My mom moved me to the US when I was 7 years old. Now, 21 years later I decided to move back to Colombia and my quality of life is much better.

Jamie Valentino in a boat ride
Courtesy of Jamie Valentino
  • My mom moved me and my fraternal quadruplet brothers to the US when we were 7 years old.

  • We landed in Miami, where she wanted us to have better education and quality of life.

  • Now at age 28, I've moved back to Colombia, and my life is so much better than it was in the US.

I boarded a plane holding hands with my mother and fraternal quadruplet brothers at 7 years old. She sacrificed her upper-class life in Bogotá, Colombia, venturing into the unknown as a single parent of four and immigrating to Miami for us to achieve educations in English and dreams in dollars.

Just over two decades later, I've come back for the reason she left: the pursuit of happiness. For my mom, that meant safety and opportunity during a time when our country was considered one of the most dangerous in the world. In certain parts, it still is. I built on her foundation to seek opulence.

"The ones that live there are the ones that can, not the ones that want," my private driver commented while arriving at Poblado, my new neighborhood. I blushed, thinking I was finally included in the elite.

"You can't just give up," my mom said on the phone when I arrived.

But entering my two-bedroom, two-bathroom doorman apartment with a balcony overlooking a city surrounded by mountains did not feel like defeat. I treated myself to dinner at a renowned restaurant and walked out thinking, "How cheap!" The next day, I paid $13 for a manicure and pedicure, then $37 for a facial.

You can't buy happiness, but I suddenly felt the high of power and access that doesn't exist in the US for a freelance writer.

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I couldn't afford my lifestyle in New York

I began researching digital nomads after ending a four-year relationship that ran long past its expiration date. I never imagined finances would be a reason to stay, until I couldn't afford to leave. I came to terms with the fact that my lifestyle belonged to his executive-legal job while searching for an apartment in Manhattan when the average rent had reached $4,000 a month.

I refused to accept that I needed to fall in love and move in with someone else with an executive position for bills to not be a stressor — but it turns out it's not just me, because according to CNBC, 77% of Americans are anxious about their financial situations.

What seemed most paradoxical was that my career never looked better on paper, and I wouldn't choose to do anything else. Yet, I couldn't afford to live alone in a city I swore I couldn't live without. Becoming roommates with strangers sounded like another step back, and other metropolitan cities seemed to compete to win the title of "most overpriced." I decided if I could let go of my toxic relationship with a man, I could do the same with geography.

I chose to live where I'm better off

Digital-office culture has empowered many like me with the privilege of lifestyle migration — working remotely abroad, typically somewhere much cheaper than where they lived previously.

I'm not ignorant of the fact that Poblado, where I live now, is a bubble like most affluent neighborhoods. There's an incomprehensible amount of poverty in Colombia — but not unlike America. So why not decide to reside where I'm better off? I still use Apple Pay, order Ubers, and find all the avocado toasts and green juices a New Yorker needs, except I won't be stressed about payment. Buenos Aires is next on my list.

A career that once limited my income now enables me to find happiness — and purpose — worldwide.

There's a privileged irony in an immigrant returning to their native country and being received as a gringo by locals. Still, I want to thank my mom for the sacrifices she made so I could be here now.

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