By most standards, the US is a pretty nice country to live in... but for some people, the allure of ruling a private kingdom is too tempting to resist, and it's actually not that hard to start your own country. In theory, all you have to do is buy your own patch of paradise, then secede from the United States. Sounds too easy to be true, right? That's actually pretty much all you need to do to start your own micronation.
Micronations are entities that claim to be sovereign states but aren't recognized by any organizations or other governments. Most of the time, they have their own flags, currencies, systems of government, stamps, passports, and more. There are loads throughout the world, and some better known than others (if you haven't looked up Sealand, do it right now. I'll wait.) There are a few scattered across America, so if you're interested in "international" travel without leaving the continental US, you can check out these micronations... that technically "aren't" in the US.
The Republic of Molossia was founded on September 3, 1999 by Kevin Baugh. It rules several separate areas the New Harmony Province in Nevada, which encompasses the capital city of Baughston, where the Government House (aka President Kevin Baugh's home) is located, as well land in Northern and Southern California, along with Vesperia, a 49,881 square mile tract of land Baugh lays claim to on the planet Venus, and Neptune Deep, a locale in the Pacific Ocean just off the Mexican Coast.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Molossia since 2002, they have a Ministry for Air and Space Exploration, a post office, and a railroad department, and they claim to be one of the first nations to recognize Kosovo as an independent republic. Their currency is the valora, and its relative worth is based on the Pillsbury cookie dough standard, which is way cooler than the gold standard, IMO. Tobacco and incandescent light bulbs are banned, so don't think about bringing those when you come to visit (you do need a passport, though)... oh, and they claim to be at war with East Germany, which hasn't technically existed for quite some time.
Zaqistan is a little more up-front since it sees itself as an art installation as much as a micronation. Zachary Landsburg, a Brooklyn sculptor, bought the land, located near Utah's Great Salt Lake, on eBay for $610 and visits a few times a year. There are no buildings in Zaqistand, but there's a border patrol gate that surrounds the sculptures located in the micronation. The nation's main import is water, its main export is conceptual art, their motto translates to "Something out of Nothing", and, despite their location in the desert, their national animal is the squid.
The Kingdom of Talossa is an interesting micronation because, despite the fact that they claim lots of territory, especially in the Milwaukee area, a lot of its members, and its popularity, sprang up from the internet, after the country's website began to get attention from publications like Wired and the New York Times.
It dates back to the late 1970s, when Robert Madison began to invent the fictional country, which, at first was contained to his bedroom. He made up a language (one of the most detailed fictional languages ever invented) and a flag and started publishing a newspaper to keep the dozen-or-so members, mostly friends and family up-to-date on the happenings in the country. The country has national holidays and days of observance, national historic sites, a national ethnic cuisine (Taco Bell), and culturally important songs ("Anthem" by ABBA and "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac). They have an incredibly detailed map of their territories and a very elaborate system of government, and a Wiki to keep it all sorted out, if you're interested in becoming a member!
For a nation that's a bit more forward-thinking than the US, consider a visit to North Dumpling Island. Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, purchased the historic island just off the coasts of Connecticut and New York. When he was not permitted to build a wind turbine on the island to power everything, he joked that he might have to secede from the US to build his dream home on the island. He did eventually manage to get the island to be carbon neutral, using a combo of solar and wind power and by replacing the lights with LEDs. He still calls the island, which has a lighthouse and a replica of Stonehenge, "The Kingdom of North Dumpling Island" and has pretty much everything needed to back that name up: He has a constitution, a national anthem, a currency, a flag, and a navy (which consists of one lone boat). You know, just in case America decides it cares that the so-called Dumplonians have seceded.
We all know about the Florida Keys, but did you know that they left Florida, and the US, to form their own country? The Conch Republic was founded on April 23, 1982, when tourists and citizens on their way from the Keys to the Florida mainland were subject to a roadblock checking every single car for illegal immigrants and narcotics, causing epic traffic jams. When their pleas to the US government fell on deaf ears, they took matters into their own hands... and left the country.
The Conch Republic's first day, according to Wikipedia, went like this: The Mayor of Key West was declared the Prime Minister of the Conch Republic, and he wasted no time, immediately declaring war with America by "symbolically breaking a stale loaf of Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a naval uniform." The Prime Minister then surrendered to the naval officer one minute later... then immediately turned around and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid.
Even though the roadblock was removed shortly after the War of 1982 and peace fell over the Conch Republic, it wasn't long-lived. In 1995, a battalion of the Army Reserve ran a training exercise that simulated the invasion of a foreign island... and they foolishly chose to practice this exercise on Key West without informing the Conch Republic. The Conchs took this as an act of aggression, and fought back, unleashing water cannons from fireboats and rained down stale Cuban bread on the battalion. They then took their grievances to the Department of Defense, who surrendered.
They've even tried to buy the Seven Mile Bridge from the US after Cuban refugees who landed on it were sent back by the American government. Today, you can buy souvenir passports, rock out to their National Anthem, celebrate their independence day at their weeklong festival, and even join their military. The country's (admittedly bold) motto ? "We Seceded Where Others Failed". Their mission sums up what makes the CR so great, though: "The Mitigation of World Tension through the Exercise of Humor". That's something even the US government can get behind!
Honestly, micronations are more about going to an imaginary place that might exist more in your mind (or online) than in reality... but the sense of community fostered by these strange little countries is undeniably powerful. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the outside art and creative-centric culture of Zaqistan, or you want to immerse yourself in the study of the language and offbeat geography of Talossa, or the eco-friendly nation of North Dumpling Island speaks to you, or you just want to get wild and throw stale bread at people in the Conch Republic, or you even want to start your own micronation, you can find a place where you fit in, right here in America.