They Will Kill You For Your Shoes!


If you decide to pursue financial freedom you are going to have to choose to spend your money on investments. Somehow in our culture this has come to be seen by most people as deprivation. That has never made much sense to me. Personally, there is nothing I’d rather buy or own than F-You Money.

With it, the world’s possibilities are endless and you are faced with the delicious decision as to what to do with your freedom. The limits are your imagination, and your fears.

Regular readers of this blog know the cornerstone of my investing approach is that the stock market always goes up. After all, the Dow Jones Industrial Average started the last century at 66 and ended at 11,400. That was thru two world wars, a deflationary Depression, bouts of inflation and countless disasters. If you want to be a successful investor in this century, you need some perspective.

Some seek absolute security…

  • Can I be sure the US economy is not about to enter the 25-year down cycle Japan is still living thru? Or something worse? Nope.
  • Is a 4% withdrawal rate always going to be safe? Nope. About 4% of the time it will come up short and you’ll need to adjust.
  • Don’t I know that Ecuador has a high crime rate? Yep, in some areas you need to be careful.

…it doesn’t exist. We all must play the odds and make our decisions based on the alternatives. But in doing so, we must also realize fear and risk are often overblown…

…and understand that letting our fears control us carries its own set of risks. Safety is an expensive illusion and You can get rich with good old-fashioned trust.

Getting past my own fears has allowed me to avoid panic and ride out financial disasters like 2008. It has given me my own F-you money. It has allowed me to indulge in my own somewhat risky passions.

Long-term slow travel holds particular appeal, so it’s not surprising I’m drawn to Go Curry Cracker. Below, with Jeremy’s kind permission, is one of my favorite posts from their ongoing journey.

Meanwhile, Mike from 27 Good Things reached out and invited me to write a guest post on his site. He’s come up with a very cool concept and I urge you to check it out. Here’s 27 Good Things by jlcollinsnh

They will Kill you for your Shoes!

by Go Curry Cracker

“You’re going to Guatemala?!  You need to be careful.  Don’t show anybody your iPhone.  Don’t carry much money.  It’s dangerous there, they will kill you for your shoes!”

My friend Jake was en route to Guatemala to visit us last weekend, and this bit of sensationalist drama was courtesy of the United Airlines employee that he was sitting next to on the first leg of his trip.  It is always nice when you can sit next to a knowledgeable person on your travels.  Clearly he wasn’t in the sales department.

During his layover, Jake texted me to get my view of things.  “Is it dangerous? How has your trip been so far? Should I still come?”

My reply?  “You’re damn right it’s dangerous!  Dangerously awesome!  See you in a few hours”


Let’s be serious for a moment.  Jake has nice shoes. But would anybody really kill him for them?  Why does this well-intentioned person feel so strongly about the people of Guatemala that the topics of murder and footwear end up in the same sentence?

The United employee isn’t a member of the police or even the fire department, but the word of a man in uniform isn’t to be taken lightly.  We were also cautioned by several people in Mexico about how dangerous Guatemala is.  It made me really start to question my view of the world.  Could the people of Guatemala really be dangerous?  Were my wife in I in constant danger, and we had just been lucky so far?

Perhaps this United Airlines representative had an abundance of first person experience that I didn’t.  Maybe he has seen the dark underbelly of this beautiful country, while we had only seen the thin surface that the marketing department of the Board of Tourism had wanted us to see.  I began to keep a watchful eye on the people that we came in contact with

For example, Maria.  Maria is an entrepreneur and runs a successful family business.  Her four daughters and many of her grandchildren also take part.  When we went to visit her, I tied my shoes extra tight so they wouldn’t come off without serious effort.  She seemed warm and friendly, but I made sure I always had a clear path to the door.


Maria (photo courtesy of Jessica Wilding)

In Panajachel, this guy was helping coordinate rides with tuk tuk drivers.  He almost insisted we take his photo, probably to distract us while his friends jumped us.  He even tried to make small talk.  Seriously, how dumb does he think I am?  When I told him we lived in the US, his face turned grave and he asked, “Is it true that people would kill me there for the gold in my teeth?”

“Maybe.  If not for your teeth, then for your name brand polo shirt.”  I had to let him know that we weren’t easy targets, and that comment must have caught him off guard because we were able to get in a tuk tuk without incident.

Nice Guy

Nice Guy.  Nice Teeth.

