Here's a short course of events that could have made you $10 million …

  1. Buying $10,000 worth of Merck (NYSE:MRK) at the beginning of 1980, just after the company started marketing Enalapril to treat high blood pressure.
  2. Rolling your Merck gains into Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) in 1993 just as Howard Schultz was starting to take the coffee purveyor nationwide.
  3. Ditching Starbucks for Arena Resources (NYSE:ARD) at the start of 2006 when Starbucks was looking pricey and rising energy demand was looking like the next global megatrend.

Had you followed those three steps, your initial $10,000 stake would be worth more than $10 million today -- and you'd be sitting pretty.

Pretty ... vacant
Of course, you didn't do that; I didn't do that; no one did that. It would have been almost impossible to make those three calls -- and only those three calls -- at the right moments.

You would need to travel back in time to make this hypothetical a reality, and there's simply no way to do that.

Or is there?
I recently returned from a research trip to Latin America. While in Buenos Aires, we met with Marcos Galperin, the impressive CEO of e-commerce site MercadoLibre. In talking about his company's potential, Marcos said something I haven't been able to shake ...

"By bringing this business to this place, we have the opportunity to get into a time capsule."

"This business"?
The business, of course, is e-commerce. Back in 1997, it was a nascent industry. Consumers didn't know the brands, didn't trust that they'd receive their orders, and weren't willing to send their credit card numbers into cyberspace.

That, of course, has all changed. More than $100 billion worth of business was done online in 2006, with companies such as (NASDAQ:OSTK), (NASDAQ:PCLN), and even NutriSystem (NASDAQ:NTRI) being major beneficiaries.

"This place"?
The place is Latin America generally -- Brazil and Mexico, more specifically.

Brazil and Mexico are the fifth- and 11th-largest countries by population, respectively, in the world, and the 10th- and 14th-largest economies. But both countries lack two key catalysts when it comes to the growth of online commerce:

  • Broadband penetration.
  • A thriving middle class.

In other words, consumers in these countries -- like their economies overall -- are emerging.

That, however, is changing, which is why Marcos and his investors (note MercadoLibre's price-to-earnings ratio of 195!) are so excited about the future. It's an opportunity to go back and bet on the online business model of 1997.

More where that came from
But Latin American e-commerce isn't the only time capsule opportunity that international investing provides. There's banking in India (how about buying Bank of America in 1991, when it began consolidating the industry?), construction in Mexico, and even auto sales in China.

Simply put: Mature industries here offer exciting growth opportunities elsewhere around the world. What's more, international investments can help you diversify your portfolio to reduce volatility and provide a hedge against a weakening U.S. dollar.

That's our view at Motley Fool Global Gains, and it's our job to help subscribers identify and buy the very best foreign stocks for their portfolios. To do that, we're traveling to China, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia next week to meet with experts, investors, and business leaders.

You can get all of our reports live from the field simply by telling us where to send them. Just provide your email address in the box below.