FEATURE ARTICLE

But Where Will We Go?!

But Where Will We Go?!
 
Jonathan Lockwood 
Date: 0000-00-00
Subject: Mexico

First, at age 38, I woke up. I came to see that I’d been born into the third generation of a now four generation family that had been completely buffaloed by an apocalyptic religious cult. 

Things were not what they seemed.

Second, a few years later, I woke up again. I came to believe that the United States of America wasn’t necessarily the Land of the Free, like I sorta thought it was.

Things again were not what they seemed.

Third, I decided to go.

The religion I was born into was that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this group, the accumulated writings and teachings are referred to as “The Truth,” and you call it The Truth constantly…

“How long have you been in The Truth?”

“How many people have you helped bring into The Truth?”

“Aren’t we just so GLAD we have The Truth!”

The Truth, The Truth, The Truth… I must have heard and used that term a hundred thousand times in my 38 years of believing it was The Truth. If you asked me back then why I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’d have shrugged and said, “Because it’s The Truth!” Big surprise, huh?

Similarly, I think most Americans really do believe they live, more or less, in The Land of the Free, The Greatest Country in the World, The Nation Where Government Cares More. With all due respect to some of the great things accomplished in the USA and to those who did think they were giving their lives for freedom, I no longer see things this way. I don’t care how many dramatic songs are sung or how many noble stories are told, because I already learned how group-think, propaganda and self-deception work from my previous experience with that religion.

The next time an active Jehovah’s Witness is open to speaking with me about his or her doubts, I will have a sheet of paper in a sealed envelope ready to go. On that paper I will have written the words they are certain to ask:

“BUT WHERE WILL WE GO?!”

You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not just told their religion is the only correct one; they’re also taught that God has always worked through a specific, organized group of human beings on earth who have the answers. So if JWs don’t represent The Truth, they think, what does?!

I’ve come to see a similar tendency among those who ask me why I’m leaving the US. They’ll ask, “Well if you don’t think the US is the best place to be, WHERE WILL WE GO?!” It’s a good question; I asked it myself. I’m still asking it. But for me the right answer lies in accepting what I did about my former religion.

I no longer identify as a Christian, although I very much respect my Christian friends’ beliefs. But I’d caution anyone from a commitment to the idea that an organized group of people holds the answers. It will eventually disappoint you. I’ve found former JWs who’ve moved in a great variety of directions, any of them usually much more healthy than a high-control religious group. The trick is not moving from one group’s ideology to another group’s, but instead in learning to settle upon your own ideology, even if it’s just a simple one. This can be hard to do. For instance, because I was living by loads of rules, principles and doctrines that others had given me, I figured out I didn’t have many solid beliefs that were truly my own.

The idea that I held my own beliefs on morality and had the freedom to do as I chose within this religion…was an illusion. I’m 47 years old, and it’s really only been in the last several years that I’ve come out of this hypnosis. I’ve come to see I have the right and usually the ability to make my own decisions.

But when it came to leaving a dictatorial religion, I didn’t have to decide where I was going before I decided I needed to go. Would I find another organization that claimed they were the “sole channel of communication from God?” Would I go mainstream? Would I become an atheist? Those questions worked themselves out later. All I knew is it was time to split.
 

It could be that you don’t have a notion to leave the States; that you feel confident you can ride out the coming crash. I envy you. It also could be that the idea of leaving really burns within, but that you have so many questions about where to go and how to do it that it paralyzes you and you do nothing. It could even be that you have an attachment to this country that turns out to be a kind of illusion too.

To me, the trick again is not believing there’s going to be another “Land of the Free” somewhere that’s just perfect. Nor is there necessarily a particular guy or group who has all the answers. But there are LOTS of great people who’ve done a pretty great job of pulling together LOTS of information on this, and it won’t take you long to find it from the comfort of your computer station.

When it came to religion, I first started moving in the direction of bare bones Christianity. Met lots of beautiful people at that time. From there I discovered certain philosophies which some call New Age. That was cool. Now? I’m agnostic. I don’t know, I’m okay with not knowing, I don’t think anyone else knows…but then again I don’t know!
 

When it comes to relocating, my first choice has been Chile. Perfect? No. In fact, while I sort out certain questions I have, I’ve decided to skedaddle first to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Is Mexico ultimately the best place to be? I don’t really think so, but this city does have some very nice things going for it, and it’s a great option for me right now. And over the course of the next year I’ll be keeping my eye on Chile and staying open to other options too.

