As I inch ever closer to my departure date, leaving China and everything I've built up behind, I focus more and more on where I'd like to end up. Well, not specifically where, but trying to find a place with all desired qualities a vagabond could want.
· Lots of travel options with interesing destinations.
· No restrictions on traveling or lodging while doing so.
· A means to support myself while there.
· Relatively low cost of living.
· A degree of physical safety.
A lot of countries in the Middle East are out of the running. As an unattached (as in: no accompanying male) Caucasian female, my moves and activities might be severely curtailed. Also, my physical safety could be compromised, if news reports are to be believed.
I am open to other countries in Asia, but I have to consider my health. My finicky stomach might find it difficult to adapt to local foods, so I am inclined to seek locations that have a Metro store, where I can buy foods that work well with my body. According to the Metro website, that leaves only India, Japan and Vietnam as options.
Certain countries in South America sound appealing, like Ecuador – which boasts a large expat population and is in Eastern Standard time zone; or Uruguay, the most progressive of South American countries, but there are few travel options, and no trains.
How can one vagabond around with no trains?
Africa: while some countries on the west coast sound appealing, I worry about food and physical safety. I would want to stay away from central and eastern countries as they are in political turmoil and scored with violence. South Africa might have been a suitable destination a year ago; since then it has become politically unstable.
Western Europe fits the bill well: lots of trains and plenty of enticing destinations, suitable diet, generally safe. I can find work there, but the cost of living tends to be high. Still, I think I could manage it. If only...
I am finding a disturbing global trend: a reversion to nationalism with a populist undertone.
Since the Brexit vote last year, and emphasized by Mr. Trump's 'America first!' rallying cry, more and more countries are turning away from openness and inter-nations cooperation. Far right politics are coming to the forefront: France's Marine LePen stands strong in the polls, poised to lead her country into a shuttering of global policy. She espouses a 'France First!' doctrine.
Germany is also seeing a move toward nationalism. Angela Merkel is under heavy fire from other political parties within her country (and from America) for having thrown the doors open to Syrian refugees at the height of the crisis. Her opponents maintain that refugees taking more and more social welfare takes away from German citizens who have paid into that system and are rightly entitled to benefits.
The emerging sentiment on that continent is that the European Union is undervaluing individual nations' solidarity.
Even Europe's more open, progressive countries are starting to close their borders. Friendly Denmark's immigrants are currently suffering race-motivated attacks from natural born citizens. Sweden is pondering their citizenship policies in an attempt to cull out undesirables who might want to settle there. And Britain, who led the nationalist ticket with Brexit – are deporting more people faster. Meanwhile, hate crimes are on the rise all over the place.
What does all of this mean for this vagabond, who is, at heart, a global citizen? Who fervently wishes there were an actual status, a document, a law, a passport, proclaiming her as such?
What is happening in the world is a total reversal of everything civilization and politics stands for. Think about it: as children, weren't we taught to share and share alike? Isn't that something we, in turn, teach our children? And how does this philosophy play out on the world stage? All around the globe we're seeing (figurative) doors closing on the sharing mentality. What is the point of global politics if each nation is only out for itself?
Should we amend the lesson we teach our children to: “Share only with your own kind.”?
The news reports are scary. Passengers flying into America from overseas can be interrogated and/or detained, if not barred from entry altogether. What will that mean for me, with 7 years of Chinese visas in my passport? Will I also be interrogated? And what about having to hand over my phone and give up social media passwords, as reported by the latest news?
A year from now, will my American passport be accepted in other countries who are embracing nationalist views? Will they want or welcome me? Will they permit me to work? To travel?
“My country first!” just might be the death knell of the vagabond life.