By Jim Rogers Stratford Sherman

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Jim Rogers usually gets what he wants. This boyish, blue-eyed Alabamian, 49, wanted to get rich, which he did in the 1970s managing the Quantum Fund with renowned investor George Soros. They stunned Wall Street by achieving a compounded average annual return of more than 50% over the decade. Rogers then retired -- at 37 -- with a fortune he vaguely describes as ''more money than I knew existed in the world.'' He kept busy: managing his own portfolio, teaching security analysis at Columbia University, hosting talk shows on investment for New York City's WCBS-TV and cable's Financial News Network. Twice divorced and childless, he has shared his past five years with Amherst-educated Tabitha Estabrook, 26, who is as inclined to ask questions as Rogers is to answer them. She became his partner in what Rogers dubs the first trans-Asian motorcycle trip around the world (see map). The difficulties of finding a route proved formidable. Since Iran bars Americans, the only way across Asia was through the former U.S.S.R., which stolidly rejected Rogers's petitions for a decade. Then, in December 1989, a bureaucrat suddenly authorized the trip. Three months later Rogers and Estabrook began an adventure of the sort most only dream about. Over the next 20 months they drove 57,354 miles (and traveled tens of thousands more by boat, plane, and railroad flatcar), covering 51 countries on six continents. Exciting as it is, this story is no mere travelogue, for Rogers saw the world through the eyes of a disciplined investor. Wherever he went on his BMW R 100 RT -- ''a heavy, 1,000-cc machine with electric starter, cassette deck, heated handlebars, all the comforts of home,'' as he describes it -- Rogers . sought out stock exchanges and factories, picking up firsthand information from businessmen, government leaders, and his own keen observation. Among his souvenirs are investments in such emerging nations as Botswana, Bolivia, and El Salvador. When he returned to New York City in November 1991, Rogers says, he was a changed man. He told FORTUNE's Stratford Sherman about his experiences and how they influenced his perspective on markets and countries, including the U.S.

''I always knew I wanted to be rich. It wasn't so much to buy things; I wanted to buy my freedom. My reading of Marx is that the greatest freedom is the freedom of capital: If you can make people financially better off, they're usually a hell of a lot happier. There are other ways to go, of course. You can be spiritually free, which seems to require the exact opposite of materialism. Or take Janis Joplin's line about freedom being ''nothing left to lose.'' Well . . . I bought my freedom. Another thing I'd always dreamed about was a motorcycle trip around the world. I own eight bikes, all BMWs -- but they'll just sit there, unused, for two or three years at a time. I live in Manhattan, where nobody drives, and I don't like to bother with little short trips. But when I take a big trip, such as a three-month drive I took across China, Pakistan, and India in 1988, the best way to go is by motorcycle. The sights, the smells -- it's a sensory feast that you'd miss in a car. And exploring new places, experiencing new things, meeting new people -- to me, that's heaven. So when the Russians finally said yes, there was no question but that I was going to go. It's a good thing Tabitha and I didn't know how much we didn't know, or we'd never have left. When we set out we were not competent in anything. We had no idea what equipment we needed, how much water to take into the desert, or many other essentials for surviving a trip like this. Tabitha did study motorcycle mechanics for a couple of months; foolishly I thought that meant she could handle all our repairs. Tabitha and I discussed the possibility of getting killed. Besides the dangers of the road, we would encounter war zones, bandits, guerrillas, and epidemics. Tabitha's response was that she could get killed in New York too. As for me, I expected to make it -- I wouldn't have set out otherwise. In retrospect this was pure naivete, or bravado. While Tabitha took care of the packing and preparations, I tried to make sure nothing in my portfolio was going to kill me while I was gone. Most of my investments always have been long term, so I didn't need to make major moves. I did cut back on volatile positions, such as shorts, so that if any of them really went wrong, I wouldn't get wiped out. I kept no futures positions at all. Most of my money already was in utility stocks, U.S. government bonds, or foreign currencies. I left it there. I owned the utilities, including distressed ones with nuclear plants, because I was convinced they had hit bottom and would solve their problems. I was bullish on bonds and bearish on the dollar because I thought U.S. interest rates were headed south. I figured the politicians would do everything they could to keep the economy going; since they are not very smart, all they really know how to do is cut interest rates. So I had bought foreign currencies -- mainly certificates of deposit denominated in guilders or deutsche marks -- reasoning that the dollar would go down with U.S. interest rates. My portfolio happened to suit perfectly an investor about to set off around the world. These are the kind of holdings you don't have to watch daily. It's pure luck, I'm sure, but I'm worth more now than I was when I left. All those utilities -- Illinois Power, Niagara Mohawk, and others -- have gone up and up. The dollar has slumped, and the American bond market has gone through the roof.

