Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bugging out… for real.

If you’re a frequent reader of the blog you may have noticed that it has slowed down a bit the last couple of months. This isn’t because of lack of interest or topics to discuss about. Its rather quite the contrary. The reason is that I’ve finally made it out of Argentina, and have been living in Northern Ireland for the last month.

Timing was actually pretty good. We have been meaning to leave Argentina for a long time, thinking mostly of USA. Because of troubles getting a visa to reside in USA, we’ve been postponing the move for many years, trying to find a sponsor or finding some way to get to USA. Its ironic how some Americans chose to leave USA while thousands of people go nuts trying to find a way into it. Finally in 2011 we had enough and decided to leave one way or another.
I had my eye on other options besides USA, places like Canada and Australia. I wanted a real country for myself and my family, so all the crappy Latin American places so often described as expat paradises (usually by people that never lived there or have a financial motivations in recommending so)where out of the picture. People looking to make money out of it can lie about how fantastically safe and cheap it is, how you don’t have to worry about a thing other than picking the right wine and senorita to spend the evening with. Born and raised in Argentina and having traveled to most South American countries I just know better than that.
Googling on the best country to raise a family I came across Northern Ireland. While not perfect (like any place on Earth) the more I read about it the more I liked it, so by mid 2011 we were already making up our minds about it.

At first we we’re going to leave in January 2012, but the situation in Buenos Aires getting worse made us jump out a bit sooner than planned. Hernan’s murder was another thing that scared us a lot, especially since we had heard so many stories of people getting robbed or hurt right before they managed to leave the country. I always remember that guy who left Argentina in 2000, came back a decade later to visit his family and got killed the same day he arrived when he went to buy a pack of smokes just a couple blocks away from where he was staying. There was also Cristina’s reelection coming, and we knew things were going to get worse after she got reelected. It was scary to see her take the draconian measures she took not a week after getting reelected. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that our preparedness and survival mindset made all the difference in the world for us during those weeks before leaving.

Remember how I preach non stop about having a supply of money at home in case there’s trouble, even more if possible in case you have to jump into a plane and start all over somewhere else? If I hadn’t followed my own advice I wouldn’t have had the USD to leave at that time, because of the heavy foreign currency restrictions the government of Cristina came up with right after being reelected. Oh yes, preparing does pay off.
So we sold what we could, donated a bunch of stuff to a nearby orphan home, gave away some to friends and family, and with a couple pieces of luggage each we got on board of a plane and left Argentina. Its hard to explain the feeling of having all your earthly possessions in just two suitcases, a backpack and whatever is in your pockets.

I remember the trip to the airport, right after loading up the car that was taking us there. I remember thinking how its just stuff. Even if it got lost or stolen at Ezeiza’s International airport in Buenos Aires, something that happens often, it can be bought again. I remembered the posts I made about minimalist gear, how important it is to have a bare minimum pocket carry set of gear with you at all times. Even that can be replaced. While I always knew that what matters is your loved ones, in my case my wife and kids, this experience was in some way putting my money where my mouth was, so to speak. We really did come down to that, just us and little else. In retrospective all we couldn’t do without was our plane tickets, passports, cash and a few other essential documents. The rest? It’s all expendable.

So many things cross your mind when leaving
your country for good. I remembered what my grandmother had told me about coming to Argentina herself escaping the miseries of the Spanish civil war. “What did you bring with you  grandma?” I asked. “Money, a trunk  with clothes and a hand suitcase. My books (she owned like four) oh, and a good coat”. And there I was myself, also taking a few books, just some, the rest, hundreds of them, had to be left behind in boxes, too heavy to take with us, also our wedding photo album, some other family fotos and just a handful of trinkets that held sentimental value.
We’re still adjusting to our new life in a town close to Belfast. Things are of course different here. Where should I start? The unfamiliar feeling of finally knowing you are safe and you don’t live by the gun anymore? How people actually have manners here, say hi, thanks, and no ones yells or screams? How you can drive without worrying about 90% of the people behind the wheel drive like clinical psychopaths? Schools where kids don’t beat the crap out of each other? Public schools that are actually good and a kid can get an education? People have glass doors here, and locks that I could pick with a paper clip in less than five minutes if I wanted to. Burglar bars on windows? I haven’t seen a single one yet. While homes have alarms, its mostly a matter of safety when traveling and leaving the house empty or even just to knock down a few pounds off the house insurance. Armed home invasions are extremely rare, and even those rare ones are usually because of drugs or some other illegal business.

