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When I fell in love with the Pacific island of Fiji in 1999, my mom, who’s a steady, smart person, implored me to reconsider building a vacation rental in such a distant locale. Mom’s a rational thinker, who loves the comfort of a solid job and retirement. I like to create my own destiny.

”Buy a condo in Florida,” she said.

Sensible? Yes. But I would have missed out on over a decade and a half of experiences in an obscure island nation that I fell in love with.

Not only has Starfish Blue, my three-bedroom, three-bath house on a beach in Fiji, been a fabulous source of income and increased in value (I made $58,000 last year alone), being a homeowner in another country has brought me experiences that I could never have had closer to home.

On my last trip, I was invited to the elaborate wedding of one of my maid’s daughters. And, it wasn’t just the wedding. It was a ton of giggling as my gardener’s wife let my friend and me play dress up in her saris a few days ahead of time. Even though I towered over this fun young woman by at least eight inches, we were able to make a beautiful red one work for me.

”I’m so glad you chose that one! That is the sari I got married in.”

As I looked in the mirror, my hair done by all of her friends, more make up than I normally wear, dozens of gold bracelets and swinging earrings, with a piece of jewelry glued to my forehead, I took in the moment. I really was living a totally different life. 

The wedding lasted for three days. My friend and I stayed a respectful three hours, the only blondes in a sea of elegant, raven-haired beauties.

It’s not just the fun—celebrations in my honor by the local village, gratis hot-stone massages poolside, and free boat rides to deserted islands—it’s the impact I’m making in this small area in a small country. I employ four workers, and more than 500 families have chosen to vacation in Starfish Blue over a world of other options. I contribute to the economy.

Offering marketing advice and seeing some of the locals sprout their own businesses has been an unexpected reward.

I have successfully marketed my vacation rental for years now. Just knowing the basics of web and social media are important. Things like posting three to five times a week on Facebook, and almost always with a photo or video. Offering helpful advice on TripAdvisor can go a long way.

And you should have a website.

Intimidating?

It doesn’t have to be. One of my favorite companies to use creates easy templates for vacation rentals. It’s as easy as drag and drop.

Get social. You don’t have to spend hours looking at what people had for lunch. In fact, Facebook allows you to schedule posts out. It takes just 10-20 minutes a week, and you’re finished. Of course, you’ll want to pop in once a day and see if anyone responds. Then, you’re on with your day.

To really stand out from the crowd you’ll want a video. You can create one on your own using just your smart phone or even photos you’ve taken, or you can give someone with talent a few nights free at your place.

The possibilities of how involved you want to be are endless. If you love photography, take all of the photos. If you have a knack for the written word, write your listing. If you want to be completely hands-off, hire a property management company. Or, like me you can create and cultivate a talented team of locals and give them skills that will take them much further than a standard education.

No one is more surprised than I am at where I ended up. In 1998, I only had a vague idea where Fiji was—sort of the Caribbean of Australia and New Zealand. Now, I’m in a 16-year relationship. And, I couldn’t be happier. Whether I’m wearing a sari at a wedding or a sarong by the pool, Fiji has become a true second home to me.

 

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