Two Letters Re: Thoughts on Overseas Retreat Destinations

Mr. Rawles,
In looking through your great web site I can’t tell if you’ve ever addressed the issue of having a non-US retreat. There are some notable characteristics of the USA that make it a less then optimal location in a TEOTWAWKI type scenario. I think specifically of very heavy reliance on personal vehicles and fossil fuels, a general ignorance about growing food, preserving food, raising livestock. There is a tremendous demographic heterogeneity (“diversity”) that in a crisis situation would become a very sore spot and possibly a source of violence. Also a Federal government that has shown an inclination to trample the rights of citizens when it is expedient to do so.

Having some familiarity with central Europe, I can tell you that the rural peasantry will fare very well in a crisis situation. Agriculture is still animal-powered in many areas. Self-sufficiency is the norm rather than the exception.

I would love to see you assess and evaluate various foreign sites as possible retreat locations. The analysis that you have already done on the western states is superb. Thanks much – Dr. R


Mr. Rawles,
First, I’d like to thank you for your work and dedication with SurvivalBlog. You’ve been a guiding light in darkening times. Second, I’d like to ask about your thoughts on relocating to a retreat abroad?
For some context information, I’m a college student at a local private university; by working two jobs, I’ve managed to avoid the average $30,000 in student loans my peers have accumulated, and am down to only $9,000. I pay off my interest as it accrues, and set aside about as much as I can spare for prepping every paycheck. Last year, I started talking with my family about survivalism in relation to our current times, and they’re happily on board and setting things aside as much as they can, as well. We’ve made it our goal to purchase our retreat this year- we actually start looking at bookmarked properties the third week of March – but as that I was assigned by family vote the family task of deciding which properties we see, and where we look, I feel the express desire to weigh as many potentially good options as possible.

Recently, the grandparents of a friend retired in Mexico; I had the opportunity to meet them and discuss the venture, and was amazed to hear that, paperwork aside, they were able to purchase several acres, build and furnish their own home, as well as obtain several head of livestock, for under $80,000! In a TEOTWAWKI situation, would one even perhaps be better off in a remote location in Mexico that’s already mostly self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, with the advantage of being able to afford more for the money, than in the US?
Or, for that matter, in other such places in the world of similar condition, like Romania, rural western Russia, (and etc.)? Admittedly, if there is ever a popular anti-foreigner sentiment, that could be a key worry- the biggest concern I’ve come across being that the foreign state could take away your property at any time… but does that worry not also apply to the US, with Eminent Domain? I understand that there’s no quick or easy answer to this, but I’m hoping that I might glean some better understanding through your experience, and that of your readers.
Wishing well, – S.L.K.

JWR Replies: Becoming an expatriate retreater requires some very careful study, consideration, and prayer. Many of the highly touted offshore locales suffer either from high crime rates, or have a high population density that would be an issue in a grid-down collapse. Many of these same countries also have restrictive laws on private firearms ownership, so that makes self defense problematic. Despite these and other drawbacks, there are a few offshore destinations that rate high on my list. These include New Zealand (South Island), the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu, Bolivia, Chile, rural portions of the Czech Republic, and the lower elevation cantons of Switzerland. I would also recommend Finland if it were not for its harsh climate.

I generally do not recommend most of Latin America and the Caribbean because of high crime rates (most notably property crimes and murder.) Even Costa Rica, which is often touted as a “peaceful haven”, has a murder rate higher than the U.S. (6.23 per 100,000, versus 5.9.) It also has a nearly four times higher robbery rate, but a surprisingly low burglary rate.) A lot of the Pacific Islands are not on my list because of either draconian gun laws or a high level of systems dependence. Many of them are now dependent on food imports. (Nauru is perhaps the worst in this regard. It could not even supply enough fresh drinking water for its residents if international shipping were to cease.)

I generally recommend moving to countries that share your language. But if you have an “in” somewhere–namely relatives or close friends that speak the native language and if they would be living on the same property or contiguous property–then the language barrier is less of an issue. But regardless, learn the local language and customs quickly. You should consider that education practically a full time job for your first few years.

The bottom line is that there is no single “perfect” retreat locale. There are advantages and drawbacks wherever you go. Climate, taxes, gun laws, population density, and crime rates are all trade-offs. Many of the locales that would be idyllic in a grid-up situation might be a nightmare if grid-down. But some countries might do very well in the absence of “the modern conveniences.” You will note that I have quite a few Pacific Islands on my list. In these island nations, if grid power were interrupted, I anticipate that the locals would quickly revert to traditional fishing, gardening, gathering fruit, hunting (bats, of all things!) and raising pigs.