by Mariette Williams
More Black moms are raising their children outside of the United States. “Growing up in another culture is a way for children to build character, learn humility, and learn first hand about other languages and cultures. Moving has helped both moms show their children that the world is much bigger than America.”
Tiana Da Silva never had a passport before she decided to move with her 12-year-old daughter to the Dominican Republic. She took a job with an American based company in 2012, and in the last eight years, she said that moving from the U.S. dramatically changed her life.
“Moving gives kids the opportunity to see that there are places where Black people are loved and treated kindly and are not always the target of violence and negativity. It also allows them to see just how diverse the world is and that there are also Black people in other countries.”
Da Silva said, “After I moved, my mental and emotional health improved tremendously. Physically, my asthma, allergies, and migraines disappeared. My family is also eating more produce and drinking more water. The food is fresher and more affordable. We also live in a tropical climate, which makes us much more conscious of what our bodies need.”
Da Silva is not alone in wanting to raise her child outside of the U.S. Although it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, in 2016 the State Department estimated that nearly nine million Americans were living and working outside of the United States. That number may continue to increase as Americans look for ways to lower their cost of living and raise their quality of life.
Kimberly Miles runs the blog Travel Unapologetically, and in 2018 she moved with her six-year-old son to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She wanted to move so she and her son could be immersed in a different language and culture.
As a single mom, living in Mexico has proven to be financially beneficial and has helped her to escape the high-pressure environment of living and working in America.
Miles said, “Both my mental and physical health has improved for the better. I have good days and bad days, but I don’t feel as stressed out or pressured as I did back in the U.S.
Things are much more relaxed here, so I don’t feel like I’m constantly stuck in the rat race, trying to live up to someone’s needs or expectations. It feels as though a burden has been lifted.”
For both moms, they said it’s important for their children to expand their world view.
Growing up in another culture is a way for children to build character, learn humility, and learn first hand about other languages and cultures. Moving has helped both moms show their children that the world is much bigger than America.
Miles said, “Moving gives kids the opportunity to see that there are places where Black people are loved and treated kindly and are not always the target of violence and negativity. It also allows them to see just how diverse the world is and that there are also Black people in other countries.”
But moving overseas is not always smooth sailing. For both moms, there were many challenges that they had to overcome.
Da Silva said, “We had to adjust to the lack of everyday conveniences and luxuries that we take for granted in the US like fast food and 24-hour shopping.”
Beyond missing creature comforts, these moms would advise any parents wanting to move outside of the US to do their due diligence before taking this big step.
Da Silva said, “Do the research of the place you want to move. Make sure it complements who you are. Vacation in different areas and use Airbnb type accommodations. Secure finances and employment first. And purchasing health insurance is a must.”
Another important tip is to use online groups to start planning for a move. There are several expat or nomad mom groups online that can answer questions and make the move a little less daunting. Along with securing employment, there are other practical things that need to be considered.
“…in the last eight years, …moving from the U.S. dramatically changed her life.”
Da Silva said, “Less is more. Rent a furnished house and only take necessities. Start with signing a six-month lease because paradise isn’t always found on the first-go-around. No matter how much you research, you may not like where you are.”
Both moms encourage anyone thinking about moving to learn the language or at least have a basic understanding of the language before moving. Beyond facing a language barrier, other challenges include being alone in a new country.
Miles said, “For us, being away from family has been the most difficult. While we have built our circle of friends where we live, it’s hard not being a short drive away from our loved ones. Also, depending on where you move, you may be the only Black person that you see for sometimes days at a time.”
While moving does not have to be forever, both moms said they have no immediate plans to move back to the United States, but they are open to moving back depending on the needs of their children.
Da Silva said, “Right now, the plan is for my daughter to graduate high school from the Dominican Republic. She attends an accredited international private school, and she thrives in the creative setting with small class sizes.”
Moving out of the U.S. requires a complete shift in thinking, but with patience and planning, many Black families have been able to establish a life outside of the U.S.
Miles said, “There used to be a time when I thought moving abroad was impossible as a single mom until I met other moms who were doing it and had done it for years. All it took was knowing the right people with the right information and an idea of where I wanted to begin our journey. Now here we are — two years-in and thriving!”
15 STEPS TO MOVE ABROAD
- Make the decision to do it! Then tell your family so they aren’t surprised and that action somewhat seals your commitment.
- Involve your children in the planning process of moving abroad. Make it into an adventure.
- Get rid of as much debt before you go so that you can start fresh.
- Spend a few months in your desired location before making your final decision.
- Research the cultural differences that may affect your family’s life.
- If you’re a single parent or moving as a blended family, be sure to get consent from the other parent to avoid any legalities.
- Decide if you will be working remotely or start looking for work in the country you want to move to right away.
- Figure out the logistics of moving. Join support groups of others who have done it. You will find tips like don’t use cardboard boxes to move to warm climates because of bugs that are attracted to the corrugated paper. You will need to know about, health insurance, bank accounts, and your driver’s license.
- Start purging stuff you don’t need by having garage sales and selling items online that you don’t want to take with you.
- Research if you will need a visa and if you will become a resident or not.
- Decide if you will homeschool or send your child to an international school. If you won’t homeschool, know the school terms and enrollment processes.
- Plan the logistics of moving and prepare for how long it will take your stuff to get there. When we were relocating to the Bahamas, our furniture and boxes were to arrive on a barge and would take a while to reach us.
- Know about the taxes to import you things to new country. i.e. the Bahamas has an extremely high tax rate on importing your car to the island.
- Help your child to say goodbye to friends and family. Make goodbye cards and come visit cards for those who are close to your child’s heart.
- Pack photographs and favorite toys to have with you upon arrival so that the new environment feels familiar to your child until your moving boxes and furniture arrives later.
GHANA – THE YEAR OF RETURN CONTINUES FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES
In 2018, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo declared 2019 as the Year of Return. It marked the 400th anniversary of the kidnapping of Africans to the Americas as enslaved people. The campaign made Ghana a key travel destination for African Americans.
“According to figures released by the Ghana Immigration Service, Americans arriving in Ghana increased by 26% to their highest ever rate between January and September 2019″ (Source: https://africanarguments.org/).
Ghana offers the Right of Abode for residency as described below:
The Right of Abode is granted to Ghanaians who have lost their Ghanaian citizenship by reason of acquisition of foreign nationality.
Or granted to a person of African descent in the Diaspora.
– Sidebar by Janice Robinson-Celeste
Freelance Travel and Culture Writer
Mariette Williams has presented at various workshops and conferences throughout the country, speaking about adoption and freelance writing. She’s also appeared on several podcast and radio shows, sharing the story of her adoption reunion. Mariette is published in the book Black Anthology; Adult Adoptees Claim Their Space. Her writing has been featured in Travel + Leisure, VICE, Business Insider, The New Republic, Travel Noire, Zora Magazine, and more.