By Tom Dyson, Editor, Postcards From the Fringe
FLIPFLOP LOUNGE HOSTEL, CHENGDU – Greetings from the town of Chengdu, in the middle of China. Chengdu is famous for pandas, and today, we took the kids to see them.
There are only about 1,800 pandas left in the world, and many of them live in captivity – in a special research facility called the Panda Base – where they breed the pandas and then keep them in a place that’s a lot like a zoo.
We’ve been to a lot of zoos in the last 16 months, and this was the nicest one. It was clean and well-organized, and the pandas seemed very happy and comfortable. And it gets A LOT of visitors. Panda Base is one of the biggest attractions in China and can receive up to 100,000 visitors A DAY.
Anyway, we all loved it. Here we are…
Living out of a Suitcase
We’ve been traveling for 16 months, living out of a suitcase and showing the world to our kids. We’ve seen the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, and the Suez Canal. We’ve seen mountain gorillas and pandas. We’ve ridden on camels. We’ve seen the Sahara, the Himalayas, and the Grand Canyon…
I can honestly tell you, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel so close to my children. I feel so calm, relaxed, and free of stress. I’m bursting with energy and creativity. And I’m so excited about my future with Kate, whatever that will be. (We have no home, no possessions, and no place to go “back” to, so we get to build a new life from scratch.)
And the kicker is, we’re saving money because this lifestyle is so cheap!
On Friday, I wrote about my battle with depression and why I left work two years ago. I’d received a few emails about it, and I felt like I owed an explanation.
But after I sent it, I regretted it.
“It’s embarrassing. And it’s not relevant.”
“You’re making your readers cringe.”
“Stop whining. No one wants to hear about your problems.”
Depression is a slippery issue to write about, and also I’m ashamed of it. I’d rather not write about it again.
But here’s the thing. Yesterday, I was reading about Michael Hutchence, the ’80s rockstar, and Anthony Bourdain, the traveling food critic. Both men appeared to have everything. Both men hung themselves in hotel rooms in the prime of their lives.
Then, I got a couple of personal messages from friends whose lives have been impacted by suicide.
And I wonder, what if this is a really important piece of my story? Maybe, just maybe, I could bring hope to others who are struggling with depression and having suicidal thoughts? Maybe I should be writing about it more?
I eagerly await your feedback about this.
– Tom Dyson
P.S. What if Kate leaves me, gold falls, and I have to go back to living on my own? Will my depression come back?
Reader comment: I have been following your Postcards From the Fringe with great interest and much envy. Your recent postcard touched on some of my questions. It is clear that ridding yourself of cable bills, utility bills, etc. provides much-needed financial freedom. My question is, what do you do about medical expenses without medical insurance?
Tom’s response: We used to pay $9,000 a year to cover our family with health insurance when we were living in America. This was subsidized by my employer. According to Google, an average American family pays $14,000 a year in insurance premiums.
Before we left on our around-the-world trip, I bought medical insurance. I paid $1,000 to cover the whole family for a year, valid in any country on the planet except America.
I probably needn’t have bothered. We’ve had some medical issues on this trip, including a serious concussion that required a CT scan and several hours in the emergency ward. (Penny fell off a bunk bed in India, landed on her head, and lost her sight for a few hours.) We paid out of pocket, and the care was excellent. The CT scan cost $35. The entire hospital visit, including our payment to the ER doctors, was less than $100.
The bottom line: American healthcare is unbelievably expensive and inefficient. We’ve escaped from that awful system and we’re overjoyed.
Reader question: I am enjoying your Postcards From the Fringe immensely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so candidly. My question for you: Are you concerned about the effect of the cryptocurrency market on the gold market? Wishing your family and you all good things…
Tom’s response: Thank you for your kind message and good wishes. No, not at all. First, I think digital money has a LONG way to go before it plays a serious role in international economics. And second, if it ever does play a role in international economics, it’ll mean the dollar-based system is being/has been overhauled (by something like Libra) and gold will surely be much higher than where it is today.
Reader comment: I must admit I was a bit confused when I first started receiving your postcards. After all, I know you from your work at Palm Beach Research Group and have read your book The Big Black Book of Income Secrets.
I’ve considered your off-the-grid financial/investment advice sound (and not to be found anywhere else), so I wasn’t sure how all the travels would fit in. But I must say… I love it! How marvelous to be traveling the world with your family. You are living most people’s dream.
I notice that many readers are concerned that your children are missing school, and some seem alarmed that they are not getting a traditional education. I, on the other hand, have always believed that traveling is the BEST education. It widens one’s horizons in ways that a classroom or a book never could.
Reader comment: Good on you. I could wish I were 40 years younger and able to do it all again. “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” We also homeschooled our six kids and are very thankful. We weren’t qualified in the usual sorts of ways, but it didn’t matter, despite the detractors. Four of our kids went straight on to university, and two are tradies. You can always hire help for your non-specialties. Furthermore, our kids also learned all the “life skills” you spoke about.
Did they miss some things? Yes, sure, including some things we are very glad they missed! More importantly, they learned our attitudes and approach to life by osmosis – because they spent enough time with their parents for osmosis to work. Probably the most important things in life are caught rather than taught. And if they are not caught while kids are young, they are very difficult to teach when older, as we see all around us. And what our kids missed, they learned the skills to go after later.
So, to the reader who feels her kids are on a hamster wheel, take the plunge. It is life-lastingly rewarding. We felt very rich when 29 of our descendants (spouses and grandchildren included) organized a 70th-birthday weekend for my wife recently.
Tom’s response: Thank you for such a long and thoughtful response. I read it to Kate. We question our decision to homeschool every day. Reading your message fills us with confidence and hope. What a great testimony to homeschooling. Thank you!
Reader question: Thanks for sharing the info on the Dow-to-Gold ratio. What is the best way to convert an IRA account into gold? What do you think about Sprott’s PHYS? Is there another way to invest in gold through an IRA? Keep the postcards coming!
Tom’s response: PHYS is a great solution. Easy and effective. I’m not sure what the expense ratio is like, but surely not as high as GLD. One of these days, I’ll do an analysis of the expense ratios of the gold ETFs. That’s the only thing you might look into.
Your messages are an integral part of this project. But don’t worry… I’ll never reveal your identity if I decide to republish your note.