EUROPE: March 1990. Having arranged our affairs as best we could, we flew to Shannon Airport in Ireland. We nearly got killed the very first day: A drunk kept weaving back and forth and trying to run us down. Fortunately a cop came along -- a motorcycle cop. He threw the guy in jail. Driving hard for five days, we reached Linz, Austria, where I had agreed to give a speech. I'd been an early investor in Austria and made lots of money. My attitude is, if you believe in a country, you should buy shares of every single stock on its exchange. If you've got the right concept going for you, they're all going to move up together. I had done that in Austria in 1984, and now they were calling me the father of their stock exchange. The flattery was nice, but this time around I was violently bearish on Austria and all of Central Europe. I think anybody who puts money into the former Soviet Union now is probably going to lose it all, because of all the strife and chaos yet to come. And more ethnic and economic disruptions are coming right next door in Central Europe. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is only the beginning. There's not one legitimate border in the whole area. All were imposed by victorious armies either granting rewards or extracting revenge, and I don't expect many of them to last. As the Central Europeans discover that democracy doesn't necessarily mean prosperity, the politicians will print money to win votes. The resulting inflation and economic collapse will heighten ethnic hostilities. So, as I said in my speech, I wouldn't put a nickel into any of those places now. My warnings were not happily received. The next day we crossed into Yugoslavia and from Belgrade went on to Istanbul. In the back of my mind I'd always expected to invest in Turkey. It's an exciting country for tourists, but I couldn't find a reason to invest there. But if I were a bright young man, I'd go to the Turkish side of the border crossing to Soviet Georgia and buy up all the land I could. Real estate there is selling for nothing -- maybe $200 an acre -- and sooner or later this spot is going to be a major gateway to Europe for the Georgians and Azerbaijanis, the most prosperous people in the former U.S.S.R. I won't be buying, though. I invest only in things I believe I'll be able to sell quickly, whether I actually can or not. Besides, this would be work, and I don't want to work anymore.

THE SOVIET UNION: April 1990. As soon as we crossed that border into Georgia, we headed straight to the black market. As you might expect, it is very profitable to deal in the black markets that exist in every country foolish enough to enforce currency exchange controls. The number of such countries is rapidly diminishing as people come to realize that controls can't possibly work. Still, we encountered them in China, most of Africa, Brazil, and of course the U.S.S.R. The official Soviet exchange rate for tourists was six rubles per dollar then. On the black market I'd get between 12 and 18 rubles -- and the country is such a catastrophe that today you'd get hundreds. I usually carried only a small sum in traveler's checks but $3,000 to $7,000 of cash in hard currencies -- black marketeers don't take traveler's checks. I prefer the slight risk of being robbed by a thief to the certainty of being robbed by a state bank. The area along the Caspian Sea beyond Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is the center of petroleum production in the U.S.S.R. Any idiot driving down that ! road could see why Soviet oil production is down: The equipment doesn't work. It looked like a scrapyard. They had no spare parts and no money to buy any, so they were scavenging spare parts off the rigs. The situation was hopeless. As we headed east across the southern U.S.S.R. toward Alma-Ata and the Chinese border, we continued to see signs of ethnic unrest. In Georgia some students had given us an underground video of the Tbilisi massacre of 1989, when Soviet troops quashed a nationalist gathering. Farther down the road, Baku was under martial law. The Armenians, a minority in the Azerbaijani heartland, had all fled. We motorcycled alongside the arriving columns of tanks; the soldiers waved at us, friendly as could be. In Moslem republics such as Kazakhstan, the mosques were all reopening: Religion is among the fastest-growing professions in the former U.S.S.R. The old Soviet Union strikes me as a civil war waiting to happen. The republics' economies will keep on collapsing, and the politicians will always find somebody else to blame. So all the ethnic groups will be at each other's throats, and the empire will keep on fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces. There may be 50 states before it's done.

