So, you’ve decided to move to “paradise”...but how are you going to survive financially?
As Cecil Lewis says in The Trumpet is Mine, the whole point of living in paradise is to enjoy a comfortable, lazy life.
His paradise was the South Seas – “a shore where the struggle for existence is unknown, and where, for once, the rose proliferates without a thorn.”
“A shore where the struggle for existence is unknown...”
Unfortunately, that’s a privilege usually reserved for millionaires. Since I’m not a millionaire I wasn’t able to afford the luxury of jetting off to my own private island. My goal was quite different.
I wanted to find a way to generate a sustainable cash flow sufficient to allow me to live on a tropical island...without having to work.
I achieved it. For two years, I lived with my Chinese girlfriend Yu Xia on the tiny jungle-covered islands off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia in the South China Sea. One island I stayed on was the stunningly beautiful Pulau Tioman, location for the “waterfall shower scene” in South Pacific: “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair!”
We took a shower in that waterfall!
Lewis’s South Seas imagery captures Tioman very well: ”Primordial memories of palms and coral reefs and sun-drenched sands; of fruits and flowering trees; of women warm in welcome; of peace and isolation…”
For two long years, working as a business teacher in sweltering Singapore by day, I sat hunched over an old green-baize table on the balcony of my tiny apartment, developing a system that would generate a steady income that did not require my physical presence. My solution enabled me to exist on those dream islands for a further two years without working a single day.... a permanent holiday in paradise!
So, how was it done? You need to consider both aspects of the problem: income and expenses. Let’s start with expenses. How much money do you NEED to live in paradise? I am not asking how much do you WANT.
Wants are infinite, but needs, actually, are very few. My definition of a need is “something without which daily existence would not be possible.”
To save you wracking your brains, here’s my list:
At it’s most basic, you can only sleep in one room at a time, wear one set of clothes at a time and eat one meal at a time. As a multi-millionaire once told me over a few too many beers in a Singapore café, “If you’ve got one each of those three things what more do you need?”
In my experience, having material things is not what makes you happy – and neither does living in a particular place – even if it’s Tioman Island. The only thing that counts is who you’re with.Think for a moment about your own happiest moments. You’ll see that they revolve totally around a person, not a place or a thing. Anywhere is paradise if you’re with the right person.
Therefore, all you need do is work out how much your monthly expenses are for the three things listed above, and that’s how much you need!
It’s worth noting that most “paradises” are balmy tropical idylls, and all year round warmth offers several cost advantages:
Living in less sturdy structures, even open huts, is possible
Bills are cheaper – taking a shower in a tropical waterfall is free, and who wants a mobile phone in paradise?
Light clothes – fewer in number and cheaper. I got by with two Hawaiian shirts and two pairs of Bermuda shorts for three years. Still got ‘em!
Cold foods – the local produce, mainly fruits, nuts, etc, is cheaper and much healthier than the standard “urban” diet
Okay, let’s move on to “income.” There are only four methods of earning money:
Employment – also known as wage slavery. I’ve never met an employer willing to let me do my work whilst living on an atoll in the sun, have you?
Self employment – also known as self-imposed wage slavery! For many self-employed people, being physically present in their “business” is inescapable. Every self-employed person I’ve ever met had the same goal: to find a sucker to do all the work while they banked the money
Investment – this only works if you have enough financial or physical assets to make investing worthwhile. What do you do if you don’t?
Business – by which I mean an income-generating activity which does NOT require your physical presence
Clearly, running a “business” – as defined above - is the ONLY method of earning money whilst living in paradise.
The question now becomes what sort of business?
All businesses share one common trait: they deliver a desired value to the buyer.
The value, whatever it is, must be something people want.
And it must also arise spontaneously – otherwise we will have to keep advertising our business, and that’s WORK.
Whatever we offer, it has to be something that will be “in demand.”
Our next question is, should we offer a product, or a service?
A service usually involves the physical effort of a person. A few Internet services defy this general rule, but it’s difficult to run an Internet business from a desert island!
Only a product offers the opportunity of earning without being physically present. This is what marketing gurus call the quality of “separablity.”
Should it be a physical product? Possibly, but selling physical products means you have to deliver them to buyers, and that’s WORK.
Then, there’s the issue of accepting payment.
It’s a plain fact that money only comes from other people, but doesn’t that mean we have to be physically near the people we accept money from?
Lastly, we have the issue of “sustainability.” Whatever product we offer, it has to sell dependably, year in, year out, and the product has to be something not subject to the vagaries of taste.
Phew! Quite a problem!
But, as with all big problems, when we break it down into smaller ones a workable solution usually can be found. Remember, all we need is a situation where our income equals our expenses consistently, and we have reached the shore where the struggle for existence is unknown.
My solution is given below. I’d be amazed if it was the only one, or even the best, and I look forward to hearing your own ideas and suggestions.
Problem 1 - “in demand”
There was one area where I knew demand in Asia was both enormous and insatiable: education
Problem 2 – “separability”
I needed product that could be sold and delivered without my presence.... preferably while I was lying on the beach! My answer was: book
Problem 3 – “sustainability”
I needed a book that would sell year after year, never losing its appeal. After several weeks I hit on an answer: textbook
In two days I had written a 20-page “manuscript” and showed it to a Singapore publisher. They said, “Expand it into a book.”
The final “textbook” is a 130-page paperback on English for Business consisting entirely of “model” answers for past exam papers. The publisher distributed it in bulk to schools and bookshops all over Asia...and students really loved it!
For our purposes, textbooks offer two crucial advantages:
A new batch of students buy the textbook every year
You can update it every year with the latest exam answers if you want, or some other useful appraoch.
But the best thing about a textbook is you write it once and it goes on earning forever without you ever doing anything else.
In year one my book sold 3,293 copies at US$8.25 each = US$27,167.
I was paid US$1 for every copy sold = US$3,293 in royalties, averaging around US$275 per month. Thus,
Did it work for me?
Here’s my monthly budget for living in “paradise.”
Income - US$
Book Royalties - 275
Capital from personal savings - 44
Total income - 319
Shelter - "A" Frame Chalet on Tiomen Beach - 163
Clothes - two Hawaiian shirts and two pairs of shorts - 0
Food - simple breakfast and an evening meal - 122
Misc. - laundry, postage, etc. - 34
Total Expences - 319
Did I forget to mention that accounting isn’t much of a problem either?
Excerpted from "Can It Be Done? Living in Paradise without Working: A Surprisingly Realistic Approach" in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 29.