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Not the real Simon Black.

Simon Black, a mysterious traveler who writes for “Sovereign Man,” shares his philosophy on traveling, thinking outside the system, and what true freedom really means.

What do you get when you cross Jason Bourne with Donald Trump? Likely the enigmatic figure of Simon Black.

Simon writes dispatches to his website Sovereign Man, including his newsletter “Notes from the Field,” sharing in his own words “shockingly candid information about the markets, my travels around the world, and surprising secrets we discover along the way.”

I spoke via Skype with Simon to uncover his philosophy on traveling, thinking outside the system, and what true freedom really means.

BNT: On your site, you reveal Simon Black is not your real name. You say “I go by an alias because I value privacy and discretion– there’s not enough left of it in the world today.” Is there anything more you can tell us about your background?

SIMON BLACK: I used to be in the military, and did that desert “stuff” for a while. But then I became disillusioned with the direction the country was headed. I spent so much time in the military overseas, that I didn’t feel comfortable in the US anymore.

The first place I went afterward was Panama. Someone that I had been stationed with was down in Panama back when the US forces were still here, back in the 80′s. And this guy just could not stop talking about how great Panama was and how I had to check it out, so I did and it was fantastic.

I’ve always had a real estate background, so that’s the financial end of how I view the world. I started doing some real estate investment down here in Panama, and it just led to more and more things, and next thing I knew I was traveling all over the world, and here I am.

What motivated you to start up your site Sovereign Man as opposed to keeping your knowledge to yourself?

Logo for Sovereign Man

I think that travel is the best teacher. You can go to school for years, and you’re not going to learn the kind of things that you learn when you’re running around Africa, and Latin America, and Asia.

When you spend so much time with different cultures, and you actually put your feet on the ground somewhere and you meet the locals, and you get to know prominent and influential people in different countries, you really learn how the world works. You don’t learn that in school, there’s no textbook for that.

And so over the years I built up some level of knowledge particularly in certain industries, whether it is international finance or offershoring. I realized that a lot people were recognizing where the world was headed, and they were uncomfortable where the world is headed.

What direction do you feel the world is headed?

Well, a lot of people looking for answers right now. They don’t like the way that Western society, and the United States, Western Europe, seem to be turning increasingly socialist – they don’t like what’s happening with the present administration. They don’t like what happened in the previous administration.

They don’t like war, they don’t like death, the don’t like deficit, they don’t like socialized bank bailouts, they don’t like excessive regulation, they don’t like high taxes, and they’re looking for solutions. And these are exactly the kinds of solutions I’ve come across over years of traveling.

When you grow up in the US, you grow up thinking America, USA, #1, and maybe that was true in 1986. You get indoctrinated from very early age into this system, and it’s that system now that says America is #1.

Religious people seem to think that God and Jesus Christ are Americans. And America is the first among equals in the world. And anything outside the US, whether it’s medical care, whether it’s a government system, whether it’s corporations, technology is somehow inferior – and the fact of the matter is that it’s not.

People are surprised go overseas to places and they find the quality of everything they can get is phenomenal.

For some people disillusioned with the current system, their reaction is to get angry, particularly at the government. yet you believe people need to eliminate the mindset that “you are subject to a corrupt government that is bent on degrading your personal liberty.”

I think the illusion that you can have some grassroots campaign and change the system and fight the man is frankly bullshit. I just don’t see it being possible. It really is counterproductive and at the end of the day, you have yourself and your family to worry about.

And there’s literally an entire world of opportunity out there – whatever the problems you might have, there are limitless options and solutions out there to improve your life, whether it be a personal situation or a professional situation.

One of the things we do is get people to think globally. People in the United States, they’re out of a job, they can’t find work – well, where are you looking? Are you trying to find work in Fort Myers, Florida, the epicenter of the real estate collapse? Probably not a good idea. You have better chances of finding a job in different places in the world.

People get so focused on their country, they became a slave to their geography, and it’s just completely senseless.

How can people think outside their geography?

People have a box that they live in, whether it be their country or their neighborhood, and with that worldview, they end up fighting for turf in this little box, fighting over changes that they don’t like.

And in truth, that’s a pretty enslaving battle. If you’re going to fight that battle, you’re going to lose, because things are going to change, there’s no way to prevent it. If they’re not changing in your favour, then that’s just the way it is.

I’m trying to get people to realize that this box, the system everyone believes in, is a complete fallacy. I don’t want to start quoting the Matrix, but seriously, a lot of things that western society deems important – our FICO scores, whether we own or rent, our position in the rat race, etc. are complete nonsense.

Extensive travel is one of the ways to step outside of the box and see all of that garbage for what it really is.

You see just as soon as you go somewhere, the way you previously viewed an area, the way you viewed the people, they way you viewed your own opportunities, probably came from people who had no first-hand experience and it was all hearsay. You suddenly find lots of opportunity there because you’d freed yourself from this artificial mental construct that kept you confined to a singular geography.

Our goal is open people’s eyes a little bit.

Your site newsletter aims to “provide concise, actionable information each day to help achieve those ends.” Can you eleborate?

For those that are ready for it, we offer slaving away in a cubicle and worrying about your credit score, or whether you’re still going to have a job tomorrow. Human beings are not meant to exist in that way.

What does true freedom mean to you?

I think true freedom is being able to make your own choices, without having the influence of other entities you haven’t invited into your life. I’m a permanent traveler, I don’t have a home anymore. That usually blows peoples’ minds. They say, where do you live? And I say, I don’t live anywhere. Where do you get your mail? I say I don’t get mail, I don’t have a postal address. When I tell this to attorneys they say, where do you get served? I don’t get sued either.

Freedom is being able to have complete control of my time and make choices, and choices are based on what I want, and not being told by someone or something else.

In 2009 for example, I spent a month in Dubai, month in Argentina, month in Panama, couple months traveling around Europe, several months in Asia. I spent some time in New Zealand, Croatia, Colombia, Chile… all over the place. I just go from place to place, I generally have a reason to go, either personal or professional opportunity.

Freedom is being able to have complete control of my time and make choices, and choices are based on what I want, and not being told by someone or something else.

We’re not promising anybody a magic pill here. We’re not saying if you hate your situation, all you have to do is take this pill, call this lawyer, buy this piece of property and you’ll be good to go. Everybody is completely different in the things that make them happy.

I think everyone wants more freedom in their life, whether it’s freedom from their asshole boss, or being able to have more time, or not having to worry about money, or their bills, all these types of things that people tend to worry about. You know everybody has issues and challenges, and it’s about the ability to build away from that.

That’s really what I’m providing on my site. Actionable advice to achieve more freedom, that allows you to live a happier, richer and fuller life.

For more, visit Sovereign Man, and sign up for Simon Black’s newsletter “Notes from the Field.”


What do you think of Simon’s advice and the ability to achieve true freedom? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He is Head of Video at Matador Network. Ian is also an independent filmmaker, with his first feature (One Week Job) released in 2010. His more recent projects include Sacred Economics and Occupy Love.

  • JoAnna

    I agree that, to a certain extent, freedom comes from anonymity. He is just another person making his way around the world instead of someone with a well-known blog or reputation that precedes him. I applaud what he does, though I don’t know if I’d ever want to do it myself.

  • Abbie

    Great interview Ian, thanks!

  • Sabina

    This is a great interview.

    Life inside the box in which most of us live is really, really limiting. The first time I stepped foot out of the U.S. I began wondering why people in my homeland have to do certain things the way we do, when it seemed to me that some of the ways of life elsewhere could be brought back home and utilized to great advantage. I think the answer is we’re stuck and don’t care to get out of our boxes and do things differently. Observing and being a part of life is other cultures really can cause you to wonder, after a while, if you really fit in so well in your own.

  • taminchina

    Much food for thought here. I agree absolutely that many things the “West” (not just that mythical thing called Western society, it’s alive and well in China too) deems important, are not. And I’m interested to see how we can opt out, and opt in at the same time, which this article suggests we can… rather than supporting a more idealistic fundamental change in thinking.

  • DHarbecke

    These are precisely the attitudes that are going to shape the future – and, if we’re lucky, get us out of the current financial tailspin, by supporting competitive markets to produce better offerings. Not just products – I’m talking governments, too.

    We’ve been listening to the mantra of “Manifest Destiny is <– thataway (West)," for over 500 years, and the folks who got here first have been capitalizing on the true believers ever since. The problem is there's no more "West" left. In a global economy, "West" no longer exists. It's humbling when you go someplace and discover the USA isn't the only game in town for making a life and a living, but it's also incredibly liberating.

    It's like a toxic relationship – the only thing that can fix Western co-dependency is to break the addiction. When enough people do, the fatcats will be forced to make concessions – perhaps even a pay cut – or face a brain drain similar to what Russia's going through. Sure, hiring untrained cogs for a fraction of skilled labor looks good short term, but you don't build your knowledge base that way. And demonstrating that you consider people and products expendable will justify going elsewhere. Duh!

    All this may sound unpatriotic (if not blasphemous) to our delicate ears, and those who dare criticize the US are labeled "commies" without even understanding the term. But where's the real communism: looking for a better life abroad, or gradually turning the West into a plantation? Where's the real betrayal of country: enjoying the rights and lifestyle you demand in another part of the world, or accepting it when the powers that be whittle your freedoms with "heightened security" and "too big to fail"?

    Sorry to rant, but Simon's doing the right thing. We need to see how other folks live, and stop tolerating a diminshed lifestyle because we insist "We're #1" without bothering to qualify it. We need to remind policymakers that the US was built on investing in quality, not reputation. And we need to stop being so goddamn arrogant that "it can't happen here," because it sure as hell IS.

  • Heather Carreiro

    Glad I found out about Sovereign Man site. Great interview.

  • Carol

    I agree with much of Simon’s philosophy and his reality…living out his beliefs on a global journey.

    When my husband, a haemophiliac was infected with HIV/HCV through American multi-nationals prioritising profit over safety…exporting plasma from US prisons round the world as “treatment” it forced my family to re-evaluate our existance.

    I have always been someone who thinks outside the box and our initial response was to say hey, lets get the most out of life and go travel. So we packed our rucksacks complete with syringes for plasma treatment, some schoolbooks for our son who was nine at the time and disappeared round the world for the next 2 years.

    What that did was free us up to adopt a difference perspective on life…make us realise that many people were far worse off than us in their day by day struggles but there were also significant numbers that had in fact more positive lives than those in the the west in terms of their indomitable will to adapt and survive, maintain community values and uphold their spirituality.

    Our experience of travel and volunteering and also my husband no longer suffering the stigma of an HIV label (as we mostly kept that fact to ourselves) gave us a freedom to enjoy, explore ourselves and our environment and prepare for what was to come.

    One thing I disagree with is Simon Black’s line that quote “I think that the notion that you can have some grassroots campaign, change the system and fight the man is frankly bullshit. I don’t see it being possible. It really is counter productive, at the end of the day you have yourself and your family to worry about”

    No Simon it is because of living outside the box and being open to learning and new experiences globally that we CAN change the system step by step not just for ourselves but the wider community…no -one said it would be easy but it is possible…

    On my return I began “grassroots” campaigning on global health/human rights..which continued after the death of my husband and led me to university first as a student and then to teach on an MA in Activism and Social Change where I teach from life experience…

    The campaigning which included extensive use of the media…has resulted in changes in legislation, in national and international health policies, bringing multi-nationals to task and governments to account…you just have to be creative and believe that nothing is impossible…

  • Marc Latham

    Nice interview and I think Simon’s got generally got a good attitude/philosophy.

