Years ago, I embraced the truth of the late, great comedian and social commentator George Carlin’s maxim: “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.” Despite pushback from various well-meaning Pollyannas in my life, I’ve continued to believe that cynicism is a justified response to the plain evidence all around us. People are trying to “get” us in various ways.
I know I’m not alone in my general skepticism. That’s why when The Sovereign Society promotes something specific — as we are doing this week for our upcoming conference in the South American country of Uruguay — I tend to eschew the fluff and drill down to the things that I really believe to be true, and to be in your best interest.
In other words, I’m not trying to sell you something I wouldn’t buy myself. And that’s a 100% accurate description of my feelings about Uruguay.
Uruguay and The Discerning Globetrotter
I’ve wandered pretty far and wide in my life so far. For a variety of reasons, I’ve set foot in over 75 countries at one time or another, some multiple times. I have enjoyed every one of them, even the really challenging places like Haiti or Cambodia.
Nevertheless, I only feel a strong desire to revisit certain countries. There are plenty of places to which I’d be happy to return as an individual, but only a few that meet these two conditions: I would go there privately, not for work, paying my own way; and I would be prepared to take my family with me.
Uruguay is definitely one of them.
I’ve never really thought carefully about the criteria I must be using subconsciously to assess these places, but I think they are as follows:
- The country must be interesting. It should have some unique historical or contemporary feature that makes me want to wander around and stare at it, learning about where it’s come from and what’s happened there. The further back the history goes, the better. If it’s just a clone of some other place, like the U.S., or if it ignores its own history and charms and tries to grab me via a plasticized shopping/dining experience, etc., I’m not interested. Egypt is a definite yes here. Singapore, not so much.
- The country should be pretty. Sorry to be so “lookist,” as the PC crowd calls it these days (I think), but I want to get an involuntary jolt from the vistas it offers. The black sand beaches of New Zealand’s North Island. The crystal clear waters and achingly beautiful deserted islands off the coast of Mozambique. The Himalayas. By contrast, as much as I think I’d enjoy a visit to Mongolia, I’d be bored stiff by all that empty grassland in a day or two.
- The people should be laid-back. I think this really means that I want them to be self-confident enough that they don’t need to try to impress foreigners, be afraid of them, look down on them or see them as easy targets. They should be welcoming but not overly solicitous: Just let me get on with it, thanks. This is partly a function of income and security, but not always. Indians, Thais, Kenyans and a few other “poorer” countries fit this bill. By contrast, some developed countries — I’m looking at you, USA! — don’t cut it here. Oh, and the country’s government should leave me alone, too.
- I should feel comfortable letting my child do the things she does at home. For example, she rides her bike to school here in Atlanta. I don’t let her do similar trips when we’re back in Cape Town. Can she go to a movie or a beach or a mall with friends without my having to worry any more than I usually do? More importantly, will my overprotective wife not worry either? As much as I love many places in the developing world, I just wouldn’t feel OK raising a child there — at least not in the way I can here at home and in select other countries.
- Can I afford it? Here, there’s a big difference between being a tourist and being a long-term resident. But even when I’m a tourist, when I’m on my own dime I want to spend as little as possible so I can stay as long as possible. If prices for everyday things are crazy, that’s not going to happen. The same applies to accommodation. If land and housing prices are out to lunch, so too will be the costs of short-term accommodation like B&Bs and guesthouses. I’ll go back to New Zealand anytime, since I can always find cheap accommodation, but not the Australian Gold Coast!
I Really Mean This…
Uruguay, a fascinating little country of gorgeous mountains and coastlines, unspoiled and safe colonial cities, calm and content people, and great value for money, meets all of my criteria. I can’t wait to go back in March. And I’m working on bringing my wife (while my daughter will still be in school), since she is seriously interested in buying retirement property there based on my descriptions.
But there’s one more thing to know about Uruguay … it meets all of my investment criteria as well. As my colleague Jeff Opdyke pointed out yesterday, Uruguayan real estate is poised to do extremely well … and it’s a huge value at the moment.
So take it from a cynic … you won’t be disappointed in Uruguay.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor