My Experience Acquiring Global Entry

June 22, 2016            

When I fly, I never go through the body scanners. I am not convinced that they are safe. And more importantly, I want to exercise my right to choose. I choose the pat-down over the body scanner every time. Rather than feeling the pat-down is humiliating, I feel proud that I’m willing to experience the inconvenience of waiting to be patted down rather than just submit to whatever the government wants me to do because it’s more convenient.

To me, it’s like making a choice between freedom and security. I like to think I will always choose freedom. I will not give up freedom for the feeling of security. In case you have not heard the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, here is one version of it: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Pat-downs at the Airport are becoming more Annoying

“Opting out” of the body scanner means I must arrive at the airport even earlier than others. I feel it’s worth it in order to be as free as possible in today’s world of rules, laws and procedures meant to instill fear and indoctrinate submissiveness.

I’ve been getting the TSA Pre-check upgrade most of the time over the last year. I think the reason I’ve been getting it is because I’ve been paying extra for a seat on flights.

On a couple of trips this spring, I did not get pre-check and it caused some unpleasant waits and treatment.

Between the 6 pat-downs within 2 weeks and the long waits for the pat-downs at a couple of airports, my interest in the TSA Pre-check program was kindled.

The Path to Freedom from Pat-Downs

The beauty of TSA Pre-check, for those of you who have not experienced it, is that you don’t go through the body scanner. You go through the old type of metal detectors. You don’t have to undress, unless you have metal in your shoes or belt. You don’t have to unpack, either. You leave your liquids in your carry-on and leave your laptop in your briefcase. I don’t have to get a pat-down because I don’t mind going through the metal detectors. In addition, I get to go through a different security line, which is usually significantly shorter.

I finally decided to apply for Global Entry. It’s got a few more perks than getting the membership in TSA Pre-check. The difference is that Global Entry gets you through customs very quickly when returning to the U.S. from other countries. Both types of credentials get you in the TSA Pre-check line. The cost of qualifying for TSA Pre-check is $80 and the qualification lasts for 5 years. Global Entry costs $100 for 5 years.

There have been recent articles in the Chicago Tribune and other media about the long waits to get through security at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. That and my recent 6-pat-down experience has inspired me to take action. I was conflicted about applying for either of these credentials because it means volunteering information about myself to government authorities. I also had to volunteer a copy of my fingerprints.

The Process

The application process was pretty quick and easy. First, I set up an account with the GOES system. Then I completed an online questionnaire. The information I provided included where I live now, where I have lived during the past 5 years and the countries I’ve visited outside North American over the last 5 years. It took me a little while to figure out which places I needed to include, both as far as residences and countries visited, being the gypsy that I am.

I completed the questionnaire on April 14. It took me about an hour for the reasons I just mentioned. I was notified on April 20 that my application was conditionally approved. The next step was to schedule an interview. They were scheduling about 3 weeks out. On April 23, I logged in and scheduled my interview for May 12. I was required to bring in proof of where I live, my passport and my provisional approval letter.

Proof of where I live was a challenge for me. I’m staying with my brother and don’t have any utilities in my name. My driver’s license is from Nevada. My car registration and bank accounts are in names of entities, not my name. So, I printed up some rent receipts and had my brother sign them.

The Interview

When I was called back for the interview, before I could even sit down, the Customs agent asked for my passport, driver’s license and provisional approval letter. I was caught off-guard when the agent asked for my “driver’s license” because I had brought other items to show my address in Illinois since my drivers’ license is from Nevada.

I told her the address on the license didn’t match and pulled out the rental receipts I had brought. She said she would still need to see the driver’s license, even though the address on it didn’t match. She looked briefly at the rental receipts and seemed to be satisfied. I handed her my driver’s license.

Then she took my fingerprints. It wasn’t like when I had to have a criminal background check run for getting a permanent visa for Panama. This was like the fingerprints they’ve taken when I’ve entered certain countries. You put the four fingers of one hand on the scanner at the same time. I was instructed to do that for each hand individually and then to put both thumbs on the scanner at the same time.

The Benefits

At the end of the interview, she asked if I knew all the benefits of signing up for Global Entry. I said I knew about shorter lines when going through Customs and the security line. She described some other benefits such as going through an expedited processing lane if I was driving between countries in North America. She also told me I would get TSA Pre-check 80%-90% of the time. This was disappointing to me since I thought I would get it 100% of the time.

