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Why We Bought An Island

09/18/2013

in Make Money, Travel

UPDATE: I did a TV interview with Arise.TV. Watch the segment below.

Learn more about how to buy an island, get a sandwich named after you, get free tickets anywhere in the world, and become more productive by signing up for the Hack the System newsletter.

Yesterday, my very good friend Tynan posted an article: My Friends and I Bought An Island”. It was posted on Hacker News and instantly became a huge hit — 353 comments and #1.

I was lucky enough to be one of the 4 people to venture to the island last weekend. I wanted to add to Tynan’s excellent account and add my notes on our experience.

Along with a group of ten or so people, we split the cost, and each own 1/10 of it — as an LLC.

Having ten people definitely made the price much more manageable—The total cost to buy the island was < $100,000 (/ 10). But having a group of people adds something even more powerful:

We added a group dynamic to an island buying experience.

The previous owner of the island had cleared a 20-ft radius of land, just enough for a single tent. Apparently he had visited twice with his sister.

But since we have a group of people, it became a fun experience. Everyone has been planning. We have a Facebook group that lets us discuss plans for the island, organize trips, debate if we should have goats (I have a goat-phobia and I am very much against goats).

 

Getting to the island

Getting there was a cinch. It’s in Nova Scotia, Canada (eastern edge of Canada), easily accessible by air or car.

The island itself is very close to civilization. It’s located 4 minutes by boat from the harbor of our very, very friendly Canadian neighbor Ray. Just a 10 minute drive from the shore to the nearest grocery store / diner, and just a ~50 minute drive to Halifax Airport.

Time to Arrive on the island shore: Leaving NYC/Boston — 10-12 hours by car, 3 hours if you fly into Halifax Airport.

NYC-Halifax
If flying out of NYC, we can arrive via flight and boat to our new island in 3 hours

So last weekend, we actually visited the island. Brian, Aaron, Tynan, and I took a road trip from Boston to visit it and close the sale with the previous owner. It’s legally ours now, or at least this week.

The Island Boys

Crew

What the island is like

“Why didn’t you get one in the Caribbean?” everyone always asks. Yea, we didn’t think of that first — but those are a bit more expensive.

The first question I asked Tynan when we planned to go to the island was: “Canada? Isn’t it too cold to ever visit our island?

No — it’s perfect for 3 months of summer, it’s quite nice for 3 surrounding months, and it’s pretty freezing for 6 months of the year.

So, we get 3-6 months of great, longggg-day summers. Plenty of time. And it’s so conveniently close that we could go for just a weekend.

AND: It has 3G coverage, so we can get Internet on the island.

RIght now, the island is deserted. When we arrived, there was just a 20-ft diameter spot cleared by the previous owner. So, the four of us camped there, setting up a tarp and two tents.

Our friendly neighbor Ray let us park our car at his house, and gave us a ride on his motor boat from his dock to our island shore.

We landed, set down our gear, and started to explore the island. It wasn’t the most beautiful land in the sea — but it was our home for the weekend, and our new paradise for the future.

Immediately, we all began planning and plotting how we could improve the island. It was rocky on the shores, and had the majority of trees had fallen due to a 2003 hurricane. The rocky shore was 15 feet deep, and the rest of the island was a forest of almost un-passable terrain.

It got dark, so we started a fire, using dry island wood and a handsaw that the previous owner had fortunately left. When the tide receded, Aaron spotted numerous crabs in the sand, and we decided to cook them using seaweed from the shore. The 2 crabs cooked perfectly, but it was way too much effort to eat them, so we let their eight brothers and sisters go free.

We boated back to the mainland (in an inflatable paddle boat) —it was less than a quarter-mile from shore. It took a while.

We got in our car and drove ten minutes to town to get breakfast and groceries. Then, we headed to Home Depot. We bought a ton of supplies, including an amazing Tree Trimmer, a hatchet, some saws and gloves.

We returned back late that evening and decided to take everything back in our inflatable boat—in the dark—in the rain.

1186168_10100947581750438_23442832_nOnly Aaron was smart enough to wear a lifejacket in an inflatable boat. Notice the pitchfork dangerously close to pricking the balloonish interior.

The next day was spent completely on the island. We grabbed the tree trimmer and hatchet and began cutting away. We made trails through the middle of the island. We are constructing trails and paths —- building our own path, naming our own lanes, planning how to add more shelters, electricity, showers, and workstations.

What we’ll do with the island

Because there are ten of us, it isn’t a lonely task. And the people in our group are engineers, RV-dwellers, and genius entrepreneurs — people that actually do things.

Next spring, we’ll return to build more shelter — a big communal Yurt. We have a generator, so we’ll get batteries and power the island. We’ll begin planning private residences, building showers, and creating the perfect getaway.

I took some great video and pictures of the island as well, so I’ll write some posts in the future about how we develop the island.

 

IMG_0106

 

HN/HtS Readers: Would you want an island?

I want to know your thoughts. Leave me a message answering these q’s:

1) Would you want to own an island? Where/why?

2) What more would you like to know about the island/island-owning process?