Boarding a boat to another town on Lake Atitlan, we met Sansa.  She was traveling to neighboring towns to sell her home baked goods and some cheap plastic earrings. I lent her my arm as she was boarding the boat, because at her age she doesn’t move with ease.  I was careful though, better that I let her fall than have her take my kindness as a sign of weakness.

Winnie spoke a little of the local Tz’utujil language to her.  “Utz aawach?” she said.  “Como estas?”  “How are you?”



Sansa insisted that Winnie sit next to her. “We will practice together”, she said, and proceeded to teach Winnie some other common Tz’utujil phrases.  I kept my eye on her the whole time.

These people were all quick to share a smile and a kind word, and offered us assistance in getting where we were going.  I think this may have been part of their plan to find out where we would be later, so they could catch us unaware.

We have also encountered a few of the more seedy types.  For example, the fruit lady.  She walks about the town carrying a giant basket on her head, full of fruit for sale.  She could easily hide a weapon and ill-gotten shoes underneath a few bananas.

Fruit Lady

The Fruit Lady.  What Is Hidden Under Those Bananas?

Or these unsavory types.  They even have their own get away vehicles


Conversing Privately, Obviously Plotting Devious Deeds

And most dangerous of all, the children.  Nobody would ever suspect a roaming gang of little people, but we know the truth that is masked by their seemingly innocent faces.

Watch Out, They Are Coming for Our Shoes!

Run! They Are Coming for Our Shoes!

With the gods smiling upon us, and my constant diligence, we somehow made it through the weekend of Jake’s visit without incident.  We visited numerous bars and restaurants, walked the streets and back alleys of San Pedro and Panajachel, toured the local market, and rode an epic 1 km long zipline through the jungle.  Since we didn’t go anywhere that a shoe bandit might think to find a tourist, we were able to escape the worst.

Jake is now back in LA, shoes safely on his feet, but we are still at risk.  They kill people for their shoes, and we could be next…

Addendum 1:  From the comments:

Go Curry Cracker says:

Funny thing, one of the popular trade items here is hand made shoes. For about $20, they will measure your feet and 2 days later you have custom shoes

Go Curry Cracker says:

It’s a highly organized and efficient operation

Addendum #2:

For more on the ying and yang of living in Guatemala, and by extension any place new, here’s Pauline: I can’t complain.


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Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
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  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Trish says

    As anyone who travels a lot these days knows, there aren’t any Americans out there. They are conspicuously absent. Australians, Germans, French, Canadians, Italians, Irish – (and more Australians-), British – but Americans are rare.

    And the most common comment we get (from Americans) before and after a trip, bar none, is: “Isn’t it dangerous?”

    When did we become such a fearful nation? And why?

    As Jim says, “Security is an expensive illusion.”

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Actually, Mr. MM said that. I just seconded the notion. 🙂

      Along the lines you point out, one of the other things I’ve noticed is that while all those other nationalities are roaming the world, many I’ve met tell me they avoid the USA. The are they are afraid to visit. Seems we’ve convinced ourselves the world is a scary place and the world that the USA is.

      • Trish says

        It’s true. When I moved to the US, all my European friends were afraid for me. I think the US is perceived as the scariest place for anyone to visit.

        Interesting, certainly worth a discussion over a glass or two!

    • Jeremy says

      Hi Trish

      We’ve met heaps of Australians, and also quite a few people from the US.

      We Americans are out here traveling, although a few financial challenges seem to be in the way. Many Europeans, Canadians, and Australians travel during gap years before / after University, whereas most Americans are so saddled in debt they need to get a job immediately. I doubt fear is the primary reason that it seems Americans aren’t traveling (outside the US), but when you can’t afford travel it seems a good scapegoat



      • Trish says

        I think you’re right!
        It’s a good excuse.
        In the ’70’s, it was mostly Americans. It’s changed. Travel doesn’t seem to be as much of a priority among a lot of people we know in the States. Money? Debt? Danger? Who knows. Different choices.

        BTW, there’s a post on “Bootsnall” about “Long-Term Slow Travel”, which sounds very much like Jim’s idea of his upcoming life. It talks about travel as a lifestyle, rather than a vacation. Much less expensive. I like that idea!
        See you out there – somewhere dangerous!
        Watch your shoes.

          • Trish says

            You are way ahead of me. That’s exactly what I was talking about, that living like you do (Long term Slow Travel) is not only possible, but affordable. And doable.

            “Spend Little, Save More, Travel the World” – your motto is excellent!

            Thank you for being an inspiration, and I’ll be back out there with you guys shortly!
            Next spring….
            I CAN’T WAIT!!

