I’m writing to you from where I first learned about investing - the Central American jungle. Monkeys, toucans, iguanas, and lots of rain. It’s beautiful.
I first visited Central America when I graduated from high school. My parents gave me a roundtrip 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.
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 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 you’re thinking about is 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; 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.
Of course there were other consequences that I was totally oblivious to, like how those price changes affected the locals. On one hand there were more jobs and more people to sell things to, but on the other hand their cost of living went up.
Selfishly, I was worried about my dream being crushed and I dwelled on it for at least a year as I finished out college.
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 wanted to discover hidden gems before the masses and I wanted to do it my way where I could respect the environment and locals.
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. It should involve making an asset more valuable from hard work. Buy something cheap, increase it’s value, and then sell for a profit. Very simple.
Unfortunately, our financial system has implemented all kinds of fees, loopholes, secret rules, confusing interest schemes, and scummy tactics. It’s actually quite frustrating and intimidating for someone who wants to get involved in the investing world.
What happened to just building a simple house or business and selling for a profit?
Regulations, taxes, permits, and all kinds of other hurdles have made even the simplest investments seem like a daunting task.
But, it’s not all negative. There are still massive opportunities out there; it’s just a matter of really searching.
That’s why I started the Explorer Report. I wanted to share what I was doing in the world, but I also wanted to force myself to properly think all of my ideas through. Sometimes I’ll have an idea that I think is a great investment, but after I write about it, I find that it’s a horrible strategy!
Writing about my ventures keeps me in check and it connects me with incredible people. You get to learn (for free!) from my successes and from my mistakes.
I realize that sometimes a simple article is not enough to properly communicate an idea. You want more. More details, more help, and just more value.
That’s why I’m excited to share with you something that I have coming in the future.
Until then (and after then too), I’ll keep the Explorer Report coming. Thanks for reading.