Making a Difference from Abroad

“But, you left.”

“It’s not your country. You don’t live here anymore.”

“Why do you even care?”

“Anyway, what can you do from over there?”

For one reason or another, sooner or later, directly or indirectly, expats and immigrants are bound to hear comments such as these … especially on Facebook … because people don’t understand our decision or desire to live outside the USA.

Some people don’t; others won’t; many just can’t.

Yet estimates put the number of USA citizens residing internationally between six and nine million. According to a January 2019 Gallup poll, that number is increasing, as the emigrant exodus continues to climb under the Trump Administration.

Ironically, we left a country in the throes of battles over immigrants … to find ourselves now as the immigrants in another land: for many of us, that’s Portugal and/or Spain!

Moving elsewhere doesn’t sever one’s ties to the motherland. We can cut the umbilical cord; but never will we be detached from cares and concerns about our country, no matter where we may live. We remain U.S. citizens, albeit residing officially outside the USA.

Some people want nothing more to do with the increasingly belligerent partisan politics in the USA (or the UK … and elsewhere, for that matter). Others, however, are every bit as involved and engaged in the battle to form a “more perfect union” from this side of the great divide.

To answer those questions posed at the beginning of this post, expats actually can make a real difference in the USA from abroad:

 Contributing our time, talents, and resources to people and organizations we believe can make things better;

 Volunteering our efforts to help staff offices, make calls, translate, or moderate online forums dealing with citizenship matters;

 Writing letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines, websites and blogs, based in the USA and worldwide;

 Posting, commenting, responding, and sharing diplomatically on the “social” media;

 Sending emails and faxes to our “representatives” in the USA, informing them of our perspectives regarding matters of consequence and importance;

 Joining and participating in expat groups that represent our interests … maybe, even marching and rallying to show our solidarity with others who believe as we do;

 Most importantly, however: voting and doing everything possible to encourage others – whether in the USA or living abroad – to register and vote, too.

We’re involved “back home” as registered overseas voters.

Registering to vote overseas really is quite easy:

Simply go to either the website established by federal law,, or the Democratic Vote from Abroad’s website ( and register. They’ll take care of the rest.

According to USA law, Americans abroad continue to vote in the last jurisdiction where they lived and were registered to vote.

For us, every time there’s an election in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, we receive a ballot attached to an email from the city’s Clerk of the Court. We complete our ballots and mail them back (well before the designated deadline!) to Sturgeon Bay. By law, our ballots must be counted with all those during “early” voting and/or on Election Day.

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” is a statement published over one hundred years ago in The Country Gentleman’s May 16, 1914 issue.

Truer, more relevant words have yet to be written (or spoken) for those of us living internationally.

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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