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The Answer May Be To Get New Friends

A friend sent me this map this week:

Unfortunately, looking at this, I had to admit, this representation is not far from how most Americans view the rest of the world. Only about 30% of Americans have passports…and 50% of those use their passports only for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Obviously, you have a different view of the world or you wouldn’t have signed up for this e-letter. But maybe your friends don’t share your perspective…and maybe their response to your interest in living, traveling, investing, and retiring to another country ranges from shock to dismay, even paranoia.

My advice is to get new friends.

If you decide to try to debate the issues with current associates who just don’t get it, here are a few talking points…

First, you can’t believe everything you see on CNN, FOX, or any of the rest of the mainstream media. These guys need to fill endless hours of broadcast time, and their preferred coverage is of anything sensational and scary. But short-term news doesn’t equate to long-term living. Bad things happen everywhere, including in the United States. The rest of the world does not have the monopoly on violence and crime.

Second, you’ve got to take the U.S. State Department’s country alerts and warnings with a grain of salt. Their main objective is to cover their backsides. They issue a “Don’t Travel” warning whenever they smell the tiniest whiff of a problem somewhere.

An American writing off an entire country because of a State Department report or a CNN news story is like someone from Europe saying he isn’t going to Key West for vacation because of CNN coverage of a gangland shooting in South Central Los Angeles.

Third, the entire rest of the world doesn’t hate Americans. Many don’t care for our politicians, but neither do I. Thinking people around the world understand that U.S. politicians are but a subset of Americans and not any reflection on the rest of us.

The reverse is also true. I’d say Hugo Chavez is off his rocker, but I’ve spent time in Venezuela and I’d also say that most Venezuelans are just trying to make a life for themselves and their families…just like most Americans.

The only way to know what it’s like to spend time in a place is to spend time there. You aren’t going to understand the world beyond your back yard by watching cable news or surfing Google Earth.

Suggest your friends take a trip with you (even if it means walking them through the process of getting a passport) to check out one of your top three choices for retirement. Even if they are absolutely closed-minded about the idea now, they may, if they’re able to relax even a little, have some change of heart after experiencing a place for themselves.

A friend living in Paris tried for years to get his mother to visit him, but she refused to make the trip. She hated the French, mostly because she was convinced the French hated Americans. Eventually, her grandchildren’s pleas got the better of her. After a two-week visit, she relented. On her way to Charles de Gaulle for her trip home, she finally admitted that, in fact, she’d enjoyed Paris. The city was pretty and the people were nice.

In fact, that sums up a great deal of this world of ours. Go see for yourself.

Lief Simon

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