When is it time to leave? Nobody likes the idea of walking away from their home country. The only people who do like this idea typically have found themselves in really big trouble. Knowing the right time to leave makes an enormous difference in your success or failure.
I learned stories about Spanish migrants from the Canary Islands (my hometown received plenty of them) who were so happy there that instead of ever going back to Spain, they brought their entire extended family to the islands with them. They didn’t even return “home” to visit, even though they were financially independent years later. Some of them that were close to my father mentioned the hunger and economic stress they went through in Spain – of how they even watched their baby siblings die.
Mind you, this was not a third-world country. This was 1950s Spain.
They were lucky, and many of them knew it. The Golden Age of Venezuela was from 1952 until the middle 80s, give or take. I won’t detail how wealthy most of these Spanish escapees became because just this would need an entire book.
The Canary Islands was a territory that, being kilometers far off the Spain coastline, was not exactly considered a priority for the central government back then. Just like many territories are. Back then, the standards and indicators used were different. However, the migration level from the Canary Islands to Venezuela was huge.
Most of these migrants came within the range of 12 to 20 years old. They started as farm laborers, construction workers, and other basic jobs requiring some skill level that were much needed in the blossoming cities in Venezuela.
Mind you, our country back then was a huge hacienda. Technical education was just practically starting, and the skilled labor scarcity was incredibly challenging to work through. Then-President Marcos Perez Jimenez (who fought the communist guerrillas) brought the country into a much more modern era. This inertia kept going until now, and distanced our country from other South American territories like Ecuador and Peru. Jimenez built modern cities and modernized the capital city with state-of-the-art architecture.
This whole preamble is to explain how lucky these migrants were to have chosen Venezuela back then.
Their own country was a mess after the Spanish Civil War, and they obviously knew they had to flee away. And there was no wealth to transport from one place to another!
I remember one of those old fighters, a family friend, over 70 years old, crying, remembering how his friends had to lick the dew droplets from the leaves in the morning as they came out of the trenches.
The Canary Islands are quite dry, without too much rainwater, and potable water has been scarce for…well, forever. The valleys there are fertile, the weather is fair, but the precipitation is scarce. Many of these escapees grew up in the countryside. Therefore, arriving in a tropical country with plenty of sun, rain, and several crop seasons a year instead of just one, they knew how to take advantage of that. That was the era of the tobacco and sorghum boom. And most of these escapees made fortunes, or at least earned enough to live decently – something that was very hard to do back then in their home country.
Why do I write about all of this?
Because they were lucky enough to choose the right location. Their timing to leave was adequate, and their skills were a need at their destination.
See my point?
All of this took them to a huge success. To this day, when many of them are in their golden years or already gone, their families enjoy the fruits of the generational wealth they left behind. Business, haciendas, professional degrees – all of these were possibilities for their offspring.
These escapees chose what to do based on the little information available to them at the time. Much of that was via mail, the main P2P communication means back then.
When do things get chaotic enough to warrant leaving?
This is quite a personal appreciation. I’ve mentioned earlier that once I came back home (I even remember the date: 1st March 2017) and we took the bike (the SUV was already busted) to go to the mini-market and get some groceries (supermarkets were not well-stocked, and we decided to keep supporting small Venezuelan merchants anyways instead of the Chinese). With my salary of one entire month, plus the amount of our savings fund, we were able to buy just enough food for 15-18 days.
Mind you, we are not exactly spendthrifts. On the contrary, we had to learn to extend our budget as much as we could. But hyperinflation was simply unbearable. Most of my coworkers had already quit their jobs and were abroad. Twenty-five engineers started and after hyperinflation hit there were only eight of us left. Once again, this was a high-level Maintenance Engineering department. These people had skills, master’s degrees, and some of them spoke English well.
The country was already in chaos. Fortunately, things weren’t as bad in the oil-rich region I lived in. Yet, the iron grip on that place was in the best style of North Koreans: uniforms kicking down doors, emptying houses, taking to prison young men that participated in the demonstrations…
I was really afraid that soon enough, leaving the country would be impossible. I have to make this clear: leaving my home was NOT my first option, ever. My initial plan was to head to our small cottage in the mountains, get kiddo in a school in the town, and keep working online, cutting expenses, growing whatever we could, and improving the land patch to make it more productive. Back in the oil strike of 2002-2003, we had already done that. We just needed to adapt to overcome. My take is, we could easily have dealt with whatever was coming up, but the chance to do it was not there.