Answer those questions below, where it says Leave a Comment. Thanks :)

 

 

{ 45 comments… }

Beginner's Brew January 5, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Open an island brewery! You would need to bring in water and the supplies but with a propane tank you could easily brew everything outdoors.

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Chris December 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

That is unreal! The fact that this is even possible makes me insane (in the best way)! Its an idea that has always fascinated me and hopefully I’ll get there someday.

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Kyle September 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Nova Scotia is beautiful, a great place to buy your first island! I’d like to buy an island somewhere off the coast of Panama.

I think you should write about making a colony or retreat for entrepreneurs and digital nomads on your new island.

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Alicia September 23, 2013 at 7:07 am

The group dynamic is awesome, and the island idea is great. Please share everything: water, plumbing, electricity plans/thoughts. I own 11 acres all by myself and it would be great to have a group of folks to share ideas. So far its me and my 13 yr old! (and a tractor I haven’t climbed on yet..)

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Vera September 21, 2013 at 2:30 am

Does the island have water?

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Molly's Vote September 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm

First Congratulations! It can be done. Secondly, what long summer holidays? Nah ah. Get some Glastonbury type-annual music festival thing going on there-after the electricity is up. Totes Brill!

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methodMark September 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

1) I guess the reason I would want a private island is:
Escape (from what am I escaping though)
Privacy (linked to the previous point if I ever gain celebrity / notoriety)
Nature (is very re-charging on the soul)
Adventure (as island exploration is a childhood dream)
Solitude (for spending time contemplating ones thoughts, however I am pretty social so the next point is more important)
Community (of like minded nuts: to share experience, aspirations and food/beer/other with)
2) How long can can 10 friends hold such a venture before life throws some curve-balls and some individuals have to get their investment back?
Maybe start a island exchange website so other like minded people can do swaps with you :-)

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nonewjobs September 20, 2013 at 1:20 am

reddit.com/r/redditisland

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Janice H September 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm

What a great idea! And a vacation home for the summer!
Please keep us posted about enhancements. Can’t wait to hear all the details!

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Larry September 19, 2013 at 8:30 pm

awesome.

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Ed September 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

Excellent idea. Definitely a young kids dream, buy an island and pimp it up with some buddies. One question….

Is there any an incentive to settle down with a family when the going is so good!

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K September 19, 2013 at 7:27 am

How did u find it and buy it?
Also congrads !

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Khrystle September 19, 2013 at 12:42 am

This is one of my life dreams!!! Ever since I saw Richard Branson’s island on MTV, I have wanted my own. CONGRATS!!!! Such a sick achievement!

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Coal September 18, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Totally awesome! Built an Earthship on it, I helped build one this year. They rule! It would be a great off-grid bug-out retreat.

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Dustin Stewart September 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm

1) yes.

Because it can be both an investment and source of personal value. It gives you seclusion, but if big enough (yours looks big enough), it can be your own world.

Northeast Canada is not bad because you’re not far from a whole other ecosystems of islands across the Atlantic from you. The east coast of Thailand would be nice. So would:

East Scotland
Almost anywhere in the Mediterranean

2) How did you go about looking for the island?

Was it hard to view”comps” ?
Was there any other region you were looking at?
Biggest hurdle in the buying process?
Something that was easier than you expected?

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Stockerblog September 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Yes, I’d like to own an island in the US or Western Canada.
What is the name of your island? And how big is it, an acre?

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Pehr September 18, 2013 at 8:52 pm

DUDE that is awesome! HAHAHA I love this story

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Melissa September 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm

You should check out what TribeWanted has done with their little ‘plots of land.’ The community they built is exceptional! I often drool on their website over lunch from my cube… :)

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Tejas September 18, 2013 at 8:26 pm

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?! HOW MUCH WAS THIS ISLAND????? A PRIVATE ISLAND??????? THATS A FANTASY!!!!!!!! WHATT1?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!

Questions:
Can I come?
How much was it?
Are you still under the Canadian government?

Suggestions:
Build cabins
Make a grill so you can go fishing, and then eat the fish
Slap your friends with a fish

…wow.

Reply

Bryan September 18, 2013 at 8:21 pm

simply awesome. this is has been a dream of mine for a long time also.

1) Would you want to own an island?
heck yes!

Where/why?
Some days I would like to have an island in central america to have the nice weather all year round. and sometimes I would like one like yours because camping in the wilderness sounds awesome too. Maybe I should just get one of each. haha

2) What more would you like to know about the island/island-owning process?
really, I pretty excited to follow along your team’s progress with building it out. Maybe you can set up a Sett blog and have each of your members write blog posts about your different experiences.

thanks to you and Tynan for sharing.

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Lisa September 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Brice September 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm

This is so great. Awesome work on taking what may be one of the ultimate dreams people have and making it a reality. Another great testimony to the power of doing things with friends – easier AND more fun.

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Tyler Tervooren September 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

This is fun. Glad you guys are having a blast with it.

Curious about how you structured ownership, though. What’s the plan for when one of you wants to cash out? How do you make decisions about how to improve the island and who pays for it?

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JK September 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

If there’s a bunch of fallen timber that’s still useful, what about renting a mill for a month and milling a large amount of that timber for your own use. Getting the mill to the island would be a nuisance, but someone out there will have a boat that can help.