    It’s like Kerouac for the 21st century.

    But I think it’s down to your mind and age as well. Some people (the majority?) are happier living with what they think of as security, and close to loved ones, and it’s a better life for them.

  • Freddie S

    These aren’t new ideas, but i support them wholeheartedly. But fact of the matter is, the majority will never change. People love their bubbles. 98% of the people I’ve told about my backpacking journeys around the world, like the idea, but say, “not for me”.

    People love their jobs. Love their cars. Their houses. Their routines. Their prejudgments and stereotypes. Simple people need a simple life. It’s as simple as that.

    The most you can do is try to grab a few “Neo’s” who want out of the so called Matrix that we’ve built around ourselves. But in order for the world to change, people need to want it. However people, America in particular, want change without compromise. They don’t want to give up what they have grown so fond of over the decades.

  • http://NA J R H

    I do not see any freedom in this at all. Money is not freedom. Self employment is not freedom. Freedom is the openness to see truth. It has nothing to do with religion, faith, belief, hope. nationality, politics, etc.

    From conception on we are conditioned by our experiences (parents, school, religion, government, media, etc.). Fortunately we can and do change. Genetics is not destiny.

    When I was much younger I traveled with books, and later I was in a large library that had installed its first computer based catalog. I looked up everything I could find on creativity. Though most of it was not helpful some of it was special. The trouble is that we and our librarians are not really good at finding truth as we generally have an agenda that limits our vision and understanding. Most books tell us what we want to hear. Thus we are not challenged. Libraries collect entertainment and facts, but little truth.
    It is the relationships we have that matter, be they with people, animals, the environment etc. Life is not a game.

  • janice stringer

    I agree with the thought that everyone wants more freedom in their life, its just how do we find that freedom, that is particular to us. Travelling and taking myself completly out of the system has enabled me to find out what freedom I want in my life, it gave me time to come into being, once again after a long period of being grounded in one place as a Parent having followed a very traditional route.

  • Frank Dobner

    I had never heard of Simon Black before, but living around the world sounds pretty engaging to me. I have always felt that the world is too USA-centric for my tastes. It is almost like the real world gets blotted out by the overpowering glow of the United States. I love my country, but it is only one country that I can appreciate.


  • Roland

    Freedom begins and ends in your mind, and has nothing to do with the ideas of the “sovereign man”. Think about it.

  • Cameron Benz

    Roland, is that what you’d tell to someone who was a slave or lived under an oppressive government regime?

  • Michael Jorden

    Simon Black, or whatever his name is, is a
    self-centered phony…a first class bullshit
    artist. “20 countries in 30 days..met with Presidents
    and Diplomats…train trips…hitchhiking… aerobatic
    flying…Lecturing…Starting businesses…blah-blah-blah”. He’s a liar. Period

    • Pete DiOrio

      Michael: I happen to know Simon Black, and he is indeed real and honest to a fault. You can’t do or become what you can’t imagine. When you reach puberty you should ask your mommy to take you aboard so that you begin a journey that you’re badly in need of. If I’ve got your age wrong, go to the Sovereign Man website and sign up for the symposium to be held in Panama this February. I’ll tell Simon to be sure and visit with you.

    • Arthur

      Having just spent an amazing weekend with Simon Black and his friends, I can assure you that he is the real deal, a man of integrity who is a giver, not a taker. His humility was inspiring, and the way he honored his parents left no doubt as to his breeding. I am proud to say he is my mentor.

    • Kevin Kordes

      So was Hemingway. But it sells books, doesn’t it? LOL
      There’s an interesting documentary on Hemingway by PBS or NOVA forgot which, but he was just an opportunist, nothing more.
      His alleged exploints were made up stories just to promote his books and lavish lifestyle.

  • Geoffrey Locke

    I have experience as a customer of Simon. It´s NOT good.

    Put simply, he collects your money and then does not deliver.