I was done with the interview in less than 10 minutes. Before I left the agent’s office, she told me I had already been approved and that the ID number that was printed on my provisional letter was now my Global Entry number. When buying tickets for flights, I’ll fill this number into the field labeled “Known Traveler Number (KTN).” I was even able to go online and fill in that number for tickets I had already purchased.

In addition to having the Known Traveler Number, about a week after my interview, I received a card in the mail which I can use as another form of ID.

It feels good to know that I’ll get to go through shorter lines at the airport and not have to submit to pat-downs most of the time. I’m not proud of the fact that I volunteered more information about myself to the government and it’s agencies, but it’s a matter of trade-offs. Plus, I figured one agency or another already has all the information I was asked for, so I really wasn’t giving up anything they didn’t already have.

My Bank Account In Australia was Closed!

June 2, 2016         

When I returned back to the U.S. from my trip to Panama this spring, I had a check waiting for me from Australia. If you recall, I opened a bank account there when I was at Simon Black’s conference in Santiago, Chile back in 2013.

The bank account was affiliated with a brokerage account I opened at a company called BBY. That account was opened at the same time, but I never used it.

Last year, I received emails from the guy who opened these accounts for people at Simon’s conference. He said he had left the brokerage company, BBY, and was with another company.

The Demise of BBY

As it turns out, BBY went bankrupt. Hence, it’s affiliation with the bank, St. George’s Bank, was severed. The bank accounts were left in place for a while, but in March of this year (2016), all the accounts that were associated with BBY were closed.

Long story short, I didn’t know how it would work to deposit (in the U.S.) a cheque (that’s how they spell it in Australia) made out in Australian Dollars. I called my bank and found out how they would handle it.

Incidentally, I still bank in North Carolina because I haven’t found a bank I feel comfortable with (based on Weiss Ratings) in the locations where I’ve been hanging out lately.

It Never Hurts to Ask

So, I would have had to mail the cheque to North Carolina. Then, they would have to send it to Australia for “collection.” It sounded like it would take a month or so to process it.

I decided to find out if I had other options. Actually, I wanted to keep the account open. I wasn’t using it for trading so the fact that BBY was gone didn’t matter to me. I wanted the diversification. Once I get money out of the U.S., I certainly don’t want it coming back in.

I used Skype to call Australia. First, I had to get the timing right to call during banking hours. It worked out to call over there in the evening, which was morning over there. I asked if I could keep the account open. Negative.

Then I asked if it would be possible to cancel the cheque and send the funds via a wire transfer. She had to check with a manager. She came back and said that they could do that.

Some Things End up Being Easier Than you Thought They Would be

I provided her with my email address. She sent me an email with the form for me to request the wire transfer. I replied with an email that contained the cheque number so she could cancel it.

I got the wiring instructions from my bank in NC the next day and filled out the form for St. George’s Bank. The following day, I received a call from Australia confirming all the details from the form and within 24 hours, the funds were wired. I accomplished all of this in one week. Not too bad.

The down side is that now I have money in the U.S. that I wanted to have outside the U.S. Plus, over the 3 years that I had the account, the Australian dollar lost about 18% of its value relative to the US dollar. Bummer.

On the up side, it was an interesting experience to add to my repertoire.

I will probably add this to the funds for buying foreign real estate and thus, will move it out of the U.S. again. I’ll update you on my current ideas about foreign real estate soon.

Yours in prosperity,

Sophia Hilton (A Savvy Woman)

Banking in Panama – Trials and Tribulations

May 11, 2016         

I visit my bank, Banvivienda, every time I go to Panama, for one reason or another. This time, it was because I had forgotten to login to my bank accounts and transfer money between them often enough to keep them active. The accounts at Banvivienda are rendered inactive if you don’t have some activity in them within 6 months. Hence, it was a good time to stop by and get my accounts re-activated.

And I wanted to deposit some cash I brought with me. The more money I get out of the U.S., the better. I feel the situation is very uncertain here and that currency controls are coming.

When I met with my friend (I’ll call her Valerie, which is not her real name) on this trip, she told me she had recently opened a bank account at Tower Bank. She recommended I do the same. I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea since one never knows when a Panamanian bank will decide that American clients are not worth the trouble and close their accounts.

