In the year 705 AD, a Japanese entrepreneur named Fujiwara Mahito opened a small inn at the foot of the Akaishi mountains in central Honshu.
At the time, few people probably thought the inn would last very long.
Fujiwara didn’t know anything about being an innkeeper… he had been groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve the emperor as a bureaucrat.
And the location he selected for his inn was terribly remote; it was far from the capital city and difficult to reach.
But Fujiwara believed in his idea: the inn was located next to the Hakuho hot springs, and he wanted to pump the waters to his inn and provide guests with natural hot baths.
Eventually the idea caught on, and Fujiwara’s hot springs inn became a favorite among battle-worn samurai and Japanese nobility.
More than 1,300 years later, the inn is still going strong. This is, in fact, the oldest hotel in the world… and it has been operated by 52 generations of the same family going back to Fujiwara Mahito.
I drove up here yesterday from Kyoto across the very scenic Japanese countryside because I deliberately wanted to be at this historic hotel to commemorate a special occasion.
You see, yesterday June 16th was the 10 year anniversary of Sovereign Man.
And while I don’t quite have aspirations of a 1300+ year business empire, it’s still hard to believe that the very first ever ‘Notes from the Field’ email was sent on June 16, 2009.
In that email, I compared the United States to someone who had struck it rich winning the lottery… and then went flat broke from a complete lack of financial responsibility.
It’s extraordinary to me how much has changed in that decade.
Back when I started this letter, the US national debt was $11.4 trillion. Ten years later the debt has nearly doubled to more than $22 trillion.
When expressed as a percentage of GDP, the US national debt has increased from 64% of GDP in 2009, to 105% today.
A decade ago the world was suffering through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; world economies were wrecked because central banks had printed too much money during the early 2000s, and kept interest rates far too low for far too long.
Yet over the past decade we’ve seen central banks print even more money, conjuring trillions of dollars out of thin air and holding interest rates down to the lowest levels ever seen in the history of the world.
Several advanced economies, including the eurozone, Switzerland, Denmark, and Planet Japan, now actually have NEGATIVE interest rates.
In the past ten years we’ve seen an alarming surge in the popularity of Socialism in the United States (and much of the world), and watched university campuses decline into re-education camps for Bolshevik groupthink.
Wealth and success are now vilified, and politicians consider it a major victory when they chase a productive business out of town.
Over the past decade we’ve also experienced the rise to power of Social Justice Warriors– a group of vocal crybullies who demand the authority to dictate how the rest of us should think, speak, and behave, in order to not offend their extremely delicate sensibilities.
It has become so absurd that some organizations are starting to outlaw the use of gender-specific pronouns or even the custom of shaking hands.
Over the past ten years as more and more of our personal information has become archived online, we’ve seen an almost endless series of data breaches and spying scandals.
Yet inexplicably, few people seem to care. It’s as if privacy has completely disappeared from Western Civilization’s value system.
You get the idea: the world is radically different than it was even just ten years ago.
But because we spend our lives in a daily grind, slowly becoming accustomed to these changes, it’s hard to notice unless you step back and look at the big picture.
That’s what we intend to do over the next few weeks: examining then and now, theme-by-theme, how the world has changed over the past ten years.
And I hope to show why, in light of all this absurdity, I remain ever-optimistic.
As I write this letter to you, I’m sitting by the window in my traditional, Japanese-style room at Fujiwara’s famed inn, staring down at the trees and the rapids and springs below.
I can’t help but think of all the turmoil this place has witnessed.
This hotel has survived countless invasions, civil wars, financial crises, world wars, and even the atomic bomb.
Despite all the rampant evil and stupidity thrust upon us, humanity pushes forward. It’s noteworthy that the housekeeper who cleaned my room this morning enjoys a more comfortable lifestyle than the Emperor of Japan could have dreamed about in 705 AD.
And for the most part, it’s getting better.
There will always be bumps in the road ahead… and occasionally severe ones. I just want to be sensibly prepared for the journey no matter what terrain we may encounter.
As a final point, I truly want to express my sincerest gratitude to our readers.
I co-founded this venture in 2009 with nothing but a laptop and an insatiable wanderlust.
Ten years and 120+ countries later, Sovereign Man has become a thriving business with a world-class team of dedicated professionals and content that has been read by millions of people around the world.
I cherish the relationships I’ve been able to develop– with my team, with our Total Access members (see you next week in Uzbekistan!) and with our readers.
Whether you’ve been part of this community from Day 1, or this is your first day, I am truly grateful for the honor of being a small part of your life.
Thanks for a wonderful first ten years. Here’s to many more.