What is important to you when moving abroad?

Those of you who know me well, know that one of my passions is film. From being merely a spectator, to actually working on sets and creating films, I love it all. My life gets busier and busier every year, but I always try to work on at least one film project a year. This is much harder to do abroad, given that working on films is 90% reliant on “knowing someone.”

One of the best parts of being abroad in relation to film, and overall for that matter, is the cheap cost to visit the cinema.

In NYC, one can expect to pay $20 USD on a movie ticket.

In my new city of Lisbon, tickets are around $8. Not quite the deal as in Nicaragua, which was around $2.

This allows me to visit the cinema much more than I would back home. It may mean nothing to some people, but it’s one of those little things that allows me to enjoy my new home a little more.

If you are moving abroad, you will need to figure out what little things make you happy.

Honestly, a good handful of these things will be affected by being abroad. We take so many little things for granted that probably have more of a daily emotional effect on us than the bigger things.

If you read my letter every week, you know that I am a sports junkie…. Well, an “American sports” junkie. I am pretty annoyed on a daily/weekly basis that primetime games are on in the middle of the night in Europe. This definitely has an emotional toll on me… Sad, but true.

Everyone will have their little things that get under their skin. You probably won’t know what those little things are until you move…Which is OK. It is all part of the experiences you gain while abroad. Each new country you live in will provide a totally new environment for you. It will push you in ways that other cultures did or did not.

This is my third time living abroad, and I am still learning new things about what is important to me in my daily life/routine.

This is why it is so important to understand what little things really make your life more enjoyable every day… The cinema is one of those things for me.

Almost every time I have a free couple of hours to myself, I will either go to the cinema or watch a film at home…. Being at a theatre is ideal though.

In my mind, the proper way watch a film is with a group of strangers. Seeing, feeling, hearing the reaction of a room is an important part of the viewing experience. I also find it important to sit and continue watching the credits as the film wraps. This is a time when you are to reflect on what you just viewed. Each song in a film is picked for a very particular reason. This can also be said for the film score that plays as the credits roll. I won’t get into any theoretical film rants, but attending the cinema is the way true filmmakers intended their film to be viewed – a point made to me by my college film professor that I will never forget.

So, why did I decide to get into a discussion about film this week?

Well, for one reason, and most importantly, to show you an example of a little thing that is important to me, and to inspire you to find out what your ticks and pick-me-ups are. I encourage everyone to take this extensive survey to help you better understand your own. Before that, take this quiz to find out if you are ready to move abroad in the first place.

And secondly… because I saw a great film this past week that told the story of a guy whose story needs to be told. Barry Seal…. I recommend everyone go see American Made.



So who is Barry Seal?

Barry was an ace pilot. He took his first solo flight at the young age of 15, before even having his pilot license at age 16. Years later he was hired as a flight engineer for a major U.S. airline and was their youngest command pilot.

Because of Barry’s skill at flying, he was hired by the CIA to fly over areas of Central America, unnoticed. He would be responsible for delivering supplies to anti-communist regimes in the region. This was a way for the U.S. government to secretly support the different movements of people throughout Central America. Barry would also gain intel by flying over parts of Central/South America and photographing anything the CIA requested.

It wasn’t long before Barry turned his considerable skills as a pilot and entrepreneur to Latin America’s emerging black market in drugs and guns. In the mid-1970s he bought a small fleet of planes, recruited a network of ace pilots and mechanics (many of whom were veterans of the war in Vietnam and Laos), and developed ties to the leadership of the Medellin drug cartel.

During a trip to Panama to deliver supplies from the U.S., the Medellin Cartel grabbed Barry and asked him to start flying cocaine into the U.S. For a quite large commission, Barry accepts and starts transporting drugs into the U.S., dropping them off around the border, before landing at the CIA base.

The DEA eventually picks up on this, so the CIA moves Barry from Louisiana to a small remote town in Arkansas.

The DEA then starts asking Barry to start delivering guns to the Contras in Nicaragua. The U.S. government wanted to support the Contras, a militia group in Nicaragua that was formed to overthrow the Sandinista regime.

Once Barry realized that the Contras were not very serious about being trained with guns, Barry would instead fly the guns to the Medellin Cartel in Panama, once again for a hefty paycheck.

Seal’s bank records show that he was depositing $50k daily into his banks in the Bahamas. The whole operation is estimated to have raked in $3 to $5 billion.

The CIA was desperate to help the Contras win the war, resulting in having Barry fly plane-loads of Contras members to Arkansas, where they would train to fight at a CIA facility…. Most of the Contras simply ran away to other parts of Americ

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a once landing in Arkansas.

Barry thought that as long as he helped the CIA, they would turn a blind eye to his drug operation.

By 1983, Seal’s luck with law enforcement seemed to run out. The DEA nailed him for smuggling 200,000 Quaaludes into a Fort Lauderdale airport, as part of a sting called Operation Screamer. After his indictment, Seal approached the DEA and offered his services as an informant. The DEA turned him down. Seal was convicted in February 1984 and faced the possibility of spending the next ten years in federal prison. Desperate to retain his freedom, Seal, apparently on the advice of his contacts in the CIA, made one last call – this time to Vice President George Bush’s drug task force.

The U.S. government wanted evidence that the Medellin Cartel was tied to the Sandinistas. Barry eventually gets pictures of the Cartel working with the Sandinistas, although his cover is blown in the process.

This puts a bounty on Barry’s head. The Cartel has direct evidence of Barry supplying the U.S. government with intel on the Cartel. This, in turn, led to his death.


I can assure you, the film is a much better retelling of the story than my CliffsNotes version.

If you would like to read more about the Cartel, please read Rachel Jensen’s article from a couple months ago!

A final note, I really encourage everyone interested in living abroad to take this questionnaire if you have not already. I can tell you, firsthand, that it is extremely hard to predict how you will emotionally respond to living in a different country. Due diligence is key, but more important than that is actually getting on the ground in these countries and experiencing them before making any decisions.