I will describe the process of opening an account at Tower Bank in another article, once the process has concluded successfully.

My Banvivienda Branch was Gone!

When I went to the Banvivienda website to check their banking hours, I could not find a branch at the location where I used to bank. In the past, I was required to go to that location to do my banking. One time, I tried going to another branch with Valerie and they told me I had to go to the Albrook branch.

Anyway, it was a very inconvenient location, right across the street from the Albrook Airport. It was a bit of a taxi ride to get there. One cannot walk there from the places I like to stay (El Congrejo and Punta Paitilla) in the City.

When I couldn’t find any branch listed at Albrook on the website, I contacted the lawyer who originally helped me set up the accounts with Banvivienda. I had a comical e-mail exchange with him. I was trying to ascertain whether he knew about the branch closure and where the branch had moved to. At first, he seemed to think that I couldn’t figure out how to find the banking hours for individual branches on the website.

When he finally responded (stating the obvious) that there must not be a branch at that location, just an ATM, it dawned on me that he was no longer assisting clients to open bank accounts. He was no longer invested in knowing where the branches are for the banks his clients use.

My New Banvivienda Branch is Much More Convenient

When I walked to Tower Bank from my hotel to open the new account there, I looked just past the Tower Bank building and noticed a Banvivienda branch! That made it super easy to deposit the cash I had brought with me from the U.S. (about $9,800) and get a bank reference letter for Tower Bank. The Universe delivered a solution to my problem.

For those of you who have not carried much cash while traveling internationally, the reason I mention how much I deposited is because that is just below the legal limit you can carry with you when you cross international borders.

You can actually carry more, but it involves filling out extra forms. This law covers all monetary instruments. I always stay under this limit because I don’t want to fill out the extra forms or get in trouble with any authorities.

Re-Establishing Online Access

While I was still in Panama, I did not try to login to my Banvivienda accounts after getting them re-activated. I didn’t realize it is a 2-step process. When I did get around to trying to login, I still could not access my accounts.

After I discovered this, I sent a couple emails to the lady who helped me reactivate the accounts when I was there. Fortunately, I had been smart enough to get one of her business cards when I was there. She did not respond to my first email, but she responded once I explained that she had helped me when I was there.

She sent me some forms to complete in order to activate online banking for my accounts. It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to complete the forms. I had to translate them, but that wasn’t the only problem. I couldn’t ask anyone how to fill in certain sections. So, I filled in what I could and sent them back to her.

I received an email from Banvivienda within a couple days of doing so, with a pdf file attached. There was a separate email from them with a password that was required to open the attachment in the first email. The letter within the pdf file contained instructions on how to login.

It all worked and I am happy to report that I can see the account information for both of my accounts again! I even performed a transfer while I was logged in. Ah, the sweet smell of success!

I have set up reminders in my phone so this doesn’t happen again. I’ll login every 3 months and transfer money between the two accounts, thus keeping them active!

I welcome your comments and questions in the comment section under each article.

Yours in prosperity,
Sophia Hilton (A Savvy Woman)

Protecting Possessions in Big Cities

April 28, 2016      

One of the things I like about visiting Panama City is that I have a friend who lives there. She and I have been getting together for years…maybe since 2010. We always have a nice time catching up and she is into a lot of interesting things. She is an investor and has learned some valuable lessons about life in Latin America.

She was robbed last December. She was walking home and was very near to her home when a guy on a motor-scooter drove by and grabbed onto her purse. She thought about hanging on, but decided it would be ill-advised and let go. She lost her cell phone, lots of cash, her keys, etc. It was a pretty unpleasant experience.

That’s a lesson to all of us to put cash in a money belt under your clothing so that it is not easily accessible to thieves…especially if you’re carrying a large chunk of change. I haven’t figured out how to protect a cell phone, except to find out if there is a way to back-up all of your contacts with your provider so that if your phone is lost or stolen, you will not also lose all of your contact information.

When I travel, I use a travel purse from PacSafe. There is wire mesh running throughout the satchel part of the purse, as well as through the strap. It also uses RFID-blocking technology. This still wouldn’t protect you from being dragged down the street if a guy on a motor-bike grabs your purse and keeps going.

I don’t want to carry a cell phone too close to my body so I would not carry it under my clothes. I have a small and a larger version of the same purse. A belt can be threaded through loops on the smaller travel purse so that seems like something a would-be thief would not try grabbing. It’s not like it could just slide off of your shoulder.