So that’s us now. I wanted to wait until we were settled, until we finally came to believe this wasn’t a dream but actually our life now. No more being scared, no more worrying about whats going to happen next week , if the entire country is going to fall apart again in a matter of days. While the global crisis is real and affects the entire planet in one way or another, man it’s nice to be in a first world country.
In the following days, I’ll be posting every now and then about what its like to leave everything behind for real, the decisions made, general criteria and suck. I’ll answer questions as best as I can, as time allows.
Its so damn good to finally live life,
As people like saying around here;
Join the forum discussion on this post!

PS-Photo taken by the author a few days ago :)



Cingoldby said...

Well done and welcome to Northern Ireland!

For an area with an image of sectarian troubles, it is a remarkably friendly and peaceful place. A great place for families.

Hope you enjoy the food counters in St Georges market (great local cheeses and wonderful fish!), the lovely countryside and beautiful coastal walks.

Have you had a look down the Aards peninsular? Had a look around Mount Stewart or visited Daft Eddies? Maybe birdwatched at Oxford Island?

Rathlin island is well worth a day trip :)

Hope it all goes well.

Anonymous said...

congratulations to you and family Fernando.

Kudos to you for getting the F*** out.

I hope you are able to enjoy a relaxed evening walk in the park with your family.

lemmiwinks said...

Congratulations on your very brave move Ferfal!

One silly question, what are the firearms laws like in Ireland? I understand that in England you can only own .22 rimfire or 12 gauge shotgun (and air rifles restricted to 17fpe or something), legal handgun ownership is like in Australia - very difficult.

I guess you will miss your pistols, but the other benefits will surely outweigh that.

Guinness is one of my favourite beers :-)

FerFAL said...

Hi Cingoldby, I actually went for a walk today to Crawfordsburn park ;-)

FerFAL said...

Hi, actually I chose Northern Ireland because of many reasons, including:
a) you can legally own firearms for the purpose of self defense. Only place in UK where that distinction is made.
b) You can own and shoot pistols for pratical pistol shooting.
All in all, NI is the best place in UK for shooters.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations FerFal. You are certainly an inspiration!

CABLE said...

God bless you and your family Fernando. That article makes my day. CABLE

Anonymous said...

Well done!

I’m curious to know why you didn’t choose Canada since they have a friendly immigration policy.

Anonymous said...

What type of job are you looking for and how do you start in a new country like Ireland?
Did you know people there before you move? Did you visit the city before moving?
Good luck and thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine the pain one feels when he flees the home of his birth, but I'm glad you made it out. I predict that some Americans will try to do the same thing if Obama gets a second term.

Anonymous said...

Good luck FERFAL !

Will England said...

Congratulations on your move!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations :)

In reading your post, would the US have been your first choice had the immigration laws been different?


lemmiwinks said...

Thanks Ferfal. Maybe I should move to Northern Ireland myself!

serge said...

congratulations FerFal.

welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.

DougFromOz said...

Good to see you all made it out ok!

Anonymous said...

Glad you made it safely. I hope the transition is relatively smooth for you and your family.

James family outpost, Iowa. said...

Wow, you did it! So good to hear that your plan has worked for your family. My father had a 30+ year career in the US Navy, so our family was used to having a few favorite things, and moving every 2 years or so (often to Navy base housing). So you are right when you say traveling light has it's utility. Enjoy discovering your new home. By the way, my folks were in NI this summer and they said the Indian restaurants were spectacular, so don't forget to treat yourselves when you get settled. I love your book!
- J. James

Anonymous said...

Fernando, congrats on your gutsy move from your homeland. I can only imagine the desperation and sadness that would force one to have to leave the country of their birth.
I wish you and your family peace and happiness in your new found country.
Good bless..

John G. said...

Congratulations, Fernando! Best wishes to you and your family, sir!

Tim M said...

Awesome. This made my day.

Congrats, Fernando; keep us up to date on your new life and enjoy that Guinness. I'm sorry to hear that the US couldn't be your new home, but I can sense your optimism and am sincerely happy for you.

