Thought Catalog
March 3, 2017

Why I’m Leaving The U.S. Indefinitely

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Perla Farias Photo / The Blog Abroad
Perla Farias Photo / The Blog Abroad

I think I’m pretty (stop the sentence here, JK) overdue for a personal post with some life updates. Because a lot has happened and changed in a short amount of time, and I’m still trying to grasp and make sense of it all.

I’ve been a bit reclusive lately, finding sufficient company by the crowd of my own thoughts. Thoughts of my past, future, and present state of mind. It’s a party most days, and a ruckus all the others.

While I’m still arguably young (26) and feel like I’ve got the world ahead of me, I’ve done and seen a lot for my age, and I know every experience, encounter, and flight ticket has shaped and developed who I am today.

And I never take that for granted.

For those who don’t know, the majority of my family live just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, so this is where I come when I’m not traveling.

I initially came home in December for two reasons: My older sister was graduating from the University of Arizona, and my passport was full. #1stWorldProblems

I was set to leave for Nigeria a couple weeks after that, and I went through all the loopholes to quickly attain a Nigerian passport that was needed for my entry (dual-citizenship for the win)!

But after that quick jaunt to Atlanta (location of the Nigerian Consulate) turned out to be a waste (I love Nigerians, but rules to them are suggestions, not guarantees), plans quickly changed.

My passport that was supposed to be issued in two days, took about 4 weeks to arrive instead.

Thus, canceling my trip, and leaving me unsure of where to go from there. With a couple travel offers on the table, I needed some time to think.

But I felt myself getting restless at the thought of having to be “stuck” in Arizona any longer. A place I don’t necessarily consider home, though I went to high school here.

I don’t have a favorite hang out spot.

I don’t go out on weekends.

I hardly remember the street names anymore.

Nonetheless, I made slots of availability for my long-time high school BFF, my high school coach, my favorite high school teacher, and a couple dope, entrepreneurial photographer friends.

Old friends have made it through a couple texts of back and forths before I found myself unable to commit to a time and unintentionally taking a few days to reply.

I found myself not wanting to go outside — not wanting to deal with people. Needing space and time to just be alone and away from the public.

I didn’t know how to explain this feeling to them and/or whether they would understand, but I just couldn’t get myself to be happy with being back here.

I’ve seemingly forgotten how to be a friend and I failed miserably at making efforts to rekindle old friendships.

On top of that, I found myself easily triggered by online ignorance, instead of trying to educate or correct it. And it was the product of surrounding myself with intelligent and enlightening people 24/7 while traveling, and forgetting the majority of people are nothing like that — especially the average-Joe American.

I’ve been home for a cumulative total of 4 months in the last 4 years, and my mom has miraculously fought the urge to turn my high school room into a guest bedroom (though I give it a few months), but it does feel nice waking up in that same, familiar bed these past few weeks.

It’s a foreign feeling really. I’ve slept in so many beds these past 4 years (please don’t read that promiscuously, lol), so the feeling of waking up every morning and asking myself, “Wait, where am I again?” became my new normal.

Why am I leaving?

It’s complicated, but it’s definitely a combination of a few things.

Just like a toxic relationship — you can love someone, but know you need to be away from them to grow.

The U.S. is my abusive and mentally unstable boyfriend that I need a break from.

An indefinite one.

I’d be lying if I said Donald Trump being president wasn’t the main driving factor behind a one-way ticket departure. Because he was.

And I made this video trying to make light of the situation, and though it’s dripping with sarcasm, there’s a lot of truth in it. When you get a chance to watch it, hopefully you can see where I’m coming from as I share my slightly uncensored thoughts on camera.

Politics aside, the reality is, I’ve outgrown most people in my life in the United States. And I don’t mean that in a condescending or holier than thou way at all.

I’m fully aware that a combination of our upbringings, daily surroundings, and extra-curricular activities shape our views, perspectives, and ultimately our characters.

I’m so freakin’ blessed to have seen and experienced so many cultures and countries that have shaped who I am and how I think today.