CHINA: May 1990. We drove through the Karakumy Desert -- a lovely spot -- into China. Back in 1988, when I had last been there, the Chinese were happily becoming capitalists. They had deregulated agriculture at the end of the Seventies, so all the farmers had started getting rich. Out in the countryside, everybody was building houses. Then people in the cities started complaining because prices were going up. So the government gave ''bonuses'' to the city folk, paid for by printing money. Needless to say, that caused terrible inflation, which soon got out of control. Eventually the government cracked down on the money supply. Revolutions do not come from oppressed people; they come from those whose expectations have been aroused. By 1989, China's tight-money policy began to cause hard times. People went into Tiananmen Square to bitch about the effects of tight money. Then the students, who didn't know any better, transformed a complaint about monetary policy into a cry for democracy. Most Chinese weren't all that interested in democracy. They mainly wanted to get rich, like you and me. Marx was right. He said money is the root of everything. If you figure out the money, you can figure out almost any political situation. Most of the other stuff Marx said was wrong, but he was dead right about that. Do you know what caused the Boston Massacre? The Boston economy had gone to hell by 1770 and the unemployment rate was out of sight. Next thing you know, we had our Tiananmen Square. So the Chinese government sent their troops into Tiananmen Square -- a minor blip in Chinese history, but a world-shaking event to foreign reporters. The outcry so panicked the Chinese government that by 1990 this freewheeling country had become a horribly stifling place to visit. From the Chinese perspective, though, things were improving: My entrepreneur friends there were still very much in business, monetary and fiscal policy had gotten looser, and the economy was starting to pick up. Two decades from now the Chinese are going to be among the best capitalists in the world. They may still call themselves Communists but I promise you they can run circles around most of us, and they're already achieving some prosperity, especially in the south. Even so, I'd be tempted to short almost any non-Chinese company with a massive investment there, because China still won't allow anyone but ethnic Chinese to make money. Third-generation Chinese from Hong Kong or San Francisco are welcome, but anyone else who invests in China, as the Japanese are doing, needs a strong stomach for risk and the patience to wait many years for a return. Those folks probably will get rich, of course, because the market is so huge.

JAPAN: June 1990. After the deadly confinement of China, Japan was exhilarating. Vibrant Tokyo is one of my three favorite cities, along with Buenos Aires and New York. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel, visited friends, and shopped. Japan sure is overpriced, especially the stock market. While there, I tested my bearish views on a variety of knowledgeable Japanese, including investment-fund managers, stockbrokers, and financial journalists. I'd already sold short positions in Japan's Big Four brokerage firms, and I covered them only recently. I figured those companies would go down even if the market went up, because they are still overextended from the financial boom of the Eighties. But I expected the whole market to decline, as indeed it did.

