7 SAGES HOSTEL, XI’AN – I was in the “well” of a 48-foot container carrier, wedged next to a weathered blue COSCO container.
The cop stood on the platform above, pointing his gun down at me.
Big railyards have cops patrolling the yard, keeping the drunks and thieves out. Typically, when they catch a hobo, they administer a beating and then throw the hobo in jail. They’re railroad cops, but hobos call them “bulls,” and they’re the hobos’ worst enemy.
“Get your bag and get off the train,” he said.
Greetings from China! My family and I threw away all our things and converted all our savings to gold. We’re traveling around the world, living like gypsies.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve done this…
Living Like a Tramp
In 2002, I became convinced that gold was going to rise. I put all my savings into gold futures. I even convinced eight of my mother’s work friends and some college buddies to buy gold futures with me. I was right about the gold price, but not about the futures. A story for another time.
Anyway, as part of my research on gold, I found Bill Bonner’s daily e-letter, The Daily Reckoning.
At the time, I was working at Salomon Brothers, in London, for the repo desk. Each night, I’d print off Bill’s email and read it on the train home. It felt so clandestine… so subversive… so exciting… I loved it.
I quickly realized I didn’t want to work at Salomon anymore. I wanted to work with Bill.
So I wrote him and told him I’d quit my job and work for him for free if he’d give me a job at The Daily Reckoning. At the time, The Daily Reckoning had only three employees, and there wasn’t a place for me.
I quit my job at Salomon anyway and decided I’d go find some adventure. I said goodbye to my family and friends, and I flew to Mexico City without any money or credit cards.
I spent the next three months living like a tramp, sleeping outside, eating scraps, and catching free rides. (I hitchhiked, I hopped freight trains, and I even caught an illegal ride on a cargo ship. I’ve published some of these stories here.)
I was in Atlanta, on a container train, waiting for it to leave the yard, when I heard footsteps on the gravel… then on the ladder… and found myself staring up the barrel of the bull’s gun.
Hitchhiking to Paris
The bull made me sit on a rail while he checked my background. Then, he checked my pack to make sure I wasn’t a thief or a graffiti artist.
“Now get the f*ck out of my freight yard,” he said finally. “If I see you again, I’m going to put you in jail.”
So I went to the Greyhound bus station and caught a bus to Birmingham, Alabama. I had a friend there who could put me up for a few days.
While I was there, I got an email from Addison Wiggin, managing editor at The Daily Reckoning.
“There have been some changes,” it said. “We need a new managing editor. The job’s in Baltimore, but you’ll need to come to Paris for the interview. Are you interested?”
To get to Paris, I’d need to hitchhike from Alabama to Mexico City, fly to London, shave, put on a suit, and take the Eurostar train to Paris.
“Yes!” I replied. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I slung my backpack over my shoulder, said goodbye to my friend, walked onto the westbound on-ramp to Interstate 10, and stuck out my thumb.
To be continued…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. The experience I had on I-10 was so terrifying I will never hitchhike again. I’ll tell that story next week…
Reader comment: I have followed you through the years at Stansberry and Palm Beach. I gained from your good advice. When you “disappeared,” I wondered what happened. Thanks for bringing us up to date with the postcards. I am certainly glad to hear of your solution and progress. Very courageous. Keep up the good work!! Glad you are back.
Tom’s response: Thank you!
Reader comment: I have really enjoyed reading about your adventures in China. It is refreshing to me to read about China presented in a positive manner. Kudos to you and Kate for homeschooling your kids. It’s great when kids can learn hands-on by doing, seeing, and living the experience!
Reader comment: WOW. I am so, so impressed. School is more and more a training ground for selling your life to the Boss, one way or another. So I wish more smart couples could just have the nerve to take off. Overall, über congratulations to you two!!!! 🙂
Reader question: Do you think that the Chinese government has deliberately overbuilt roads, bridges, buildings, etc., to keep the country’s people employed?
Tom’s response: I think, most of the time, the Chinese government approaches infrastructure like a mother approaches shoe shopping… by buying shoes that are two sizes too big and hoping her children grow into them.
But I also think there’s a lot of corruption, and sometimes things get built that won’t ever be used, like the weird bridges we saw in the desert this week.
Reader comment: A thought just occurred to me about your previous depression and current state of happiness and being very much alive. Perhaps it is about having a sense of purpose, not just in the long term, but on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis?
Love your travel stories. Best wishes to you and your family.
Tom’s response: It’s so nice waking up each day with nothing but fun and adventure to be had… for a whole year! Even better, I’m on a team with Kate and the kids. We’re like a little wolf pack… or a boat crew… each with our own tasks and responsibilities as we navigate our way around the planet. I’ve never been on a winning soccer or athletics team or anything like that, but now I know what that camaraderie must feel like.
As one reader observed this week:
Your traveling family is like American pioneers on the frontier, the family being the prime socializing unit, everybody having each other’s back, one for all and all for one.
Reader question: Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I’m enjoying everything you write about, especially the commentary on and photos of so many empty building projects in China. Are the central planners in China playing a giant Ponzi scheme that will implode at some point, or will the massive population of industrious Chinese people be able to grow into all of this excess infrastructure?
Tom’s response: This is the first trillion-dollar question. The second is, “Can they afford it?” I don’t know the answer to either, but I’d like to know. Because the answer to these questions will affect securities markets for years to come. We’ve got three more weeks in China to find clues…
As always, keep sending us your questions and comments at [email protected]. Kate and I read every one of them, even if we can’t publish them all.