How lucky are you feeling today, on a scale from 1 to “win your very own island resort”?
That question isn’t rhetorical. Doug and Sally Beitz have spent the past 24 years running Kosrae Nautilus, the tropical paradise they built from scratch in the island nation of Micronesia. Now the Beitzes, both 52, are ready to begin a new chapter of their lives as full-time grandparents, and they’re raffling off their life’s work — at $49 a ticket.
But let’s start at the beginning: How did a couple of 20-somethings from Australia's Gold Coast land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?
“When you’re looking, you see things,” Doug Beitz told TODAY. Back in 1992, he had been working for several years in an unfulfilling government job and longed for something different. One Saturday night, the couple happened upon a documentary on Micronesia and were captivated by the nation's beauty and culture.
A few weeks later, Sally — then pregnant — was killing time in the waiting room at a monthly checkup when she flipped to a magazine article on … business opportunities in Micronesia. It felt like fate. “We couldn’t sleep that night,” said Doug. “The very next day, we drove back to the doctor’s office, got the magazine, called the author, and hatched a plan.”
Neither Doug nor Sally had any formal training in business or hospitality. “We were very ordinary people,” said Doug. “We both left school at 15 … We had stayed in hotels a couple dozen times, eaten out a handful of times. We knew what we liked in a guest experience.
“We decided we would make mistakes and do our best to not make the same mistake twice,” he continued. “We were too young and naïve to realize how hard it would be.”
And thank goodness. Island life and the hospitality industry have been good to the Beitzes, who have found immense satisfaction in their unconventional path. The couple raised their four children at Kosrae Nautilus, and while the pursuit of education and work would eventually draw the Beitz kids back to Australia, they delighted in visiting their island refuge.
But those same family ties would eventually pull Doug and Sally away. “We always knew in the back of our minds that once grandchildren came, that would be the beginning of the end,” said Doug. “When our son had his first daughter, they moved over to the island. We were in grandparent heaven. After a year, they packed up and moved back … It was like she took a part of us with her.”
The Beitz kids were devastated to learn that their parents would sell the resort. But it was Doug and Sally’s oldest son, Adam, who proposed the idea of a raffle, which would let the Beitzes pay it forward to someone “young and naïve” just like them.
“We’re trying to find someone average — not someone with deep pockets who will visit four times a year and then walk away,” said Doug. “We want lots of interaction … a young family, people asking to get out of their jobs and escape.”
And yes, the raffle will truly be random. “We’re putting our faith in the universe,” said Doug. “We hope it will attract the type of people who will be good at it.” He told TODAY that they've also removed a 50,000-ticket minimum for the raffle — a goal that is "in sight" with just two weeks left to go. That would amount to nearly $2.5 million in ticket sales, not taking into account taxes and any other costs. Nearly 35,000 tickets have already been sold at the time of this article's publication, according to the island's website.
While Doug is looking forward to kicking back and spending time with family, he’ll miss the unique interactions he has with customers at the resort. “You’d be out on a dive boat with someone, asking, ‘What do you do for a living?’ And they’d say, ‘I’m a brain surgeon,’ sitting there in their board shorts,” said Doug. “People from all over the world … we’d never dream of knowing otherwise.”
But the two are secure in their decision to move forward, and excited to see what comes next. “We’ve had a ton of people contact us saying the whole story is inspiring,” said Doug. “We had a dream. We did it. Now we’ve come up with another bizarre plan.”
Doug hopes others who hear his story will adopt the same curious, open-ended approach to life, whether or not they buy a ticket. “Just do something, man,” he said. “The world’s changing; everything’s happening.”
And on that note … click here to enter the raffle. Good luck!