Anonymous said...

I have been following you for years.


Anonymous said...

Ferfal -- Congratulations (!) and best of luck in your new home! GSJ

ModernSurvival said...

Awesome Brother! So happy for you got to have you on TSP again to discuss this move. Get in touch with us so we can get you on the schedule.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. What are you doing for work there?

I am planning to be in Ireland next May to visit family. I might email you closer to the time and see if you want to say hi. My wife wants to see the Giant's Causeway up in Northern Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Ferfal,
I wish you and your family a wonderful future. I look forward to reading of your experiences in NI.

gaga said...

"I guess you will miss your pistols, but the other benefits will surely outweigh that."

not as much as not needing them in the first place.
Well done Ferfal and welcome to NI and Britain.

Anonymous said...

Been keeping up with you since your FS years. Dang glad to hear you and your family moved from Argentina, it truly sounded like it was just a matter of time before violence hit your family with bad consequences.

Good luck with living in your new location.

Don Pontious said...

Congratulations for getting out! I just have some questions for you FerFal:
The EU Economic troubles do not bother you at all? The unwind of the Euro is going to devastate Europe, Ireland included. It is one of the PIIGS countries so heavily talked about in economic circles. I was wondering your take on this. Did you just leave Argentina now because of the draconian regime? DO you believe that Northern Ireland will be untouched if the European Union collapses? Do you have plans to continue to be prepared? Thank you for taking the time to post on your blog. I find it informative in a nuts and bolts manner. Again, congratulations on your exodus.

Anonymous said...

I assumed that the gun laws were horrible all over the UK, glad to hear differently.

I would caution you not let your guard down though, evil/bad guys exist in all countries. Don't let the " rose colored" glasses fool you.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on leaving Argentina! Your wise preparations have paid off well. Enjoy that beer. You've more than earned it.

Hope you can visit the USA soon. Sorry the immigration is tough. Nearby is Isle of Man, a great tax-free haven if you want to visit it. I'm sure the duty-free shopping is great.

You may enjoy this website as well (not mine) which talks a lot about locks, firearm safety, and security for your business or home.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on making a good getaway. BTW, that photo looks VERY appealing!
Maybe as a small business you could translate architecture documents from/to Spanish? Or architecture/landscaping security consultant?
Eric in Michigan

dwr said...

As an American, I am saddened that our border is basically wide open, but law-abiding, smart, educated, resilient people need not apply. Pathetic. Our loss is most certainly Northern Ireland's gain! Congrats and enjoy the freedom.

Michael Messina said...

I just did shtfschool's 20 dollar course and one of the first thing he hammers in is how he saw the signs but didn't pay attention to them and ended up in the middle of a sieged city in the bosnian civil war. Your move may prove to be prescient and will likely be the best thing you've ever done with your life.

Best of luck in your new digs and I'm jealous of your access to fine Irish stout :) ... also if you like whiskey try tullamore dew - the stuff is amazing

Patrick said...

Congratulations, it's funny, I wanted to get out of the USA and now I'm trying to scheme how to get the family I started out of Argentina. The USA wouldn't give my daughter's mother a visa to visit, can you believe that? We've got to do all this paperwork.

That said, I'm not really into living in any country where the government reserves the right to detain you indefinitly without due process. I'm aiming for Uruguay, which despite being somewhat asleep at the wheel, seems like a better long-term bet than Argentina. The fundamentals of Latin America make me thing it's the place to be at this phase of human history, given the ratio of population to resources.

Can't fault Ireland though! I think this Eurozone mess is going to rock the waves a bit though.

I once heard a story of a wealthy family that asked an advisor where they could live to avoid the dangers of oil shortages, nuclear war and rampant inflation (this was in 1980 or 1981). They were advised to move to the Falkland Islands, being mostly self-sufficient and so remote. Within months of moving, they saw soldiers running across their lawn!

Cingoldby said...

Great! If you see a woman with two corgis walking along the beach in Crawfordsburn park that's probably my Mum!

If you like meat (i'm guessing you do coming from Argentina!) then there is a shop in Bangor that is directly owned by a group of farmers and supplies the best local meats, called Primacy meats food village, I really recommend the black and white puddings! :)

Huan said...

