For the second book of Three’s a crowd: Travel with a mission theme read, I have chosen the Adventure Capitalist. Adventure Capitalist is a great adventure story, with Jim Rogers and wife Paige Parker travelled around the globe to get a feel of investment climate in countries around the world in the turn of the Millennium. The thought of Jim Rogers and wife Paige Parker driving 152,000 miles through 116 countries over a period of three years (1999 – 2001) – an impressive feat by anyone’s standards, is enough to assure good sales of his book. This time he travels in a bright yellow Mercedes with a trailer, accompanied by a camera crew. The yellow Mercedes is custom-made but had since broke down a few times. The premonition of a yellow Mercedes (and his Polaroids) as a disaster prevention and potential violence distraction is true as Rogers and wife drove through War torn and political unrest Angola, East Timor, Croatia, Myanmar etc. while I was wiping away cold sweat, they had both drove past these countries without a scratch. I mean, who would kill someone who had just taken a picture of your clan and drive a unique yellow Mercedes across your roads? One will be too stunned or at awe of the car before one think about harming the car owner!
Jim Rogers calls it as he sees it. This is a forthright, opinionated book, by a forthright, opinionated guy. But then he has good reason to be opinionated. Consistently over time Jim Rogers has been right more often than wrong. With his record, he has every right to be opinionated. To be where he is requires a strong work ethics and entrepreneur leadership. It didn’t come as a surprise that he felt strong affiliation and respect to the Communist Chinese, heralded in his book as the world best capitalist.
The most interesting parts come, however, where he draws the opposite conclusion from what you have heard reported. For instance, Mr. Rogers found religion to be freely practiced by all faiths throughout China. He says that tourism is better in Tanzania than in Kenya. He recommends avoiding the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. He said the major bank in Singapore takes 5 weeks to clear a cheque. He reports well on the many ways that Americans annoy the rest of the world, and the harm done by nongovernmental organizations. The scams involving charity from Churches in the United States donating clothes only to be sold again at the local Ethopian market…. will also be an eye-opener.
Besides talking about Finance and investment, Rogers also divulged about his personal life. His parents visit him while he is in Siberia. Married to Paige in Henley, England, The World Trade Centre was attacked. etc. We are reminded of how heart wrenching it is when Rogers’ father died of cancer while he is in Africa. In contrast with his father, he mentioned his father had:
(whereas my father) had sacrificed adventure because he ahd children, I had sacrificed having children because I wanted to experience as much adventure as possible.
My primary criticism of the book is its brevity. Inevitably for such a comprehensive journey, the coverage is extremely superficial in places: their time in Japan is covered in barely a page, and Malaysia and Morocco rates only a short paragraph. We get little feel for what the author and friends actually did in each country, the people they met, or the local culture. Readers who expect to be introduced to the people and culture from this travel book will be disappointed. As a pure-breed capitalist, it is understandable that Rogers would scorn at bad infrastructure and shanty towns, don’t expect Rogers to paint a romantic picture of how it is to live in poverty, downtrodden and destitute neighbourhood like some travel writers do.
Finally, the last chapter. This is the best chapter in the book and rounds up the whole adventure nicely. Rogers despairs over the lack of integrity in modern American life, both in Business and in Politics. In some thoughts earlier in the book Rogers states the obvious when he says if America really wants homeland security, then rather than tightening up on immigration and trade, they should try making fewer enemies. He went as far as saying the American presidents are not trained to understand finance (as opposed to Chinese premier who advise if you ever need to speculate on the Yuan, buy puts), and that those who are politicians had either not run their own company or chosen a meaningful career in their lifetime…..
Let me own up to my view immediately. My scepticism concerning the people who call themselves public servant in the world is wide-ranging. The low opinion they enjoy is well deserved. Studies have shown that the people who in grammar school excelled at recess are the ones who wind up in politics and usually do very well at it.
Very few politicians could build a company, or a country. That is why they go into politics. Harry Truman was a great failure in business, not once but 2 or 3 times. Bill Clinton never had a real job. George Bush, the younger: he failed at 2 or 3 companies before somebody bought him a baseball team. Not that running a company is necessarily a sign of intelligence or competence, but the one who are good at it, go into politics, and certainly not early.
You can’t help but to feel despondent about how the world had become. There are more unrest and wars, and countries with dysfunctional and avaricious leaders than countries with good leaders than it is 10 years ago. So there are probably more high-risk investments than it is low risk ones. Depending on ones risk appetite, and Rogers seems to have a high risk appetite, I can’t imagine myself investing in Angola even if it is said things turned out to be better right after a war.
This is an easy read and compelling book. I find his matter-of-fact description and business-like country analysis, with no flowery romantic prose, attuned to my daily work-related reading. Hence, I end up reading the book in 2 days. Highly recommended.
What I like about this book:
A travel book with a financial investment advice and interesting travel pictures.
What I like least about this book:
Brevity and superficial at parts where you expect Rogers to illustrate a little bit more about a country.
To read more about Rogers’ Millennium Adventure, not covered by the book click here. (check out the yellow Mercedes).
To know more about Jim Rogers (especially the part of being a partner with George Soros!), click here.