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I'm going to start writing a little wrap-up about the island every year, partly because I want to chronicle it for my own reading later, but also because there's been a lot of general interest in the island.
If you're late to the party, nine friends and I bought an inexpensive island off the coast of Halifax in 2013. It was untouched forest when we bought it, but we have now built trails as well as structures, the only significant one being a 30' diameter yurt.
This year we got two trips in. The first was a massive trip with twelve different people coming and going, averaging eight to ten at any given time. Five of the owners came on that trip as well as seven guests.
Having so many people here at once was a feat in and of itself. I think the maximum we'd had before was four. But this is the first year that the yurt was up, as we finished it at the tail end of the preceding summer, so we had plenty of space for everyone.
The first trip was a hurricane of productivity. We split into two teams so that we could do two projects at once, and managed to complete a dock, an outhouse, a giant loft/wall structure in the yurt, and an outdoor shower. The island went from habitable to comfortable in no time flat.
People worked extremely hard, including most of the guests who have no vested interest in the island, and we couldn't have made nearly as much progress if it wasn't for all of the guests and owners that came for the trip. It was also the most fun trip ever, though maybe a little intense as a lot of the planning and direction fell on my shoulders.
Particularly enjoyable for me was to see some of the different owners who didn't really know each other get to meet, become friends, and do projects together. Everyone got along really well and helped things run smoothly.
The second trip was just me and Brian, the other owner who likes to get really involved in island projects. The other owners were too busy to come and we didn't invite guests, as we wanted to have a more relaxed trip. Of course, both of us love the island because of the opportunities to do projects, so we worked just about the whole time.
We wired up some batteries and a charger that connects to the generator, lights, as well as USB and 12V sockets. We painted the kitchen area with chalkboard paint and installed a split level counter, 10 feet of counter-height and 6 feet of desk height (from which I'm now typing this). We cleared a few trees, made a few repairs, and got everything ready for winter.
Of particular note on this trip was our failed attempt to tow our floating dock with the boat which left us stranded in the middle of the harbor. I finally realized that you can counter-steer like a trailer which got us close enough to the island that we could jump in and pull the dock to shore and around the island. Not the most pleasant thing to do in the North Atlantic in late October.
The improvements that we have made have contributed to a shift in what the island is. It used to be a fun place to work, but now it's a fun place to be. Granted we still work almost all of the time, but the lulls in between the projects are now spent in front of a woodstove in a nice big yurt. It used to be that after a week at the island I desperately needed a shower and a good night's sleep. Now I can take a hot outdoor shower and some of the best sleep I get is out here, thanks to the sound of the ocean and not having a ton to do after dark.
One of the high points of the island for me is the exposure to a completely different way of life. We check tide charts to plan our days. I walk around the woods looking for birds. We have to haul our own water and gasoline and conserve our resources. Sometimes we fish or dig for clams. We're in a tiny little community and we've gotten to know a lot of folks here. Even after months away they joke with us when we come to their restaurants and ask how the island is doing.
I also love the animals, which we saw a lot of this year. While boating around the harbor we saw about a dozen seals that swam around us, at a distance, curiously. We heard an owl on the island last night. I didn't see them this trip, but last trip we had a lot of sightings of the bald eagle family that lives on our island. This time there were a bunch of chickadees that kept landing really close to us. Seeing so many animals all the time makes me really aware of how few I see in my normal life.
I feel very fortunate to get to spend time in both urban and rural extremes throughout the year, and I think it gives me a lot of perspective that I didn't have before.
So that's where the island is at now. Most of the necessities are taken care of, we've avoided major catastrophes while succumbing to just about every minor one, and it's become an excellent venue to spend time with friends and form new friendships. I'm extremely grateful to all of the other owners of the island who made it possible, to the guests who came and helped us build, and to our neighbors, without whom we may currently be lost at sea.
Top photo is the shore on a calm morning. I'm surprised the ocean can be so still. Second photo is the current state of the Yurt. You can see the counters we just finished. Last one is the woods. The trees are so dense that it's really hard to hike around there.
Currently in Vegas, SF, then back to Budapest. Trying to stick to places in which I have a home base!
Two days ago I closed on a property in Budapest (right where districts V, VI, and VII meet, if you know the area). It's not just my property, though. I share it with eight of my best friends. It's the latest piece of the puzzle in my recent quest to have home bases around the world in my favorite places.
We bought an island off the coast of Halifax, now a flat in downtown Budapest (best European city in my opinion), and are buying up a neighborhood in Las Vegas, with each of us owning our own apartments.
Tonight I'll sleep in our Budapest place. Tomorrow I'll fly to Halifax and stay on the island for a week. Then I'll fly back to Vegas. It is a really cool feeling to fly around the globe and always be home.
Now that I've done this a few times I'm going to share specifics on how it works and how we organize everything so that you can do the same. And before you dismiss the idea thinking it's too expensive or complicated, think about this: my share of the island, share of the Budapest place, and entire place in Vegas cost me around a fourth of the median sales price for a house in the USA. So while this sounds extravagant (and feels like it), it's actually very inexpensive compared to how most people you know live.
I've been working a lot on marketing recently, as you've hopefully noticed if you subscribe to CruiseSheet's (awesome) newsletter. A basic part of marketing is thinking about the funnel. At the top of the funnel you have people who go to the web site, and at the tiny end of the funnel you have people who actually book a cruise.
Ideally you'd want that funnel to be tube shaped so that every person who visited would also book a cruise, but that's not possible. So while you try to stretch the opening at the bottom of the funnel by increasing conversions, you also try to get more people into the top of the funnel, since some of them will make it all the way down to the bottom.
Over the years I have had some really amazing ideas for blog posts. Hopefully you've read a few of those posts, but the majority of them never got written. That's because I have the exact same thought process every time:
As you probably already know, one good way to keep your dog fenced in is the invisible fence. It's a loop of wire you run around your yard that triggers their special collar if they cross the wire, giving them an electric shock.
After a while you don't need the collar or the wire anymore. The dog has been conditioned not to cross the edge of the yard. Cool system.
When we are children we have a similar construct. Parents establish where the line is, and if you cross it you get in trouble. Go to bed later than midnight and you'll hear about it. Get lower than a B and you get lectured. Say words that cross a certain line of civility and get reprimanded.
Just as the dog doesn't need to know every point on the fence to identify the line he can't cross, we as children get a sense for where the line is. As toddlers we need to be told everything, but as we get older we know the boundaries.
A few months ago I had a troubling thought: maybe I've forgotten how to be productive.
I am not a naturally productive person. I skated by in school, putting homework off until the last minute, if I did it at all. After I left school I was reasonably productive with my gambling thing, but it was never days full of long hours of work, more like and hour or two most days.
After gambling I started a bunch of other projects. It was always hard to get myself to work on them, and other than the first day or two when I was filled with that "new project energy", I'd procrastinate a lot.
Then, a few years ago, I decided to get serious about work and I slowly ramped up until I was working 12-14 hours per day on Sett. That might sound horrible, but I actually loved it. I learned to love work and it was a huge relief to discover that I was capable of working hard for a prolonged period of time. There was at least a year or two where I consistently worked at a rate I was happy with.
I'm always thinking about minimalism. A lot of why I think about it is because I have both very minimalistic tendencies as well as some on the opposite side of the spectrum. That sits well with me, because I consider it cause for alarm when one subscribes entirely to the dogma of any group. It's a sign of not thinking for oneself.
So I think a lot about that balance. Am I becoming too minimalist? Am I swinging too far in the other direction? What's right for me?
A common thread for me is to think about what will make my life the simplest. That doesn't mean that I'll have the fewest possessions or fewest relationships or fewest responsibilities, it just means that I'll remove barriers from my life. I try to think a lot about what I want my life to look like, what will enable me to do the most, and how to minimize friction on that path.
For example, I only wear one outfit. This simplifies my life drastically as I never have to choose what to wear, laundry is always quick and easy and can be done in a sink if necessary, etc. With the exception of trying out new gear (which is both my hobby and business), I must think about clothing less than almost anyone.
It's been an interesting month so far. Two relevant things happened: first, I got some critical feedback that I needed to hear but sort of stung, and second, CruiseSheet has been doing extremely well.
For the longest time I've run my businesses as I thought they should be run. I'd hear people out and take advice on small things, but even when lots of smart people I love and respect said that I should do something big differently, I wouldn't. I'd listen and feel like I was considering it, but really I knew I wouldn't take the advice.
And then later I'd think to myself about how I had my own way and how great it was and how some day people will see that my way was right!
But that day never really came.
I think a lot about what an outsider would assume about me if they were to get a deep view of me. What would they think my priorities are? Would they think that I will succeed? Would they think I'm a good friend? When the answers to these hypothetical questions is out of line with what I want, I adjust. It's a little hack to get perspective.
Today I found myself asking when that hypothetical observer would assume I was optimizing my life for. Hmmmm...
I think that almost everyone optimizes for the very short term. One day. One week. A month. Maybe a year. Who is really doing things for five years from now? Any of us? The lady across the aisle from me on this plane is drinking a Pepsi Max, eating chocolate, and playing a game on her iPad. When is she optimizing for?
We were all alive in 2011, and back then it wasn't all that easy to imagine 2016. Abstractly we could, but who among us could really feel what it would be like to be alive now?
I was encouraged to watch the TV series True Crime, which I was told was excellent. I watched the first couple episodes and found all sorts of things I didn't like about it, which made it easy for me to stop watching the show and write it off.
This happens to me for most TV shows, but it's not an accident. I've cultivated a strong inclination to dislike TV. Usually an optimist, I encourage myself to be very negative when it comes to "low-value" media. I love walking out of movies so much that I'm always looking for a reason to bolt within the first half-hour.
A few days ago I reached a place of disgust with myself. I thought-- "What are you doing? Is this all the effort you're willing to pour into your goals? Are you trying to be mediocre? It's time for a big change!"
That may sound like negative self-talk, but I've developed on purpose an inclination to have those sorts of moments. I see them as fire breaks. If I'm not performing at my best, or near my best, I want to have some level of exasperation towards myself.
Ask anyone what their top priority is, and I bet you get at least three. And if you were to observe their actions, maybe you'd notice that the top priority they're acting on has nothing to do with any of the three they listed.
We all want a lot, and that's because it's easy to want a lot. I want happiness, fulfillment, lots of money, great friends, a great relationship, and just about everything else out there.
It's easy to want a lot. What does it take for me to add something to my wish list? Nothing. I just added a jetpack, and it took me two seconds and felt great. A jetpack! How cool would that be?
But in the same way that great design is defined by negative space, our true wants, those that we will work towards, are defined by those things that we give up.