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How the creator of World Emoji Day is celebrating the “holiday”

Jeremy Burge on an observation deck of the Empire State Building with a person dressed as an emoji face.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Sony Pictures Entertainment
It’s a holiday!
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published Last updated

The guy who designated July 17 as the day to celebrate emoji is spending the day sipping a cocktail in a boat lazily chugging along the English waterways. Or, as he puts it:


“What’s the point of creating a global holiday if you can’t relax and enjoy it at least once” says Jeremy Burge, founder of the emoji reference website Emojipedia and creator of World Emoji Day. The July 17th date is based on Apple’s version of the calendar emoji 📅 which in turn was selected because it’s the day Apple first launched iCal, its calendar app.

“My nieces and nephews always get dressed up for the day, which is very fun. They’ve always got an emoji shirt or mask or cake. I have to admit the emoji section of my wardrobe is getting a bit thin these days,” he says.

That’s because the 38-year old Australian’s made a recent change in his living quarters—and life. In the spring of 2019—a year before the pandemic made many dream of exotic places to live and work—Burge moved all his possessions from his London flat into a 53-foot long vessel, called a narrowboat.

Moving into Dottie M, as he’s named the boat, wasn’t about being burnt out per se. Boat living was a longtime dream. “When I started Emojipedia in Australia in 2013 I actually wanted to move onto a boat then. It had been this dream to have a side project with enough income to float around and pick up other work if or when needed,” he explains, communicating with Quartz via Instagram messages.

Burge has in fact made several life changes over the past three years. Last year, he sold Emojipedia to Zedge a company with gaming and phone personalization apps. He has also become a somewhat of a social media sensation or an influencer for the itinerant lifestyle if you will, streaming vignettes of his work-life idyll to 160,000 followers on Tiktok.

“I’ve never quite understood the hustle culture prominent in some startups and tech circles.” says Burge.”I’m not sure if it’s because of growing up in Australia and feeling a bit distanced from it all, but I’ve always been a work-to-live, not live-to-work kind of person.”

The thrills and travails of living on a 🚤

For anyone dreaming of ditching their desks for the water, Burge says learning to go with the flow is the first lesson.

“Being flexible is a pretty big requirement to live on a boat. Everything moves slower. Sometimes a broken lock or bridge can delay travel not by hours, but by days or weeks. It’s not without trouble,” he explains.

Though Dottie M is equipped with a 4G antenna, internet connectivity can be erratic at times. “I’ve had my share of podcasting from under a tree in a storm to get phone reception, or being up at odd hours to move a boat out of dangerous waters on the same day as major tech launches,” says Burge.

Living with less stuff and bearing with the occasional delays is part of the adventure, he explains. “I absolutely cannot complain. I could move into an apartment if I didn’t like my life choices.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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