I first visited Central America when I graduated from high school. My parents gave me a round-trip ticket as a graduation present to wherever I wanted to go – I chose El Salvador.
At the time, a couple of friends were going to join me on the trip, which was really all about surfing. We’d all fly down together, stay in some crappy surf hostel, and then fly home with a great adventure story to share with our friends back home.
Only, my friends backed out at the last minute, forfeiting their plane tickets. They got scared because El Salvador was making the news with stories of murder and drug cartel violence.
I didn’t want to waste the money that was spent on the airline ticket, so I ended up going anyway.
It was my first time traveling outside the country by myself and I didn’t have a clue what I was in for.
Truthfully, I was terrified. But, I was even more scared of missing out on the adventure that I had dreamed about while staring at Surfer Magazine pictures when I was a kid.
I wasn’t exactly blazing a trail as the first traveler to El Salvador – far from it, actually. Though, at the time, I felt like I was doing something that few people would ever get to experience, which made the trip that much more exciting.
The trip ended up being a total blast. I got great surf, drank lots of beer (which was weird as an 18-year-old kid from the US), and met a whole bunch of interesting people.
I ended up hanging out with a small group of Irish surfers because they were hilarious and spoke English. Ironically, I could understand the El Salvadorian Spanish better than I could understand the Irish…
We drove up and down the coast exploring all kinds of bays and points searching for surf. Along the way, I kept seeing ‘se vende’ signs on houses.
As a recent high school graduate, the last thing that I was thinking about was buying a house. US housing prices at the time (2004) were very expensive and the thought of shelling out a couple hundred thousand dollars wasn’t even an idea – it was completely unrealistic. Nevertheless, I was curious and started to ask about the houses for sale.
$30,000 USD was the price of the first house I asked about. This tiny house was two bedrooms, one bath, and right on the beach. It was about ten years old and in great shape.
$30,000 USD was still completely out of my range, as I probably had $300 in my bank account. However, the price seemed a lot more attainable than the housing prices back in the states.
That’s when my mind started to wander…
I thought about coming back to El Salvador and buying a house on the beach. I’d save a bunch of money and then find the perfect setup: a simple beach front home where I could just run out the door and right into the ocean.
Cold beer would be in the refrigerator, there’d be a couple hammocks outside, and I’d wear nothing but board shorts and a straw hat. Perfect.
About three years later I returned to the exact area while I was filming a documentary movie. I noticed that a lot had changed. Lots more surfers, more places to stay, and everything was more expensive!
At first, I was almost devastated. I felt like I had discovered this place earlier and then when I came back it was completely ruined.
Those same houses I had looked at three years earlier were double and triple their original price, which meant that my dream was even further away.
While I dwelled on the idea of buying my piece of paradise in the jungle, I started to understand how investing and economics worked. I learned these things by necessity, because I wanted to make money so I could afford my beach house.
But, I also learned about investing and economics by just looking at what happened in El Salvador.
Usually, learning about economics and finance are extremely boring things to study. Anyone who has taken a class can attest to how dry the material can be.
I still can’t stand reading books about traditional investing. One of the most famous books in the investing world is called “The Intelligent Investor,” and I can barely read the whole thing.
How do you learn anything without applying concepts to real world situations?
Anyway, I took the example I learned in El Salvador and thought, “How can I find another place in the world that hasn’t been discovered? Or at least not discovered by me?”
And that’s when the exploring bug bit me.
I wanted to find off-the-beaten-path places and invest so I could be the first to market.
I figured that if I didn’t get there first, then someone else would. That’s what humans do – they progress, develop, and grow.
So, that’s what I started to do. I got a job at home in the US, saved as much money as possible, and used every free moment to travel and explore places that I knew would eventually become hot spots.
Really, my strategy was really simple. In fact, it was (and still is) so simple that it seems silly. Just buy something cheap, wait for it to appreciate, and then sell.
Many of us have been conditioned to think that investing is complicated and requires understanding of complex mathematical equations.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually, the more complicated an investment is, the more skeptical I become.
An investment should be simple.
So what’s my challenge for you?
Go find that unexplored thing.
It can be anything. It doesn’t have to be outside your home country… or even outside the city you’re living in.
But… DO NOT make the same mistake that most people do when it comes to commitments…
Actually follow through with what you want to do.
Here’s a trick I use:
Buy a non-refundable round-trip airplane ticket to somewhere you have never been and know nothing about. If you don’t actually go on the trip, then you’re just wasting money. Force yourself to follow through.
In addition to that, send me a message. Tell me where you’re going and what you’re going to do. Maybe you have some crazy idea, opportunity, or adventure that I haven’t thought of!
(And if you can’t think of something on your own, then we’ve got another trip coming up in April. You should join us.)