Like so many expats, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi moved abroad right out of college. But since that time, he’s had about the most atypical expat experience you can imagine.
He played baseball in Uzbekistan for their national team, and was kicked out of the country by the KGB for criticizing the government in an AP piece he wrote. He moved to Mongolia and become the leading rebounder in the Mongolian Basketball League, where he was nicknamed the “Mongolian Rodman.” He then lived in Russia for ten years, where he helped found the deviously entertaining expat rag, the eXile, a bi-weekly which specializes in spewing vitriol at the deserving, and– take note– it is not for the faint of heart.
Personally, I’ve read almost everything he’s written for the last ten years, and what I love as much as anything are his descriptions of his life abroad. Realistic verging on depressing, Taibbi discusses the highs– in every sense of the word– as well as the lows, of life as an expatriate:
“The expatriate mentality is a tough thing to explain easily. Any affluent or even middle-class American who renounces the good life of sushi delivery and 50-channel cable television to relocate permanently to some third-world hole usually has to be motivated by a highly destructive personality defect. Either that, or something about home creates psychological demons that in turn create the urge for radical escape.
“I’d moved overseas straight out of college and been a classic expatriate ever since. I had all the symptoms: periodic unsuccessful attempts to repatriate, a tendency to try to make grandiose foreign adventures compensate for a total inability to accumulate money; bad teeth; unhealthy personal relationships, etc. I’d been aware for years that my passion for uprooting and completely changing my lifestyle and even my career was like a drug addiction– not only did I get off on it, but I needed to do it fairly regularly just to keep from getting the shakes.”
-from his 2000 book The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia.
After moving back to the US, Taibbi covered the 2004 presidential election, but, as with everything, he did it his way. He followed around John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit, interviewed the former US drug czar while tripping on acid, and wrote a fantastic book about the whole sordid, depressing affair.