Kim Iskyan in Global Investor podcast. how to invest?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 6 May 2022

This issue of The Global Investor is dedicated to our readers who are homebound and are struggling to “get back on the horse” of global travel.

Travel is Good for Your Soul
Travel opens your mind… It broadens your horizons… It delivers oxygen to your worldview… and – unless you’re a dedicated hermit  – travel makes people more happy.

It’s been a rough two years for travel. Covid made us feel like we were taking our life in our hands – a la walking through Baghdad or Caracas – during a simple trip to the local grocery store.

But that time is (thankfully) behind us. And there’s no better time than now to get back on the horse of world travel.

Why? Our lives are filled with experiences, memories, feelings… And travel takes us out of our normal everyday lives and into new territory.

We are changed by what we experience, by what we see, touch and feel. Travel evokes emotion, adds color and expands our horizons. It’s good for the soul. It makes you a more complete person.

What’s more… you are designed for adventure. We explored this in detail in a recent issue of the Global Investor. For a refresher, see here.

And pragmatically, consider the perspective you gain when you investigate potential investment opportunities first-hand. Visiting the companies and meeting the principals of the companies in which we invest has had a huge impact on the investments I have made – it has made me a more astute investor and has enhanced my ability to assess potential investments.

So what’s stopping you?

The World is Open, well mostly…
Most countries are now open to international travelers. Some still require a PCR test or proof of vaccination. Others have more strenuous rules that require advance planning and online pre-registration. But the trend is towards greater ease of travel.

I know this first-hand, as I’m writing this on day 19 of a 28-day trip to the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

My semi-spontaneous adventure began within hours after the Philippine government lifted restrictions for foreign tourists in late March. I jumped at the chance to renew an annual tradition to meet up with friends who live south of Manila.

Since I’d be in the “neighborhood,” I decided to also visit some of our members in the region, and to make a long-delayed exploratory trip to the island of Penang, in Malaysia. (I’ll share about Penang as a residency and tourist destination in a future issue.)

This wasn’t my first post-pandemic trip. I’d somewhat jumped the gun in a journey across Eurasia and the Middle East last year, hitting Switzerland, the UAE, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania and Turkey.

I do not take this freedom to explore for granted… but I certainly take advantage of it, whenever and however I can.

Travel is Getting Better
If you boarded an airplane in 2020, you might have flashbacks to a world gripped by virus fear. Air travel made us feel like we were hermetically sealed in a coffin from take-off to landing. Overlords served no meals or snacks, and passengers were permitted to lower their masks only to sip water.

The few airline lounges that remained open were reminiscent of abandoned bus terminals, but without even flickering lights and broken vending machines.

For example… During my last pre-lockdown trip from Auckland to the U.S. in March 2020, I was the final guest at the United Club Lounge in Honolulu before it closed down for the pandemic. The good-spirited staff served me sealed cups of water and pre-packaged snacks that were more like what you’d find as a last resort at a convenience store.

Last year gave us hope that a return to normal was on the way – and that travel would again be enjoyable. I was elated early last year when one of my favorite airlines re-introduced wine to their flights – first in a can, and months later via a full 750ml glass bottle (albeit served in the finest plastic cups).

So elated I was when pre-flight drinks made a comeback… and glassware, too…

Surprisingly, life on the ground – at your destination – was restricted but reasonable if you were willing to don a face mask and social tracking app.

But it was well worth the freedom of walking the beaches of Dubai, and roaming the streets of Astana, Kyiv and Bucharest.

Back to Normal?
Now, in May 2022, we’re almost back to normal. Well, almost…

It depends on where you travel. Europe and North America have made great progress, as their Covid restrictions on the ground and in the air have been dissipating for weeks.

I felt like a king in his pod on flights to Munich and Bangkok a few weeks ago – except for the lingering mask requirement, I was relieved that service was back up to par. (Since then, some carriers have dropped their mask requirements.)

Asia, though, is still baby-stepping out of the plague. Mask wearing and detailed app tracking are all too common on the ground. Locals in the countries I visited are optimistic that they will be back to normal by June. Thailand and Malaysia, for example dropped PCR testing requirements as of May 1.

And again… though travel is more complicated than we would prefer, it is well worth it. From hotels to beaches to restaurants, the world was my oyster as I explored the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

Now, It’s Your Turn
Dust off your bags and start packing. As you prepare to head out into the world, I offer a few recommendations:

Do your researchGetting back on the horse will require advanced preparation, and depending on where you go – some ingenuity and patience – but it is far from impossible. I have done it – you can too!

As a rule of thumb, research your destinations before you buy airline tickets. While most countries are accessible, you may stumble on those that are not. Government and airline websites as well as your country’s embassy offer exhaustive details that will help you navigate what to expect on the ground and what, if any advance registration will be required.

Choose your countries well If you are uncomfortable with a given country’s entry requirements or restrictions on the ground, go somewhere else. Or, wait a few weeks and you may be pleasantly surprised by revised rules.

Adventure is nothing without a bit of risk Get back on that horse.

We are excited to be planning Obris meet ups for later this year. Stay tuned.

James on behalf of the Obris Team