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A Harsh Judgment

Dealing with a negative response to our lifestyle!

Ian and I have worked together on this response today after receiving the following comments on the “DivergingRoads.com” website and “Caribbean Life 4 Sale” Facebook page. It would be easy to dismiss or ignore this response, but we believe that if one person has written this, maybe others are thinking it. We are also aware that whatever we say may be seen as defensive or reactive, but it is tough to know in these situations which way forward is best.

So, we want to take this opportunity to respond to the issues raised to try and give some clarity to the author of the comments and for anyone else who may have similar concerns.


“This is an utter shame to see the exploitation and deceit you and Ian have made. With Ben Fogle’s visit just having aired this past February and sharing your story; Ian’s true motives were previously revealed last year when he listed the property for sale for $250,000. Having spent less than 60K total on the property since he landed and two women later, yourself included, it seems Ian is merely, developing and flipping properties instead of how he acts and is portrayed on the television episodes.

With the equity split to Graham in February, I see this as merely a series of profit ventures for the both of you. I am disgraced by your deception that you both exhibited on television only to find the truth with a bit of research.

While you claim you reasons for the initial trip were somewhat grounded and innocent in nature, apparently you haven’t left society that far behind when you exhibit the negative behaviors that are prevalent in society today. Many of us who seek to “escape” this consumer driven “rat race’ have now witnessed the actual scam that you two are. I wouldn’t doubt this was your plan all along and probably in cohorts with similar individuals to aid during this flimflam!”  

D Hudson


Thank you, Mr Hudson, for the comments expressing your concerns and doubts over the way Ian and I have chosen to live. You may not be the only person who has had such thoughts, as the “New Lives in the Wild” documentary does appear to raise conflicts in certain aspects of our current travel adventures.

It is a little alarming however, to see how the tone of your message seems incredibly negative and judgmental. When there are so few facts available to you and most through unreliable media sources, perhaps a better approach might have been to ask some questions and enter into a dialogue. Making assumptions and giving unconsidered opinions is the source of all conflict it seems, and it would have been much more intelligent to question these issues rather than simply labelling us as “deceitful and exploitative”.

Let’s have a look at some of your points individually.

ISLAND FOR SALE

Ian very publicly listed the island for sale long before the “New Lives” production company ever contacted us. See this article, published 11th April 2013 on The Daily Mail website:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2307621/

He created a Facebook page and a website to try and sell the property and notified everyone that had ever contacted him, of his intention to sell.

The first email from Renegade Pictures was received on 26th June 2013, almost three months after the island was initially put up for sale. Ian was completely upfront with them about the island being for sale. That was not an issue for Renegade, as they simply wanted to document our current lives, not what may or may not happen in the future.

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

By the time we filmed the documentary (October 2013) Ian and I were already planning to head for the States to buy an RV and travel together for a while. All we needed was a buyer for the island, as we didn’t have the funds to both keep hold of the island and to go on extended travels.

Life is often about choices and sacrifice. You can’t have everything. To achieve new things you often have to sacrifice something else. We would love to be able to maintain ownership of the island and to travel extensively, but we are not wealthy people and this was not an option.

While Renegade chose not to mention that the island was for sale, our future plans were hinted at by the Director’s narrative at the end of the show, when Ben Fogle said:

“I know Ian’s type, because I’m quite similar to him. The point of being an adventurous person… is that you need to keep adding spice to your days. The two years that Ian has been here has been an unbelievable adventure, but the fact that they’ve teamed up now – it’s Ian AND Vanessa – I think they’re going to go in search of their own adventure together – a shared adventure.”

That is exactly what we are doing.

IAN’S PARTNERS

Ian met his previous partner in 2008 and the relationship ended after a lot of soul searching last year. I’m not really sure what point you are making by stating “two women later” but it is incredibly rude and we see no relevant link to your other comments.

DOCUMENTARY PORTRAYAL

Let’s not forget that we have no editorial control whatsoever over our portrayal in the “New Lives” documentary. Renegade Pictures are in the entertainment industry, and are contracted by Channel 5 to produce a series of informative and entertaining shows.

While what was eventually aired on TV is true to life, it doesn’t tell the full story of life on the island and in the archipelago. 23 hours of film were shot which had to be reduced to a 45 minute show. This meant that only certain elements of our lives could be examined.

We were very happy with the portrayal of our lives, but a little disappointed that some sections we filmed were dropped from the final edit. Partying with all of our ex-pat friends at the local jungle restaurant, Rana Azul, didn’t make the final cut. We built a helipad, visited neighbours, toured the local cacao farm and filmed the morning radio program. None of this was featured in the final program.

We spent a lot of time trying to convince the director and producer of the importance of our interactions with our friends and the original plan was for this to be portrayed. However, the Executive Directors based in London, who we do not meet or interact with, make the final choice. They obviously decided to show our lives as much more “wild”, to keep the theme of the series intact.

