I recorded a program on the DVR that was part of a series called “Radical Sabbaticals”. The subject was Richard Evanson, a man who made millions by his early 30’s in the cable television industry. At the age of 36 he found himself out of shape, drunk, getting divorced and miserable. Rich as hell, but utterly miserable.
While travelling in the South Pacific he met a guy in a bar and bought a 500-acre Fijian island from him. Soon after he decided to go live on the island to become a hermit, because, deep down, he was “afraid of people”.
Just moments being dropped off by helicopter he met a local islander who went on to become his best friend. Evanson hired the man and later some other locals to help him restore the island (it had been deforested by a herd of goats the previous owner kept).
A few years into the project, Columbia Pictures used the island to film Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields. Evanson built a couple of huts for the film crew to stay in and eventually continued building what would become a very exclusive, couples only resort. 14 couples at a time, prices start at $1,600 a night with a minimum of 6 nights.
Evanson went on to marry a Fijian and have a family. He has gone to incredible lengths to be a good steward of the island and the wildlife as well as the 2500 people who live in the area (100 work for the resort). He has built schools, medical facilities and regularly brings in outside doctors to provide first rate medical care for his neighbors. He has set up a trust to keep the island in its current state for 500 years.
Watching how he interacts with his employees and neighbors was interesting. I'm not sure how the profits are distributed, but it looks like Evanson is running a family business and all of his neighbors are part of the family. He moves so easily among them, working with them to run the resort and rebuilding the island's ecology and improving their economy while keeping the good things of their traditional lifestyle. He seems to have lost his fear of people. He's easy going but has a vision and goals that he seems to be very focused on.
Near the end of the show, they filmed Evanson and his family playing in the water. He did a voice over talking about what it was that he thought was important in life. He said that we’re all here for a very short time and should make the most of it. For him, that meant that he wanted his kids and neighbors to remember him after he was gone as having been “an okay guy”, and that he had done his part in trying to make some part of the world a little bit better than how he found it.