SOVIET UNION AGAIN: June-August 1990. We wanted to be the first people to travel round trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back across Asia, so we turned around and drove 7,600 miles through Siberia to Poland. People don't ( realize it, but most of Russia is Siberia. It took forever to drive from Nakhodka, where the ferry from Japan landed, across Russia to the Polish border, and we weren't dawdling. Some days we drove through mud so deep that we'd average less than 10 mph. Our bikes weren't designed for this kind of driving. On highways they're perfect, but here the low tailpipes drowned in puddles, and the fenders clogged up with mud. Then we'd have to manhandle the bikes to dry land, and let me tell you, those machines are damn heavy. We'd sweat right through our leather chaps. Siberia can be a hellhole -- not just mud, but mosquitoes everywhere, nothing to eat but potatoes, and towns that all look alike, with the same statues of Lenin and dreary concrete buildings. But the drive across Siberia was hands down my favorite part of the trip. Tabitha and I were the first Americans to see many of these places, riding through a vast, empty empire past missile sites and fields of wild iris. I saw lightning bolts that flashed sideways, parallel to the ground. We walked our bikes through a hailstorm so blinding that I bumped into a cow. It was wonderful. I loved it. I hated to leave.

EUROPE AND AFRICA: August 1990-April 1991. Leaving Russia gave me a case of postpartum depression. By the time we reached Berlin, though, Tabitha and I had agreed to turn left and go on through Africa. Siberia was tough, but the Sahara worried us more. People die in that desert. For much of the way there's no road nor even signposts. You can follow tracks in the sand if the wind hasn't blown them away. You don't see human remains, but the picked-over skeletons of abandoned vehicles mark the route. For safety we decided to buy a pickup truck big enough to carry both bikes in an emergency, and then engage someone to drive it. We had the right idea. But I bought the worst possible truck for Africa -- an American Ford F-150 with electronics the locals couldn't repair and an automatic transmission -- and I had horrible luck with drivers. In Algeria we hired a professional driver and mechanic, a German named Burkhardt. A charming 24-year-old Frenchman named Luc joined us as backup driver. Off we drove into the Sahara, passing gorgeous sand dunes, happy as could be: Tabitha and I on our motorcycles, Burkhardt behind the wheel of the Ford. It was our first day, we were still on a road, it was well-paved and perfectly straight, no one else was in sight -- and Burkhardt totaled the truck. We drove back, and there it was, way up on top of a dune. We assume Burkhardt fell asleep: Even a professional driver couldn't have gotten the truck up there on purpose. He claimed the heavily loaded truck was impossible to steer. The windshield was shattered, the chassis was bent like a banana, and Burkhardt was bleeding. Just a scratch, I'm sorry to say. Some passing Algerians charged us the equivalent of $400 to haul the Ford 265 miles to Tamanrasset, a boom-town oasis smack in the middle of the desert. We spent 18 days in that wonderful place while incompetent local mechanics worked on our Ford and Burkhardt did nothing. We got rid of Burkhardt, leaving Luc in charge of the truck. A few hundred miles later we gave the crippled pickup to American missionaries for a tax write-off and bought a Nissan Patrol. On New Year's Eve we arrived in Bangui, capital of the wretchedly impoverished Central African Republic. Oddly enough, the restaurants were great: I ate crocodile, boa constrictor, and porcupine, washed down with Beaujolais nouveau. We stayed there three weeks trying to plot a faster route south, through Angola. Despite the civil war in that country, we believed (wrongly, as it turned out) that we could get through. And the only way to reach