Island Living

Island Living post image

After spinning around Manila and the surroundings for a few weeks, I packed up my stuff and moved to an island.

I’ve got another 7 weeks in the Philippines before I take a spin to the USA and then back to South East Asia for an internet marketing meet-up in Thailand.

Setting up shop in an off-the-path island paradise can be great for a bunch of reasons.

Baselining your expenses

As a business owner, your cash runway is both freedom and opportunity. Your runway in months =

(Your Savings Acount BalanceYour Emergency Fund) / 12.

If you’ve got 7K in the bank, and want to keep 1K for emergencies, or a flight home, you could stay on a Tropical island for 7.5 months! Weeeeeeee. I love spending my time on projects that I enjoy. I’d value having 7.5 months of free time more than almost any material item I can think of.

Saving is easier than earning

If you are actively generating income from your tropical island hang out, you are in a great position to save your money. If I had to distill millionaire get-rich advice I’ve read and received in person, it always boils down to two things. 1) Start a business. 2) Save your money.

Saving money is profoundly easier than making money. Consider the effort required to call your credit card companies and reduce your APRs. Assume for example you could save $1000 dollars in fees over the next 24 months in one 8 hour session on the phone. Now consider how hard it would be to generate that incremental profit in your business. In many businesses you’d have to generate over 5K in revenue! Even then its not necessarily “in your pocket,” its “on your books.” Yuk!

One of my buddies here is a dive instructor. He rents a 1 bedroom apartment in a small town. He’s got a nice little patio with a good view. He eats at the local joints. He goes out to the bars with us. His monthly expenses are $300 USD. He uses the internet connections at local restaurants and bars and is really in love with his lifestyle. Not for everyone, sure, but pretty cool anyway.

Open to new relationships

I’d like to deconstruct how this works in the future, but one thing is for sure: when you are traveling around you latch on to new people much easier and people tend to have the time to engage in new projects and more fun.

What lies below is just a snapshot of the last 2 weeks of new people I’ve met. We’ve spent hours talking with and doing projects together. We’ve traveled, arranged boat trips and parties, we’ve gone on hikes, and played sports together. I still have my close circle of friends in this country, but its amazing to me the capacity of this lifestyle to bring interesting people to your doorstep.

I’ve included their ages because age doesn’t seem to matter as much to friendships when you are outside of your “primary” social structure. Abroad, most relationships seem to revolve exclusively around interests, projects, proximity, and affinities. All these people are “slow travelers” they aren’t buzzing in and out with backpacks– they are hanging around for a while and have the flexibility to move on when they want.

  • The 39 yr old American ex-tech consultant from San Fran traveling the world for 1.5 years looking to invest in local resorts.
  • The 26 yr old South African medium-sized business owner and SCUBA enthusiast who travels regularly to check on clients and accounts.
  • The 60 yr old Canadian entrepreneur who invented a new style of bike transport, has driven it 1000’s of miles through Asia, and recently bought a 43 ft. Yacht which will require months of renovation. He’s fixing it up while monitoring his business.
  • The 24 yr old Irish dive instructor who lives on $300 dollars a month and goes diving twice a day.
  • The 21 yr old Austrian who decided having a traditional career was a bad call and started traveling and affiliate marketing instead. Ah, okay, I knew that guy beforehand :)

The View from My Office

Islands are slow and far away from distractions

Since I’m one of those people who is constantly chomping at the bit, slowing down can be a good thing for me.

I love my work. I love the things I do on a daily basis.

One of the secret pleasures of being at expat stranded on a tropical island is that you have virtually no distractions from doing those things you love doing. No laundry. No cleaning. No cooking. No phone calls. Name it….

I call this phenomenon having “low lifestyle overhead.”

Pros of Living on an Island

  • It’s great for walking. As a podcast listener, music lover, ponderer, and conversation junkie, it is my ideal leisure activity.
  • The stunning beauty of your natural surroundings reduces stress and contents me.
  • It’s a good opportunity to focus on appreciation which I think is an important thing to be good at. This is something I’m improving at as I age. Living on a tropical island is setting yourself up for appreciation success. You are naturally inclined to appreciate the things around you, and without the constant input, input, input of city living you tend to do a lot of staring and savoring. It also helps that the relative scope of the your world is so small.
  • CHEAP! (see my living expenses below).
  • The opportunity to experience a radically different style of living.

Cons of living on an island

  • You are generally the only person that is doing anything related to your business. When you find new friends your common interests will more likely be sailing or snorkeling than brainstorming niche sites. This is why having David around is so great.
  • People can develop some seriously wack opinions. As opposed to small communities back home, where people are forced to tow the party line, member’s of small expat enclaves can be excused off all kinds of terrible deads and words. Standards can be low. This can also be a pro because it makes for some interesting variations on the human condition.
  • Inconsistent power outages. These can be tons of fun, but if your business requires any kind of important conference calls you’ll need to go upmarket.
  • Slowish internet. In reality though, it might even be a net benefit. I can’t sit around for hours and watch funny YouTube videos, which has been an achilles heel of mine :/

As I write @ 11AM, Speeds Reach 1MEG+ After 8PM

Internet speed

For those of you who don’t live in the developing world (and therefore you aren’t always checking your internet speeds), those speeds above are good enough for a Skype video chat but not really fast enough to plow through online videos. I’d say the “Youtube threshold” is about 1MEG down. The speeds on this particular island can exceed 1.2 MEG later in the evenings when use load is low.

