“Though mine Protestant blood doth chill in mine vessels in earnest contemplation of the Papist heresy of ‘purgatory,’ there doth be a certain fitness to said conception as an allegorical figure of speech.” -Rev. Vidad Dogo
We are in a strange type of purgatory right now.
I am currently sitting with my laptop in a hotel room by the airport. Every few hours, a flight escapes paradise, headed off to colder and more civilized climes in Europe and North America. Thanks to Corona-Chan and the excited response of government, the airport is barely open. We are waiting for a flight, but before that, we need some final papers from the US Embassy. The flight part of the equation has been taken care of by a very good friend who knew we were ready to get out, but the papers are another issue.
We are heading back to Florida. We just don’t exactly know when.
Back? What? What? You are moving back?
In the midst of a PANDEMIC?
Yes. It is time. We could have pressed on, building our main house, planting more trees, expanding the gardens and working on the new agroforestry project at our church, but we are simply ready to go home.
There is a tension in the air here. We are not as welcome as we used to be.
And that is fine. It’s not my nation.
I am glad I never decided to reveal our exact location on the internet. You never know when keeping your cards close to your chest may pay off in the future. If we had blurted all our personal info on YouTube, we would have attracted a lot more local attention. As it is, we are just an object of gossip on the street, not some celebrity family that would draw unwelcome visitors. There is something unsafe in the air now that we did not feel before.
We decided to leave the US because it appeared to be nearing collapse. This collapse seems even more obvious now, but it is still home. Being away for over four years has made us realize how very American we are, and how foreign we are elsewhere. And I have hope for America now, believe it or not. Where we go one, we go all, as someone once said. The resiliency of the people is amazing. There is an ingenuity and brilliance that is lacking here. A standard-issue American redneck in a pickup truck does better work than almost any professional plumber, electrician… or government leader here. That is not hyperbole, either. When you deal with repairmen not showing up on time – or at all, no one knowing their job, no one getting things done – you start to miss these things. The little things. You also miss pipes that don’t break every few days. Hot water. Clothes dryers. Air conditioning. Working internet. Decent mechanics. Waiters that pay attention to their tables instead of disappearing.
Going expat has been a very useful experience. It has proven that we can live without a lot of amenities, but also revealed how nice those amenities are to have.
Yes, I may have made a mistake on my location, but that is fine.
As Nassim Taleb writes in Antifragile:
“…my characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on. These types often consider themselves the “victims” of some large plot, a bad boss, or bad weather.”
We made the best decision with the info we had. We expected an economic downturn and civil unrest, not a pandemic and racial unrest. It doesn’t matter, though. It was a fantastic lark. And a productive one! I left the states having only published four books. Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Compost Everything and Grow or Die.
Since then, I wrote six novels and a non-fiction work under various pen names, as well as Turned Earth: A Jack Broccoli Novel. I also wrote Push the Zone, The Easy Way to Start a Home-Based Plant Nursery, Free Plants for Everyone, Florida Survival Gardening and the soon-to-be-released books Garden Heat: A Jack Broccoli Novel and the completely revised, expanded, and extensively illustrated Create Your Own Florida Food Forest (2nd Edition).
The YouTube channel grew from less than 4,000 subscribers to over 103,000 subscribers. We learned a huge amount about farming in the tropics, being foreign minorities, dealing with a different culture and how to live without many modern amenities.
I wrote chunks of books sitting at a beach resort sipping tea as tourists burned their buns laying on the hot sand. I drank rum late at night with locals and rode home in a rattling jeep through the dark and muddy rainforest, dodging goats and tree limbs. I learned strange local words for fruits and trees and then pored over images online, trying to link them to Latin names. I swam in the warm, turquoise sea off perfect beaches and watched the sun set over tropical mountains. I played guitar live by the beach with my wife backing me on violin as the full moon rose above. I tasted cocoa from the pod and ate homemade breadfruit pudding.
The hotel where we are staying now has a beautiful view from the porch. A view that almost makes me want to stay.
But Florida still calls me home. Sometimes through the beauty and nature I miss, like chanterelle hunting and the scent of pine woods, alligators and familiar butterflies; but also through people. People write all the time hoping I can help them learn to grow during the pandemic. I have been asked to help churches, public parks, community gardens – but I’ve been too far away.
Even more so, the family back home misses us, and my children need to see their cousins.
And the sand is calling me to plant again.
The pandemic and the ongoing economic collapse won’t be fun, but at least we’ll be among friends and our own people. That is truly a great blessing, and one that it took a few years for me to realize. The isolation of the pandemic really drove it home.
Thank you, Corona-Chan!
I’m going home.
That is, once our paperwork goes through and we can catch a flight.
Virgil? You there?
Welcome home and safe travels! Hope to see you on the bear trail!
Glad to have you back. The collapse will be a little more palatable knowing your wealth of experience is a couple hundred miles away instead of a couple thousand.
Welcome back! I hope your trip goes off without a hitch. I’ve followed your adventures with great interest, and you know, for your kids who are old enough to remember it, you just bought them the greatest educational experience they could possibly have. For four years. That is a great walloping success!
I think we’re all anxious about the future, but at the same time… there are different ways to face that anxiety. If you’re obscenely rich, maybe you can set up a bunker in New Zealand and flee there by private jet. If you have connections, maybe you can emigrate. But for the rest of us… the best thing to cultivate in uncertain times is people: your family, your church, your neighbors. If we make it through hard times, it’ll be because we get each other through.
Plus, you know, Florida never really lets you go. I managed to move away for almost seven years, once. Now of course, I’ve dragged my family back with me. Can’t stay away.
I agree. Florida is magnetic – I cannot let it go.
Looking forward to the safe return of you and your family! 🙂
I am praying for you and your family. Praying the paperwork comes through this week. I hope to see you soon. Come by anytime. If you need anything please let me know. This is for you and the family.
You inspire me! Praying for paperwork to be finished and I’m ready to meet y’all (some for the first time!) Love you!
Love you too. See you soon, Lord willing!
Safe travels to you and yours.
Welcome home. I’ve lived in Colima, Mexico for 13 years now and found you teaching about all the subtropical plants that I’m learning to grow. I was so hoping that you’d be able to stick it out, (just because I’m selfish) but I know very well these problems that you’re talking about! Godspeed and I can’t wait to see what you’re up to next.
You wrote six novels? What are they?! I’ve been pining for another Jack Broccoli. It was a really fun read.
Thank you. The others are under pen names.
No chance you’d email me with the pen names?
Also, welcome back! America needs all her sons right now. (Sorry, I got so excited about the novels I forgot to say what I came here to say.)
The 4/5 year return itch is very strong. Probably stronger than the 2 year itch. Best of luck with it all, returning home can be strange and itch to leave again starts to develop 🙂
If I had to guess, you were in Panama, east coast 🙂