KARAKSA HOTEL, OSAKA, JAPAN – We were in Delhi for one night, staying in a guesthouse I found on Airbnb. The roof had a hole in one corner.
Some grungy-looking blackbirds were trying to make a nest there. They were transporting some sort of black tick on them.
Those ticks had infested the bedroom we were sleeping in.
We woke up in the night with the ticks crawling all over us. They looked like little mustard seeds on our skin. We could tell they were using us for food because when we crushed them, our blood came out of their little fat bodies.
They infested our luggage, too. We had to throw it all away before we went to Delhi Airport the next day.
The next morning, I pointed out the ticks to the landlord.
“Ugh. The birds must’ve come back again,” he said. “I won’t charge you for the third bed…”
Circling the World by Public Transport
Greetings from Japan!
My family and I are on a trip to circle the world by public transport.
We are independent travelers, which means we don’t use tour companies or travel agencies. It’s just the five of us, dragging our little suitcase from hotel to hotel, train station to train station, with nothing more than an old iPhone to guide us.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent time in 29 countries, including big chunks in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China.
We’ve stayed in so many guesthouses, hotels, Airbnbs, and bunk-bed hostels, we lost count long ago. Surely more than 100.
We’ve also been in hundreds of trains, buses, planes, taxis, ferries, moto-taxis, and rickshaws. And one hot-air balloon.
In two days, our trip will be complete. We just need to get to the Tokyo airport on the bullet train and then catch a flight to Vancouver.
Our Last Two Days
We decided to spend the last two days of our around-the-world trip in the town of Osaka, as we liked it so much when we were here two weeks ago.
And to mark our last hotel booking of the trip, we climbed the property ladder a rung and paid $100 a night for a luxury hotel (reduced from $435 a night.)
It’s a beautiful hotel. The beds are soft, the pillows are fluffy, the sheets are crisp, and the staff bow when we walk past.
Also, it turns out our hotel has Roman-style public baths on the fourth floor. (One for men, one for women.) There don’t seem to be many other guests at the moment, and we usually have the baths to ourselves. We’ve spent so much time soaking in the hot water, we’ve turned into soft boiled potatoes.
We’ve lost the will to do anything except lie in our pillowy beds and eat Japanese snack food from the Lawson’s downstairs.
Here we are earlier today. That’s Penny (7) playing with the secondhand laptop I bought in Tokyo the other day…
Penny putting my secondhand laptop to good use. I bought it to use as a
typewriter for these postcards
Exercise in Chaos Management
I thought traveling around the world with three young kids on a hobo’s budget would be an exercise in chaos management.
I was thinking about this today in the hot water, when I realized something…
We haven’t had a single delay. We haven’t missed any flights or trains. We haven’t lost any luggage. We haven’t screwed up any dates while making reservations.
We haven’t had any bad experiences with our hotels and Airbnbs (with the exception of the tick-infested apartment). We’ve hardly had a bad meal. I’m not even sure if we ever got caught in the rain. I haven’t left one single bad review in 18 months.
We haven’t had an issue with a place we wanted to go being “fully booked.” We haven’t had to pay any fines. We haven’t had any problems crossing borders. And we haven’t been victims of crime. We’ve never felt unsafe. Not once.
In short, in terms of logistics, it’s been a FLAWLESS trip. Smooth sailing from start to finish. We didn’t even chip the screen on our iPhone. And I got my camera back after I left it on a train last week.
We lost one thing – Chachi. Chachi was the lovey that Dusty (11) slept with since he was born. We left him on a sleeper train in Sofia, Bulgaria, last year…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night to find Kate looking for ticks with a flashlight.
P.P.S. Here we are in a hot-air balloon watching the sunrise over Mt. Hasan in Turkey…
Tom puts us at ease about what will happen when his trip ends… and offers a simple analogy for physical gold vs. gold stocks and ETFs.
Reader question: Have you thought about what will happen to the postcards when you finish your worldwide trip?
Will you keep writing every day with your snapshots of the markets and Dow-to-Gold… maybe your life after remarrying Kate… or lessons from the fringe (aka your past travels)?
Tom’s response: Yes. I’m just getting started…
Comment from Tom’s father: I can feel your nostalgia growing as your trip is winding down. You feel it in the comments too. I am so glad you found joy and internal peace and fulfillment. It required great courage to fight the demons. Instead of being satisfied with a tie, you went on to win the championship.
This will be a hard act to follow. But you can make life a journey and still live in the same place. Congratulations to all of you for being valiant and fearless. You must be a little fatigued.
Looking forward to seeing those beautiful kids in January. Dying to see Kate. Wishing you a happy landing, and have fun with your brother in Canada. Proud of you and love you always.
Reader comment: Like many, I enjoy your writing from all over the world and have been investing in gold, but more like typical Indian tradition. My sincere suggestion for you: continue world exploration for at least three months of every year and give us the joy of your travelogs. All the best for your journey back home.
Reader comment: I just started reading your notes about a month ago, when you were in China. I regret not starting sooner; it’s been kind of a hectic year for me.
Thanks for your great investment advice and for sharing your journey with us all. I am going to have to go back and catch up from 18 months ago.
Tom’s response: I started writing these postcards later in our journey. Catch up on the archives here.
Reader question: I’ve so enjoyed reading your “postcards.” I have a question. Here’s a little background to tell you the situation: My situation is probably way “below” most of your readers.