Yours in prosperity,

Sophia Hilton

Doctors and Dentists in Panama – My Experiences

April 28, 2016       

As long as I was going to be in Panama for a few days, I decided to visit a dermatologist. I had been to one in Panama in 2013 and had a very good experience. Therefore, I had no qualms about having this work done there. And I knew it would be a lot less expensive than having it done in the U.S.

I set up an appointment a week before my visit. Once again, I’m pleased with the results. I had several (9) “spots” on my back cauterized and it only cost $150. There were no insurance hassles and it only took about 15 minutes (once I got in with the doctor). I did wait in the waiting room for a little while before I was called back to see the doctor. I was called into the doctor’s office about 20 minutes after the scheduled time for my appointment.

I also went to the dentist in Panama to have my teeth cleaned. It cost me $60 for a cleaning and fluoride treatment. I was conflicted about the fluoride treatment, since I understand that to be a toxin, but I went ahead and did it. If I had remembered to show them my residency card, I could have gotten the jubilado discount (the discount for residents who are over 56).

As you may recall, my last cleaning was done in Medellin last May. So I’m really an international dental customer! Like the dentist in Medellin, this one used an ultrasonic device to clean my teeth. Also, in both countries, the dentist himself cleaned my teeth—not a hygienist.

This dentist said the enamel on my front teeth is very thin and wants to do a treatment on them to add more enamel (or a substitute). I will plan to go back to have this done on my next visit to Panama.

I was not planning to visit a dentist on this trip. It’s just too difficult to set things up remotely and I didn’t think I would be able to set it up during the short time I was there. My friend, Valerie, happened to mention that she had just gone to the dentist and I mentioned I needed to have my teeth cleaned. She called her dentist right then and there and he agreed to squeeze me in two days later! I can’t see that happening in the U.S.

Also, Valerie said that this dentist does implants and all kinds of dental cosmetic work so he is highly skilled.

The Taxi Incident

There was an interesting incident on my taxi ride to the dentist. We were sitting at a light and then the taxista announced to me that the car had shut off. I figured I was going to get out of the car and start trying to find another taxi. Before, I got out, he asked me if I had a phone. For some reason, he could not use his phone. I allowed him to use my phone and he made a couple of calls. After the second call, he told me to sit tight because he would be able to start the car in a couple minutes.

From what I understood, he leases the taxi from someone who has the ability to turn off the car remotely. They made an error and thought he had not made his payments on the car so they shut it down. He had the receipts for his payments and provided them with the information they required to decide to turn it back on. I was relieved because it was not a good time of day to be trying to find another taxi—it was late afternoon and rush-hour had already started.

Yours in prosperity,

Sophia Hilton

A Mango Farm in Panama

April 13, 2016

I was in Panama two weeks ago. It was a quick trip. I was only there for 3 ½ days. The primary reason for my visit was to see a mango farm that was promoted by Live and Invest Overseas at the conference I attended last year in Medellin.

The last piece of my international diversification plan, which I have not yet implemented, is to invest in real estate outside the U.S. I’ve been working and saving up money so that I could do this. Now I have enough saved for a modest real-estate purchase.

What I am considering buying is a 1-hectare parcel within a 3000-hectare mango farm. 1 hectare is the minimum parcel one can purchase in this project. The cost is much more than if you simply bought 1 hectare of land, but it includes new trees to be planted and cared for by professionals. The planting and care for the trees is all included in the price up until the trees are allowed to start producing mangoes for profit. Once the trees start producing, maintenance costs will be deducted from my profits.

The purchase price also includes harvesting and selling the mangoes, when the time comes. Everything will be taken care of for me. It’s a turn-key investment.

The farming is all done organically and the mangoes are being produced for export. Mango trees grow in Panama like grass and weeds grow in the U.S. There wouldn’t be a market for them in Panama. However, as more and more people in the developed world discover the benefits of mangoes and the benefits of eating organic produce, a shortage of organic mangoes has been developing.

I was given a personal tour of the farm and the nursery where the new mango trees are born and raised for about 18 months.

The people involved in this project seem to be of the highest caliber, both in agricultural skills and business savvy. Everything I was told about the farm and the project sounded perfect. Moving forward, the next step for me is to proceed with intense due diligence efforts…making sure that everything they have told me is true.