  2. RobDiesel says

    My mom asks me this to this day “is it dangerous? Are you ok?” when I’ve managed to survive for quite some time on my own in the big, bad, US.

    She’s under the impression that people mug/rape/kill for fun around here. If I ever wanted to show her the truly dangerous side of the US, I’d fly her down to San Antonio and have her drive the freeways.

    She’s bound to swear off driving for the remainder of her life. 😀

    I’ve managed to keep my shoes because they’re horrendously unstylish. I think that’s the key.

  3. cv says

    Great post! This reminds me of my travel to Beirut the year after 9/11 happened. People thought for sure I was crazy- that either the place I sleep will be bombed or I will be shot down by syrian insurrectionist. Well I had a marvelous time, stuffed my face with out of the world lebanese cusine and pastry, met people whose hospitality far surpassed the Ritz and even posed for a picture with a border guard carrying a machine gun. Americans are funny about transposing their own problems onto others.

  4. CashRebel says

    I used to think that people were generally selfish. Not necessarily bad, just totally consumed with their own priorities. In recent years, stories like this one, my own travels, and reading I’ve done has convinced me that most humans are basically good. It’s really just fear of the unknown that separates us. I really enjoyed the post.

    • Jeremy says

      Thank you CashRebel

      I too think people everywhere are basically good and kind. We’ve met a lot of incredibly friendly people everywhere we’ve been. The people of Guatemala have been fantastic

  5. FatChance says

    Ahhh Panajachel and San Pedro. Lake Atitlan is a gem. That zip line is epic. I too made it out with my shoes but probably just barely 🙂

    • Jeremy says

      Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and the people of the region make it extra special. We’ll be back

  6. George "Fritz" Hahn says

    Very nice!
    An acronym for FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real.
    This is why we wear moccasins out here…now where did I put those???
    New Mexico Lobo

  7. LMaS says

    I’m reminded of the trip my wife and I took to SE Asia last winter. It was our first independent trip to “developing” countries, and all the guidebooks led us to believe as Americans we were going to be scammed or robbed daily (although because there were so few Americans around, most people assumed we were European or Australian). Time after time when people tried to help us we treated them overly skeptically only to feel bad when it turned out they were really just trying to help. A ways into our journey we finally relaxed a bit, but not before we surely insulted a few people by refusing to take their advice or accept their “help”. Nothing was ever stolen, and we were never seriously scammed. A bit of caution is always wise, but in general people turned out to be very well intentioned.

    And as a contrast to what many Americans considered a “dangerous” trip, we happened to be checking into a guesthouse the morning of the sandy hook shooting. The host had a paper and asked if we had heard about it, and said that America is such a scary place. Then we handed over our passports and she said something like “oh, sorry,” having assumed we were European or Australian. It was funny in a very sad way.

    • Mad Fientist says

      My wife and I had a similar experience in China. We were overly suspicious at first but then gradually realized that the locals were just trying to be really helpful. One day, we spent 10 minutes arguing with a poor girl because we thought she was trying to sell us something but eventually we realized she was actually asking us to choose a free gift that came with the thing we had already bought. Imagine that had happened in America! There is no way someone would have spent 10 minutes trying to explain to a couple of foreigners, who didn’t speak the language, that they were due a free gift.

      Great post, Jeremy/Jim!

    • Jeremy says

      In past travel to SE Asia and China, and current travels in Central America, it is humbling how kind and generous people are. It often seems that the less someone has, the more generous they are

      • Trish says

        I spend a lot of time thinking about this, and why it is.
        After 20-some years living and working around the world, I completely agree with you.

  8. Shilpan says

    I really enjoyed Jeremy’s writing style. I see people often selling their happiness so cheaply to others, and there are many who love to spread “kill you for the shoes” rumors. It’s up to you to sail away and explore the word..

    Jim, thank you for publishing this post!

  9. Jeremy says

    Thank you for sharing part of our story with your readers, Jim

    One of the reasons I started blogging is to share with friends and former coworkers whom were doubtful of our early retirement that it isn’t that expensive and it isn’t that dangerous. We publish every penny we spend to address the former, and try to share the human perspective to breakdown the latter.

    I consider our daily lives a lot less risky than the more traditional work til you drop path, and hope we can do our part to help more people realize that

    All the best


    • jlcollinsnh says

      My pleasure…

      …and I appreciate you letting me re-post it. Seems a perfect fit here –Money-Risk-Travel–and it’s gotten very strong readership!

