Friday, February 1, 2008

The Robinson Crusoe Entrepreneur

A few weeks ago, I went to lake Weyba - local saltwater lake to kayak a bit with my inflatable kayak, and sit around. A man was sitting on the beach, looking at his young son and daughter playing. We got into conversation.

He said he had been a printing press owner in Adelaide (where I have lived), then moved to Fiji, built house there and started a shipping business which he still part-owns. Showed me the very small house he had built himself in 3 months. It was on the block of land behind us, with just a small local road in front of it. He was going to build a larger house behind it.

He said the printing business was hard work – very capital-intensive, and small margins due to lotsa competition. Would work 6-7 days a week, 10hrs or more per day… month after month . Yikes – a beach/mountain bum like me would crawl up and die under such a regime. I gotta have my weekly quota of the outdoors, unless I’m earning mega-bucks for a limited time in a mine or something.

When he lived in Fiji, he built a house with a beachfront, 50m to the coral edge and drop off, then boomies with masses of fish.

The kids grew up in this Robinson-Crusoe like existence… snorkelling and spearfishing outside the house. His 8 year-old son was taught by locals how to use a land spear to spear fish. You stand on a rock and wait for the right moment (see the film “castaway”).

His Son would come back in the evening with mangoes, papaya. Locals still “hunt and gather”.

He told me of a Fijian he knew – could earn 400$ a month on merchant marine ship, as marine engineer, but opted out, as he said:

I prefer to live off the land and play football with the kids in my village.

A few Kms from his house – was the “Cousteaux Resort” – run by the son of the famous film-maker. There was also a Backpackers hostel, with the boss earning extra money by spending 4 hours a day on the internet, solving computer problems in the USA (!)

Fishing was getting less good – it used to be real bonanza country. He reckons it’s due to factory-fishing boats from Japan – they pay a few hundred dollars to the local Fiji authorities and do what they like….

Back in Australia, his kids didn’t play any video games – His son was beginning to change the other kids in the area– they were going outside more.

Interesting guy to talk to. There’s some pretty laid back lifestyles out there, being lived by westerners on islands like Fiji, Around Thailand etc.

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