Every Trip Starts as an Idea
What happens when someone who has made millions investing on Wall Street achieves financial freedom by the age of 37?
What if he decides that he is going to retire and pursue his other passions and dreams?
What if that dream was to go on an epic motorcycle trip around the world to see it from the ground up?
How does one go about planning for a trip like that, and what sort of eye-opening experiences and obstacles would he encounter along the way?
In this fascinating story, the legendary American investor Jim Rogers, founder of the Quantum Fund, shares his ambitious trip around the world during a time of tremendous social change and economic opportunity.
This was a time when the Berlin Wall was recently torn down, and the communist Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse. China was only beginning to realize its potential as a world economic and cultural powerhouse while South America was waking up to the failures of its socialist regimes.
Lucky for us, Mr. Roger meticulously made notes and documented all his adventures in his travel journal so that we can come along for the ride.
A Daring Motorcycle Adventure
In 1990, Mr. Rogers set off with his travel companion and romantic partner named Tabitha (a remarkable young woman in her own right) from the coast of Ireland to embark on an epic, 22-month ride across Europe, Asia (twice, once across China and once on the way back through Siberia and present-day Russia), Africa and South America before reaching home to America.
Although the trip would still be quite the accomplishment in today’s day and age, I found it even more impressive because it took place in a time before the Internet, Google, Airbnb and other such technological advances have made travel easier. There were also no roads which existed along some of his planned route, including parts of Siberia, the Sahara Desert and the Congo. This was a time when a trip like this was not even considered by the vast majority of travellers, let alone embarked upon. The amount of logistical and bureaucratic barriers alone would turn away even the most intrepid souls.
As the author humorously noted, basic English and hand signals can go a long way in communicating with non-English speaking locals anywhere in the world and buying someone a beer or giving them a cigarette is still a good way to quickly make friends anywhere in the world.
Insightful Lessons on Economics, History and Investing
Although Mr. Rogers is clearly a very smart and observant man who has accumulated a great deal of wealth and success, you can tell that he remains a humble, down-to-earth person from his common sense, tell-it-like-it-is writing style. He remains true to his humble beginnings from a small town in Alabama while making poignant and insightful observations into the places he visits. His astute observations into their cultural, political, and economic challenges, along with predictions for where the investment opportunities lie proved to be quite prescient nearly thirty years later.
This is what separates Investment Biker from a lot of other me-too travel memoirs; because of Mr. Rogers’ curiosity about the world and his unique background in finance, he is able to make profound observations into the different political ideologies and economic systems during this trip from seemingly small everyday travel encounters with the locals, and its broader implications for markets and investing.
An example Mr. Rogers used to illustrate this lesson, and one I have found to be true through my own travel experiences, is how the spread (difference) between official and black-market exchange rates of a local currency to hard currency (US dollars) acts as a barometer to how stable a society and its government is, and whether you should invest in that country.
Through a Traveller's Eye
Through first-hand experiences, anecdotal examples and historical allusions, Mr. Rogers is also able to explain complex ideas in easy-to-understand language such as; why societies with statism, a political system where a government has centralized control over the economy can never result in prosperity; why history has proven that capitalism is superior to communism; and why less government meddling, more individual freedoms and open markets increases individual happiness and well-being.
It is this juxtaposition between fun-to-read travel anecdotes combined with its relevant lessons for investing that make Investment Biker such an enjoyable read. While Mr. Rogers is unapologetically a capitalist, he is also a travel lover with a deep curiosity about the world. This means seeing the world through your own eyes, investigating interesting ideas and thinking critically before coming to your own independent conclusions.
In his own words, he considers himself very lucky to have worked in an industry which paid him so handsomely to research and learn about the world to find out what’s really going on – and what better way to do it than from the ground up from the seat of a BMW motorbike?
There is no shortage of colourful characters in the story either, from successful husband-wife entrepreneurs in the Soviet Union, to a womanizing French travel aid in Algeria to corrupt police captains in Zaire (now known as DR Congo) - Mr. Rogers has met them all with colourful tales to tell.
This thought-provoking book is one of the most enjoyable travel stories I’ve read in a long time. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as many of the insights Mr. Rogers wrote resonated with my own experiences and conclusions about the world. It is one that has changed my outlook to travel and way of spotting opportunities in the world.
Whether you’re interested in investing and making money or not, Investment Biker encourages you to see the world beyond the superficial tourist lens; to investigate and dig deeper into the history of a place, to discover where it’s been, where it is now, and where it might be heading in the future. This approach may reward you with deeper satisfaction as an explorer and deeper pockets as an investor to fund more adventures.
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Until next time,
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