Maria’s Note: Maria Bonaventura here, Tom’s longtime managing editor on Postcards From the Fringe. Tom recently caught up with his friend and colleague Dan Denning (coauthor of The Bonner-Denning Letter) in Dan’s home state of Colorado.
In a special two-part edition, we’re giving you an exclusive look into their conversation. Catch up on Part I here if you missed it yesterday, and read on for Part II…
Dan Denning: Tom, let me ask you a question. And this is for anyone thinking of dropping everything and hitting the road like you did – either with their spouse, their grandchildren, or their children.
Based on your experience so far, both internationally and domestically, is there one piece of advice you’d give people before they start?
Tom Dyson: Well, that’s tough. Because, funnily, I don’t like giving advice. I think the whole point of this is you get out there and you’re leaping into the unknown, and you have to figure it out for yourself. And that’s also part of the fun – just figuring it out. It’s like a puzzle. And I really enjoy that.
But to answer the question, traveling light has been a very good thing. Not only is it less to carry with you, but when you need to pack up or unpack, it’s much faster because you don’t have so much stuff to keep track of. But that’s the obvious part.
Beyond that, rather than a piece of advice, I’d just say this trip is the best thing we have ever done. And we didn’t know it would be when we started out. We got lucky in that the circumstances of our life had all sort of fallen apart in different ways, so we didn’t have a lot to lose by traveling.
Then once we did – once we plunged through this portal – we discovered this life that was superior to what I would call the “normal” way of life. It’s cheaper, our kids are getting a great education, and, of course, we’re seeing so many things.
So it’s tempting for me to say, “Oh, every family should be doing this.” And of course, I didn’t even mention the best benefit of all. That is, we don’t fracture our family every morning after breakfast while the parents go to work and the kids go to school, and then reconvene again at dinner time when everyone’s tired and snappy, and then it’s bedtime. We never do that. We’re together all the time. And that is the single greatest benefit.
But why wouldn’t everyone do that, and why wouldn’t I go around telling everyone to do it?
Because I realize it’s difficult to abandon your home, your community, and your job. And I know we wouldn’t have been able to do that, either, had we not gotten “lucky” through the sort of catastrophe I turned our lives into a few years back, when I was dealing with depression. So I say this with humility, but it really is a better lifestyle.
So my piece of advice would be to encourage anyone who wants to go traveling with their kids: Chuck it in and try a different lifestyle. It really works well.
Dan: I’d say the biggest objection people have to doing something like this is that there are real physical and practical barriers, in terms of work, family, and things like that. But almost all of those can be solved. The biggest one is between your ears. And you have to decide you want to do it.
I read a great book when I came back from London in 2015, called The Art of Nonconformity. I always think about you when I remember this book, because he makes two really good points. He says build your own tribe – whether that’s your own family, or your family and friends, or your community. Those are the people that matter to you.
And live life on your own terms. Don’t be afraid. A lot of people tell you, “You can’t do that. It’s not normal to do that. You should get on with it and go back to being a responsible person.” But you don’t have to do that. It is very difficult, though, to wrap your head around making that choice.
Tom: The thing that scared me the most was my age. I thought, “Well, if I leave my career now, I’m in my peak earning years, and I will never have a chance again to earn decent money. And so I’m throwing all that away.” The homeschooling for the kids I didn’t mind. I was pretty sure that was going to be a better education for the kids than going to school. As for the home… my family is all fractured anyway, so that wasn’t an issue.
But you know, financially, I was afraid this was going to be a really costly decision. Because when you’re in your 40s and 50s, that’s when you reap the benefits of all the hard work you’ve done earlier on in your career. And to throw all that away seemed like a big expense. But what turned out was that – and this is the second time I’ve done this – it didn’t work out like I feared.
We found a new way, and it ended up being better. And not just financially, but in terms of what you said [yesterday]… of seeing wealth as a bigger thing than just money. And in that sense, we’re far richer now than we were before we started this trip.
Dan: That’s a point Bill Bonner writes about all the time in his Diary e-letter… That when you’re connecting time to money, a lot of people think, “I’ll have time to do that later in my life.” But you might not have your health to enjoy it.
And the time you spend now doing it – reconnecting with your family, seeing the places you wanted to see, seeing things you never expected to see, being surprised by the generosity of total strangers – that’s the kind of wealth where there’s no withholdings from the IRS.
Tom: Yeah, and it’s a bit macabre, but if I had to die tomorrow, I would have a smile on my face because I’ve done something truly fulfilling that I can be proud of. And it’s far beyond money.
Dan: Agreed. Good to see you, Tom, and safe travels.
Tom: Good to see you, too, Dan.
Maria’s Note: We hope you enjoyed this two-part conversation between Tom and his longtime friend and colleague, Dan Denning. Dan is Bill Bonner’s coauthor on The Bonner-Denning Letter, for which Tom is also a regular contributor. If you’d like to hear more from them every month but you’re not a Bonner-Denning Letter subscriber yet, just go right here to learn more.
