Hello from Acapulco Bay,
I just went through an insane bout of travelling. I started Thursday morning in snowy Beirut. My flight was delayed due to the weather so instead of flying through Amman, Jordan to Berlin I had to also stop in Vienna, Austria. Finally I made it to Berlin late in the evening and drove two hours to Bautzen to pick up the wife, kid and dogs and then drove five hours to Frankfurt by Friday at noon. Then, a 12 hour flight to Mexico City where I was picked up by a chauffeur and a further 4 hour drive to Acapulco, finally arriving at 2am on Saturday morning. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. Making matters worse, just as we arrived at 2am I started to wake up (9am in Europe) and so didn't finally get to sleep until 6am.
But, I awoke at noon and after a few hours of nude sunbathing I felt like a new man. I then hopped on my scooter and am now sitting at my office at a sports bar on the bay, Mangos. It's great to be back. I'm not sure what I was thinking going to Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East in winter… especially because this time of the year is the absolute best time to be here. Not too hot, not too humid and the streets are alive with smiley faced, bronzed tourists. More than 500,000 tourists have already visited this winter and hotel occupancy rates are at 98.4%, up over 20% from last year. Bet you never hear about that on the "news".
TRAVEL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COUNTRIES
Having been in eight different countries in the last few weeks throughout Europe (Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Malta), one in northern Africa (Egypt) and one in the Middle East (Lebanon) and finally returning to Mexico it gave me a lot of insights into the different approach each country takes on restricting travel.
Arriving originally in Germany, it was almost a pleasure going through immigration and customs. First, they don't have those stupid forms you have to fill out with your name and address and birthdate which was very nice. Then, a packed plane from Mexico made its way through immigration and customs in about five minutes. I put down my passport, he opened it, stamped it, and I was on my way. Customs was non-existant. Funnily, there was one door for "not declaring" and another door for "declaring" import items. Both doors led to the same empty room and before I knew it I was out on the streets of Frankfurt. The only place I have visited that was less invasive is Switzerland. When I first arrived in Zurich a few years ago everyone was just walking past the one immigration guy who was reading a newspaper behind a desk. Being confused, I actually walked up to him and gave him a look like, "uh, do you need anything?" He looked perturbed and motioned "OK" and held out his hand for my passport. He then flipped through it like it was a deck of cards in about one second and threw it back onto the table and waved me through. If only everywhere was like that!
Then, of course, it was a true pleasure driving through all of Europe and flying into Malta without having anyone check my papers. But, that all ended when I flew to Cairo. About five people checked my passport and leered at me to make sure I was the person in the picture. A few people even asked me my name as though it was a test. I responded, "Jeff". Both times they said, "Chef?" I just nodded, yes, Chef.
Then, once in a taxi, to leave the airport they stopped us and yet another person checked my passport. He had an old looking binder and he passed it to me in the taxi. "Write your name," he said. "Why?" I asked.
"Security!" he responded. As thought writing your name when you leave the airport somehow makes it more secure. I scoffed at the notion and he said, "It's ok, just write your first name". I wrote "Chef" and he waved us through.
Then, once in Cairo, nearly every hotel has metal detectors. I'd walk through each time, it'd beep and no one cared. Egyptians seem to like the pretense of security without there actually being any security.
Then, upon arriving in Beirut I laughed as a few women in head to toe burkhas with only the eye-slit went through ahead of me and the man looked at the passport, looked at their eyes, and let them pass. If anything shows the stupidity of checking passports, it is that. Then, it was my turn. I walked up and he went through my passport for quite some time. He then asked, "What's your father's name?"
I stood there perplexed for a second. "My father's name?" I finally asked. "Yes," he stated, "what's his first name?"
I then responded how I normally respond to government officials and returned the question, "What's your father's name?"
He looked confused for a second and then finally said, "William." I replied, "Oh, that's nice. My father's name is Ross… maybe our father's can meet one day."
He looked confused but begrudgingly stamped my passport and allowed me to pass.
Finally, upon returning to Mexico City, with my Mexican wife and after not having one person even look at our luggage upon arrival in any of the previous countries we got into a long queue as, upon arrival in Mexico City, they check all bags… this, of course, may be because you might have plants that some people like to smoke… or, you may have some item in which they can extort you for. Then, if you get through that unscathed you then have to press a button. If you get green, you can go. If you get red (something I've never seen in hundreds of visits to Mexico) they'll theoretically look through your bags again.
And so ended my tour of customs and immigration on four different continents.
The best case scenario would be if every country took the best parts of each process and used them… or even better, we got rid of useless and wasteful borders. The worst case scenario would be a country where they use all the worst things! In that country, they'd search through your bags, ask you to write your name, any name, on a piece of paper and ask you, inexplicably, what your father's name is. I'm surprised they haven't done that yet in the USSA.
SPEAKING OF THE USSA
I've cancelled almost all appearances and visits to the US. I'm planning on making an exception for FreedomFest in Las Vegas in July and perhaps the New Orleans Money Show in November but otherwise, and until further notice, I'm outta there.
Well, here is just one reason.
Sound like anyone you know? (ahem)
It's just too dangerous for a person like me to be in that geographic area. Not that I'm scared… but I don't like conflict when it can be avoided. No one bothers me in Mexico nor Chile… plus, both places are much more fun, freer and full of opportunities.
BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Unfortunately, I am only here in paradise for less than a week and then I am back on the road to one of the worst places on Earth for customs and immigration, Kanada. I've been in the back room of the Vancouver airport so many times that I know almost everyone by name. But, I'm going for one of the biggest gold and resource conferences on Earth, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference… there is over 10,000 attendees and about 600 public companies. If you attend one resource conference this year, I suggest you go there. Then, I return for another week to Acapulco before taking off to the Bahamas for the Global Financial Summit. If you are interested in investment, lessening the amount of extortion (taxes) in your life and getting some good insights into the financial world, it's a great show to attend. Plus, it's in the Bahamas. Then I'll have nearly a month to enjoy Acapulco before going to the Global Escape Hatch conference on the beach in Ambergris Caye in Belize. If you want to hobnob with some of the brightest minds in internationalization and meet some amazing people from around the world who also have those interests, that is the place to go… sign-up soon if you are interested because it is limited to less than 100 people and filling up rapidly as they attempt to provide an environment where you can mingle with all the speakers over mai-tais in a relaxed, tropical environment.
And, probably a few times in between I'll be down at Galt's Gulch Chile. We just announced last week to subscriber's ways to both invest in the project as well as our plans to start offering lots at what I think will be one of the coolest places on Earth.
Until then, you can find me here on the beach for the next few days hanging out with numerous TDVers who have made their way down here for vacation or even to live.