I’ve stopped more immigrants than Trump. Here’s how…

September 9, 2016

I’m no politician.

But I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a fantastically easy 1-step plan for keeping immigrants out of the US.

And it works.


Here it is…

Be honest with them.

Whatever do I mean?

Well, about a year ago I got a question from one of my readers. Usually I write about language learning, but he was wondering about something more personal.

The gist of the question was this: If the US is so great, what’s a gringo doing living abroad?

He went on to say that thousands of his countrymen risk their lives every year trying to get into the US. And that to him at least, it appears that the US has the best of everything.

The best technology, the best lifestyle, the best opportunities.

immigrants john mitchell
Immigrants. Photo by John Mitchell on Flickr.

So what’s the deal? Why am I living in Spain when I could be enjoying life in the “greatest nation on earth”?

Good question.

So here’s what I did…

How I’ve stopped more immigrants than Trump

Against my better judgement, I wrote a completely honest article about how… wait for it… growing up in the US kind of sucked.

It took me almost a week to write. Mornings, on holiday in Lisbon, before the café opened and I could go out to do things.

And I wasn’t expecting much from it, either. I felt like I could have gone further. But I didn’t want to offend the republicans or the religious nuts unnecessarily.

So I wrote about boredom. And semi-poverty. And how maybe the US is great if you’re really into buying stuff and having a big house.

But that the whole US experience, or at least my 22 years of it, in my corner of the country, just wasn’t for me.

After I pushed the publish button on my 2500 word opus, I sat back and thought, “Well, there’s a week of my life I’ll never get back.”

How wrong I was.

The article went viral. It was all over the Spanish-speaking internet. Spanish reddit was up in my junk like nobody’s business. Comments, questions, trolls, lives changed.

And since then, I keep getting emails and comments from people who say they were thinking about going to the US… until they read my article.

Adiós, immigrants

This wasn’t my intention, of course.

I love living abroad, and over the years I’ve met hundreds of expats from dozens of different countries. Basically everyone agrees that living abroad for a couple of years (or more) is a great experience.

And almost nobody regrets it.

Really. Find me one person who says “I wish I’d never gone abroad.” It’s theoretically possible, but (in my experience) quite rare.

But I’ll be the first to admit that long-term expat life is not for everybody. It has its downsides. Dozens of them.

Just like growing up in Arizona had its downsides.

Still, that article seems to have positioned me as an expert in the field of emigrating to the US. And damn near every day I get emails asking for advice, asking about the job market, asking if it’s really as bad as I said.


Eat it, Trump. My immigration policy is better than yours.

Does living in the US secretly kind of suck?

That’s a matter of opinion, of course.

In my article, all I tried to do was explain that real life in the US isn’t much like in the movies.

For example: if you live anywhere outside of New York or San Francisco, you’ll probably be spending most of your time in some mind-numbingly boring suburban wasteland, surrounded by gun-toting conservative extremists, with nothing to do but work, sleep, eat doughnuts and drive to Walmart.

And unlike in the movies, you’ll probably be struggling to make ends meet in one way or another. One of the most frustrating things about American films for me is that everyone – everyone! – is upper middle class.

Even if it’s a film about vampires, you can bet your sweet ass those vampires are in the 1%.

‘Cause who wants to watch a film about poor-ass vampires driving broke-down pickup trucks?


People around the world see American movies, music videos, whatever, and think we’re all living in luxury.

They know nothing about the permanent underclass, the working poor, the millions of Americans who are in prison for minor drug offences.

Oh well… thanks Hollywood.

Europe is different

I was once that kid driving around Phoenix in a broke-down pickup truck, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. My life in Spain is much more interesting than what I’d be able to afford back in the states.

Here, I have good friends, who actually have time to hang out. Here, there’s culture happening nearby – not just an endless sea of tract houses and strip malls.

Mr Daniel, at sunset, in front of Madrid's Royal Palace
Outside Madrid’s Royal Palace. Photo by Gloria Atanmo.

I have public transport. Public healthcare. Public space, and life going on right outside my house. It’s the furthest thing from where I grew up.

And when I get tired of it, I can pick up and travel around Europe on the cheap.

Life is good over here, but it’s not like in the US. What most people understand as “the American Dream” would is way out of reach over here, except for the very rich.

But what you can do with a modest salary is pretty impressive by US standards too. As long as you can imagine going through life without a McMansion and a swimming pool.

Go have an adventure…

When people write to me and ask for advice on moving to the US, I always tell them “Go ahead and do it.”

In the worst case, they can always move back to Costa Rica or wherever. They’ll have had an interesting experience, and maybe they’ll decide to stay.

Or maybe they’ll go back home with a new perspective and a new appreciation of what they have there.

Time is passing one way or another, wherever we go… you might as well go do it, and avoid those nagging regrets later on.

What might have been?

You’ll never know if you don’t leave home once in a while.


Mr Chorizo.

P.D. Please excuse that kind of click-baity headline up there. I just wanted to get this off my chest. As a guy whose life sometimes seems like a long series of errors, I feel all my advice should be taken with a grain of salt. But I suppose everyone else is just making it up as they go along, too. Let me know what you think in the comments, right here…

P.P.S. Updated, post November 2016: Looks like I was completely wrong about Trump’s possibilities of getting elected. Well, me and everybody else. Oops.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Equilibrium is quite importante. I live in a country where some people have lot of time to spend but they are poor. Actually, citizens are really kind in Colombia but corruption, laziness and ambition distorts social network and lead to sad realities such as hunger, poverty and war.

  2. To tell the truth I have been thinking over the idea of moving out to USA. This has not discouraged me much because I have American friends who have told me what is going on on the other side of the pond. When I think about moving, only English speaking countries come to my mind, I do not know any other language apart from English and Spanish. Trump is always there. Maybe UK is a better idea, possibly nearness is something to be considered. Anyway, some day I will work up the courage and get out of Spain

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