In July 2015, I travelled to America for vacation. I had just quit my full-time job as a payroll tax analyst and was taking a gap half-year off to travel and write. It’s been five years and that “gap year” seems to never have ended.
During the past five years, America has shown its ugly underbelly. Even so, America isn’t all blood and tears. If that was the case, no one would choose to move here. After all, it’s not the only developed country in the western hemisphere that prospective immigrants can call our new home.
If I am being honest, however, my journey to U.S. residency and citizenship was more by happenstance than intention. My family lived here and my boyfriend at the time gave me the ultimatum that if I left the country again for more than two weeks, it would be the end of our relationship.
I was young and naive and did not see manipulation for what it was. Nevertheless, after four years of wondering if staying had been the right decision, in my fifth year, I can say yes: yes, it is.
1. It’s the Land of Opportunity
Most people move to America for better opportunities than their birth countries. People of Colour here often point out that there are far fewer opportunities for us to succeed, especially for Blacks. I don’t doubt for a second that if I was American-born, White, and half as ambitious as I currently am I would be thrice as successful. But, it doesn’t change the fact that opportunities do exist.
In the past five years, I have achieved far more than I could have on my island home. I re-started my business here from scratch, bought my first car, travelled to half a dozen countries, visited two dozen states, and co-own my home. In the past two weeks, I paid off the loan on my first car, traded it in, and bought an FJ Cruiser in cash. I’m not saying there aren’t successful Jamaicans doing well at home — and much better! — but I wasn’t one of them.
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When I bought my little hatchback in 2018, @sliimbennington asked me why on Earth I hadn't gotten an SUV because that better suits my active lifestyle 🤦🏽. Well, it turns out she was right…😅 Say hello to Samson! I'm going to miss my little hatchback, but my poor little Seth was just no match for desert roads and cross-country towing. Miss Rona may have delayed my plans, but a delay is not defeat. 🙃 . . . #fjcruiser #fjcruisers #fjcruiser4x4
2. Credit Is Easier To Come By
Purchasing a vehicle in cash is fairly common, but there are much bigger purchases that tend to require credit for the average person. This might include starting a business or buying a home. In Jamaica, even with a full-time job, my bank refused to give me a credit card. Here, a day or two rarely goes by where I don’t have offers in the mail begging me to accept cards, business loans and personal loans.
The downside is that if you’re not careful, you could be swimming in debt in no time. However, if you can live within your means and make good financial decisions, it’s easy to have manageable debt that might even become more beneficial than having no debt at all. As of right now, I am debt free, but it was using debt to my advantage that helped me get here.
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It's not the fun Juke or the sporty Veloster, but it's mine. Meet Seth, a 2016 Hyundai Accent SE Hatchback. I'm so glad this first car hunt is over and that I found a car within my budget and under warranty that feels brand new and drives like an angel. Super thanks to everyone who gave their advice and helped me make a responsible and informed decision. You guys are the best! 😄
3. There Is More Cultural Diversity
Jamaican culture is powerful and all-consuming — and we’re extremely proud of this! Few people move to Jamaica and manage to retain the culture of their former homes, because we take it, fuse it into Jamaican culture and you begin to find a piece of home among us. Before you know it, you’re at street parties at 5 AM on a Monday morning in Negril with the rest of us. In contrast, America is no melting pot; it’s a buffet table.
White American culture has been adopted as mainstream, but the reality is much different. There are many subcultures existing in America: from African Americans to Mainland Africans to West Indians to East Asians to Hispanics. We all bring our own unique flavour to the table and, funny enough, racism and the fact that we are often excluded from White spaces, has helped those cultures to thrive beautifully on their own.
4. There’s a Wealth of Domestic Travel Spots
Jamaica is a beautiful country. In fact, I will venture to say it is more beautiful than most. There are very few places I have travelled to that even begin to compare to my island home. Mexico and the Maldives are the only two I would even put close to it. However, it’s also a small country and there is only so much exploring you can do before you’ve been to every river, every beach, every cultural site, and eaten at every restaurant.
The vastness of America is one of the things I love most about this country. I could never set foot on an aeroplane for the rest of my life and never run out of things to see here. From the tropical beaches of Florida to the deserts of the Great Southwest and the glaciers in Alaska, there is something for everyone. Is it any wonder I want a tiny home on wheels?
5. An American Passport Ranks Among the Best
Ironically enough, one of the best perks of American citizenship is the opportunity it provides to escape. As an American resident, my green card acted very much like a “budget American passport” and allowed me to visit countries I might not have otherwise had access to. However, there were several regions I wasn’t allowed to set foot in at risk of my future citizenship or extended residency. These included Russia, the Middle East and Cuba.
As a citizen, not only do I face fewer restrictions booking a flight to Dubai, but I can now take advantage of far more visa-less travel options, as some countries provide these only to citizens of First World countries. I can visit roughly 83 countries without a visa while carrying a Jamaican passport, but 184 countries with an American passport. As someone who gave up corporate life specifically to travel more and see the world, that’s a pretty big deal.
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As I've said before, one of the amazing things about being in the Maldives is that you never really need to take a selfie. My fake GoPro images are taking a while to upload, but the hotel staff got some amazing shots of me with their REAL GoPro. I have to admit, I'm jealous. 😅 Here's one of my favourites. This is me feeding the fishiz!!! ☺️ . . . #fishfeeding #fishes #snorkelling #themaldives
So, is America the perfect new home I thought it would be? Well, I never expected it to be perfect, to begin with, and it definitely had more flaws than I originally anticipated. This might rub a few Americans wrong on the country’s birthday, but the fact remains.
Many Americans mistake patriotism for blind love for one’s country. I disagree. Patriotism is unconditional love and that’s a lesson I learned easily from Jamaica. That kind of patriotism requires acknowledging that the “conditions” still exist, proclaiming them loudly and effecting positive change.
In fact, America has a lot to fix and more to aspire to. So, I hope that in November, we can all band together and choose a leader who is actually up to the task of making those aspirations a reality.
Happy Independence Day! May we have more to celebrate in 2021.