Muk Finds Success in Tahiti

Let’s run away together

One day, many years ago, I was having an especially bad day at work.  Late in the afternoon I called my not-yet-then-but-soon-to-be wife and said:

“I’m sick of this crap.  Let’s quit our jobs and run away to Tahiti.”  I’m not entirely sure I knew where Tahiti was at the time.

She said, “Sounds good.  I can get a deal on the airfare.”

Two weeks later a lovely Tahitian girl was hanging a welcoming lei around my neck and I was learning I’d need to be careful what I suggested around this woman I had proposed to marry.

Tahiti is actually a collection of islands in the South Pacific, each seemingly more stunning than the last.  On one of these we stayed for a while in a hut built over the crystal clear water.

a hut over the water, much like ours

One morning, lingering over coffee in the outdoor cafe on the grounds a trim, athletic fellow came up to our table.  He was barefoot and shirtless.  He introduced himself as Muk, one of the hotel owners.  An obvious American by his accent.

Exceedingly curious, of course we invited him to join us.  Muk is a great conversationalist and story teller.  He began by confessing he had noticed my not-yet-then wife lounging about the day before and had almost upbraided her for slacking in her duties.  She very much looks like a Tahitian.

Beautiful Tahitian, but not my wife

All very amusing, but not answering my burning question.

“So,” I said, “how exactly does a guy from the USA wind up owning a hotel in Tahiti?”

Turns out Muk and two of his pals had graduated from university somewhere in Michigan in the early 1960s.  From there they moved to California.  Casting about for something to do, one of them noticed a small classified ad offering a pineapple plantation for sale in Tahiti.  Dirt cheap.  Remember, Tahiti had yet to become a famous tourist destination.

They bought it sight unseen and began packing their bags.

I said, “Did you know anything about pineapple growing?”

“Not a thing,” said Muk.

“Did you grow up on a farm?”

“Nope.  We were all city kids.”

“But surely you worked on a farm while going to school?”

“Never even set foot on one.”

They get to Tahiti and go to work on their pineapple plantation.  Within a couple of months it becomes clear why it was dirt cheap.  Turns out you can’t actually make a living growing pineapples in Tahiti.  Broke and getting broker, stranded in paradise, they began to wonder about their options.  That’s when the local bank in Papeete invites them to a meeting.

Papeete

Seems down the hill from the plantation, on the water, is a half-built hotel.  The builder has bellied up and given up.  Would Muk and his pals, the bank asks, be willing to finish it?  Generous terms, of course.

“Wait a second,” I said, “did you guys have any construction experience?”

“Not a bit.”

“But you’d run a hotel before then, right?”

“Nope.”

“Worked in one?”

“Never.  But we had stayed in some occasionally.”

“So why in hell, and I mean this in the most pleasant possible way,” I said, “would a bank gift a half finished hotel and construction loans to you guys?”

“Their back was against the wall and we were Americans.  Americans had a reputation for getting things done.”

Muk and his pals lived up to that reputation.  Despite the lack of experience, they got the hotel finished and operating profitably.  Then they went on to build and operate others, including the one where we stayed.

Living in Paradise

By the time we met he was rich, barefoot, shirtless and getting richer.  Oh, and living in paradise to boot.

BTW, in writing this I got to wondering about Muk and Googled him.  Turns out he’s now 80 and going strong.  Some of his story details are different than I recall and have presented here, but clearly we weren’t the only ones upon whom he made an impression.

Here’s Muk Today @ 80 years

But Muk was not the only person in Tahiti we met who had managed to put life together on their own terms.

Nice beach to wander

One evening we wandered down the beach to a little place on the sand for dinner. Out in the bay there were several beautiful sailboats.

While we were having drinks a dingy detached from one of the boats and made its way to shore.  A couple about our age got out, walked up the sand and took the table next to us. We got to talking. Soon we were sharing a table and having dinner together. Unfortunately, I have forgotten their names, but I’ll never forget their story.

Sailboat in Tahiti

They had sailed over from LA and were spending four months roaming the South Sea Islands.  What, I asked, did they do that allowed for such a thing?

Turns out this guy had two partners and the three of them owned two things together: That sailboat and a business in LA. On a rotating basis two would be in LA running the business while the third would be out playing with the boat.

Clearly you’d need partners you trusted implicitly, but with that in place this might be the sweetest deal I’ve come across.