Due Diligence

If not for my friend, Valerie, who has lived in Panama for some time, I would have thought my due diligence was done. She told me about a couple who was scammed into buying a house. This couple was sold a house and empty lot next to it. The only problem was, the person selling them the house and lot didn’t own them. People can and will go to great lengths to obtain your money.

I, personally, have been the loser in several investments with people who were either intentionally scamming me or didn’t understand the dangers of their projects. I am not interested in losing anymore money so if I decide to proceed with this investment, I will hire a competent lawyer in Panama to look into all the important aspects of the investment.

Some things that Valerie and her friend, Paul, told me are that only contracts written in Spanish are valid in Panama. Therefore, there is a possibility that the contracts I have been given in English do not match those that I will sign, which will be in Spanish.

Also, I was told that the plan is to build a facility on the property to refrigerate the mangos shortly after harvesting them. Then, they will be shipped in refrigerated containers to other parts of the world. There is no guarantee that the facility will be built nor that they will be able to sell the mangoes for what they expect to sell them for.

I was told that the mango sale price they have been using to project the return on investment is the current price of conventional mangoes, not organic mangoes. Hence, the actual return shold be even better than the numbers they have been using to market their investment.

I heard mention of a contract with Whole Foods. I would need to dig into that further. It doesn’t do much good to grow all of these mangoes if you can’t sell them before they rot.

Other Possible Real Estate Investments

Before my trip, I reached out to find other agricultural projects in other areas of Latin America. I am still considering some of those projects so I’m holding back on the next due diligence steps relative to the mango farm. I want to have something else to compare it to. Considerations include the amount I have available to invest as well as the amount of diversification I’ll achieve with the investment and, of course, the return on investment.

I’m torn between investing in an agricultural project vs. a rental property. In general, less money is required to invest in some of the agricultural projects I know about, as compared to buying a house or apartment. If I had a rental property in a place I would consider living, it would provide a backup plan in case I decide it’s time to escape from the U.S.

I also have hopes that my children will come with me when the time comes, if things are looking particularly dire. So it’s important that the rental property be in an area that could provide opportunities for my business and scientifically-minded offspring.

To be honest, I really wanted my real estate investment to be in a country other than Panama. I already have permanent residency there, as well as a business entity and bank accounts. That gives me diversification between only two countries: the U.S. and Panama. I would like to be further diversified.

The other investment opportunities I know about and am considering are in Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. I think that Argentina is particularly interesting right now because of their new president. The crazy economic policies of Kristina Kirchner are behind them now and President Macri will be enabling a more stable and growth-oriented economy there. I would love to own rental property in Argentina, but I don’t know if I have enough cash to be able to do that right now.

Stay tuned as I explore the various real estate investment opportunities I’ll be learning about.

Armed Guards in the Mall in Medellin

September 9, 2015     

I forgot to mention this in my previous articles about Medellin.

You should not be surprised to see armed guards carrying guns in their hands. My brother and I were sitting in the Santa Fe Mall in Medellin and we saw two guards go into a retail store and come out a bit later carrying cash. One guard, who was carrying the cash, also was carrying a pistol. The other guard had both hands on his shotgun.

My brother and I were trying to decide if this is simply meant as a deterrent to wanna-be thieves or if they really felt it was unsafe to carry the cash from a retail store to their armored car. I wonder how often, if ever, they actually get ambushed.

I remember that, when I was in Nicaragua a few years ago, there was a guard holding a threatening looking gun guarding the door of a bakery. The friend who was with me made a crack that the cakes in the bakery must be really good. Maybe shopkeepers regularly get shaken down in places like that. I don’t know.

In Panama, there are armed guards in the doorways of banks. So, if you’re planning to open up a bank account at a bank in Latin America, you should be prepared to see guards with guns, not only at the bank, but elsewhere, too.

I Finally got my Cedula from Panama!

September 9, 2015    

I neglected to write about the final step in my residency process in Panama. On the way back from my trip to Medellin, I stopped in Panama for a few days to get my cedula. If you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s just a national identity card. It is used in many countries in Central and South America.

My next step will be to get citizenship and then a passport…if I decide to move forward with it. My qualification for Panamanian citizenship is still several years down the road.