Angola was on a Congo river boat that went from Bangui to Brazzaville, Congo -- not far from the Angola border. The river boat Fleuve Congo turned out to be nothing more than a tugboat pushing a bunch of cargo barges. Though we later discovered a ''first-class'' cabin on the tug, we camped out on deck with about 50 Congolese and all their monkeys, pigs, and goats. That 13-day voyage was a high point of the trip. We floated past villages that few tourists have ever seen. We drank lots of beer with the other passengers and ate the fish and meats -- turtle, antelope, and eel -- that they smoked in oil drums right on the deck. The trip's low point came next. Luc -- good old Luc, our driver, our bridge partner, our friend -- tried to stab me with a bowie knife. It happened in Ilebo in central Zaire. Despite the risk of AIDS, Luc had been constantly getting laid all through Africa. Luc was smoking Western cigarettes, drinking, and probably buying drinks for all his women. We had agreed to pay his expenses, but we weren't about to pay for any of that. By Ilebo, Luc had run out of money. He demanded more. I refused. Luc was exhausted, and he just went wild with fury. As frightening as the knife in his hand was the total transformation of his personality; I guess he felt trapped. Anyway, Luc socked me, but before he could do much more, some local people grabbed him and called the police. That was just the beginning. When the police arrested Luc, they said I'd have to pay them 200,000 Zaires -- around $60 -- to jail him. I said I wouldn't pay one cent. The cop said, Okay, 100,000 Zaires. I paid. What the hell -- I had no choice. Luc must have told the police we had money. The police confiscated all our passports. So now we were prisoners too. We moved into a hotel built in the 1920s to house King Albert I of Belgium. No running water, of course; like everything else in Zaire, the Hotel du Palme was falling apart. The police and the immigration people kept demanding more until finally, nine days and $3,000 or $4,000 later, we convinced them they'd milked us dry, and they let us go. The farther south you go in Africa the greener and more prosperous it becomes. I met the people running the stock markets in several African countries -- Zimbabwe, Kenya, Botswana -- and interviewed stock brokers and industrialists all along the way. Of the northern countries, resource-rich Cameroon is the only one I'd consider as an investment. I did invest in Botswana, which benefits from its hard currency and massive trade with South Africa. Despite all the nonsense you hear about sanctions, Africa's trade with South Africa is just booming. Mobutu, Zaire's dictator, is a leader of the boycott, but you could buy South Africa's delectable wines in Zaire's major cities. You'd see South African products everywhere in Africa. The only reason the Africans want the boycott is to keep competitors out while they quietly capture the South African market. Here's my bullish case for Africa: The Soviets and the Americans are too broke to keep propping up all those awful dictatorships. So over the next five or ten years, Africa's corrupt, bureaucratic governments will collapse. The transition will be painful, with tribal warfare and redrawing of arbitrary colonial borders. There will be rampant inflation, currencies will collapse, and that will spark even more ethnic tension. But as the mess gets cleaned up, the entrepreneurs who already exist throughout Africa will be freed to develop real economies. Africa has huge natural resources. Commodities markets are depressed now, but someday the world will be desperate for Africa's resources. Zaire, for example, is wonderfully fertile. Let a seed fall from your hand and it grows. Zaire used to export food and could again. Even Angola could bounce back. I'm not yet sure how South Africa's political struggle will play out, but I assure you that big fortunes will be made on the African continent in the next 25 years.

