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Krista LaRiviere kayaks at her northern Ontario retreat. She paid $300,000 for the island and the 1,000-square-foot log cabin located in a remote bay in the northeast corner of Lake Temagami. (KRISTA LARIVIERE)
Krista LaRiviere kayaks at her northern Ontario retreat. She paid $300,000 for the island and the 1,000-square-foot log cabin located in a remote bay in the northeast corner of Lake Temagami. (KRISTA LARIVIERE)

The Splurge

Island paradise: in love with area's 'history and mystery' Add to ...

This continues our series called The Splurge, where we take a look at how entrepreneurs have spent their money on indulgences -- purchases that may be interesting, fun, satisfying or enjoyable, but not necessary!

Krista LaRiviere admits that business is almost never off her mind. The self-described “serial entrepreneur” says she is so obsessed with her third startup, Barrie, Ont.-based gShift Labs Inc., that she sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night to send text or e-mail messages to clients.

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So when she had the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream and purchase a remote island on Lake Temagami in northern Ontario, she jumped at the chance.

“In the high-tech world I live in, I feel the only way I can shut things off is to go there,” says the co-founder and chief executive officer of the company, which specializes in search engine optimization.

“Just to be on that two-acre island alone is really magical.”

Ms. LaRiviere says she first imagined life on a Temagami island as a 12-year-old growing up in New Liskeard, Ont. Her family often drove by Lake Temagami on their way south to Lake Couchiching, where they had a cottage.

Temagami has the world’s oldest red and white pine old -growth forest and Ms. LaRiviere was enchanted by its natural beauty.

She was also a fan of Grey Owl, the young Englishman who passed himself off as a North American native and whose conservation work in the Temagami district helped to save the declining beaver population from over-trapping.

“I love the history and mystery of the area,” she says.

Ms. LaRiviere’s dreams of Temagami faded as she worked her way through university and shepherded her first two high-tech startups, cgk Technologies Group Inc. and Hot Banana Software Inc. Both were sold to California-based Lyris Inc. in 2006 for $3.25-million.

She fell in love again four years ago, when she “forced” her husband, corporate lawyer Andrew Zyp, to take a canoe trip there.

In 2009, Mr. Zyp discovered that an island with a 1,000-square-foot log cabin on it was on the market.

Ms. LaRiviere snapped it up for $300,000.

“It’s the most money I’ve spent on something I didn’t need – ever,” she says.

Ms. LaRiviere says she is notoriously frugal, and has difficulty spending money on herself.

But she says she never questioned spending money on the island, located in a remote bay in the northeast corner of the lake.

Conservation rules prohibit new building on the lake. Most of the existing cottages with islands are passed down through families. So it was rare to find an island with a cottage for sale.

The basic two-bedroom log cabin, with its orange paint and flowered wallpaper, has no electricity and is out of range of telephone service, so it was a perfect place to escape the demands of the high-tech world.

There is also a dock and a beach and the couple’s toddlers, Chloe, 3 ½ and Marco, 2 1/2 , spend hours hunting for snakes and tadpoles and discovering new kinds of moss.

“Once you’re there, there’s all kinds of nothing to do,” Ms. LaRiviere says. “As soon as the coffee is on and we’ve caught some breakfast in the lake, that’s usually enough to slow me down.”

The family made the four-hour trip to the island nine times this summer, and Ms. LaRiviere says she hopes she can eventually take enough time off to spend her summers there.

Although she knows she could eventually make money by selling the island, she doubts she could ever part with it.

“I’ve even gone so far as to say that’s where I want to die,” she says.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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