PRICES – SOME FACTS & FIGURES

While it is true that the initial cost of the island was quite low, Ian has spent a significant amount of money and time developing the property. Prices quoted on the show are in UK Pounds Sterling, which when converted into US Dollars at a rate of about $1.60 to a pound, gives a much higher initial cost than the “60K” you mention.

The price for the island and the lumber for the house are only a tiny fraction of what has to be spent to develop a whole island from thick jungle to a self-sustaining home.

Boat, fuel, wages, sand, gravel, cement, plants, solar panels, water tanks and more are just some of the other costs involved. Everything has to be brought from the mainland by boat by local workers and this is expensive. All heavy materials have to be moved by hand, as mechanical vehicles cannot be transported to the island.

Ian has worked on the property almost full time for two years to create what you saw on the documentary. It is therefore somewhat unreasonable to expect the sale price to be set simply at the cost of the island and the raw materials. Any self build project would value the time taken to build the property as part of the sale price. Moreover, is it wrong to want to make a profit? Isn’t that what everyone does?

Anyone who spends time working hard on improving a property expects some sort of return for their efforts. Have you never tried to achieve a profit by selling a property?

GRAHAM HUGHES & THE NEW ISLAND PARTNERSHIP

In the current climate, and with funds running low it became more important to sell the island. We had very little serious interest, and so Graham’s offer to purchase a one third share of the island presented us with a win-win situation. We could maintain some ownership of the island, but still have the funds to travel whilst trying to build a speaking career for Ian that would sustain us in the future.

Graham plans to further develop the island with the goal of making it even more self-sustainable. When he has put in a year of long hard work in the tropical heat he also hopes to increase his investment and the overall value of the property – just like anyone else that invests time, money and effort into improving their home.

If we then put the island up for sale at a reasonable market value, taking into consideration all of the improvements made, does that make us “scammers” or “flim-flammers”?

LIFESTYLE

Ian has often stated publicly his belief that life is all about adventure and experience, and that ownership of an island is just one of the many experiences on his lifelong journey. He really has enjoyed his time on the island, and has adapted well to an off-grid lifestyle. But he has never professed to be any sort of new-age environmentalist.

His passions are for higher octane adventurous activities. A glance at his list of 100 goals will reveal skydiving, flying planes, helicopters and riding fast motorbikes, among a wide variety of other less intense interests.

Ian’s “true motives” have always been to live an adventurous and fun-filled life. What in the Ben Fogle show conflicts with that?

Neither of us has ever expressed a desire to escape society – simply to live a more interesting life. We may have left the “rat-race” in the sense of “nine-to-five” jobs and mass consumerism, but contrary to your suggestion, I don’t think either of us has ever tried to deceive anyone. We are both living our lives exactly as we wish to, and have been quite open and public about all aspects of that.

I have sold my house in England and own just a small box of possessions. Ian and I currently live in an RV which cost us $14,500 and is 16 years old. Of course, we have purchased items for day to day living, and we have our computers and some items of technology necessary to earn a living. We live minimally but happily but we do still have to make money. We can do this best by speaking and writing, and inspiring others to live the lives they really want to. We are blown away by the people we meet where a mutual inspiration is imparted, and thankfully we experience very few people who make negative judgements and criticize our way of living.

We find that many people are inspired by Ian’s story and the way we live our lives. There is never an aspect of it that we don’t divulge and that does not seem to be an issue for most people, who just see this as a progression through the rich tapestry of life.


I hope this article is a reminder to us all how easy it is to jump to conclusions without attempting to ask questions and without thinking about how hurtful comments may be. Escaping the rat-race is one thing, but it seems to me that there are some people who need to look at their own behaviour and unconsidered opinions before making harsh judgements about others. Perhaps then the world would be a happier, more pleasant place to live in and there would be no need for “escape”.

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5 thoughts on “A Harsh Judgment”

  1. I applaud your follow up comments, and more, your endeavours to make your lives something to be proud of and also a life others will look up to long into the future.

    Once again it’s the jealous amongst us who do their best to bring down or criticise others without ever challenging themselves. Those who choose to sell their lives to employers for a J.O.B (Just Over Broke) and take the easy road, never really understand what life is truly about, and you’ve taken that oh-so-important step to make that happen for yourselves.

    Keep doing whatever it is that makes you feel alive, and take profit where it can be made so that you’re better equipped to continue your wonderful lifestyle – as long as it’s taken honestly and without causing harm to others.

    Life, relationships and money are not forever, it’s time we taught our children that so they too can live truly rewarding, fulfilling lives.

    I look forward to following your adventures, wherever they may take you.

    1. Thanks Steve for your comments and support – you summed up everything so well. It’s not always easy living the way we do as we do have to finance our lifestyle which does remain a challenge. But that is offset by living life free of constraints which is truly rewarding and we will continue this for as long as we are able. I am always blown away too at how inspired people are by our way of life as we meet and interact with them along the way. This is the best reward of all! Thanks again.

  2. Good job Vanessa. I hate blank blank jealous people like that. As someone we both know and love so well would say “Life in the jungle is just not that easy”.

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