A reader is considering following in Tom’s footsteps… and wonders about the hazards of own gold… while another asks about Income for Life policies (which Tom mentioned in a previous postcard)…
Reader question: Hi Tom and family. Your trip sounds so wonderful that I am considering touring the USA in a small motor home. I enjoy reading about your take on gold. I have gathered up a few thousand ounces of silver and a bit of gold over the last few years.
I also read Armstrong Economics and his take on gold is a bit different than yours. He talks about taxation on precious metals and the possibility of nobody being able to purchase or sell bullion. What are your thoughts on this? He also talks about not being able to cross borders with gold and having it confiscated if you do. Anyway, stay safe and enjoy your fabulous trips with your family.
Tom’s response: There are a million potential outcomes we can worry about. Will they confiscate our gold? Will they prevent us crossing borders with it? Will they tax it? Will they make it illegal to convert gold into dollars? And on and on. But at some point you have to just say, “I made the best bet I could given the circumstances confronting me, and now I let the chips fall as they will. If they confiscate my gold, well, at least I tried my best.”
Besides, you can make a list of potential hazards and unlikely pitfalls like this for any investment idea. At some point, you have to just sit back, relax, and let events take their course.
Reader question: The Dow-to-Gold Ratio has been great, with many investments doubling in just several months. I have had an Income for Life policy for several years and it has performed well. Do you still suggest opening new Income for Life or Whole Life policies in this investment environment?
Tom’s response: I’d buy Income for Life policies if a) I already had a large position in gold and b) I didn’t already have some money in Income for Life. Otherwise, I’d focus on gold first.
Meanwhile another reader asks how the Dyson family passes the time on the road… and others offer their input on homeschooling… Yellowstone National Park… and the fact that winter is coming…
Reader question: What corny stuff are you folks doing to learn and help the miles roll by in the car?
Tom’s response: We listen to a lot of books on Audible. Especially cowboy books. We’ve listened to a dozen books by Elmer Kelton, Jack Schaefer, and Louis L’Amour. We’re also starting to listen to the Rush Revere series of history books by Rush Limbaugh. It’s so nice having Audible on a road trip. When I was a kid, there was nothing to do but stare out the window or listen to local radio stations.
Reader comment: Dear Dyson family, we love your Postcards and appreciate the simplicity of the Dow-to-Gold ratio thesis. One of your readers expressed concerns about your children’s future education, so I had to write. Our two sons were homeschooled all the way because we wanted them to pursue their own interests and to enjoy learning. When they wanted to go to college, they simply took a test for a G.E.D. (Good Enough Degree) and applied. They both excelled in college and live happy, productive lives.
Reader comment: Now might be a good time to introduce the children to the writings of John Muir. You can find most of his writings as free e-books on Amazon.
Reader comment: Yellowstone is, I think, the site of the world’s largest volcanic caldera, being closely watched for signs of reawakening. If it ever blows again, it will cover most of the nation and Canada with feet of volcanic ash, utterly destroying most life and economic activity.
You might visit Mount St. Helens National Park, if you get out that way, to show Miles, Dusty, and Penny a smaller version of what that can mean. There are several good books about that eruption, too.
Also you might want to have at least a few ounces of gold somehow readily available in case of such an unlikely emergency.
Reader comment: I unzipped my tent when I was in Yellowstone one year in June and the ground was white from snow.
Reader comment: Hi Tom, I enjoy reading about your journey. It’s fantastic. Love that type of journey with the family. And the raw experience of backroads, the states, but be safe for you and the family. A great place for you and the family to visit not far from Yellowstone National Park, just on the east of it, is this town called Cody, Wyoming.
Two places to visit are the Buffalo Bill Museum (a fantastic educational exhibit) and the Heart Mountain Japanese Concentration Camp Museum (it’s 15 miles up going toward Montana). It’s on the site done by the local people, not done by our government funds. And its volunteers are from the local people. I was in one of those concentration camps.
And then, not too far from there is the General George Custer’s last stand memorial and museum, also. So check it out. I think the kids will enjoy it and it’s American history, too. Have a safe trip.
Reader comment: Tom, I’ve been following your travels and enjoying your Postcards. I’ve been traveling mostly for business through Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Nevada. We live in Central Oregon in the summer and Henderson, Nevada for the rest of the year.
This may not sound positive but I have to be honest. In Washington and Oregon, the best parts are east of the Cascade Mountain range. West of that, it rains a lot, is crowded, and has more crime and negative elements of society. You are in the sweet spot right now. I will be traveling from Bend, Oregon, to Hamilton, Montana and will be watching for you 🙂 You are right, winter is coming soon. And unless you are comfortable pulling a trailer on icy roads, you may want to consider joining us down south.
Tom’s note: As always, thank you for messages! Please keep writing us at [email protected].