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Out-of-Work Financiers Reap Dividends of Seeing the World
"Three days in, I got an e-mail from the guy I was dating, saying, 'I met someone.' . . . An e-mail. Nice," she said.
Since then, it has been a tourism whirlwind, Alberti said, listing her adventures: a Spanish course in Quito, Ecuador, swimming off the Galapagos Islands, hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru, riding a helicopter into the Colombian jungle, touring the salt flats of Bolivia and drinking Argentine wine in Buenos Aires.
"You were starting to get the idea you weren't going to be paid out the way you used to be," she said. "I felt good about the investments I'd made personally with my money, and I didn't do traveling after college, I went straight to work. And it was something I'd always wanted to do."
She plans to return briefly to New York to deal with her taxes and refinance her apartment, but then she wants to return to Argentina and start a new life abroad.
"Right now I don't want to be in New York pedaling my feet. I'd rather look for interesting investments down here," she said.
Among such Type A tourists, there is often more going on than daiquiri-sipping or hammock-swinging. Take Alex Iscoe, a 28-year-old Toronto native who resigned from Goldman Sachs last May as the financial storm clouds were gathering. Recently, he was in London, hooked up to a machine that simulates the depleted oxygen conditions of high-altitude peaks, part of his training regimen to climb the highest mountain on each of the world's seven continents, something only about 230 people have done.
"Since I was a teenager, I've always wanted to attempt Mount Everest, and I've never really had a combination of time, money and desire at the same time that would make that a possibility," Iscoe said by phone from Buenos Aires. "The writing was very much on the wall with what was about to happen through the entire industry. . . . It struck me as a very good opportunity to take some time off and accomplish personal goals."
Iscoe started his training by climbing to the 14,400-foot summit of Mount Rainier in Washington state in July. He followed that with Mount Elbrus in Russia, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica, where it reached about 40 degrees below zero without wind chill. "The coldest I have ever been in my entire life," he said.
He is now plotting to climb Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and, of course, Everest. He hopes he can raise money for charity with his feat, and when it is all over in a few months, he will consider what to do for a living.
"As silly as this may sound, focusing on getting a job, even though it's relatively soon from now -- three or four months -- it's not at all on my mind," Iscoe said. "I have a 29,000-foot mountain to climb."
Some former financiers have found that a new country can offer the chance to be an entrepreneur rather than a cog in the vast machine. Raphael Rottgen, 36, left his London hedge fund in early 2007 because he was more interested in emerging markets than his investments in Europe. He started by touring the big ones -- China, India and Russia -- but also traveled to Brazil and Argentina. He eventually set up shop in Sao Paulo -- in a country he believes has vast potential.
"If you think about the things the world needs in the next 100 years, this country has everything -- oil, raw materials, agricultural land," he said of Brazil. "And the country I was living in, Great Britain, has absolutely nothing."
He eventually started Sagace, which he said is Brazil's first nationwide mortgage broker, now with offices in eight states.
"Now when I speak to people, most people say to me, 'Oh, my God, you left at the right time,' " he said. "But I wasn't a genius. I had no idea that it would get this bad."
A more recent refugee from a London hedge fund, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, resigned last month and fled to Buenos Aires. He plans to be in New York by September to set up his own asset management company, he said, but for the time being, there is no longing for the time-sucking financial grind. He wants to take up polo, study Spanish and enjoy the thriving Buenos Aires night life.
"You've made a bit of money, but there's also a significant dark side to that business line. When you are voluntarily or involuntarily forced to distance yourself from it, the not-so-pleasant aspects of that business become a bit more obvious," he said. "People talk about soul-destroying jobs, and there's definitely a lot to that, and when they're taken out of that, they do blossom to some sort."
Staff researcher Robert E. Thomason in Washington contributed to this report.