Voyeurism on Balboa Island

Sometimes, on a nice evening, my wife and I walk around Balboa Island.  It’s about a half-hour drive from our house, and is nestled just inside the bay off the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. It’s only about 4-5 blocks across in any direction, and accessible by driving over a short bridge.

BalboaThere’s a sidewalk that goes completely around the island, which takes about 30 minutes to walk around – 40 if we’re just strolling.  The water is on one side, and beautiful little homes are on the right. 

These homes really are amazing.  Some are old, and have been completely restored.  Others are new, replacing the originals.  Most have no yards, but have pristine patio landscaping and design.  It’s a great place to get ideas for our own house. I’m not sure of the square footage, but most of them look pretty small (though they might go up 2-3 stories to make up for the small footprint).

And each one runs in the $4-6 million range.

At night, most residents leave their windows uncovered so you can see the opulent decorations inside.  It feels a little strange, but seems to be part of the culture.  They know people are peering, but they don’t mind.  I often wonder if it’s the same way baboons feel at the zoo when people stare into their enclosures all day.  (OK, that’s probably not the best example.)

It’s easy to think, “Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place like that?  Those people must be so happy to have that kind of lifestyle.” 

I’m guessing it’s because the people on the outside are trying to make ends meet in their day-to-day existence.  They assume that the people on the inside don’t have the same problems, which means they’re always happy.

I have no idea what’s happening on the inside.  But the inside people are just as human as the outside people.  They have the same challenges and joys, negotiate the same types of relationships, and dream the same dreams.  Some have financial struggles, some don’t – just like the outside people.  It just looks different.

We peer in the windows and watch people sitting on their couches, watching TV, doing chores, eating dinner – exactly the things we do at our house.

They’re just like us.

They’re human.  We’re human.  We’re all in this life thing together.

It’s still fun to walk around Balboa Island.  We love beauty, creativity, well-manicured gardens and artistic design.  We love walking slowly, holding hands and seeing how other people live.

When we look in their windows, we’re really looking at two different things:

  • Their lives
  • Their lifestyles.

It’s important to not get them mixed up. 

If we mix them up, we’ll inaccurately start positioning ourselves above them or below them.

Maybe we just need to practice looking in other people’s windows and seeing ourselves.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)