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Featured Image Credit: letsbuyanisland.com
While owning your very own private island may seem like a privilege reserved for the rich and famous, a group of people have proven that it’s more possible than you might think.
Gareth Johnson and Marshall Mayer are the co-founders of Let’s Buy An Island, a project that began in 2018 - setting out to do exactly what it says on the tin.
By launching a crowd-funding campaign, they were able to raise £250,000 through investors to purchase an uninhabited island in the Caribbean, promising to develop the area for tourism, share the profits and allow everyone to live their own ‘private island fantasy’.
Speaking to CNN, Johnson, who is CEO of the project, said: "Who hasn't dreamed of making their own country?"
"Particularly in a post-Trump, post-Brexit, Covid world. If a bunch of regular people can make this work, perhaps it can be a force for good."
By December 2019, the lads had raised enough money to buy Coffee Caye, a 1.2-acre island off the coast of Belize – which became reimagined as the ‘Principality of Islandia’.
While the new micronation isn’t recognised officially, it benefits from many of the features of an autonomous country, with its own national flag, anthem and government.
"We are as close to a nation as you can get, without getting an army and a navy," Johnson said.
Johnson - who also co-founded a company called Young Pioneers Tours, which specialises in extreme tourism to destinations like North Korea and Syria and unrecognized states such as Transnistria, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh - first came up with the idea nearly 15 years ago, having bought the domain name letsbuyanisland.com after deciding it could be fun to buy an island and start a micronation.
Mayer, who met Johnson on a Young Pioneers Tours trip, recalled: "When Gareth first put the idea to me, I thought God no, this will never become a reality.
"But he began to explain how much an island might cost, and we realized that actually, there are parts of the world where buying an island was much more realistic than I'd ever thought possible, especially if we clubbed our funds together."
They decided that each share on the island would cost $3,250, and that while people could buy as many as they wanted, each individual would only be allowed one vote in the democratic decision-making process.
After looking at islands in Philippines, Malaysia, Ireland, Panama and Belize, Coffee Caye was purchased for $180,000 plus tax.
Having sold almost 100 shares, there are now investors from 25 different countries - from train conductors to CEOs.
Mayer said: "People really bought into the concept.
"It was a crazy leap of faith to take, but our initial goal of buying an island, we've done it. But the next phase, where we go to next, we never had any plans because we didn't know we'd make it this far."