So needless to say, reconnecting with old college friends is tough, or essentially non-existent. I went to a very small liberal arts college in Baldwin City, Kansas.

I adore so much about my Baker family who is made up of a wonderful staff of faculty, professors, and coaches. But I soon realized something — as a student, I connected most with faculty and staff, not peers. And the same is true today.

Being told you’re “wise beyond your years” is both a blessing and a curse, because you can never find people your age to connect with you at the wavelength you’re surfing.

Amazing staff and faculty aside, many of my college friends have still maintained that small-town mindset, where they never think or experience anything outside of suburban, midwest USA.

They continue hanging out with the same people, who look exactly like them, and never trying to mingle with different cultures or religions to try and learn about other people.

No, you shouldn’t have a quota of black, Muslim, or Mexican friends, but for goodness sake, do you at least know one of each on a first-name basis?

Not your cleaner. Not your mailman. But an actual friend who you regularly talk to from a completely different walk of life. That’s what so many of Trump’s supporters and small town Americans are lacking right now.

It’s apparent by the type of things they share and say (or don’t say) on social media, and I’ve found myself slowly deleting them from my online space, because the ignorance was deafening.

I started losing patience and energy to constantly educate and inform people on some of the most basic concepts around humanity. It felt like a daily existential crisis that I couldn’t win.

And while I do my best to be vocal and delve deeper than surface-level observations, not everyone can handle that kind of wokeology (the study of wokeness).

Lately, I’ve been very vocal about the need for inclusiveness and my utter disdain with discrimination.

Naturally, most agreed, but many from my past have become uncomfortable, passive-aggressive, or remained in denial. It’s maddening. But here’s what most Americans get wrong:

You could love your country and still be critical of it.

One more time for the people in the back or nah?

Blind patriotism is the enemy of progress and change. And most Americans are afraid of change, so duct-tape over the eyes of reality it is.

But this archaic and backwards mindset is what will keep us at the butt of every global joke and constantly on the wrong side of history.

So I’m leaving because I need to surround myself with progressive-thinking people again. Your environment and surroundings are so crucial to your development as a person.

I also understand that not many millennials spend their free time watching historical war documentaries or biopics of corrupt leaders, lol #singleforever. But this is my turn up on weekends now, and I’m 100% okay with it.

And while I’ve met some incredibly #woke Americans (defintion: cognizant of the subliminal and subconscious wrongs in the status quo and active in helping bring about progressive change), the majority of my most awakened and enlightened friends are overseas.

I love how they challenge me. Their upbringings and cultures help strengthen and inspire mine.

You could say I’m running away from my problems, or you could see me finding a solution in continuing to surround myself with these beacons of light so I can continue using my platform for good.

All while subconsciously serving as a US ambassador abroad and reminding the world how loving, accepting, and welcoming Americans still are/can be.

I can’t take on every problem, injustice, or wrongful law, but I sure as hell can give a damn and voice my contempt for it. Read about my random grocery store encounter shutting down bigotry before it opened its mouth here.

Where am I going?

Anywhere and everywhere. Ideally, I’d like to have a base on each continent (except Antarctica, obviously lol). The beauty in being a single and solo traveler is that I have no roots or responsibilities locking me down to any specific location. This won’t last, but you bet I will milk every drop of freedom it affords me while I can! Lol

While my job and sponsorships land me in some of the most unexpected and exotic places, I want to scale back and start moving a little slower and having more meaningful experiences in the places I’m going.

Sure, I’ll still be posting and sharing the amazing scenes from my travels, but there’s so much more to travel than, “Look at me, I’m in BLAH BLAH COUNTRY and you’re not!”

I don’t ever want to feel like I’m giving off that vibe. So here’s how I’m going to try to change that.

I want to start volunteering locally, staying with local families, and giving back any way I can. Obviously bringing tourism to a destination through my content is one of the best ways to help, but I know I can do so much more than that.

