To Move or Not to Move to Hawaii, that is the Question......
Some reasons why it was time for us to leave.....
Tourists whom I waited upon at the resorts usually correctly assumed I was not born and raised in Hawaii (although some Caucasians are) and would pose the question, "What brought you here?"
I lived in California for 5 years prior to moving to Hawaii in 1989. Prior to making the move, I met a man who was 12 years older than me who worked in Ironwork construction. We met shortly after his return to California (from Oahu) where he'd been working. After being together for 4-5 months, he felt he had a brilliant idea, suggesting we move there. He was also certain he wanted to marry me. I was 21, going on 22, young and naïve and new to the bar scene since arriving at legal drinking age. I'd visited the Big Island of Hawaii once before. I told him I'd love to move to Hawaii but it must be the Big Island since I'm a country girl with no interest in Honolulu. That was cool with him since his brother owned property on the Big Island and he knew friends we could stay with for a time. To make a long story short, after a month or so, we settled into our own place. I became the bread winner and settled down, realizing I wasn't an alcoholic (although a heavy partier at that time) but a fairly responsible person. He was the opposite. He attempted to warn me prior to leaving California about his alcoholism but I just laughed it off. I did give him "the boot" after living there together for a year and a half.
Soon after getting this man out of my life, I fell head over heels for a "local" - a third generation Japanese man. He was big into "Hawaiiana" (very into the Hawaiian culture) participating in some things many wouldn't even consider such as leaving the Big Island with a crew, to paddle and sail an outrigger canoe in the ancient way to Maui, then to Kahoolawe. He'd camp with others and possibly participate in rituals in regards to the aina (land) and perhaps discuss things such as the "sovereignty movement." Kahoolawe is not inhabited but is where our government would test military explosives. It was through this relationship I immersed into the culture and truly acclimated. This relationship had it's "ups and downs" however, and ended after two years.
Prior to it ending, I'd met the man I would marry. Also a third generation "local" with Filipino, Chinese and Spanish ancestry. We married after being together for two years. Ten months later, I gave birth to our first boy and we bought our first home almost simultaneously. When Makana was 9 days old (his name in Hawaiian means "gift,") we moved in.
So now I'm often asked when people learn I moved to Washington from Hawaii, "What are you doing here?" as though leaving were a crazy move. Simply put, after buying a house and starting a family, life wasn't a beach anymore.
Keep that in mind if contemplating a move.
Understand before I truly settled down, aside from working at resort restaurants waiting tables less than 30 hours a week, all my time was spent playing or "holo holo." I rented 3 different 2 bedroom condo's (I had three different roommates) and one studio within the first 4 years, and two homes with my husband before we bought our first home in May 1996. Back then, rent wasn't all that high and buying a house was affordable (thanks to good credit, income and FHA). However, our house payment with taxes and insurance was almost twice what we paid in rent....of course the difference in what we received back from taxes in contrast to what we'd been paying offset this a bit. (Note, the nice thing in Hawaii about owning a home, if one is an owner occupant - if this hasn't changed - people can count on receiving a 40% reduction in property taxes! Wish it were this way in Washington as our property taxes here are 8X what we paid in Hawaii! Washington doesn't have a state tax though where Hawaii does.)
After having keikis (children), we rarely visited the beach anymore, maybe once a month (how sad it that!). It was challenging with my husband working 5 days a week and me 4-5 days. My hours were 5am to noonish and he worked noon til 10pm. Our home sat on more than an acre of property, which required our time and energy to maintain. By the way, our home property was "fee simple" - it belonged to us, for any who may question if all the land in Hawaii is "leasehold"...most of it is not. Our second boy Kainalu was born in 1999. In 2002 I studied to obtain my real estate license and still worked in food and beverage for a while the first quarter of 2003 after becoming active January 2, 2003. The beach was half an hour away and having babies or toddlers at the beach can be exhausting in contrast to relaxing. (How glorious when they realize sand is not to be put in the mouth and they can actually handle a little plastic mold or shovel and immerse themselves in creative play!)
Our town of Kamuela sits at an elevation above sea level by 2000 plus feet. Yes, where we lived, it rains more than it does in Washington (although there is a "wet side" and a "dry side"...housing on the dry side being more expensive). Believe it or not, it does get cold with Mauna Kea being more than 13,000 ft above sea level and accumulating snow in the winter. Mauna Kea sits a ways behind our old house - it takes about an hour to reach the road which may enable you to reach the top. Four wheel may be needed and oxygen to boot...the air is very thin and it is not recommended young children, elderly people or asthmatics venture up. Our little plantation house, with single wall construction and without any heat source (except a portable), contributed to moisture and mold being an issue. We ran a dehumidifier in our little 1100 square foot, 3 bedroom home each night and it did a great job extracting approximately a gallon of water each time. If not used regularly, I'd be mixing Clorox and water and wiping the walls and ceiling down a few times a year. Since moving to Washington, I haven't needed to give my boys any albuterol nor have they needed any Flovent inhalers. The Big Island is very diverse in climate however, of the 30 some odd systems which exist on this entire planet, I believe all but 5 exist on this island. So had we moved to another part of the island or had a newer, better built home, the health issues may have been minimized. Some areas are more expensive, some certainly more affordable than others. Travel time/distance to work and lifestyle are things to consider as well. I know some people who live in Hilo with housing being less expensive, who drive an hour and a half each way to work at the resorts on the other side of the island, where most hospitality related employment is found. When you spend this much time on the road and interstates being non-existant (one lane highway for each direction), it may feel like a mighty long time!