  10. CL says

    Perhaps this will be jarring and not in line with the other comments or with the post itself, but it is somewhat dangerous in Quito particularly. I taught English in the far north of Quito. I was never mugged or anything (I’m not obviously American) and I was also the only person who felt secure enough to carry around my laptop. My group included a full-blood Venezuelan and a Ecuadorian/Panamanian mix who blended like locals, and yet nobody had the guts to leave their houses with their laptops or their real, American phones.

    I remember so many things about Quito – and I want to say that I loved Ecuador and the opportunities that I got there. I adored wandering around the cloud forest, rain forest, tropical coast, and the Galapagos Islands.

    But it was also quite scary at times. The girl who lived in the apartment above me (also an American student at PUCE-Quito) got robbed at gun point as she fished out her keys to get in our apartment building’s front door. She shook every time we came home for about a month and we started taking a taxi from that day forth, even though school was less than a mile away.

    Child pickpockets are also common, just because they are at the height where they can easily get into your pockets. Most people don’t keep things of value in their jeans pockets, but I was always really careful in the Ecovia or Metrobus during rush hour. I was part of a group of 20 Americans and I remember my friend Alex’s purse getting cut open (~10 cm) on the side within 7 days of arriving.

    These are problems specific to Quito, though, and won’t apply to those holidaying in the beautiful ecolodge.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      No worries CL, yours is a good perspective to add.

      When we were in Quito a couple of years ago we rented an apartment right on the edge of the old town. We had nothing but great experiences, but we did hear the stories and the locals we knew were very cautious. It’s always best to take the lead from them.

      Maybe because I grew up around and in Chicago, I expect to have to keep my wits about me in such places. Everywhere, actually.

      The one time I had my pocket picked was in Rome by three little girls. I was about 30 seconds too slow to realize what had happened and by the time I did, they were gone with about $115 in lira. A few days later we spotted each-other across a plaza. They blew me a kiss.

      None of this is to say travel is without risk. We’ve met people who’ve been mugged. It is only to say the risks and fears in many people’s minds are vastly overblown and that the vast majority of experiences any of us have are positive.

      For my part, the times I’ve felt most at risk have been in local cars and buses. Not of being attacked, but of accidents. I don’t know the statistics, but my guess is this is where the greater risk really lies.

      • Jeremy says

        Thanks CL

        Certainly bad things happen. A friend of ours was mugged in Columbia, for example. But we will still go to Columbia. And to Quito.

        We were just at the bus station in downtown Belize City, which is a haven for drunks and more. The panhandlers were very aggressive. Alcohol and poverty are not a pretty combination.

        Our way of avoiding any real issues was to camp out in a nearby Chinese restaurant / bar, listened to the drunk people sing (poorly), and hand out a few dollars and smiles to help some of the more persistent panhandlers get on their way. The worst that happened was we felt a bit uncomfortable

        As a parting bonus, one of the most aggressive panhandlers wished us a safe journey and said he hoped we loved his country and would come back

  11. NW says

    Collins – I have now read every single one of your posts within about five days.

    Great reading – we have very little in common demographically and would likely disagree on a few things (wings vs. roots) – but your site was a book that I couldn’t put down.

    Your Stocks series was full of information that I had already been exposed to but that didn’t stop me from devouring the entire thing because its always nice to get a fresh take on an old adage.

    Keep it up!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks NW…

      …and welcome.

      That high praise indeed and especially since I have begun the arduous task of crafting a book from some of the stuff here.

      I’m particularly impressed that you are able to enjoy what you read here, even while not needing to agree with it all.

      So, what is your demographic?

  12. Giddings Plaza FI says

    Jim, you’ve made me reconsider Central America! I’ve been around S America, parts of Asia, all over Europe…but have always thought Central America is dangerous. I like your advice that “security is an expensive illusion”…I’m going to think more about that.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Good to hear, GP…

      but a couple of points.

      1. Other than Mexico, I personally have never been to Central America.

      2. The “security is an expensive illusion” line belongs to Mr. MM as you’ll see when you click the link.

      That said, my wife and I just started planning to head to Guatemala over Christmas. We will, of course, be bringing extra shoes. 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      My pleasure, Gilbert.

      Since this post I’ve been to Guatemala twice and I still have all my shoes. 😉

  13. Jordan says

    Yeah…everything is relative. I had a friend who used to live in the dangerous favelas of Rio de Janeiro. He moved to the US and he was killed by a stray bullet in Atlanta. So yeah he fled violence in Rio just to meet his death in our “safe” country.

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