Since starting this blog, I’ve come across several others focused on achieving financial independence and embracing life on one’s own terms.  Here are a few worth checking out:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

http://lackingambition.com/

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/

http://www.tosimplify.net/

http://afford-anything.com/

http://dollardisciple.com/preparing-to-live-on-one-income/

http://www.101centavos.com/

http://femmefrugality.blogspot.com/

http://lifeoverwork.net/

These are all written by young people intent on breaking the shackles of debt and consumerism and living free.  They, and their readers, are filled with ideas and courage.

This freedom, to me, is the single most valuable thing money can buy and it’s why I recommend building your own stash of F-you Money:  http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/

Enjoy your journey, wherever it may lead.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Wow! First off, thanks so much for the mention. You’re the first person to link to my blog and I really appreciate that!

    Second, I love reading stories like these. When we travel, we love meeting people and hearing their stories.

    I’ve never been to Tahiti but I’d really love to go. Our honeymoon in belize was our first taste of the “island life” even though it’s not really an island. I’d love to go back some day, and I know we will. But right now, we’re doing exactly what you said: buying back our freedom!

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      My pleasure, DD and thanks. I enjoy following your journey and love your recent Case Study on your latest rehab/rental house.

      just bloody fantastic! Even though they are far beyond my personal skill and inclination levels, I
      l-o-v-e reading about these kind of projects.

      win-win-win…
      The delict house gets rescued
      The neighborhood gets improved
      Jobs, yours and those of your subbers, are created
      New tenants get a beautiful home
      Then you get wealthier

      What’s not to like??

      • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        In capitalism, you have to create value in order to earn money. And you’re right: real estate investing creates value at multiple levels and benefits our communities.

        I’m not sure you give yourself enough credit! But I’ll admit: not everyone is cut out to be a landlord… but everyone can invest in real estate. Which incidentally is the title of a future post :)

        • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          yeah, well wait till you read my upcoming post: “How I lost money in Real Estate before it was fashionable.” :)

  2. Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the mention! I hope we’re all providing valuable information to our readers, and it’s always nice to see someone that thinks my blog is worthwhile enough to mention it. :-)

    • Posted February 2, 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      My pleasure….

      ….I applaud your take.

      The beauty of blogs like yours is that you are showing it can be done. In my journey I could never be sure till I got there. Sharing your experience with that of your peers is great for ideas and avoiding mistakes.

      When I read these blogs I’ve no doubt you’ll all get there, and sooner and with more $$$ than I did.

  3. Posted February 3, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Hi JL, that’s a heck of a story on Muk. I’ve met a couple fellows like him in the Philippines, successful to this day and enjoying life to the max. Thanks for the mention, highly appreciated.

  4. Posted February 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard the f-you savings account idea before..and love it! Muk and the strangers stories are so inspiring…one thing I need to work on a little more is taking risks. I plan and try to do things smartly, but don’t allow myself to take any big risks and therefore cut myself off from any chances to reap big rewards. Maybe one day…

    Thank you for the mention!

    • Posted February 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      my pleasure FF….

      you’ve a great site and you saved me $$ on my phone bill. ;)

      They say not taking enough risks is one of the major end of life regrets. While I hope I’m still a few years from that, looking back I can honestly say I regret none of the risks I’ve taken. Even those that blew up on me.

      Wish I’d taken more. hope to still take a few before it’s done.

  5. Posted February 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Muk is my hero!!!!

  6. rtaylor
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Hey Jim – I really enjoy the blog and your take on things. This post reminds me of a guy my wife and I met while traveling through Thailand. I forget his name now, but he was about 70 when we met him. He was a former rocket scientist who moved to Thailand and started a restaurant (BBQ and Burritos). He couldn’t get good cheese, so he did the only thing he could and started making his own cheese. The grew into a bakery and so on.

    The most impressive aspect of his business over there was the he built a village for all his employees and their families. He also provided full scholarships for anyone of his employees that wanted to continue their education, from the dishwasher on up. It was truly a great place.

    And if you are asking why anyone goes to Thailand to have a burrito – well the answer to that is simple. I’ve been searching the world over for the perfect burrito. That visit to Thailand was part of a 12 month trip my wife and I took after we got married. We were able to take that trip and many more precisely because we have F-you money.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Hi RT….

      Thanks for pausing in your travels to stop by. Great story! And the search for the perfect burrito? Great reason to wander the planet. As if you needed a reason. ;)

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