A good friend's dad once told me "life is defined by contrast." Having lived in many places growing up (Germany, HK, UK, and US), this resonated. And I remember these words every time I travel. The contrast of new experiences enriches life. And it extends our perception of time. Weeks fly when we're doing routines at home, whereas the days become so memorable when we travel. Our perception is activated by contrast.
My most special travel experience this year was a visit to Misool Eco Resort on a remote island in Western Papua, Indonesia. The resort owner invited us to explore kitesurfing possibilities as they are considering offering kitesurfing vacations in the summer when the wind kicks up. It was an eye opener. Raja Ampat is biodiversity hotspot, and yet dynamite fishing and shark finning is rampant. A British diver, Andrew Miners, convinced locals to set up a no-take zone twice the size of Singapore. And it's amazing how the sea life has come back. I counted a dozen baby black tips in our bay one morning. When he found the island, it was a shark finning camp, and he saw dead baby black tips floating in the bay. And 60% of the coral was devastated by dynamite. Five years later, their Marine sanctuary is flourishing. The coral is even regrowing on the bungalow stilts. We saw 4 species of shark on a dive where Andrew said you would see none a few years ago. Big schools of Bonito tuna roam and hunt the sardines, along with sharks and dolphins which we saw just snorkeling off the dive boat... along with two Giant Mantas... breathtakingly graceful creatures. A pod of Fin whales visited, and kept cruising up and down our channel to feed on krill.
Now, the locals have a sustainable source of revenues from visiting tourists, and the resort has hired around 100 locals. Even the fishermen are happy, as they are getting better catch outside the no take zone.
Mostly, I'm inspired knowing there are people like Andrew (and his wife Marit) who have dedicated their lives to making the world better.
And I realized that I can't just stand by and watch as our ecosystems are being destroyed. We need to help people like Andrew, and encourage more people to get close to nature.
Andrew also inspired me to set up a social solar funding platform, and Misool Eco resort will be our first project to fund. They spend $50k every year on fuel to run generators. A solar system would run $250k, so it makes eminent economic sense to invest in one, but it's a tough upfront investment for a resort that barely breaks even. I'm convinced that there are many investors who want to support green investments that make economic sense. We'll start by marketing this initiative to our own social networks over Facebook, and learn from the experience to build our platform.