You would get useful timbers and the cutoff sides can be used as siding. It would be highly beneficial to keep the timber in use on the property. Look into timber framing simple structures.

Of course, moving around logs on the island might not be the easiest thing – perhaps an ATV might help.

Also, when you’re building trails, if there’s much relief on the island, you’ll want to build trails carefully and sensibly so they don’t wash out – you don’t want to contribute to your island washing away on you! :)

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Omar September 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

That’s incredible! Keep us posted with videos. I’m curious, have you factored in maintenance of the island? In terms, of cleaning, trees, landscaping etc, water rises.

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Lee McLin September 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Nature brings us back to our beginning and recharges us! Many great ideas will come off that Island!

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Charlotte September 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Very excited for you! Would be a great writers retreat. I wouldn’t mind owning an island- but I would want to live there year round. Having internet is a BIG plus!

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Rob September 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I would want to know whether the island will still be above water in 30 years. It would change how much I’m willing to spend for it.

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Donnie Law September 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I’m shocked how inexpensive the island was!

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Michael Farrow September 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I’d love to own an island. No idea where but the idea has always appealed to me. Not talking Tristan da Cunha here but something close enough to civilisation to be able to visit but far enough away so I can genuinely get away from people. It’s everybody’s dream I think; be close enough to the human swarm but be able to be solitary.

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Aidan September 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

If/when the zombie apocalypse happens that’ll be pretty sweet. Always an inspiration, Maneesh, looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

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André Gussekloo September 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I love the idea of getting a group of friends together and sharing the costs. I have been dreaming of having my own island since I was a kid (which some will argue I still am). The website http://www.vladi.de is one of my favourites and I keep checking back.

It’s true that the Canadian islands are the cheapest on island real estate websites, but I’d still prefer a warmer/year-round location. In the Pacific land ownership can be an issue but I’d love to own/lease something there. Alternatively somewhere in the Caribbean or Greece, please!

I have a suggestion for you guys: take things a little further and start your own micro-nation! See if you can go independent. I’d gladly buy your nation’s passport. I’m digressing here but I know you’d *love* the show How To Start Your Own Country. You can find it on YouTube.

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Rosie September 18, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Ha Ha Maneesh, You are going to LOVE this post I did back in July as it explains how to appoint yourself as royalty of your own island!: http://www.lifeisshortmagazine.com/index.php/to-be-prince-of-your-own-land/

So who is going to be king of the Island? Let the battles begin! (I’m imagining scenes from Lord of the Flies now… time for tea).

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josh September 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

You will have the best memories in Canada. Please tell me you grabbed some Sleemore’s Honey Brown Lager. If not, next time.

You setting up an entrepreneur hot-spot up there or just a personal getaway?

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Brian Kwong September 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

WOW. I can imagine having an awesome party up on the island in the summer. Looking forward to more updates on what you will build and the process of building them. Do I want to own one? thats a dumb question bro!

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Tim September 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm

This is amazing buying an island is totally on my bucket list as well. Well done Maneesh!

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Martin September 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm

1) Yes, if I had sufficient funds. Why? It would be a fun project, and would be a nice retreat if the shit hits the fan. Where? Probably in the nordics (almost void of natural disasters) or Canada because they have so many at a low cost.

2) Legal stuff, what are the ownership terms, what are you allowed to do with the island. Are there any variable costs to consider?

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Zach September 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

Dude…this is f****ing awesome. You must have felt like Columbus rolling up to this un-conquered island. Somehow the typical bucket list fodder doesn’t do it for me, but this is epic.

I would love to see a whole post on how you found islands, decided where to buy, if you negotiated, etc.

This is awesome. I have to do this before I die.

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Nicole September 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

This is awesome. “Why we bought a private island” is the best email subject line I have ever seen. The entire body should have just been “because we could” and maybe a picture.

Congratulations and enjoy the adventure.

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Michael September 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

I would not like to have an island because it is too lonely or only for an exclusive club of users.

But the price of your Island is very cheap.

Good luck and have much fun on your island.

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Donatas September 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hey, congrats on such an amazing acquisition! I myself own some land in Europe and planning to build a sustainable house there, a garden, private forest, so I imagine the feeling of owning Your own land. It’s great! Looking forward to see how the island development goes for you guys! I believe You’ll rock it there! Good luck, Maneesh!

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Brad September 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

“It looks pretty bad on this camera” it looks epic, dude…. look at that! its… its yours! and its got life on there! perhaps i’m being optimistic but… perhaps i’m being a visionary :P. In any case, sweet stuff, way to go on getting this far. Those evergreens look beautiful.

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Marcella September 18, 2013 at 10:39 am

Have one in Nica — pool, volcano view, two cabins and BBQ. Jet skis are a must!

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Maneesh Sethi September 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm

yea? can i come?

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Rob September 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Yeah, Marcella’s got the right idea with jet ski’s… but I think you can kick it up a notch Maneesh with a few of those water-powered jet packs! Might be a little too cold for that though. Definitely should have a zip-line ride that goes through the trees.

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