Seat 2B By Joe Brancatelli
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How to Plan an Election Exit
August 4, 2016 -- Admit it: You're thinking of leaving the country if your candidate doesn't win the presidency in November. And this time, you're telling anyone who'll listen, you're serious. You're outta here if your choice doesn't romp to victory.
I normally don't pay attention to my-way-or-the-highway political petulance even though is harkens all the way back to the Founding Fathers. As you will recall — from history class if not Broadway's "Hamilton" — Aaron Burr hit the bricks for the Louisiana Territory after Thomas Jefferson dumped him as vice president.
But I've suspended my normal skepticism because this year feels different somehow. Lots of folks seem unalterably opposed to living under a President Clinton or a President Trump. And if anyone is capable of pulling up stakes and moving on, it is business travelers. We know the system and we probably have enough miles and points in our frequency programs to sulk somewhere for free during the next four years.
The question, of course, is where to go? Unless you harbor fantasies of being the 21st century's Paul Gauguin, you'll need a more practical escape than French Polynesia. So here are some thoughts. And if you do leave the country after November 8, send me a postcard. Let me know how you're doing.
Oh? Canada? Makes Sense.
My personal escape plan is Vancouver, British Columbia. Great food, nice weather, sophisticated town. Since I've lived in expensive New York for most of my life, Vancouver's reputation as North America's priciest city doesn't scare me. And whenever I'd need a fix of home, I could fly premium economy on Cathay Pacific's secret flight between Vancouver and New York.
If Vancouver doesn't float your boat, pretty much anywhere in Canada could fill the expat bill. Cape Breton made a pitch for disillusioned Democrats earlier this year and the site became a worldwide sensation. Should that be too isolated a part of Nova Scotia for you, try Halifax. Its airport even has international flights and service to winter "sun" destinations.
However, Canada's obvious advantages as a refuge — proximity, common language, good U.S. relations and weak currency compared to the greenback — might be offset if you're convinced a Clinton presidency would destroy the Second Amendment. The country has very strict gun laws.
Everything works, but shut up
If you're committed to getting as far away from America as possible after your candidate loses, Singapore fills the bill. There's just one nonstop route from the United States and that recently launched run from San Francisco is the third-longest nonstop in the world.
Everything works — and works well — in Singapore, the ultra-modern city-state whose rise is the stuff of geopolitical legend. It always scores well in expat surveys and finished first overall in an report compiled by HSBC. It's hard to find anything negative to say about Singapore's physical or economic infrastructure. Better yet, English is one of city's official languages and education standards are quite high. And business travelers relocating here can boast of flying from Changi, universally and consistently ranked the best airport in the world.
The downside? Singapore is a repressive state — albeit one that mostly uses a gloved fist. If you know what's good for you, you shut up — and you stay away if your life choices are anything other than traditional.
South of the Border down Ecuador way
Mexico is favored by many American expats, of course, but there might be that pesky wall come 2017. A better alternative? Ecuador, crowned the best place for runaways in the recent Expat Insider Survey. (Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange seems to be living a cushy enough life inside Ecuador's Embassy in London.)
More than half the expats in the South American nation are U.S. citizens. The economy isn't especially robust, but the vast majority of transients who live here say the cost of living is great and their personal finances are great. There's a plethora of leisure options, the living is easy and the locals are famously welcoming. Best of all? The U.S. dollar became the official currency of Ecuador 16 years ago.
The downside? The infrastructure is iffy, it's dusty and buggy and you will, finally, have to learn Spanish.
Islands in the stream
The lands down under — Australia and New Zealand — always rank high among American dissenters. Locals speak English, the countries share our British colonial heritage and there are charming cities and pristine wildernesses in which to settle. The U.S. dollar is strong and, despite the distance, there's an expanding roster of nonstop flights back home in case you have expat's remorse.
Lots of folks are talking about islands such as Taiwan and Malta, too. Taiwan is energetic and in the financial orbit of "Greater China," the second largest economy in the world. Malta is actively courting expats, stressing its proximity to mainland Europe and its EU membership.
Go back where you came from
Ultimately, though, if you're thinking of skipping out on America after the election goes against you, why not go back where you came from? Or, more accurately, go back where you ancestors came from.
Robert McGarvey just published a terrific story about how descendants of Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants can claim citizenship in those countries. If you have at least one grandparent born anywhere in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, for example, less than $500 will get you Irish citizenship. It's not as easy or linear for descendants of Poles or Italians, but it can be done if you give it time and plow through the paperwork. I know I've looked at getting Italian citizenship, not because I plan on leaving, but because I wouldn't mind having a second passport.
Other nations where your ancestors may have left — Britain, India, Germany, China, Mexico — have wildly different rules about citizenship for returning descendants. But check out your options. If you're leaving the land of the free and home of the brave after November, you might as well go somewhere your people have been before.