The American Dream (abroad)

When the dream of owning your own home turns into foreclosure…

When the dream of hard work paying off in leisure time and fun activities…

When the dream of a harmonious relationship fades into divorce…

It’s time to concede that the American dream is something only achieved outside of America.

After my first marriage fell victim to financial stress following the recession of the mid-2000s, I found myself struggling to keep the power on and my car in my driveway. I’m not ashamed to say my new husband and I spent a weekend cleaning out the garage so we could fit both cars in at once. That way, the repo man couldn’t just take off with a vehicle in the night.

Every time there was a power outage (frequent in Florida, land of lightning), I had to quickly review my bank account to be sure I had paid the bill. Due to my ex-husband’s clever use of an old, low-paying job on the financial statements for child support, I was raising two teenagers on a whopping $250 a month. My new marriage, complete with a new baby, was already showing the strain of constant bill collectors’ calls and late notices in the mail. It was time for a drastic change.

Enter teaching abroad. I had heard of the concept, but thought, “surely, there’s no way other countries pay teachers more than America.” Boy, was I wrong. A quick scan of expat teaching blogs and recruitment sites opened up the floodgates. After completing an online application, things moved quickly. Less than a month later, I was flying to New York City for an interview, and received a job offer. Almost two years later, I’m still in the Middle East, and still loving it.

What’s different? No utility bills (included in the rent, also paid for by my employer), no taxes on income or goods, an SUV paid for monthly automatically from my bank account, free healthcare, and generally lower cost of living in terms of food, gas and everyday needs. We have traveled to Europe and Nepal in the past year, in addition to trips back to the US for summer and Christmas. My husband stays home with our toddler and is about to finish his bachelor’s degree. We don’t stress. I think the only fight we have had was about what was for dinner.

We are slowly paying off our debts back home, and my husband will start looking for a job here in our new home. When I think back to where we were two years ago, and then look around at my new life, where I am free to enjoy time with my family and explore new places, I am so very grateful that other countries (often labeled as less free than America) have given me the freedom that the United States of America could never give.

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