“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes”.— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, we’re still here…
Readers who have been following our sorry plight of late will recall that, due to an unfortunate kerfuffle involving a “missing” visa fee, we were unable to board our flight back home to Buenos Aires a few days ago.
The necessary paperwork is, we’re told, making its way through the inner plumbing of Argentina’s vast bureaucracy. Which could mean days…weeks…or, never…
And so, we’ve been marooned here ever since, condemned to spend our days moping along Ipanema’s sandy stretch and our nights drifting aimlessly between the city’s endless sea of samba bars and Michelin star beaneries.
As it happens, our little travel mishap ties in well enough with today’s topic: geographical independence.
Remember, we’re trying to discover how to live a better…freer…richer life. That means financial…intellectual…even agricultural independence.
Like all discovery, it’s a process. A work in motion.
But wait a second… Why should you care about living independently?
And what does that even mean?
Financially speaking, most folks today enjoy a standard of living far beyond that of their parents, or their parents’ parents.
They live in enormous houses, with more rooms than they have friends to fill them…with marble counter tops in the kitchen and elliptical exercise machines in the basement…not to mention lawn mowers with cup holders and gadgets of every conceivable design.
By historical standards, Modern Material Man lives like a king.
Even to today’s working class, Herbert Hoover’s famous (though purloined) promise of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” would seem…banal.
“What, no turkey? No duck? No…turducken?” they’d complain.
Meanwhile, there are 253 million cars on the road in America. And only 117 million households. Surely there aren’t too many empty garages…
Materially, most people appear to be doing pretty well. Very well, even. But material wealth can disappear in a flash.
Take the story of Hoover himself. Barely had all the president’s men enough time to get the chicken in the White House oven before the country was plunged into crisis. The material wealth of the roaring ’20s soon evaporated during the Great Depression that came to define the ’30s.
What might happen if another, sudden economic downturn swept the nation? What if banks started to roll over? What if your savings vanished…or your job went away…if your home was foreclosed…?
We’re just imagining, of course. But it’s better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best than the other way around.
A million things can go wrong at any moment. That’s why it’s important to be independent in as many ways as you can. You want to insulate yourself against market collapses…currency crises…social and political upheaval.
Which brings us to the concept of being geographically flexible…
Ultimately, being independent means being able to go where you want…when you want. (Provided, of course, you have the correct travel documents to do so…)
It also means not having to ask a “boss” for time off…or wrangle enough shift swaps to make it work…or string together enough “sick” days.
You just up…and go!
That might sound unrealistic, but it’s actually easier than you think. In fact, you’ll likely find that traveling becomes less expensive and less stressful the more geographically independent you become.
And when you have the flexibility to move around freely, all kinds of possibilities become available. You might even discover that being on “permanent vacation” is cheaper than living in your own home!
Take, for example, the concept of “crisis vacationing.”
Basically, the idea involves seeking out destinations that are unloved, undervalued and out of favor…then packing your bags and heading directly there.
Of course, few people think this way. Instead, they give a wide berth to places recently struck by man—or Mother Nature—made disaster.
Instead, they moan about the plight of “those poor people over there”…from the comfort of their own homes. All while never actually going to stay in those “poor people’s” hotels, eat at their restaurants, frequent their tours and bars and historic sites.
Bad luck for most people, we say. But good luck to anyone who thinks beyond their own front fence.
We recall visiting Mumbai shortly after the terrorist attacks there in 2008. The place was safe as could be…and cheap!
With most tourists running for the hills, hotels offered steep discounts and suite upgrades to anyone who dared accept their generous offers.
And the Mumbaikars were only too happy to welcome a visitor to their wonderful city. We were even interviewed by the Hindu Times after taking part in a vigil for the victims of the siege in Café Leopold. The reporter wanted us to tell “our fellow foreigners” what a great place India was and that it was still safe and rewarding to visit.
We couldn’t have agreed more and were only too happy to convey the important message.
Of course, it goes without saying that special room rates, complimentary upgrades and shorter queues are not the most important thing here…but neither are they nothing.
Far more meaningful, the “crisis vacationer” knows his hard-earned moolah is going where it’s sorely needed…and deeply deserved. People in disaster-affected areas need visitors on the ground, engaging in business, spending money…not empty well wishes from afar.
Now, there’s obviously a point of diminishing returns to this particular idea…a moment beyond which the potential upside becomes too risky, too costly.
We’d suggest, for example, sunbaking on the sandy dunes of Brazil’s Fortaleza, as opposed to Iraq’s Fallujah…doing your shopping in Buenos Aires, not Benghazi…and relaxing by the pool in Vietnam’s diving capital, Nha Trang, not North Korea’s dive of a capital, Pyongyang.
Still, there are easy ways to leverage your purchasing power without putting your self in harm’s way.
Take, for example, basic currency arbitrage. In other words, visiting places where your dollars (or pounds, pesos, pulas…what-have-you) go further against the local scrip.
For reference, currencies that depend on strong natural-resource prices have hit the skids during the past few years, following the price of their underlying assets. Commodity exporting nations are hurting, in other words, and so is the value of their respective governments’ paper money.
That’s good news for Truth & Plenty readers who happen to earn U.S. dollars. The greenback just so happens to be tipping multi-year highs, meaning you get more for your money elsewhere.
And where, exactly, is “elsewhere?”
The New Zealand kiwi, Australian aussie, and Canadian loonie are all (at time of writing) hovering around six-year lows. Likewise are the Russian ruble, Norwegian krona and, yes, the Brazilian real suffering deeply.
Therefore, these destinations may present (relative) bargain opportunities for nimble, geographically independent travelers…
And now, the observant reader is beginning to view our current “predicament” in a brand new light.
You see, it wasn’t only Brazil’s beaches and culinary delights that drew your thrifty editor to this particular locale. The motivation was also partially economic.
During the past year, Brazil’s currency—the real—has collapsed approximately 40% against the U.S. dollar. That means cheap hotels. Cheap restaurants. Cheap…well, everything denominated in reais.
And so, with a bit of luck, Argentina’s molasses-like bureaucracy will take its sweet time with our visa…and we’ll be “stuck” here in Brazil for just a little bit longer.
Until next time…
Featured Image ©iStock/marchello74
Carnival Goes on Sale
(Performance of the Brazilian Real vs. the U.S. Dollar, Jan 2015-Jan 2016)
Even the intrepid Joel Bowman won’t be weekending with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un any time soon, but the savvy vacationer can find big opportunities where others only see trouble and strife.—Ed
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