Getting the cedula was very easy. I set up an appointment with my lawyer in advance, of course. I showed up for my 8:30am appointment. I waited around for a bit because another gentleman was also getting his cedula that day and he was a little late. They took us together to the office that handles the administration for the cedula, which is different from the office that I went to for the residency card.

When I arrived, I had to fill out a form. Then, I waited for them to enter the information. I was asked to check the document they printed out with my information. My lawyer’s representative told me not to worry about it if they got the name or birth date of my parents wrong. It would just delay things. The main thing was to check if my information was accurate.

Everything was correct; even my parents’ information. After a bit of a wait, I was taken up to another room to have my picture taken for the card.

I didn’t have to wait long to be called to a cubicle. My picture was taken and I was done. I was told that the card would be ready in about 10 days. I wasn’t going to be there that long, but my lawyer’s office said they would pick it up and send it to me.

My lawyer’s office sent it to me via Fedex. It cost about $67. When I received the package, I noticed it had been opened and re-sealed by customs. There are no secrets when it comes to customs.

As far as the timing, I was processed for my cedula on June 17. I received it on August 6. There were a few days delay because I had to figure out how to pay the cost of shipping the card. One option was to send a check to my lawyer’s office for $80. I would have had to pay Fedex a similar amount to send the check to Panama, which seemed kind of silly.

I would have been paying for shipping 2 ways instead of just 1 way. It turned out to be very easy to set up a Fedex account. Then, I just gave the account number to my lawyer’s office and Fedex charged my credit card for the cost of shipping.

A Fascinating Comparison

August 12, 2015     

Every week, I listen to David McAlvany’s weekly commentaries. I recently heard him talk about some interesting numbers. If you had $1,000,000 USD in 1913, it would now be worth $20,000. If you had $1,000,000 USD of gold in 1913, it would now be worth $62,000,000. Do you understand why I believe in owning gold?

Why I Changed My Mind About Buying the Finca in Colombia

August 12, 2015     

First of all, my enthusiasm was partly fueled by what is called the “margarita effect.” That’s usually applied to the phenomenon where people think they want to live in a place where they had a wonderful vacation and then find that living there is a completely different (and disappointing) experience from vacationing there.

After the excitement wore off, I realized that I would be stretching my finances too thin. My ability to buy one of the smallest lots was predicated on the developers agreeing to let me make a couple of payments. And the schedule I proposed assumed there would be no glitches in the income from the sports bar or the income from my day job and that I wouldn’t take any more big trips that would cost a lot of money for the rest of the year.

I also got advice from a man who has done a lot of foreign investing and real estate developments. He said that if the land I was buying was priced “as is”, then it was a good investment. However, if the price reflected its future value, based on a new road and other amenities being built, then it was a risky investment. Another way of saying this is that I should only pay what the land would be worth if no amenities were built and no new road was built.

I really don’t have anything to compare the price to so it’s hard for me to determine which situation applies.

I also did some soul searching about the fact that it would represent about 1/3 of my net worth. Regardless of the answer to the above question, it’s very risky to put that much of my net worth into any single investment.

Another factor was that it would be several years before I would have the funds to build a house on the land. Of course, I could just hold on to the lot until after the amenities and road were built and then sell it for a profit.

If I had invested all of my liquid assets in the land plus most of what I earn for the rest of the year, I would not have had anything left to start another sports bar with my brother. That option would no longer be on the table. I’d like to keep that option open at this point.

Normally, there is minimal cost to hold an empty lot. However, in this case, I would have had to start paying HOA fees once the amenities are built. I wouldn’t have a house to go stay in so I probably would not visit and use the amenities very often, if at all.

I really liked the idea of hanging out with some very interesting and influential people who would also be owners there. Again, if I didn’t have a house there, I would have to rent something in order to go spend time there. That’s probably not an economically feasible option for me at this time. It certainly wouldn’t happen very often.

In fact, a more viable option would be for me to rent one of the villas they’ll be building now that I’m not buying a lot. I can use some of the money I would have invested in the land to travel there and rent a villa! I just had that epiphany while writing this article.

Last but not least, I really intended for my Colombia excursion to be my first look at foreign real estate. I didn’t actually expect to buy something on this trip. I need to get a feel for property values, income opportunities, and risks before making a decision about where and what to buy. I need to look at a lot more opportunities before I have gathered the data needed for me to make an informed choice.