The whole idea of private islands is something that never sounded very appealing to me – well, private property in general. So why did I take an interest in a project that involved buying an island?
The Principality of Islandia was crowdfunded – that basically means a bunch of people gathered and invested to buy an island, because well, who hasn’t at some point imagined themselves owning a tropical island, far from the stress of the city, and civilization in general.
The idea is that the island is not owned by only one person, family or company, but by a group of different people who think alike. So, instead of having one very rich person, we have 144 individuals who each invested $4,495. For me that is indeed a very large sum, but think about what an island costs…These 144 people each have the same voting power in the decision-making process of the island; that means they will have to debate in order to come to agreements on how to develop the island, making it very interesting. If you think of it as a nation, let’s say we have 144 citizens, but unlike any existing country, they won’t have socio-economic and class differences affecting their decisions, and also, it would be a nation that would govern itself under direct democracy, which means instead of voting for a party, who may or may now comply with it programme, they can vote for the programme itself. This particular thing made me interested in the project. As a Marxist, people buying land is not interesting, but the idea that this bought land will be collectively owned and democratically developed certainly is. And last but not least important, finding out that Gareth Johnson was involved as an investor, then I knew for sure this could be a very cool thing!
These people also decided to give this piece of land its own identity. They named it Principality of Islandia after a voting process, designed a flag and even a stamp for passports. Their idea isn’t creating a paradise resort, but a community, because, after all, a nation is a group of people who share culture (very simplified).
They want to be a nation, not a state, a commune or a cooperative. A nation involves more things than just shared land. How far can they go? Can you create a culture from scratch? Can you do this in 0.5 hectares? we will see…
If you aren’t an investor, then can you no longer participate in the project? Well, you can purchase a citizenship. It costs around $20, and you can have your Islandia passport. You can’t really make decisions about the island development but you get some deals. maybe one day we can be enough to organize the first microrevolution to make our voices heard
But where is Islandia located?
These people started looking for deserted islands all over the world. The chosen one was found in Belize, reachable within 15 minutes by boat from Belize city, very close to the airport, which made it convenient for everyone, with the size of 0.5 hectares of virgin land, a little piece of heaven in the Caribbean sea.
Visiting the place
Last year, I no longer wanted to live in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, with skyrocketing rent prices, low salaries, and less and less expectations of future for the youth, rise of the alt-right and political disappointment; I decided to buy a ticket to Mexico, take my tablet to work (as an artist and graphic designer) and left with no savings at all to live my life as a super budget version of a digital nomad. After some months of a lot of fun, and also a lot of economic struggles, when I was in Guatemala, YPT guide Alistair and YPT owner Gareth offered me the possibility to guide a tour to the Principality of Islandia and Belize. Obviously I said yes, and after four bus rides I found myself in Belize.
Having met the tourists, who also happened to be investors of the project, I realized how different they were, and also their interesting reasons to participate in the project. The next day we jumped in the boat and reached the island.
The island itself at first glance looked how I expected, since I already had seen photos and videos about it, but what really fascinated me was the biodiversity of the place. For example, I counted at least five different species of crabs, quite a lot of different varieties of seashells and conches, and a lot of birdlife flying over us. To me that was fascinating and one of the things I liked the most about. I really want to see how they built on the island without interfering too much with the wildlife, and empower it as one of the best qualities of the island. The colour of the water, the quietness, the amount of stars you see at night, also the freedom to play music until you want, party, drink, made the whole experience so cool.
I think the place has a lot of potential for tourism done right, what I mean, being from Barcelona I know how destructive tourism can be when only profits are prioritized, and how the lifestyle of everyone in highly massified destinations (humans, fauna and flora) can be altered.
Creating this nation can be an opportunity to show the world how to make things different, a nation that protects and embraces its wildlife, also making sure that everyone who works there has proper rights and salaries, and that people who come can also connect with the local culture of the area in a respectful and healthy way. I basically love the idea that the island is owned collectively by various people, so decisions are taken democratically instead of just one owner deciding for all, it can be very interesting to see how the island will evolve, and I hope to be able to come back to see its progress.
So that’s how I, a hardcore defender against private ownership of the land, sympathized with this crazy project.