Published On: Wed, Feb 24th, 2016

“Expat Insights” A four part series. Part I: Why I left the USA for the Caribbean

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Stewart Rogers is an American expatriate who lived in Belize for two years before relocating to Mahahual, Quintana Roo, where he has lived for the past four years. He is webmaster for the web blog, www.costamayalife.com. The blog is sponsored by a real estate company in Mahahual. He has written a series of four articles on his move to the Caribbean and on lifestyles in Belize and Mahahual. The articles are appearing in The Yucatan Times for four consecutive days starting Wednesday Feb. 24. This is Stewart Rogers’ story in his own words:  

This is my sixth year anniversary of leaving the USA to live on the Caribbean. I left Greenville, South Carolina on December 1, 2009 to start my adventure in Belize and the Mexican Caribbean.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I remember it was cold and rainy when I left.

I sold my car, packed all my summer clothes, gave away everything I had, stored my fishing gear with a friend of mine, and said goodbye to South Carolina and the USA.  I have not been back ever since, or plan to go back anytime soon; and it was the best decision I have made in my life.

I truly believe if I had stayed in the USA, I would be dead now, like a lot of my friends that have died since I have been gone.  I know of at least five or six guys that I used to hang around with who have died lately, in their 50s.  I thought it was just people who I knew that were dying young in their 50s, but from what I have read lately, it has become a nation wide epidemic, white males dying in their 50s in the USA.  Here is an example of something I have read recently.

“I think Paul Krugman’s November 9 column in the New York Times, “Despair, American Style,” is a plausible if not a prescient explanation of this conundrum. Krugman notes, citing the work of Princeton social scientists Agnus Deaton and Anne Case, that mortality rates among 55 million blue-collar white Americans has been rising steadily since 1999.

They’re killing themselves softly not with song, but rather prescription drug overdoses, chronic liver disease from alcohol abuse, and often not-so-softly with self-inflicted bullets to their brains. Interestingly, Hispanic Americans enjoy a much lower mortality rate than whites, despite being poorer and less educated.

Could it be that, as Deaton suggests, middle-aged American whites, traditionally the most privileged of the privileged socioeconomic demographic, have “lost the narrative of their lives” leading to “a darkness spreading over part of our society,” as Krugman then wonders?

Could it be that the proverbial cat has finally escaped from the bag, and the promise of the American Dream is being increasingly recognized for what it is – a lie? Untangling the many causal possibilities contributing to this phenomena may be an impossible task, but I think Krugman is on to something.

Neoliberals both on the Left and Right prescribed America three bad medicines, which when combined, became a toxic cocktail. The first, NAFTA, resulted in the “great sucking sound” of jobs going to Mexico (Ross Perot was bat-shit crazy but sometimes even a blind bird catches a worm).

The second, deregulation, among other disastrous side effects such as increasing environmental degradation, gave us ENRON. Finally, the third ingredient of the cocktail (the catalyst if you will) – and the perfidious dream of Milton Freidman – gave us a globalized free market system where the rich enjoyed the spoils of the war against the working class, and nothing trickled down. It never even dribbled.”

In fact, one of the reasons I left the USA for Belize and Mahahual was that I was in business with a friend of mine, who had a massive heart attack at 52 years old, and died.  After that I thought to myself, if I don’t follow my dream and head south to the Caribbean, I will end up dying  just like my other friends, without experiencing paradise.

I hated my life in the USA and South Carolina, nothing but work, go home, watch TV, get up the next day and do the same thing all over again.  I remember I used to think to myself, there has to be more to life than this.  I felt like I was just sitting around waiting to die.

At 50 years old there was not much opportunity for me in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, so I hopped a flight to Cancun, and headed for Belize.  I spent a year in Belize , and then I ended up in Mahahual, which I am very thankful I did.  I have basically started my life over down here, and I am glad I did.

Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Image: Google)

Mahahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Image: Google)

But since I have been gone, I have noticed that a lot of guys I went to college or high school with are dropping like flies in the USA.  Recently I had a very good friend of mine, who I have known and been friends with since high school, die back home.  Evidently he had back problems and had to have major surgery on his back. He was on pain pills, and having a hard time walking and getting around.  So I guess he could not take it anymore, and drove his car off a pier into the lake we used to go fishing at, in South Carolina and drowned.  I had no idea he was in such bad shape, and he never mentioned it when I talked to him, and in fact he kept promising me he would come down for a visit, but never did.

He is not my only friend in his 50s that has died since I have been gone, but he is the most recent.  This happened about 3 weeks ago now, and since then I keep thinking to myself, if I had stayed in Greenville, South Carolina, I am pretty sure I would not be alive today.  For me starting over in Mahahual has added years to my life I think, but I could die tomorrow, and if I do, at least I will be dying in paradise.

I have people tell me all the time, “man, I would trade with you in a minute to live like you in paradise, and just walk away from the USA, and start over”.  They say it, but they will never do it, chances are they will die before they get the chance.  They will have a heart attack, or get cancer, while they are waiting to retire, and never get the chance.

I talk to people every day who hate their lives in the corporate world in the USA, and are counting the days until they can retire, and live in paradise.  But the sad fact is, many of them will never make it.

For me, I could have stayed in the USA like everybody else, and be buried in an early grave, but I decided to follow my dream and start over in the Caribbean, and as I said before, it was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

So if you are a white male in your 50s in the USA like me, sick of your job, life, or whatever you do up there; take a chance, become an expat, and start over.  You only have one life, and for us guys in our 50s, it is very fleeting.

Me enjoying life in Rio Lagartos, Yucatan on bird watching tour to see the flamingos.

Stewart E. Rogers Jr (Photo: costamayalife.com)

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Yucatan Times.

Thanks for reading,

Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina.

Stewart E. Rogers Jr. originaly from Greenville South Carolina, grew up in Germany, Japan,  and all over the USA. University of South Carolina 1980 BA in Journalism. Now a resident  of Mahahual, after living in Belize for 2 years, he loves the Caribbean, eat, work, live with  Mexicans and Mayas. Loves Mayan ruins and history. Expert on Belize and Quintana Roo. Not your typical expat. Webmaster at www.costamayalife.com.

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  1. Linda-Lee McIver says:

    Wow. Words that I hear in my head every day…My 50th is coming up in a couple months and ..I..Am..Ready..to do this. I need advice, encouragement and some direction in forging ahead, but I have been slowly planning this for over a year and if I don’t leap now…I might never do it.
    Linda-Lee

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