Evening all. I trust you are well. I just realized that it has been ages since I wrote My Story 4 which tells the story of a mysterious guy referred to only as 'Mr X'. I strongly advice you click and go back and have a read because I tell a little about my hometown, my flirtations with aggressive literature, drinking myself silly in a forest, and also about my relationship with the amiable 'Mr X'. Oh yes, and there are allusions to investing in there as well, of course!
Today's post contains an amazing fragment of my life. It's an endearing glimpse into my early twenties when life lay coiled upwards in front of me like an endless spiral staircase. It involves an encounter with a man called Manuel, a Portuguese truck driver.
My mindset pulsated with the call of adventure and no destination was off limits. In fact, I didn't care where I traveled to as long as I was on the move and never too far from a bottle of booze and someone to share it with.
The year was 2004 and I was fresh out of university. Looking back I lacked the maturity needed for full time employment and instead saw myself as a kind of beatnik/hippie/punk rebel, roaming the streets looking for whatever action I could find. A paperback copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger or Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums pooped out of the back pocket of my jeans.
Please note by twenty three I had never opened an investment book. It was like I had placed some kind of unconscious restraining order on literature connected to money. In bookshops I moved quickly towards the classics and politics sections, bypassing investing and self-improvement as if they were leprous.
My hair was long, curly, unkempt and a Drum Halfzware Shag cigarette hung perpetually from the side of my mouth. In short, I was young, carefree, impulsive and ready to have fun wherever and whenever.
The big, bad world of stocks, bonds, saving, precious metals and ETFs were as alien to me as black variety act would be a far right demonstration.
Inspired by Kerouac's novel On the Road, two friends and I decided to go on a journey of discovery to Poland. The plan was to meet in Amsterdam and then hitch our way east to Krakow. None of us knew a lot about Poland or the surrounding area, but it didn't matter. What did matter was we would be together on the road, slumming it, living it. It would be a memory to take with us into the future, a snapshot in time.
In some distant future, we might meet in a sleepy bar perched on a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Below us the ice cold black waves would bay, and we would warm out hands over a open peat fire, drink Guinness and laugh about the trouble we had with the police in Zakopane... Perhaps...
What did transpire on that epic journey would take 100,000 words to recall, and I for one know that the average attention span of a blogger is less than this. Thus, in the spirit of conciseness, I'll boil it down somewhat.
In chronological order:
1. I traveled to Amsterdam, alone, and stayed for one week on the sofa in a bar.
2. My two friends arrived and we partied liked crazed warlocks for a few days.
3. We sat under the sun in Vondelpark and quoted the late great Bill Hicks...
'All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves'
It's an Amsterdam thing...
As I said earlier, our focus was somewhat left-field at this time. I can assure you there wasn't any chat about interest rates, macroeconomics or yield curves... no no. Chat often took a philosophical turn.
4. We hitched a lift with a Transit van full of Moroccan builders to the edge of the Amsterdam.
5. We got picked up by a fancy sportscar. While driving, it transpired the driver was the editor of the Dutch Mixmag music magazine. He dumped us out out in the middle of nowhere and we slept in a forest.
6. We found a truck stop and searched for a Polish truck.
7. We found what we though was a Polish truck (it has a 'P' sticker on the back) but it transpired 'PL' is actually for Poland and 'P' is Portugal.
8. We decided to scrap Poland and go to Portugal instead. Why not?
9. The driver of the truck, Manuel, took us on-board his eighteen wheeler. We spent the next 2 months on the road with Manuel, cooking at the side of the road, meeting cool truckers at truck stops, sleeping in the trailer with concrete piles and drinking heroic amounts of cheap red plonk.
Now, here's the deal. While we motored down the winding roads of the French countryside delivering concrete blocks to building sites, Manuel talked incessantly about the need to save and invest. Of course, we hadn't a clue what he was talking about and were more interested in drinking and talking nonsense.
As time ticked on, Manuel persisted in talking about bonds, stocks, indexing and property. He could have been speaking Swahili to us as his words drifted over our heads like pigeons at the seaside.
However, as we progressed though France and then finally into Spain, I became intrigued by his stories.
He told us about a friend, a postal worker, who saved a large proportion of his monthly wage and invested it into stocks of the company he worked for. This company paid a handsome dividend which the man re-invested every six months. After doing this for thirty years, the man retired at fifty and lived in a small house beside the ocean with his wife and dog.
His stories reverberated with conviction and life. I started to take notice and asked him to explain words like stocks, bonds etc. which he did.
My friends seemed oblivious to our chatter, but from the French border south to Madrid, and then north west to his home village just south of Porto, Portugal, he taught me many basics of investing.
Manuel owed his own truck and spoke proudly about being self-employed. When he spoke about it his face beamed and his gesticulated wildly. Every two weeks Manuel would drive from Porto to Denmark (I'm don't know where) and pick up his first load. From there he would make his way south through Holland, then into Belgium. Form there he headed down into France, where he made many pick ups and deliveries. After France, he chugged along at 70km per hour to Madrid, and then finally back home.
For his efforts, he was paid well. This he invested into stocks, property, small businesses for his family.
As we were leaving Madrid, Manuel asked the three of us if we wanted to come back to his family home and help out of the winery. We took him up on this kind offer and spent the next few weeks out in the fragrant grape fields of northern Portugal, picking and stamping red grapes for wine making.
So, there you have it. We never made it to Poland, but I learned a bucketful from Manuel. For that, I'm truly grateful. In the years after this trip, I neglected his advice and continued on my own merry way as a wage slave. It wasn't until my wife awoke me from my slumber in 2015 that Manuel's teaching came back to me.
Sometimes life changing advice can come from the least expected places.
As the saying goes, 'it's easy to miss something you're not looking for.'
All the best folks.
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