoyance – after all none of these folks were doing anything wrong or illegal – each of these seeming innocent mistakes had the potential to escalate into a fatality. Cops were shooting and killing African-Americans for equally minor infractions – like talking on a cellphone or performing their job as a caretaker for a developmentally-disabled person. At the same time, white terrorism was on the rise – mass shootings in schools and events (almost always by a white male) happened almost on a daily basis.
It felt to us like the U.S. had somehow lost its collective mind and become the sum of its worst parts: the white male “incels” who idolized mass murderers and spawned several homegrown terrorists; the racists and xenophobes who felt empowered by their equally racist and xenophobic president; the conspiracy-theorists who wanted the government to fail and the evangelicals who waged open war against science, women, education and all things that threatened their vision of a perfect world ruled by white evangelical Christian men. Somehow the country, which had been seen as the top world power less than two short years ago was now viewed as a rogue nation on par with third world dictatorships like the Philippines. Our reputation as a country to be trusted and looked up to as a role model for our democracy and humanitarian policies – something which had taken two centuries to cultivate – had all but disappeared.
In short, the U.S. was quickly becoming a hateful, ugly place to live.
My Darling and I continued to thrive in our little bubble of comfort, grateful for our good fortune, but painfully aware that it could burst at any second and drop us into the seething pit of poverty that imprisoned so many people. I got a raise at work and we paid off our credit cards and socked away the extra money towards a new car. We started making small steps towards our goal – we downsized from two desks and two computers to one, we started going through stuff and discarding what we knew we wouldn’t need. I started practicing drawing to prepare for the days when I’d illustrate my travel blog and Mark and I started studying Spanish. All the while we waited and prayed that the country wouldn’t completely sink into an abyss and that Mexico wouldn’t close their borders to us when the time came to leave.
As Tom Petty says, waiting is indeed the hardest part. Spring came finally to the Pacific Northwest, but I couldn’t find the inspiration for my garden this year. I lacked the motivation to work on the yard, plant vegetables or do much of anything. At work it was hard to stay motivated on projects – all I wanted to do was leave. I asked for more challenging assignments, under the guise of learning more so I could be converted to full-time status (which I really didn’t want), but in my heart apathy was growing stronger every day. I felt less any less connected to the people and things that kept us here in Portland, yearning more and more for far off places and envying those who were already on their own life adventures.
Time seemed to drag slower and slower every day, but at the same time it moved at a dizzying pace. We were now already past the middle of May and Memorial Day – the official start of summer – was just around the corner. In my heart I knew this would be the last summer in our lovely house with the beautiful garden my Darling had worked so hard to create for me. We would have to let it go, as well as say goodbye to furred, finned and feathered family members who couldn’t make the trip with us. There would be fear, anxiety and probably some tears before we were done. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it was getting brighter as it got closer. Next year, with any luck, our new life would have begun and we’d be spending Memorial Day weekend sitting on a beach somewhere around La Paz.