FACES OF EXPATRIATION – MEXICO

“I actually haven’t stayed in the USA longer than a week since 2011. So that tells you all you need to know. “


While most other young men with a full-time, U.S. federal government career are planning out their life-long service replete with guaranteed pension and benefits, Rasheed Dennis decided to depart for the road less traveled. He finds career success and happiness doing the things he loves most, the greatest of which is being a loving father. Rasheed settled in the most unlikely (albeit enviable) of places, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He is the owner/operator of Dennis International Enterprise and is Griots Republic’s subject for this month’s Ex-Files.

 

How difficult was it for you to leave the U.S. and live and work abroad?

It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. I was ready for a change after leaving a long career with the U.S. federal government to do my own consulting work, manage my real estate portfolio full time & start a health and beauty supply distribution company in Brasil. Working a 9-5 at a job that paid extremely well but was stifling my creativity & health wasn’t a long-term thing for me. Since 2011 I had already been splitting my time between Atlanta, Rio De Janeiro, and Sao Paulo when I started my journey to begin this endeavor so blending my love for all things Brasil coupled with starting a business with the desire to soak it all up made it all the easier. Desiring the need to be a little closer to the USA, I made the move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and I’ve been here ever since.

HIS PROFESSION

What field do you currently work in abroad? 

At heart, I’ve always been a serial entrepreneur, so I’m still working in consulting for projects on housing development and policies in the USA while managing my real estate portfolio, Dennis Enterprises International, which focuses on import/export of various goods worldwide. I’m also the Director of Lifestyle for Up In The Air Life Travel Company which encompasses tasks from hands on trip curation and experience, event hosting, branding and staffing on the various trips we offer around the world.

Tell us about your journey to pursue your profession abroad?

With the use of technology making the world so small, it’s enabled many to pursue passions as digital nomads from all over the world. I’ve always wanted to live abroad and had a fascination with maps, travel and the Black diaspora since I was a little kid. I remember watching the classic Brazilian film Black Orpheus when I was nine years old and telling my mother I was going to move to Brasil to marry a girl there :). So from there I started extensively traveling as soon as I was able to. I didn’t take my first international trip until I was 22 on the weekend after Memorial Day flight deal to Montego Bay for $99 round trip with three other friends for the weekend. We got into some crazy adventure that trip but it opened my eyes and 80 countries later, now living abroad it’s been a wonderful ride. That sense of adventure and the oneness of cultures outside of the USA made me want to make the push to work remotely abroad as an expat.

What challenges do you face professionally?   Culturally?

I haven’t really thought about that question before you presented it to me. Living in Playa Del Carmen “professionally” gives me a break from all of the noise that sometimes comes with living in a huge metropolitan area with its beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle. But I do miss the hustle and bustle of living in the USA, but that always subsides after about 3 to 4 days of being back in the USA. So I think professionally, it may stifle some If they aren’t able to reach back and actually interact and meet people in person. Connecting professionally, with the advent of technology & flight deals has made it easier for me to “stay in touch” and keep things flowing on the professional tip. From attending conferences and meetings to hosting events domestically and abroad.

Culturally living here I can’t say I’ve faced any challenges. I absolutely adore Mexican culture, and Playa Del Carmen has a great advantage being that it’s a place where so many expats and creative Mexican Nationals decide to call home. I love that there’s so much fresh new energy constantly flowing through here whether it’s people on vacation or here for a long term stay which keeps things interesting on all fronts. It’s the fastest growing city in Mexico and living here for four years I always kid with people that more people come to visit me here than Atlanta.

HIS ADVICE & RESOURCES

Are there any resources that would assist foreigners in acclimating to life in Mexico?

Good question. Seems like Facebook groups are all the rage these days for getting great real-time info and there are some good ones for Mexico out there I’m a part of.

But I made the move without all of the online Facebook group noise by just connecting and networking with an established network I had from doing extensive traveling and meeting people. It all came together by chance really.

What are three things you would advise anyone considering moving abroad?

Come with an open mind & heart to open up all the possibilities living abroad can offer. Understand & be considerate and have consideration of the local populace and their customs and how they move. Leave all the “What do they think about black people and ______” questions behind in America. I’ve found that many times many who want to move abroad or are considering going across a certain barrier always pose this question for dating and social situations.

 

IMG: Cartegena. Photographer – Fidel Hart. Courtesy of Rasheed Dennis.

HIS VIEW OF HOME

What are your thoughts of the current political climate in Mexico? In the US?

A benefit of not living in the USA is not having to deal with the constant ramifications and micro-aggressions that come from the horrible current socio-political situation in the USA. I’m able to follow on social media from here, and it’s unfortunate. Know that we have many that sympathize with our situation all over the world.

What plans do you have to return to the US?

It will be very hard for me to live back in the USA full-time at this point. I really enjoy the day-to-day lifestyle & adventure of living internationally. It would be hard to go back to not having the walkable lifestyle with access to fresh veggies and fruits and beaches all around me. I actually haven’t stayed in the USA longer than a week since 2011, so that tells you all you need to know. I get back enough to the USA to get my fix at the current time. But maybe If the right opportunity presented itself I might consider it, but at this current time, I plan to stay right here in Playa Del Carmen.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned since leaving the US?

Learning to de-value material possessions that USA culture thrives on us to attain and achieve. Unplugging from that material way of life has made my mind, body, and soul healthier and more personable. Living outside of the USA the whole “big house, big car, fly clothes, keep up with the Jones” type of mentality of making it and living large has largely disinterested me. I love not having a big car to maintain, being able to largely walk & bike everywhere gives me a chance for personal interaction with everyday people. That’s largely missing in the USA with the driving from parking lot/garage to parking lot/garage on the daily. So I’d say leaving behind the material lifestyle and glorification of such culture has been the greatest lesson for me living abroad yet that has allowed me to blossom even further.
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