    I recently followed his recomendation to purchase (from his organization) a file on Life in Chile, by John Cobin. Paid my US$39.00 through Paypal. So far, so good.
    Downloaded the .pdf file. Adobe Reader would not recognize it; said it was corrrupted. His organization (Julia) gave me another link, which led nowhere, not even to a faulty download, just a blank page. Tried to get more help from Julia; no response. Asked for my money back; no response. Threatened to do just what I am doing now; no response.

    Draw your own conclusions!

    Simon maybe should spend less time on airplanes and more time administrating his business. I´ll bet he won´t even see this!

    You should read his letters; they are marvelous.
    But, keep your money in your pocket!

    • Arthur

      I have dealt with Simon for almost two years, and met him in Panama City at his “Unconference.” He and Matt Smith were amazing, humble and knowledgeable. My wife and I felt that we got a lot more than we paid for. The 350 people there got to meet with Simon’s top black book contacts from around the world, and take action to plant PT flags right there at the meetings.

      The way Simon introduced and honored his parents was heartwarming. We have found him to be the real deal, a man of integrity who serves others from passion, not a love of money.

      The SovereignMan Confidential forums have been the most valuable of all our information sources. The caliber of people posting there is extraordinary, and they have had boots on the ground over the whole world. Highly recommended!

  • Geoffrey Locke

    Just to tell you all that I received a full refund from Simon´s organization this morning, about 6 hours after posting the above.
    That is a very quick result.
    I guess bitching works, although I find it distasteful.
    In this case I had no choice; my pleas, and warnings that I would publicly bitch, were being ignored.
    I am happy to have my refund, but would prefer to have the book.

  • JonChandler

    Thanks, Ian!
    I have nearly 15 years invested in the Marine Corps as an Infantryman and suffer from a brutal dichotomy. Wikileaks is a great indicator of the future. I praise the results and what ever springs up after it is gone. The reality is Nationalism as it manifests in blind support for the Nation State will fade as governments lose their vale of secrecy and ability to subjugate their or other nations peoples.

    Freedom will reign.

  • John Reagon

    Simon Black promises but only delivers Ego.
    His membership site is a scam. Most of the “members” don’t even exist.
    He doesn’t even visit his own site much. If you like to read the guy,
    stick to his free newsletter.

    • Arthur

      Have you ever been a member at SovereignMan Confidential? We have found it to be easily the best investment we have ever made in freedom info and technology.

      The genius of the SMC site is that the forums are alive with questions and expert insights from some of the sharpest people we have ever met. That indicates to me that SImon Black and Matt Smith attract people a lot like themselves: smart, adventuresome, self-reliant and service-minded. Simon and Matt may not have been everywhere or seen everything, but the chances are good that some forum denizen can give first hand feedback on almost any topic. And many are willing to give a hand personally to folks visiting their country.

      Truly a unique resource, worth far more to us than it costs!

  • TheButlerDidItAgain

    I read his free letter but have not discovered how he travels internatinally without discussing finance.  Is he independantly wealthy?  A scam artist sucking up money on subscriptions?  I read about his military experience and has a real estate background like that is supposed to convince me of his credentials.  Not digging in to my pocket book until I can get comfortable with this information and some how, I don’t think this will ever be revealed.  Scary huh?

  • Klaatu Fabrice Aquinas

    Lke Simon, I also “played in the desert” (and the jungle), except in the “much tougher” branch. Like Simon, I traveled the world for a time. Quite a bit of it on the oceans. I learned what a binjo was. Not the most pleasant. I do agree with the notion of the problem with American exceptionalism, and to equal degree with Christendom. Folks say they are searching for truth. Well, there was this guy, who said to another guy, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Through another guy, he instructed us to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” I say, pretty good philosophy to live by. I say Simon probably lives pretty by this, but let’s not forget who the “life giver” is. One is very much the “captain of his own ship.” However, the oceans are not ours. They belong to another. We have been granted free navigation of those sea lanes for a time. One day, they will no longer exist, nor the oceans as we comprehend them at present. One pines for change? Believe me, the day will come when one will get it, whether he desires it or not…

  • The Nomad Capitalist

    I agree wholeheartedly with his thoughts on American exceptionalism. The United States is unique in that people get caught up in the insularity of the place. Go to Switzerland, for instance, and you’ll find people who come from a country that speaks four languages and has to negotiate with all of its neighbors. You don’t get that in the US and it leads people to be very sheltered.