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA: June-November 1991. We flew from South Africa to Madagascar, Mauritius, and Singapore, then to Australia and New Zealand -- both of which we rode across -- and finally, after two months, to Argentina. By the time we flew from Buenos Aires down to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, winter had caught up with us at last. I left South America even more bullish on the continent than I'd been when I arrived. Here as elsewhere, I looked up stock market heads, brokers, and industrialists. The old dictators and exchange controls are mostly gone, they've got real live stock exchanges and in many cases sound money. What else does an investor need to know? Using my every-stock-on-the-exchange formula, I've already bought Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay. The Chilean market, like Mexico's, isn't for me: When you see stock market news on the front page of the paper, as you do in those countries, you know a bubble is about to burst. Panama is a great short. As the military and Canal people leave, the economy will contract. And someday we're all going to have to come to our senses and legalize drugs. These hopeless laws on our books just fatten the criminals' profit margins by keeping out the competition. When drugs are legalized, the Panamanian banking business will evaporate. We drove through war zones in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. I decided to invest a little bit in El Salvador, much to my surprise. It's not quite as promising as Japan or Germany in 1945, but you can't deny the country has hit bottom.

HOME: November 1991. We crossed the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas, and celebrated with a dinner of Church's fried chicken and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. We had to sit outside on the curb because of the beer, but we were in heaven. We'd made it! Not quite. I kept warning Tabitha not to get overconfident just because we were close to home, but I was the one who fell off his bike. I lost control driving through gravel near Johnson City, Tennessee, bruising a rib, chipping two bones in my hand, and cutting my face. Five days later we reached | Manhattan -- and a way of life that doesn't mean as much to me now. When I was at Oxford, I read a poem by Kipling called ''The English Flag.'' He wrote: And what should they know of England who only England know? Now that I'm back, having seen a good part of the world from ground level, people keep asking me how the United States looks to me. I hate to say it, because this is my country, but I see America as an obvious short. As I got closer to home, I was overwhelmed by the impression that the United States is strangling itself while the rest of the world is loosening the ropes. Free markets are spreading almost everywhere, but we're still adding needless regulations that are destroying our competitiveness. It's painful to see how hopelessly provincial and isolated we still are in the U.S. And it's frightening that no one in government seems willing to address our economic problems. The U.S. has been debasing its currency at a very rapid rate. It took the Romans centuries to debase their currency as much as we have in the past decade. The people running the government don't care, and the Federal Reserve would rather save the politicians than the currency. I don't see much hope for the dollar. The U.S. is the largest debtor nation in the world. That would be okay if we were investing the money in productive assets -- but it all seems to be going into intercontinental missiles and Saturday nights at the bar. Our troops are still occupying Europe and Japan 47 years after the end of the Second World War, at a cost of some $150 billion a year. We're still paying huge subsidies to our farmers. We should fly them all to Siberia or Zaire instead. They'd get rich! My philosophy is that when you've got a leak in your roof, you'd better fix it soon or it's sure to cost you more. Well, what do I know? I've given so many protest votes to fringe candidates such as Dick Gregory and libertarian Ron Paul that I've never voted for a winning presidential candidate. As for me -- my main desire now is to simplify my life. My advice to anyone who'll listen is: If you've got a dream, do it. If you want to change your life, do. I know I want to change mine.''


I bought a ton of stuff on this trip, from souvenirs to securities. I also spotted plenty of investment opportunities that didn't suit me for one reason or another but might be wonderful for someone else. What follows is just a sampling.

AUSTRALIA -- KANGAROO FARMS. The meat is delicious, and kangaroos overrun the place. Sell the meat in Asia. CATALOGUE SALES OPERATIONS for anything useful. New Zealand is also a ripe market. BOLIVIA -- SHARES of public companies. BOTSWANA -- EVERY STOCK on the exchange. ANTIQUE MAPS. Local antique maps will become valuable collectibles throughout Africa and South America as these regions become more prosperous. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC -- VIRGIN WIVES ($400 -- but please don't buy one). CHINA -- SILKS AND CASHMERE. LONG-TERM LEASE HOLDINGS on real estate in the prosperous south. JACKETS and other clothing decorated with hilarious jumbles of Western letters. GERMANY -- DEUTSCHE MARK-DENOMINATED CDS AND BONDS -- a hedge against the dollar's fall. TRABANT CARS from East Germany (collector's items!). JAPAN -- CAMPING EQUIPMENT. Miracles of compact design. SOUTH AFRICA -- IMPORT RIGHTS for the country's extraordinary wines. FORMER SOVIET UNION -- STAMPS, coins, and posters from the old U.S.S.R. BUSTS OF STALIN. They're rarer than Lenin's, and dirt cheap because he's in such disrepute. PUBLISHING RIGHTS to the U.S.S.R. road atlas. There's only one in existence, and travel surely will increase. URUGUAY -- ANTIQUES from more prosperous times: cars, jukeboxes, furniture. YUGOSLAVIA -- LAND on the Dalmatian coast. Buy now while the war depresses prices, and sell later to the Germans, at retail. ZAMBIA -- MASKS, fertility symbols -- the real stuff. REAL ESTATE. Huge plantations sell for almost nothing.