I’m going to start with 3 months traveling around Africa, a continent that is unbelievably underrated. I land in Cape Town, South Africa in the first week of March, and I’m excited to start my African adventures in a city that I’ve heard so many wonderful things about.

While I’m anxious to embark on a new journey on that continent, with a rough itinerary through Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Morocco on the radar, I’m most excited to show my followers the other side of these countries that the media neglected while being neck-deep in supply of poverty-porn.

After Africa, I’ll slowly work my way towards the Middle East *gasp!* Yes, that dangerous, terrorist-zone that we should avoid by all means *eyeroll*.

Middle Eastern people are some of the most hospitable souls in the world, and before Americans are banned from entering those countries altogether thanks to Hitler 2.0, I’d love to experience some places firsthand.

Then into Asia, and then eventually Australia. Again, these are tentative plans, and I will likely add in a couple random getaways in between.

2017 will be more about where I would like to go and experience, rather than companies sending me to specific locations. Don’t get me wrong, being in the destination marketing travel industry is amazing! Getting to have $10,000-worth of travel expenses covered, plus payment for my content is literally the dream.

But those opportunities will also always be there, and tourism is an industry that will never die.

So as long as I maintain a platform (please don’t leave me y’all, ha), those kinds of offers will continue pouring into my inbox, and I’ll say yes again when I’m ready.

This year has started off heavy, and I found myself turning down a few big offers in January that made me realize that the mental shift in my brand’s direction was more than just a fleeting desire.

Some didn’t match my brand. Some didn’t seem worth the hassle. But most importantly, if it didn’t make me go “HELL YES” then it was a resounding no.

This is my year of NO and that word is a complete sentence. A beautiful, eloquent, and liberating sentence.

Starting out in the travel blogging industry, you have to work your way towards notoriety. You have to build a resume of partnerships and experience to be reputable and recommended by others.

And I’m so happy with my past partnerships and collaborations that have helped get me where to where I am today.

But when you take away the sponsorships and strip the glitz and glam, you have a gal who, at her core, believes there is so much more to be done to help connect people around the world.

To help show the beauty in different cultures and help awaken the empath in us all.

As Americans, we’ve been lied to all our lives, thanks to digital brainwashing and mass media gatekeeping. We just blindly followed along and bought into the trust of big money corporations, while they used fear to play on our emotions and conveniently forgot to show us…

How harmless Muslim people are.

How beautiful diverse cultures can be.

How much life there is to be lived outside of the familiarity of your own literal comfort zone.

So what happens next?

Well, for one, world domination you can expect the same vocal, unfiltered, and passionate voice across my social platforms. You can also expect 10x as much hate and scrutiny for it. My top 10 annual hate comments articles will have a surplus of content this year, and I’m pretty pumped, ha.

Because it comes with the territory, and fellow online influencers have to learn to stop giving a sh*t about the opinions of nobodies.

Sure, be open to constructive criticism, but your truths are your truths, because of your experiences.

When Racist Randy and Smalltown Susie keep trying to force their narrow mindedness down your throat, their ignorance is not and never will be your problem.

And the day you start letting the public be the driving force behind your content or platform, you’ve lost sight of who you are and what made you so special in the first place.

I had a good friend ask me the other day if I was afraid of losing followers because of my political content lately.

I laughed so hard, because if I ever compromised my platform or morals for the fake fandom of a few, then I’m blogging for the wrong reasons. I couldn’t care less about losing the eyes of close-minded sheep. Baaaaaaahhh-bye, Felicianettes.

I’m here to challenge it. Because so many of us believe things for the simple fact of believing it. We never question “truths”, just take them as fact because it’s the lazy, yet convenient thing to do. And it makes me sick.

But I lived like that for the better part of my youth, because I didn’t know any better either. And seeing the light has made my life so much more fulfilling knowing that I’m actively speaking out on things I believe in, and have firsthand experiences that corroborate it. TC mark

Gloria Atanmo is a world traveler and author of From Excuses to Excursions: How I Started Traveling the World, available here!

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