Colm Fitzgerald's article Why I left the US to Seek My American Dream in Hungary is a look into the mind of a recent US emigrant.
It's a thoughtful piece with no bitterness or anger that I could detect. Nor was leaving the US something that he decided to do one day on a whim. He and his spouse weighed the pros and cons and made their decision. And he's very honest about his ambivalence now: "Every day since arriving here in Hungary I’ve questioned my decision."
Why did Fitzgerald and his wife leave the United States for Hungary? To find the American Dream, he says. And what does he mean by that?
Property: He and wife dream of owning a home and land but it’s expensive in California and they are not willing to go into debt to finance that dream. “However, the idea of working for 30 years to pay thousands of dollars a month for a home sounded like a prison sentence to me. I’ve seen firsthand how a family’s whole world falls apart when someone can no longer pay that crippling mortgage.”
Independence: Owning property outright (no debt) means taking back some control over their lives. It is protection against larger impersonal forces moving in the world. Having a piece of land, he says, means having “ a place we could grow our own food, raise animals and try our best to lead a more grounded lifestyle. To be independent of worldwide financial markets, politics and a system that fails us in favor of corporate profits at every turn.”
These are two dreams with a long and noble pedigree in North American history. How were my French ancestors enticed into going to Canada in the 17th century? Land. They were given land they could own outright and farm. As for self-sufficiency, that ideal runs through American literature from the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder to the essays of Henry David Thoreau.
Fitzgerald is not saying that he can't have these things in the United States; he's saying that the price he is being asked to pay is too high, and the risks are too great. Working for a corporation to reimburse the expensive mortgage on a piece of land isn't freedom, it's just another form of slavery.
Hungary, however, just might be a place where flexible work, affordable land, and independence can be had on better terms. Fitzgerald has cast himself on that distant shore with the one thing all migrants all over the world share: hope.