Do You Have an Offshore Backup Plan?
There are no dead-end trails in Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. They are all interconnected or circular. Can you guess why?
I learned the answer the hard way back in 1986. It was my first game drive. I went with a college buddy to the Etosha Pan in the far north of South-West Africa (now Namibia). There was a watering hole just off the main track, so we decided to check it out in hope of seeing some lions.
After a few minutes, we heard the distinctive snort and headshake of an elephant. Behind us on the single land track was an adolescent bull. He was clearly in musth – a sort of teenage burst of elephant hormones – and therefore extremely dangerous. His distinctive side-to-side headshake signaled an unhappy elephant.
Elephants are a lot faster than most people think: time to move. I had kept the engine running, but we were facing away from the junction of the water hole sidetrack and the main track. I slowly pulled away from the big guy and rounded a sharp corner… only to find myself facing a wall of impenetrable bush.
Lesson: Always have an escape route in the bush.
In this case, we were lucky. After a tense 10 minutes or so during which the young bull nosed around the track, he eventually meandered down to the water hole to splash some mud on his back to keep mosquitoes at bay.
I slowly reversed out of the cul-de-sac, heart pounding, sweat pouring off my forehead. We hightailed it down the main track until we found a “bush loo” – a fenced area where you can do your business without becoming someone’s meal. We took a good breather as the lesson sank in.
During my recent visit to Kruger National Park, I deployed the bush sense I’d accumulated in 25 years of African living and saw lots of wildlife safely. After all, I had a wife, child and two in-laws in the Range Rover with me this time. I’m not a footloose college kid anymore.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this. Life is full of dead ends. They’re not risky in and of themselves… but they can quickly become a trap. You can either learn the hard way, or seek out someone who has done it already.
Overconcentration of one’s investments in one asset class is just such a dead end. Diversity is your escape route. The same goes for geographical concentration. Smart traders hold multiple currencies, for example, sacrificing some growth to hedge against the unknown.
The Offshore Backdoor
But my favorite topic is offshore living. After all, I’ve done it for a huge chunk of my life.
Now, occasionally I get letters questioning my patriotism for criticizing the U.S. government and encouraging people to explore offshore opportunities.
Those letters don’t phase me one bit. I’m kind of proud of them. The United States was designed to serve my needs as a free citizen with “self-evident” natural rights. The U.S. government gets my respect precisely to the extent that it does that. When it fails to do so, one of my natural rights is to look elsewhere on the planet.
That’s not unpatriotic… it’s true freedom. It’s also one of the most liberating backdoors I know. The feeling of having a second home… a place to go to “cool off” or even to escape… that’s what I call freedom.
Meanwhile, Across the South Atlantic…
Creating a personal escape route from potential dead ends isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
For example, next March I’ll be visiting Punta del Este, Uruguay. This week I’m in Cape Town, where I have a second home. It’s almost exactly on the same latitude as Punta del Este. If I look due west from the other side of the Cape Peninsula (my house is on the eastern side), I’m looking right at it.
Perhaps that’s why I always feel so at home there in March, as the Southern Hemisphere’s summer winds down and the ocean breezes start to shift around to the north, just as they do in the Fairest Cape.
I embraced the Uruguay opportunity some years ago for a reason: It’s the only country on the planet that guarantees foreigners the right to obtain legal residence and citizenship. That, and the fact that the country is the most advanced in Latin America… worlds ahead of most of Central America and better than the U.S. in many respects. There are conditions, of course, but they’re simple and inexpensive.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that life in a single country is as dangerous a dead end as my trip by the Namibian water hole. But then again, you never know what’s sneaking up from behind.