Wow, thats a pretty cool move.
I used to live in Derry, now I live in the Republic of Ireland.
If you are ever down in West Cork
feel free to contact me.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, can't imagine how good this must feel.

Would be very interested in reading about the pros/cons you saw in various countries that you considered.

By The Sword said...

Congrats Fernando.

I am curious about your firearm collection though. Isn't Northern Ireland against that sort of thing?

Anonymous said...

Yo Ferfal,

Congratulations and good luck to you and your family. Abig event!!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your escape! I hope you keep trying to come to the US, we need more people like you here.

What's the story about needing a sponsor? How can we help?

Keep the faith, friend.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the UK!

I didn't know NI allows firearms, which is good - makes me want to move there!

I also left a deteriorating country to come to the UK - best choice I ever made. Would've prefered the US, but getting a visa is too hard.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ferfal. Many you and your family enjoy many blessings.

Baja said...

Congratulations Ferfal. May you and your loved ones enjoy many blessings.

Iron Eyes said...

Congratulations on getting out alive! Looking forward to hear your thoughts on the move.

John G. said...

Hey, minor point: your new blog, 'Surviving in Northern Ireland' is not going to be anywhere near as interesting or enticing!

lazy e snail ranch said...

Good Luck, God Bless.

Blog Author said...

Congrats FerFAL! Your comments about the rest of South America are making me think twice about that place as a refuge. I went to Ireland (southern) back in 1993. Mostly hung around Dublin. They have a fountain there that they call the "Floozie in the Jacuzzi". Drank a lot of Guinness and discovered Smithwick's. If you get tired of extremely dark beer, try Smithwick's. The only traditional Irish music I heard there was in a bar near the dole office. Elsewhere the bars were all playing rap.

When I got home (Boston at the time) I went to a bar near my apt. and there was an Irish guy rapping in Irish!

I hope you like your new home.

Anonymous said...

God be with you my friend. North Texas would have made a perfect home for you, but it's our loss.

Salud a un buen comienzo.


Anonymous said...


Time to change a blog name: "Surviving in Northern Irleand" ;-)


Anonymous said...

Congrats on finally getting out.

Maldek said...

Congratulations to the strength it took for you and your wife to leave.

I know it ain't easy.
Best of luck with your new life and may NI give you everything you hope for!

Thumbs up m8!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Fernando. Glad to hear. As one who emigrated to the US myself, enjoy your move and the novelty. And the safety, peace of mind, and well-being. I too am curious how come you didn't choose Canada, let us know when you get a chance.

Loyalist said...

Congratulations FerFal! Sounds like you reached the 'promised land' :-) I give you & your family a ton of credit for doing what you did...hope that you have a better life in N. Ireland and looking forward to hearing more about your new adventures.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations FerFal.
God bless you and your family in your new home.
So very happy for you to be able to make the move.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, FerFAL!
Glad to hear you and your family are out of such a dangerous place.
Also wondering- why not Canada? Hope you will be able to come to the USA in future. We need people like you. Did the climate have a lot to do with your decision? I like your book and appreciate your blog. Wish I could have gone to Salt Lake City.

AnAppleSnail said...

Congratulations on a dream realized! I've read your experiences for a few years now, and the insights and reality of it always strike me. It must feel strange to not worry about those things. I hope you don't lose those instincts, but never need them again. Enjoy Ireland, make good friends, and live the good life.

If you make Ireland sound too tempting, we might join you!

irishdutchuncle said...

Happy New Yea...,

Happy New Life!

Loup Espiègle said...

Hi Ferfal !

Good to know you finally made it out of hell.

Did your wife or yourslef find jobs opportunities in NI ?

Rona said...

Welcome to Europe!!!

Nick-dog said...

Congrats Ferfal! So happy to hear you guys are safe and made it out!


Anonymous said...

Congrats! I want to echo everyone's comment about being so very glad you all made it out in one piece, and would also like to ask you to go over your decision of Ireland over the others.

We're in USA and believe me the grass is not necessarily greener. We've got options of Canada, Ireland and Australia so I am also wondering about your thoughts as to pros/cons. We've got some time to make our decision, but as you know it's always good to start making plans as early as possible or at least start narrowing down possibilities.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Wow. I can't believe you did it!

Larry said...

You say "Hernan’s murder was another thing that scared us a lot."

Who was Hernan?