All posts by Vanessa Anderson

Vanessa Anderson is a global traveller living her life passionately by experiencing different cultures around the world. She travels with her partner Ian Usher, the "guy who sold his entire life on eBay". They currently live in China working as English teachers. You can follow their alternative lifestyle here at www.DivergingRoads.com. or at www.IanUsher.com.

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 our previous blog post. 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/Mrs/Ms 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”.

 

From Peckham to Panama

Stepping into a new life

I’ve always embraced change and I love a bit of a challenge, especially if travel is involved. But this was a change I certainly did not see heading my way as it rose on the horizon, swallowed me up and transported me 5,396 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean!

I hadn’t long adjusted to my new life living between my weekend home in South Wales and my weekday house-share in Peckham, South London. I was just settling into a great new job at a trendy design company on the Southbank and looking forward to establishing a new lifestyle in cosmopolitan London. It had changed so much since I had lived there as a child and I fully expected it to be my home for the foreseeable future. This assumption proved to be very wrong!

I met Ian Usher after my house mate Kim offered him our attic room for a couple of nights as he passed through London on his return to Panama. She sent me a text message over the weekend to warn me that there would be “a man in the house” when I returned and not to be alarmed. She also sent me a link to some online information, adding that “Ian has an interesting story – take a look”.

Take a look I did and I discovered that he had become “infamous” between 2008 and 2010 for selling his life on eBay after the breakdown of his marriage, and had then embarked on “100 goals in 100 weeks”. He was now living on a small island in Panama that he had bought with the proceeds of selling his story to Walt Disney Pictures and had, it appeared “found love” once again.

I was slightly overwhelmed by the amount of media coverage (that I had somehow managed to miss at the time) and decided that Mr Ian Usher may have a slightly inflated ego! I made up my mind to take an extra day of holiday, leaving Kim to catch up with her friend unhindered.

However, she soon sent another text to say that both a friend and Ian were going to accompany her to a concert and why didn’t I join them so that Ian didn’t have to sit by himself.

“Who’s playing?” I asked.

“Matchbox Twenty” she replied.

That sealed it for me. I had long wanted to see this American band after watching them perform on an epic edition of “Live from Abbey Road” with The Script and Def Leppard a few years back.

Little did I know that this unplanned meeting was going to be the start of a life changing event and the beginning of a new adventure living in Panama, Central America.

Contrary to my earlier poor judgement, Ian was extremely interesting, engaging and considerate and I instantly enjoyed his company. Although we didn’t get to talk much at the concert we did chat until the small hours of the morning back in Kim’s kitchen long after she (unusually) retired to bed. We had a lot in common it seemed and when I finally retreated to my room, we swapped emails with the promise of staying in touch. This was accompanied by an offer from a slightly inebriated Ian to, “come visit if you get the chance, before I sell the island”.  But, I wasn’t really sure it was a serious invitation after so much wine!

Ian set off to catch a plane early the next morning and I had plenty to occupy me over the coming weeks. But we did stay in touch and were soon emailing each other regularly, until I decided that, yes I would take a trip to Panama to explore further the connection that appeared to be developing between us. Ian had some relationship issues of his own to work through, but when this was resolved I went ahead and booked the flight.

I left London for San Jose, Costa Rica to meet up with Ian for a two week holiday. We enjoyed a couple of days in this vibrant capital city before travelling back to his small off-grid island in Bocas del Toro. I loved this laid back archipelago that was still pretty untouched by mass tourism and quickly adapted to the tropical environment and remote lifestyle.

Ian and I realised quickly that we were good together, and it became clear that I would need to make some drastic changes to my life if I wanted to pursue this flourishing relationship. After a couple of fairly intense and slightly surreal discussions, I made the decision to stay on in Panama. What the heck – if it didn’t work out I could always return to London at a later date. Career plans could be put on hold or adjusted – my own happiness was and is much more important to me. Ian was happy with my choice and I set about making the necessary arrangements.

