Man, it’s good to be home.
I love travelling, but there’s nothing like walking back into the house you love, all the familiar smells and quirks, the plumbing where it’s supposed to be, drooling into your own pillow once more….
It’s good to be home.
Travelling is a gruelling adventure. Totally worth, but it does take it out of you. Even when you’re spending most the day by the pool drinking cocktails, like I was.
Oh to be 18 again. With legs to run me up and down the Eifel Tower all day. It gets harder as you get older. And we’re only getting older. That’s why I’m trying to squeeze in as much travel as I can now. No one’s organising Contiki tours for senior citizens.
(Now there’s a gap in the market.)
Let me lay one of my favourite travel quotes on you:
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley
Good ‘ol Mr Huxley. Locking yourself in a room and eating LSD is a difficult road to the truth, but he got there.
And this quote cuts right to it I reckon. It certainly struck me travelling around Greece. The media here had primed me to expect riot cops on every corner, students with stones and Molotov cocktails, desperate grandmothers selling their record collections and the cutlery from a blanket in the town square…
But it wasn’t as bad as all that. Not even close. Sure, things are tough. Really tough. And it’s taken a toll on the national mood. But life goes on. The business of living – doing what you can to earn a buck, catching up with your friends, eating, drinking, fighting, making love… it goes on.
Life has it’s own will and it’s own energy. And we’re a very adaptable species. And if we have others to share our misery with, over a couple of glasses of ouzo, then we will count our blessings, take heart from the things that really matter, and get on with it.
This is a good lesson for investors. Our fears always have a bark that’s worse than its bite. We run through worse case scenarios. What if property prices took a 20% hit? The picture we paint in our minds is horrifying. We’re dressed up like some gypsy refugee, begging for bread, unable to upgrade our i-phone 4’s.
But in places where the worst case scenarios became a reality (like Greece), life isn’t a disaster. There’s some adjustment to be made of course, and adjustments are painful in the short term. But often it gets people focused on the things that really matter – our family, our connections, our selves… all the things that money can never buy.
And our ‘quality’ of life never takes the hit we think it will.
What’s the lesson in this? Don’t let the size of your imagined fears put you off.
How about another travel quote?
“A boat in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what boats are built for… Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
If you let your imagined fears – the sum of all worse case scenarios – prevent you from taking action, you’ll regret it in the long run. Whether it’s travel or investing, it doesn’t matter. The bold and adventurous get more out of life.
But look at me. I spent two weeks swanning around Mediterranean bars and you think I’d single handedly crossed the Sahara or something.
But it’s an important lesson for right now, I reckon. I was only gone a couple of weeks, but it feels like a couple of months. Am I wrong, but has market mood shifted a huge step since I’ve been gone?
Suddenly the outlook’s a lot brighter than it was.
A lot of it has to do with the surprise result that Europe managed to grow it’s way out of recession in the June quarter, ending 18 months of GDP slide. Growth of 0.3 percent was a solid surprise to the upside, though the burden still falls to ‘old Europe’ with Germany leading the way. 0.5 percent growth in France was encouraging though.
If you look at this graph (of quarterly growth), Europe is now levelling pegging with the US, who has also returned to form. It’s a very encouraging sign.
At the same time, business confidence across the G7 (the seven biggest and most important economies) is bouncing back. Minack Advisors have cobbled this chart together from various national indicies.
It’s rough on a level sense, but it’s the relativities that are instructive. And on that measure, looks like we’re back to the pre-GFC average – or where we were in the middle of the ‘09 boom.
For Australia, this is fantastic news. We’ve been relying on an Asian driven mining boom to keep us striding along while the rest of the world dithered. But now, even though the mood also seems to suggest China is on a good track now anyway, looks like we might now be able to rely on the rest of the world for a bit of export support.
That’ll be a nice change. A very nice change.
And these changes will dominate anything that going on domestically – even the election…
One last travel quote for you:
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
Coming home, I’m reminded of just how special Australia is, and just how lucky we are. As investors, as citizens, as families. I’m lucky to call Australia home.
And it is very, very good to be home.