So what are the options? Let’s rattle ‘em off…

In Asia there are lots of great places to live. If you’re rich, you can afford to go to Singapore or Hong Kong. If you’re not, there’s Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan. Many people I respect believe Asia is where the future lies. Lots of opportunities to start businesses and live inexpensively.

Australia and especially New Zealand are great places for Americans to expatriate. They speak English and, despite what you hear, there’s a fair amount of freedom there.

Central America? Lots of people love living there. There’s Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica. It’s warm, inexpensive to live and there are apparently lots of pretty girls.

South America is exciting to me. I hear quite a few people talking about Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Argentina would be great if their currency didn’t collapse every ten years or so. Uruguay is lovely, although friends tell me it’s not always welcoming to outsiders. Paraguay usually has no income tax; that’s nice! But it’s hot and humid as hell, and a friend of mind (try as he might) made it about 2 months there before packing up and heading back to Chile.

Yes, Chile. I was there for three weeks earlier this year, and that’s my hot pick right now. Santiago is a wonderful, safe city, and things just seem to work there. The police are surprisingly uncorrupt, the government welcomes business-minded Americans, you can incorporate within 24 hours over the internet and central Chile will remind you very much of southern and central California, with vineyards, mountains and beautiful valleys everywhere.

So why am I moving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico? One, it’s a close and easy jumping off point for me. Two, although there are very dangerous parts of Mexico, San Miguel is in an area that comes nowhere near the paths of the drug cartels and is statistically much safer than most major US cities.
 

Three, it’s cool! As one of the original US expat towns in Mexico, it’s crawling with Americans and Canadians; almost 20% of the population. As a result there are lots of cool bars, restaurants, clubs, stores, museums, etc. As one of the earliest Spanish colonial cities, it has a rich history, plenty of artists & musicians and marvelous architecture. It feels like you’re walking through Europe, with narrow, cobble-stoned streets and sidewalks. Although it’s a walking city, there are nice, modern taxis everywhere. It’s about 2 bucks to go anywhere in town during the day; about 3 bucks at night. Told you it was cool!
 

Four, cost of living. San Miguel de Allende is a little more expensive than living in some Mexican cities, but quite a bit less than where I live in Arizona. A friend who’s lived there for 12 years has determined that the average American will easily reduce his living expenses by one third. If you eat out a lot, maybe more. If you want to eat simply, you’ll just spend a few dollars, but a magnificent steak dinner with a glass of wine can be $10 to $17, instead of the $30 to $50 you’ll spend in the US.

Five, weather. For me this was a biggie. If I were looking purely for opportunity, I’d go to Asia. But I simply cannot take very humid, hot weather. In San Miguel de Allende, there is no month in which the average high temperature is less than 73"nor higher than 84 degrees. At night it’s usually in the mid to high 50s, although it will dip down into the 40s during the colder season. It’s high desert, so although it’s not quite as dry as Arizona, it’s also not as hot, and the slightly higher humidity is just fine at those temperatures.

So there you go.

Are you taking a risk leaving the United States? I’d have to say, “yes.” But are you taking a risk staying in the United States? Again, “yes.”

When I left the religion, unfortunately my entire family and community of friends I’d known till age 38 were pressured to shun me as an “apostate.” So, other than my beautiful daughter who sees things my way now, I don’t see or talk to my family anymore. A lot of people are shocked at that. I get it: it’s incredibly jacked up. But let me tell you, friend…it’s the best and most important thing that has EVER happened to me! It’s freed me in so many ways.

Some people who, like me, wake up about our former religion choose to stay in it. It’s too hard to rock the boat, they don’t want to lose their families and just can’t imagine those ramifications. I don’t blame them one bit.

Further, if leaving the US is not something that makes sense to you, or is simply too hard, I consider that completely understandable. But…if you’re staying ONLY because you’re paralyzed by all the questions about Where and How, it could be that you need to first explore the reasons why you want to leave, determine how important it is to you, then do the research! It really isn’t very hard. Although there’s plenty of stuff to read and people to consult, you may have to shake the idea that somewhere else  there’s a “United States 2.0,” or that someone else is in a better position to make this decision for you.

Then, once you’ve made that decision, found the right options for you and weighed everything…find some peace in the fact that you are the right persons"the only persons"who can make the right choice for you. No one else.

You’ve got this.

Jonathan Lockwood on the Declare Your Independence with Ernest Hancock radio show (Hour 3): http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Media/141050-2013-09-04-09-04-13-jonathan-jaech-jonathan-lockwood-mp3-loaded.htm

Jonathan Lockwood is a professional voice talent by trade, and moving to Mexico by choice. Visit his webpage at JonathanLockwood.Com.