There is super cheap real estate down in H.O.V.E. or "Hawaiian Ocean View Estates." If one is happy living like a hermit (barely anything in terms of infrastructure for about an hour and a half) in the middle of a lava field, this may be the place.
The Big Island is BIG - land mass wise, all the other islands fit into it, with unoccupied space left over. It also continues to grow with Kilauea volcano consistently flowing (since the 80's). It takes at least 6 hours to drive all the way around without stopping. Seeing the flow up close is something to experience but not always possible (or wise) unless you check it out from the air. Kilauea certainly has affected the air there....one might think Kona and parts of the island south often appear foggy but actually locals refer to it as "vog."
So aside from life not being a beach any longer, health concerns, another reason for leaving is flying a family of four off the island for a vacation is quite costly, to include traveling to the other islands at that time. A ferry system recently started from Oahu which may make this more affordable. I don't know much about it however except my inlaws did it from Oahu to Maui and it took a few hours. Here on the mainland, we can take a road trip if we so choose. I never thought I'd get "island fever" as big as the Big Island is, but perhaps I did. One of my dreams for a road trip here on the mainland is to leave from Washington and travel through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and back. (I hope gas prices stay down for another year so we might have the opportunity to do this during the summer of '09).
Hawaii's public education reputation is not too hot either; another concern regarding our boys. I understand private school and homeschooling are alternatives yet to date, not for our family. When we left, our oldest was in second grade and I believe the teachers he had were fantastic. Both boys were in preschool part time from the age of three and Smallworld Preschool was a great experience too. Many of the schools themselves appear impoverished or run down however.
Lastly, with my husband being a Chef and feeling overworked and under appreciated by management (under paid) and few, if any, potential positions elsewhere to apply for, he felt it time for a change. We knew the mainland would provide more opportunities. In five years, he's earning between 1/4 and 1/3 more than he was there and has advanced from a Sous Chef position to an Executive Chef.
Do I miss Hawaii? Of course I do. The culture and the people are amazing. Many loved ones reside there and I wish we were able to spend regular time together. We still email one another and "talk story" (enjoy a conversation) over the phone. I never thought I'd leave and still consider it home, having lived there longer than anywhere else at one time and experiencing many amazing things which are more than just sentimental...my wedding, giving birth to my sons, encountering Jesus and giving my heart to Him, being baptized at the beach (as was my husband, and Makana too before we left), growing and serving with other amazing Christians are just a few examples.
I miss the beach too and now that I'm a mom, even when I go back for a visit, my ocean experience is not the same. I used to accompany the man before my husband on his "free dive" excursions, rarely leaving from a beach, rather a shoreline of large lava rocks. I'd snorkel alongside or dive down deep, staying nearby much like a baby sea mammal might. My husband is a diver too and he never felt as free in the water when I'd accompany him.... he knew I was a little trepidatious about encountering a shark, particularly since blood is involved when fish are speared - as well as the vibration they create in the water can attract them. Green sea turtles or "honu" are common fare for sharks and I've seen many of them. I never did see a shark while I in the water however. So now that I'm a mom, I can relate I guess since I've been more cautious about where I take them to play in the water. I am a strong swimmer and although my boys know how to swim, they aren't quite ready for anything yet.... Although never feeling as comfortable in the ocean as I do on a horse, being in and under the sea is amazing...there is much to see and experience. I also really enjoyed paddling outrigger canoes for a couple of seasons (40ft long, crew of six) and would love an opportunity to do this again. My first year paddling, I and one other novice were selected to paddle in the annual Queen Liliuokalani (last Hawaiian queen) canoe race which occurs every Labor Day weekend. Crews come from all over the world to compete in the 18 mile long race.
So that's my story. Hope I've balanced out some of the negatives with positives. If one decides to be adventurous and give moving across an ocean a go, I suppose one can make a decision with this in mind; my attitude before leaving California was "if it doesn't go well, I can always move back." Typically, if a persons destiny does not include taking up long term residency there, within 1 -2 years, they move back. Only nine months went by when I decided I'd never leave and returned to California for the purpose of dealing with all the personal belongings I'd stashed in a storage facility. One never really knows which direction life - or perhaps I should say God - will take them. Change happens all the time.
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