I’m a 76-year-old widow living in a very rural area. Have very little financial means after losing my husband recently. Am not making any income currently, and hopefully that will change somewhat if I can better manage my grief.
I do own my home, and I have a little (and I mean little) savings that I keep as cash. I do NOT keep it in the bank and do NOT own any type of investments except my home.
About a decade ago, my husband and I offered gold and silver jewelry in our shop and at various shows as a small part of our business. Thus, I have maybe a little more than $20,000 (wholesale cost basis) in gold and silver jewelry. The better gold and silver pieces have precious stones – diamonds and other gemstones.
Will this inventory be of any value to me when the dollar falls and things go kaput? How would I even go about selling any of it in a “kaput” situation? I would so appreciate any opinions or thoughts you could offer.
I wish for you and your family all of life’s joys, safe travels, and good health. Thank you for sharing your adventures. And thank you for sharing any opinions or thoughts you might have regarding my question.
Tom’s response: To answer your question, I think you’ll find your jewelry will be a decent store of value, and when the Dow-to-Gold ratio is below 5, you’ll find many eager buyers.
Life will go on. The dollar will go on. The U.S. government will go on.
There’s just going to be a devaluation of the dollar and other paper currencies, so the prices of gold, food, services, and anything else denominated in dollars will go up. And they’ll have to reorganize the world’s financial system around something other than the dollar. Gold, I suspect. I do not expect things to go kaput.
I’m sorry to hear about your husband, and I hope your pain subsides soon…
Reader comment: Like many other readers, I have immensely enjoyed reading about your travels with your family. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel a lot as a child, not to the extent that your family is traveling around the world, but we traveled cheaply (camping) all over the United States.
I have memories and experiences from those travels that have helped me in school, later in the work world, and throughout my life. I’m sure your children will benefit greatly from your travels for the rest of their lives.
Reader question: I’m retired, and I am in the same boat as some of your other readers. I cannot put a lot of cash into physical gold, but I could redirect a certain amount of my 401(k) funds into gold stocks, but I’m not sure about ETFs [exchange-traded funds].
Without giving investment advice, could you go into more detail about the difference between investing in actual physical gold and investing in physical gold stocks and ETFs?
Tom’s response: When I have more time, I will write a long essay about this. The short answer is, it’s like a ski resort.
In Europe, for example, you have green runs, blue runs, red runs, black runs, and double black runs. The green runs are the easiest slopes, suitable for everyone, but not very exciting. The black runs are very exciting, but only experts can handle them.
Except I’m not talking about sliding down a mountain on skis. I’m talking about how easy it is to hold a gold investment during a bull market in gold.
One thing that people underestimate is how stressful and difficult it is to hold an investment in a bull market. It sounds easy, but it’s not. The market will do everything it can to throw you off and stop you from making a big profit.
Physical gold is the green run. It sits in the sock drawer or the bank security box. It’s the easiest form of gold to hold in a bull market. Gold bullion ETFs are the blue run. Silver bullion ETFs represent the red run. Gold and silver royalty stocks are black runs. And then gold and silver mining companies are the double-black runs.
Successful investing, in my opinion, is largely an exercise in mastery of our base emotions. I’m very emotional. I have commitment issues… attention deficit… shiny metal object syndrome… I get excited and depressed…
I knew bitcoin would be a big thing the moment I saw it in 2012, but I couldn’t hold on to it for the whole move. I knew gold was going to make a big move higher in 2003, but I couldn’t hold on then either. I got too excited.
So I choose my investments according to how easy they are for me to hold on to long term…
That’s why I’ve focused on physical gold, because it’ll be the easiest for me to hold for the long term. Then, I’ve supplemented my position with bullion ETFs and mining stocks.
It’s also why I like whole life insurance as an investment, because it leaves you with no choice but to be a long-term investor.
Reader question: I’ve diversified some of my portfolio by investing in real estate. I know you are all in for gold, but how do you think real estate investments will stack up against gold when the Dow-to-Gold ratio is under 5? Thanks, and keep the travel logs coming.
Tom’s response: Let me answer this by asking you another question: How will your real estate investments stack up if the dollar gets debased and your local economy is a bit sluggish for the next decade and gold triples?
Reader comment: Maybe a couple years ago, I picked up a magazine while at the tax prep office. In this mag was an article about Japanese youth and suicide. It seemed that suicide was very prevalent there.
There were even clubs of young people who would take barbiturate-type pills and then light a charcoal grill on fire and go to sleep, permanently. I wonder if you have encountered that part of the culture…
Reader comment: Hey there, like everyone else that writes to you, every day I love to hear where you guys are and what you are doing! I think it’s a fantastic experience for all of you! There is nothing like traveling the world and meeting people and learning about new cultures! It’s the best education you can get!
I’m excited; I will be in Japan in February for the first time. I’ve heard great things, and I’m really looking forward to the experience!
You mentioned you are finishing your trip in Vancouver and Alberta. I live in Alberta and would love to see you guys visit here. If you plan to visit the Banff/Lake Louise/Canmore area, please get in touch with me. I would gladly take you all on a tour of the Rockies!
Enjoy the rest of your journey, and maybe we will see you! Thanks for what you are doing. All the best!
Tom’s response: Thanks for all the notes! Kate and I read every one, even if I can’t answer them all.
Please keep writing us at [email protected]. Remember, we’ll never reveal your identity if we decide to publish your note.