This really is a brilliant article, and although a few anecdotes don’t make a trend, it does jibe with the puzzling statistics on Polish laborers leaving Britain that I flagged last week. I’d expected the global economic downturn to trigger waves of job-seeking immigrants both regionally and inter-continentally, with all the social tensions that historically result. Instead, this seems to be a new kind of downturn, where the urge is to return to a simpler life that, in its own way, provides a dependable social safety net. I imagine, too, this has to do with the significantly lower costs of both travel and communication, which reduce the barriers to pulling up stakes and heading back home.
I’d also add that although the protagonist of the WaPo article is a truck driver, he’s also a college graduate. And the article itself focuses on professionals, where the logic of return seems to be even stronger. Doctors, to take one example, are in demand everywhere, and enjoy prestige and higher wages pretty much universally. So the trade off in “wealth” as measured by dollars for “wealth” as measured in time and a quality of life that they, after all, grew up with, makes a lot of sense. Especially to someone like me, who opted out of the career track for many of the same reasons.