    Knowing I visit 1-2 dozen countries a year, an old friend of mine recently emailed me to say he was going to Italy for a week. He asked, “do they have Wi-fi over there?” Americans are trained to think the rest of the world is some backwater jungle.

    Once you get out and not only travel and meet people, but understand the history of those places, you’ll see the common threads that make places prosper and those that make them fail. Somehow government leaders haven’t figured out how to leave people alone enough to create such prosperity despite thousands of years of human history telling them the exact playbook to do so.

    • Lauren Xiaowen Mei

      When I first came to the US, an old lady asked me: “Do people in China have TVs? ” I replied: “Well, I am not sure if everyone has TV, but I know that everyone seems to have a laptop!” I saw her jaw dropped……..

  • Thomas Nguy

    This guy is starting to get on my nerve.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my family’s long history of diaspora, it’s that you CAN’T outrun totalitarian politics. It follows the scent of freedom and prosperity like the way shark smells blood in water.

    Simon’s type of cynicism, defeatism, ambivalence, general resignation, abandonment of his native country is one of the reasons why the US has fallen into the control of the the Statists who were far more motivated and are reaping the rewards of their political endeavor.

    As someone whose family members were killed and property were confiscated in a violent proletariat revolution, I (along with many immigrants who experienced the same) do not share share his naivete about the rest of the world where the intellectual and moral argument for individual and property rights are NOT codified but are as easily violated by the next regime.

    Why does he think Chile or Singapore can hold onto their prosperity? This ex-Singaporean, Vietnamese wants to know.

    The decline of the US is NOT an option for millions like me. We are done running.

    • Abel Tan

      As a Singaporean, I strongly believe that Singapore will hold on to its prosperity, the only question is how many Singaporeans will be sacrificed along the way.

      Well truth be told, its not really much of a sacrifice when you are willing to look elsewhere. Like as the interview says, most people are confined to where they begin, reading his newsletter every day is quite refreshing.

      I may not agree with everything but it certainly does offer a contrasting view.

      Finally made my decision to subscribe to his SMC.
      It wouldn’t really matter if I funded his travels for 100$.
      This is his business.
      All I care is that it saves me thousands of dollars to do what he’s doing, to know what he knows.

    • bigmyc

      Well then sir, from your perspective, I’d say that you are right on the to speak. For others, like myself, Black’s words regarding the world educational construct resonates. Fact is, no matter how statist this nation leans, it can only blame itself and it’s record of excess that the “elites” have managed. What we’re seeing is what Ron Paul coined as “blowback.” Though, he used that term to describe another phenomenon, I believe it applies to the political climate here as well. For you, this country is newer and represents, perhaps, a last best option. For me and others like myself, it represents a default of sorts. The world at large and it’s alternative opportunities is waiting should we decide to venture out into it and we’ll be all the better for it as people. It’s not that so many are “running from the adversity” but it’s more about “running toward opportunity.” After all, home is where the heart is and if that ends up being the U.S. after a multitude of global experiences, so be it.

  • Jaque

    Simon Black is not the enlightened political renegade he makes out to be. His newsletters are all big teasers to sell memberships. I know people that got all worked up to be in one of his “sustainable communities” and even travelled to Chile to meet him…He wasn´t there. He doesn´t even return their emails. Not saying he´s a bad guy… just that he´s only a salesman cashing in (very well) on people´s market anxieties and feelings of dystopia. There´s nothing more to him. Go ahead… pay for a membership, then he´ll try to sell you something else.

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