My monthly expenses

  • Rent at resort hotel: $300.00
  • 3 meals a day based on my specified diet (very low carbs, heavy on fruits and vegetables, shakes, coffee): $350.00
  • Entertainment / travel : (parties, boat trips, picnics, bars, motorcycle rentals, golf): $250.00
  • TOTAL: $900.00

We Go Swimming in Places Like This Everyday

My Daily Schedule

  • 8:00AM – Breakfast
  • 8:00-8:30AM – Read 20ish Articles. Feedreader. Twitter stream. Hacker news.
  • 8:30-10:00AM – Creative work, setting up tasks for remote team.
  • 10:00AM – Meet with virtual team in Skype chat room.
  • 10:00AM-1:00PM Working, often spending time on phone with @AnythingIan
  • 1:00PM – Lunch
  • 3:00PM – Walk, exercise. (Currently 400M freestyle swimming).
  • 4:30PM – Banana shake :)
  • 5:00PM – 7:00PM – Work
  • 7:00PM – Dinner
  • 7:30-9:00PM – Work
  • 9:00PM – 12:00AM – Socializing, beer, kindle, articles on the web.

I couldn’t live on an island forever. At some point its nice to get outside of your little tropical bubble and get a dose of reality. But it sure is nice for a little while. Sometimes, reality is overrated.

Talk soon,


Published on 11.10.10
  • Thanks for sharing Dan! What’s the approximate date you will be leaving the Philippines? I was thinking of making an appearance there 3 days into the New Year…

  • Sounds like you got an awesome set up there Dan!

  • Deano

    Nice write up there Dan.

    It was interesting to read how you (and Chris on his blog) spend their day.

  • This is a GREAT article, buddy.

    It’s this type of real life slice of the pie type of stuff that I read online nowadays, more than anything else.

    Good job…

    See you in Cebu soon, I hope.


  • Interesting article, Dan… My favorite part is the banana shake. It it really a daily thing? That on its own might make me move to an island.

  • 7.5 months of freedom to grow a business, here I come! I am totally going to duplicate your lifestyle. If you see me in Mindoro in the room next to you soon don’t be surprised ;)

  • Btw Dan you pointed to “” … whilst this looks like a riveting site (great article on knee & hip pains) I think you probably meant “” ;)

  • Dan

    yoy! thanks fixed it!

  • Dan

    :D See you soon.

  • Dan

    True story :)

  • Dan

    Thanks Chris. I’m doing my field research for realz :)

  • Dan

    See you soon then !

  • Dan

    Loving it so far… very relaxing.

  • Dan

    Hey Benny I’ll be in NYC at that time, I’m leaving here mid December then on to Thailand.

  • Island live is awesome. Great post, buddy.

  • Dan

    Yeah buddy see you soon :D

  • From the little taste I’ve gotten of island living, its fantastic. I think the points you made about less stress and fewer distractions are huge and are definitely two of the biggest assets to the lifestyle.

    Looking forward to seeing what projects stem from the new island life!

  • Brie

    What island are you staying on? I’m in Bali for the next several weeks, then heading up to Singapore and Thailand in mid-December, followed by Vietnam and Cambodia. Hearing lots of good things about the Philippines from fellow travelers, so might stop there after — recommendations appreciated!

  • Alexgruden

    Where is ths “internet marketing meet-up in Thailand” taking place as you mentioned in your post?

    I might get there as well.

  • You live a sick life sir, when I make it over to the Phillipines, I will have to drop in you (in Thailand right now, first time overseas in my life and loving every second of it!!)

  • Dan

    Well done on the intl travel man, and most people who know me would agree that I am quite sick :)

  • Dan

    Northern Thailand January 20th or so, just pop on my twitter stream @TropicalMBA

  • Dan

    Mindoro. Bali is BALLER! :D I lived in Viet for a year and I still miss it… hope you enjoy it :)

  • Dan

    Projects are top secret and seem to be more fun focused then revenue focused. Call me :D

  • Pingback: Live on a Tropical Island for Free – TMBA Semester V Announced()

  • Hey Dan!   Who’s this Irish dive instructor you speak of?  I’d like to ask him about his $300 dollar a month living expenses.  See you soon mate.

  • Dan

    Hey Alex, you can send me an email and I’ll forward it along to him.

  • John Buie

    First time on your blog Dan and I have loved the dozen posts read, great work. It was halfway through that I realized you lived in PG, I have a house on Aninun/Ayala Beach close by and have just installed a huge SmartBro antennae on my roof there that gets a consistant 2Mbps down and 1 up. Its actually faster then the PLDT in my Makati Condo, crazy! Even during peak hours its still over 1Mbps, which is vital for the days I spend working there. One of the biggest pros for me when I am there is that in the province the day starts so early, between the roosters, azcals and trikes I have a hard time sleeping in past 6am, reglardless of how many Mindoro Sling were shot the night before.

  • Dan

    Hey John thanks for stopping by!!! WOW, that’s encouraging news… many in PG have basically thrown their hands up and assumed the carriers would never improve their services. We just got on WIMAX which has been offering consistent .8 down .3 up, so I’ve been pretty happy with that. Agreed with the “island time” is good for productivity. Perhaps catch up with ya next time! THANK YOU for reading the blog!

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