A few years back I had written about Jim Rogers and Paige Parker when I discovered their website. And read about their around the world travel which lasted for 3 years. Last month I saw the book Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip by Jim Rogers talking about the same journey. And very obviously picked it and read it as soon as I could. For someone who dreams of such travels, this was someone else living my dream. And then talking about it. Imagine, you and your partner, a specially designed cozy car and roads across the world, is it not the ultimate dream?
Jim and Paige along with their anonymous team of videographer and web designer traveled 152,000 miles in three years. Covering 116 countries across the world, setting a world record. It takes a great deal of courage, conviction, resilience, patience and probably a bit of madness to take up this kind of a challenge. People start feeling homesick after a few days of journey and when they are thrown out of their comfort zone. To throw yourself in the middle of total chaos, to fight for visas on every border, to find a place to sleep and to locate your next meal, even when you have the resources to pay for everything, is no mean feat. The adventure is something that would keep inspiring a whole lot of aspiring travelers like me.
The book with its 340 or so pages is too small to capture an experience that is so vast. So you do follow the couple’s journey as it happened chronologically. But you miss out on the details for most places. The author talks a lot of border crossings, the problems or the surprises that they had while crossing with their car. He also talks about the stock exchanges in all major countries. And how easy or difficult it is for a foreign investor to invest there. As they spend most of the time on the road, they do talk about the quality of the roads. And have their own list of best and worst roads across the world.
He also makes the book Adventure Capitalist personal by talking about his marriage, his father’s illness and his death during the trip. He almost ends the book by talking about his visit to his father’s grave.
In the last chapter which should have been his reflections on the trip after coming back, Jim Rogers actually takes it as an opportunity to thrash America. How it is making enemies and alienating itself from the world. He also takes all possible digs at Alan Greenspan, who he holds responsible for fraudulent reporting by US government and responsible for inflated economy numbers. I am not an expert to say how good or bad his observations are. But I found them irrelevant in a book that should have been about his travel adventure. And about his insights into investing in various economies around the world.
Considering that they traveled 150 miles a day on average, they had not more than 2-3 days per country that they traveled. So their connect per country per day is not really enough for them to be able to make any inferences or decisions on the country overall. Jim stops by to give investment advice on all these countries. And giving an impression that the decision is solely based on the 2-3 days spent in the country which seems unlikely. Jim Rogers and his wife also got married while on the trip. So the trip also served as their extended honeymoon, no wonder they stop at certain places and find them romantic.
I found his investment advises too shallow, as they lacked all rationale and the logic given was too high level. He only talks about the balance of trade, demographics and the free trade as the only parameters to consider while trying to invest in an economy. I am sure there is far more to an economy and to investor’s decisions than this simplistic view.
The author makes some common observations like:
- You can learn more about the country by talking to the madam at the brothel or a black marketer than by talking to a public servant or a government minister.
- Bureaucracy is a problem in every country and public in every country thinks they have the worst bureaucrats. (Based on my conversation with people of at least 20 nationalities, I agree here)
- Successful investing means getting in early, when things are cheap, when everything is depressed and when everyone is demoralized.
- Everyone blames the foreigners when the economy goes south. Always.
- Immigrant always has to run a bit faster, which increases productivity.
For any travel enthusiast, Adventure Capitalist is definitely an inspiring book. But as a book, I would rate it as average. The author had so much to share, but in the process of putting a bit of everything, he missed out on the depth on all aspects. He could have either written a book on each aspect. Or divide the book into various segments like travel, investment, and personal story. Somewhere you just seem to be running along with the author. Without stopping by to admire the beauty spread around, the insights lying here and there to be uncovered, the thrill of fighting against odds, the way to get out of the tricky situations. The dilemmas faced and resolved, surprises encountered and the whole aura around the travel.
As an author, Jim could have definitely been better. Nonetheless, do read this book Adventure Capitalist if travel is what your dream is made of.