I realize now leaving may have been a mistake and money expenditure that I would have been unable to recover from, not even working abroad. Be aware and clarify this with your partner if you have one. Unity is something to appreciate.
Pay attention to the chaos.
Once my salary was not enough for our food, nor to repair the truck, and the four hours-long blackouts started to mess up my second job (online), then I could foresee what was coming up. The increasing aggressive narrative and behavior of the uniformed people was more than enough reason to believe that something nasty was about to come.
There were many cases of abuse that were entirely documented and were reported to the world, but the truth is, anyone powerful enough just did what they wanted. Just as with many other countries facing regimes without any respect for human rights, I thought the closure of a border was on the horizon.
Once you see this, you are already late to leave. We were lucky because we collected the needed money to get out. We were eventually able to come back, and the situation is generally better than when we left, economy-wise. At least we can eat decently, and medical services are again going back to “normal.”
(Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on emergency evacuations.)
As usual in many situations, timing is key.
I know this is a delicate issue, but it should be addressed within this context: the Afghanistan withdrawal. Someone had to know or suspect this was a real possibility, and that an evacuation plan was going to be needed sooner or later.
Sure, the ineptitude and clumsiness of the entire thing generated the bullies to start to do what they do best: terrorize people and make a mess. But this kind of messy situation is just the one we should work on to avoid.
Once you’re in the middle of the mess, the risk of danger increases exponentially. Anyone can see it. Someone inside had to know that the Embassy was about to close before it happened. It’s not leaking information; it’s just common sense.
Foreign policies are somehow predictable – just like we knew things were getting increasingly hairy in Venezuela with the infamous food rationing and the roadblocks everywhere. Peace was simply unsustainable. People got shot in the demonstrations by the colectivos gangs. This is all registered and documented. All of this was indicative that things were going to become worse soon.
Talking about timing, just see what happened to the local cronies: the new sanctions to Russia, as we speak, have left them without the stolen money they had in those accounts. How they’re going to dispose of those funds (even if Russia allows it, which I highly doubt) without access to the international banking system…I would like to know. They didn’t leave on time, and the consequences for them will surely be severe. It’s not like they don’t deserve it, though.
To summarize, once you smell something odd in the air, it is already time to leave.
For this, you need a plan! And make sure it´s a good one, and that you have a backup. Especially if you go to another country, something that seems a good idea with everything happening in the industrialized nations. Every single friend I know that has done his homework about the place they’re leaving to has found themselves in comfortable positions: Mexico, Punta Cana, USA, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, people who migrated there and planned everything ahead are doing it quite well.
My plan upon coming back is already producing some results. Some stuff didn’t work as planned, like setting up a vertical vegetable garden, but it doesn’t matter too much as it will be done eventually.
Something important I want to mention: the psychological consequences of staying put in your place and trying to surf the coming collapse can be serious.
Watching powerlessly as people you know take a beating without even being able to help, watching the crisis effects on their lives, watching people struggle and being unable to help is not something easy, and you must be aware. I’m grateful because of having the opportunity to leave, and albeit not all of my experience was exactly positive, I somehow avoided witnessing as much suffering and sorrow as others.
I’m not exactly the stereotypical, sentimental, emotional Latino kind of guy. I do know that carrying emotional luggage ends by affecting our mental health at the end of the day. The sense of witnessing injustice and feeling powerless about it is something that is unforgettable.
The worst part was trying to understand that things were not going to change enough to allow me to come back in for several years. Of course, the virus came and changed everything. It’s very likely I will head on soon to some other destination with my son.
My heart is here, and I’m deeply rooted in my homeland, but thinking about a better education and generally improved living conditions for my kid makes me wonder that, if things don’t get better, maybe we should leave again looking for greener pastures. Everything will be for his good. I’m already satisfied with my achievements and could make it all the way from now on to the end. But he deserves better, here or somewhere else.
What do you think?
If you were leaving or sending your family to safety, what signs would you watch for? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.