Waterfront living has appealed to mankind since the beginning of time. Life necessities such as food and water were motivators to reside near areas with fresh streams and oceans. There is also something soothing and calming that acts like a dopamine in our brains. I’m sure there are scientific explanations for this, but I like to think of water as mystical, spiritual and alluring.
Now, as tourists we escape to tropical islands, lakeside cottages, waterfront condos, sailing the seven seas…and the list goes on. The one thing we have in common, is that we are all tourists, unless we take up permanent residency. What does this mean as an investor?
As soon as tourists arrive, they change the fabric and makeup of a culture. Values shift, and oftentimes can do serious damage. Living on a 7 sq. mi. tropical island gave me a glimpse into the lives who were truly affected – both good and bad – by the onslaught of cruise ships, daily and short-term stay visitors from neighbouring islands.
I think the hardest thing for me to watch was the attitude of youth, who were tantalized by shiny objects. Greed took over. They saw ways to earn money from these “gawkers”, which was paramount to begging, stealing or duping visitors they would never see again.
The resources on this tiny island were scarce. Things such as fresh water from our reservoir would run dry when 1,000+ people came ashore and each one flushed a toilet, at least once. Come dry season, this was a great hardship for the local residents who didn’t have enough water in reserve for the necessities of life. The average tourist bought a Pepsi and a postcard or worse yet were trying to score drugs and even that they haggled because they felt the locals were desperate to have their money. Very little revenue stayed on the island. The residents soon realized they were not prepared to handle the tourist invasion and were forced to turn them away and dissuade them from visiting.
Apart from the limited resources, the tourists disrupted the culture by feeling sorry for them and “giving the poor people things they did not have”. When I brought my son to live on the island, I told him he’d have to “do without”. He lived there without shoes (which he lost overboard when out with the fishermen one morning), had no toys unless he made them and went to an open air school house with limited supplies. On the day we left, he asked me if he had “done without”. He was 5 at the time and couldn’t have made me prouder if he’d tried.
Now you might ask what all this has to do with waterfront living. Maybe nothing, but then again maybe everything. What will your impact be on the culture when you invest in a waterfront location? Will you integrate yourself into the existing community or try to change things to make them “more like home”. Intentions are good, but sometimes we don’t look at the long-term ramifications of blending into a culture other than from our own perspective. My suggestion: observe, listen, dialogue and don’t assume. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.