I’m Not Coming Back to the USA

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I went to bed last night in Lisbon, Portugal, so excited to wake up and see the United States elect its first female president. By all accounts, it looked to be a landslide. Every friend I had was voting for Hillary, every polling projection showed her win.

In the middle of the night, I had a dream that Donald Trump won, but I went back to sleep convinced it was just a bad dream.

And then I woke up to the horror of what has happened overnight in the United States.

There is an eerie feeling sweeping across Lisbon and I can only imagine how we are feeling in America today. Things are more quiet here this morning. It’s cloudy. It’s ominous.

To say I am disgusted is an understatement. I sat with a group of American women for an hour over breakfast, just crying. Women afraid of their children losing health insurance. Women afraid of their children growing up Jewish in America. Women who are pregnant right now and terrified to give birth to a child while Donald Trump is president.

But I can’t sit around and cry forever, so I’m taking some action.

I will not live in a country that elects a man who brags about sexual assault.

Like many women I know, I’ve been assaulted. Sometimes they were men I knew, and sometimes they were not. Each time my faith in humanity was tested. I firmly believe that people are mostly good and the world is mostly safe–I’ve said it a million times and built a career out of it. But today I’m not so sure that’s true anymore.

I will not live in a country where women’s rights are in jeopardy.

This is not about late-term abortion and whether or not you believe women should be entitled to these life-saving medical procedures. This is not about abortion at all, really. This is about access, and that access is in grave danger. Planned Parenthood, an organization I have frequented often when I was without health insurance, for simple procedures like check-ups and STD tests, may very well be forced to close their doors.

And what does it say about us as a country, that we would elect a man with ZERO political experience over a woman so experienced I once wrote a report about her in the 3rd grade?

It says we’re sexist. We’re racist. We’re homophobic. We’re a backwards nation of intolerance and hate.

Not me. I won’t stick around for that, nor will I live in a country run by a man who brags about deportation and delights in the thought of ripping families apart.

This IS Serious

A couple of times today, men have come up to me and said “it’s ok, it will be alright in the end.” And yes, for you, white man, it probably will be.

You might be reading this thinking “she’s overreacting,” and if so, I wish you luck in your journey through this presidency. For me, this feels personal. This feels like an attack to everything I’ve known and cherished about the country I was born into–an assault on the things I’ve held near and dear while traveling around the world to places where human rights are never guaranteed.

Today I recognize and am thankful for my privilege in that I get to spend the day googling visa requirements and deciding where it is I’d like to live for the next four years from the comfort of my Marriott hotel room in Lisbon. But my heart breaks because I know this isn’t the case for millions of men and women, and I know that we as a country will have to endure the policies set up over the next four years for perhaps the next 40.

This is as serious as it gets, folks.

It’s not about joking on who can get to the Canadian border fast enough. This is REAL LIFE and it is TERRIFYING.

Deciding What’s Next 

By all accounts, I and anyone else planning on moving, have until inauguration day, January 20th, 2017, to get out of Dodge. I have a few options I’m looking at right now.

I need to go back to NYC, pack up my things, and store them somewhere. I need to attend my grandfathers funeral next week, spend Thanksgiving with my friends and family, and then I need to leave.

I will be back to run the Women’s Travel Fest in March (3-5th, in New Orleans) but that will likely be the extent of the time I spend in the United States in 2017.

I could apply for a Working Holiday Visa to Australia, which has raised its age limit to 35 and would allow me to work for one year in the country (which I could then extend, depending on how things go).

I could move to Cairo, or Istanbul, or New Zealand or Argentina, where I have strong bases of friends and places to stay.

I will be accessing those options throughout the day.

If You Also Want to Move, There Are A Few Options

Europe: To stay in any of the 26 countries which are part of the Schengen Zone, you’ll only be able to stay for 90 days before having to leave the zone for another 90. My friend Nomadic Matt wrote this awesome post about how to Legally Stay in Europe and if this is an option you’re looking at, I would recommend reading it because he really did his homework.

Australia & New Zealand: If you’re under 30, you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand. If you’re under 35, you can apply for the same for Australia. Both will allow you to live under the visa for one year. After that, you’ll need to secure work so that you an apply for a work visa.

Border Hopping: Outside of the Schengen Zone, you could theoretically live anywhere and just leave the country for border runs when your visa expires.

Job/ School/ Marriage Visas: These are harder to come by, but if this is your reality or you want to study in another country for the next four years, look into it!

I am making an exit plan. I’ll update you as to how it all unfolds.

xoxoxo

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About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.

3 Comments

  1. I feel the exact same way you do. I’d been feeling like the US was turning into a place that didn’t line up with my core values. That was confirmed by yesterday’s election. Luckily I moved abroad back in July and have a 2 yr. contract. But I will not be returning to live in the States for the foreseeable future. I don’t think someone like me would be safe there given the green light this election has given to bigots and misogynists. I also realize that I am fortunate to have the means to move abroad. I am looking for ways to give other women that option as well.

  2. Kelly,

    I hear you. I respect you and honor your choice.

    I also beg you- keep your citizenship. Do not give up your right to vote in the next US election, by mail if you must but keep that right. We need you and yours now more than ever

  3. Elaine Bova-Nicholson on

    Kelly, you have summed up so well how I feel right now. I have been crying for two days. This is a nightmare we are living in, I still cannot believe that our country has elected a demagouge, a racist, sexist, unqualified liar, it is heartbreaking that he appealed to the ignorance,fear ,anger and racism in peoples hearts. I will probably never understand how people could not see the truth, the facts, and how qualified Hillary Clinton was to be the President. I truly believed in the goodness in the majority of America and I was wrong. I am in the later years of my life, and my hope is that you and all the young women like you stay strong, get through this and vote, vote , vote, vote.

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