What Is the New Urban International Migration

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You’re Moving Where?

April 16, 2014

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The conversation of globalization is like pollen in Spring, it’s floating everywhere. If you turn on any television station, you can hear any number of talking heads speaking about how global the world has become. There’s no secret we are in a global era and what once was done only in certain cities, states, or countries has evolved to a wider world platform.

Recently, I began thinking about how many people of color I interfaced with while living in South Korea. Most were young black Americans and straight out of college, but there were a few in their mid to late thirties and forties enjoying life abroad. I was fascinated by the number of black people I met who, despite ignoring naysayers, decided to move to a foreign country.  I even met one young women who told me that she had applied for a job in Korea and never told a soul, not even her parents, until she was being dropped off at the airport. Now, that was a little too extreme for me, but I certainly understood not allowing others to influence your decision to do something different, outside the margin of someone else’s definition of normal.

When I first arrived in Seoul, I never imagined that I would meet so many brown faces on my new adventure. However, it was just what I needed to make my home away from home manageable and sustainable. In many cases, my life in Korea was a mirror image of the life I lived in the United States. My social life encompassed the same array of colorful mahogany faces I spent time with at home. Although, I would say that my life in Korea overall was much more diverse in terms of the people, places, and things I involved myself in. However, being able to connect with other black people was a benefit that I never really anticipated.

Today, there is a growing number of young black people moving abroad for various reasons, but mainly for freedom to live life on their own terms. This movement is something I call the ‘Urban International Migration’. Although, there is nothing new about migration, people have been migrating since the beginning of time, there are new types of migration like ‘Lifestyle Migration.’ Lifestyle Migration describes affluent individuals who migrate to another place strictly for the purpose of lifestyle. These individuals are seeking a better means of life and are migrating for better living conditions, work conditions, freedom and flexibility, retirement, or a new outlook on their life as a whole.

According to Benson and O’Reilly the authors of Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences, “Lifestyle migration is about escape, escape from somewhere and something, while simultaneously an escape to self-fulfillment and a new life — a recreation, restoration or rediscovery of oneself, of the personal potential or of one’s true desire". Whereas the ‘Urban International Migration’ is more about young urbanites deciding to move abroad to see the world from a different perspective while creating a life that works for them. Many of these individuals are moving from urban cities in the United States, but are seeking a different life from that of their parents. They want to see and experience the world with their own eyes.

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The Urban International Migration is all about embracing life on your own terms and these migrants are often free spirited individuals who view the world through a unrestricted lens. They are not confined to normalcy. They are not heavily concerned with traditional careers and buying into the philosophy that ‘making it’ requires having a mortgage, car note, and dead-end nine to five job. Urban International Migrates are trendsetters who want the ability to freely move through life and define for themselves what purposeful living is. They are world travelers and seekers of truth, their own truth. They are the fearless friends that have jumped into an international matrix that isn't about choosing red or blue pills, but more about having choice. 

While living in Korea it was so inspiring to meet other people who had left the comforts of the land of milk and honey to venture into the world and create their own utopia embracing the adventure of living life instead of conforming to someone else’s contrived view of what life should be. I met travelers who were not interested in watching television to get someone else’s perspective of the world; they traveled the world to meet people from everywhere and formed their own perspectives.  I ate dinner and drank coffee with other black women who quit jobs and became English teachers because they wanted something different. Many of them had never taught a day in their lives, but moving abroad to teach was a way to embrace life. Quite often, many of these women had more freedom and flexibility as an English teachers in a foreign country with less pay, than they would ever have at home working a nine to five job bound to only two-weeks of vacation a year.

In my reflective phase, I see my life in Korea as the beginning of something great. Although, I am no longer living abroad, I do appreciate the three-year experience. Life abroad taught me so many things and introduced me to so many people who have influenced my life in various ways. When I left America I thought it was temporary, a year at most, but it turned into three years quickly. When asked am I over being international, I say, “Nope not at all.” I know that I’m like most other Urban international Migrants, I’m not interested in settling for a life, I’m interesting in living my life without boundaries.

Urban International Migrant ~ an urbanite who has migrated abroad to define life on their own terms; one freely migrating to another country for the purpose of integrating travel, intercultural engagement, spiritual and personal development into their life; one who desires to live rather than exist.




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