Like Ian I believe that we only have one life and it needs to be lived fully and without compromise. A few practical challenges would need to be overcome and I was sad that it would be a while before I saw friends and family again. However, I was excited to be acting spontaneously and looking forward to a life with Ian in an environment with new challenges, a new community and new adventures.

And so here I still am a year later and I would encourage anyone who wants to make a drastic change to their life to seriously consider taking that jump. Fear lives in the imagination – the reality of taking action is often very different and much easier. Certainly weigh up the pros and cons, but don’t live your life wishing you’d lived it a different way. One day you will wake up and find it is too late.

Go on – take the first step to living the life of your own dreams!

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MAKING A BIG LIFE CHANGE IS PRETTY SCARY ….

regretI don’t know who wrote this quote but it certainly resonates with me.

Making a big life change is scary – I should know, I’ve made enough of them. I’ve given up secure jobs to travel, I’ve extracted myself from failing relationships, and I’ve lived in several different countries around the world, including the island in the picture above. But the scariness is short lived. I’ve discovered that the fear I imagine is far worse than the reality of the experience.

Change for me is liberating. I like nothing more than the slightly “edgy” feeling of embarking on a new adventure, of stepping outside my comfort zone – it makes me feel alive!

Of course, I’m not suggesting life is all about relentless, perpetual change. There have been many times when I have been settled, content and taken time to enjoy a particular pastime or environment. But I am suggesting that living in any sort of long term compromise is bad for the soul!

As kids, most of us are naturally explorative. We are pioneers and adventurers! But the older we get, the harder it is to step out of our comfort zone, regardless of any desire to do so. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of support! The more “security” we have, the more “insecure” we seem to become and for some this can create a feeling of being trapped and unhappy.

We all get bored from time to time – that is why we have created so many activities and pastimes to fill our lives. We need continual stimulation to feel positive and inspired. But occasionally we become more restless and recognize that a bigger change or challenge is needed to rekindle our spirit of adventure.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a big change or a small change – any change is better than none if you feel unhappy or restless with your life. Much will depend on your circumstances, your personality and your financial situation, but these should not be constraints. There are ways around all situations with some “out of the box” thinking and general resourcefulness.

Learning to set and accomplish goals can be an important part of making successful life changes. Writing down your goals is also very important – it shows a sense of commitment and makes a statement of intent.

If you are ready to make a change in your life, start by making a short list, just 2 or 3 things you’d like to be different. Then work out a feasible plan to make these changes happen. Stay out of your imagination and keep everything very practical. Set a completion date and mark this on a calendar. Tell as many people as possible and talk to your family and friends. The more support you have the easier it will be to follow through.

Of course there will be some people who will want to convince you not to follow your dreams – but remember they are usually the ones who are too scared to make similar changes in their own lives.

Stay strong, and keep yourself focused on what is important to you – you will be an inspiration to others and you may find yourself living your lifestyle of choice sooner than you thought possible!

No regrets!

Bucket List 2014

Here are some of the things on our “bucket list” for 2014

  • Visit Boquete in Panama
  • Buy an RV (motor home) in Texas, US
  • Take an immersion language course in a Spanish speaking country
  • Visit Grand Canyon National Park
  • Kayak at Lake Powell
  • Go on the “alternative” JFK tour in Dallas
  • Renew our PADI dive certifications
  • Free Diving Course (Ian)
  • An overnight horse riding experience
  • Organize a paid public speaking venue for Ian
  • Sky-diving wind tunnel experience
  • Blog for a recognized travel magazine
  • Whale watching on the Baja California peninsula
  • Go to see a Bollywood Film
  • House sit in New York – Christmas 2014

We will shortly be leaving our island in Panama to travel to America and beyond.

We start our new adventure in Dallas, Texas where we will be buying a second hand RV. This will be our home for the next three months as we travel through Texas on our way to the Grand Canyon.

We’d love to hear from you if you can help with any of our goals.

If you would like to see our intended route on Google Maps, hit the link below. Of course this could change at any time …..

Ian & Vanessa’s US Travel Route 2014

 

The Road Not Taken

Image by Richard Sheppard

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost