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Big Island The Island of Hawaii
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Old 07-25-2013, 07:23 PM
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA
61 posts, read 182,116 times
Reputation: 236


First of all, I want to say, we love Hawaii and we always will. When we've shared this moving news with people, we've gotten comments like, "Oh, guess you'll never be going there for vacation now!" or "So, it sucks, huh?" No and no. I hope to be on this beautiful island at least once per year for the rest of my life, preferably for longer than a typical 2-week vacation.

We moved here because we love Kona and wanted to answer the question for ourselves: "is this where we want to live for the foreseeable future?" The answer for us is no. But we have truly enjoyed our time here and learned so much about Hawaii, this island, and ourselves. You can't leave everything you know and not do some soul searching!

1.) We like mainland culture, and weather, in many ways.
There are simply some experiences of growing up on the mainland that we'd like to share with our daughter. Fall leaves, sledding in the snow, the first field of daisies in the spring. Being in band (if she wants, we were band geeks), or orchestra in our town -- you can do that too. Dance, music, theater... our town in WA is very big on the arts and I love that. We have arts festivals all year round, sand sculpture competitions, and really great concert series (diverse things like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Irish Tenors, and kids' singer Caspar Babypants). We have a HUGE library and a great community college.

I know variations on all these things exist here, but not in the same way. AND I'm not knocking the beauty of what the Hawaiian culture offers: the language, the music, and the dance is beautiful. It's simply our choice (we are lucky to get to make a choice).

2.) We want to live less expensively.
We can afford it here -- but given the choice, we'd like to use those resources in other ways.

3.) We did, in fact, get a little "island fever."
I like small town life, so this was a little unexpected for me. But, we are road trippers. In 2012, we road tripped from Washington state to Ohio for a month to visit family there -- 5 days of driving (one way) with an almost-3-year-old! We are much better road trippers than we are flyers and we enjoy it much more. Now that we have a daughter, we want to go on vacations to National Parks and maybe rent an RV... really see the country. The island is beautiful, and diverse, but it's small! We did lots of exploring and road trips during our months here. To the point where we were like, "well, what do we want to go see again?"

We want to explore more, I guess, and by car, not by plane.

4.) We have aging parents.
All of our aging parents live in the midwest, except for my mom, who lives in the same town in WA that we are moving back to. Travel is going to become a necessity.

5.) We have a preschooler.
We knew if we stayed here, that we would be looking at private schools, charters, or homeschooling. In fact, we are looking at the same options back on the mainland as I'm not a fan of the current Common Core standards. But what really has gotten to me here is encounters with local kids, everything from meanness (one day we had to leave Kahalu'u because a kid decided my daughter was his target, while his mom looked on) to kids shunning my daughter purposefully after she walks up and says hi and introduces herself (again, with moms looking on). My husband didn't really believe this was happening, or he thought I was being oversensitive, but then it happened to him last week when he took her to the playground. This is stuff I thought she'd face in middle and high school. Not as a 3 year old.

I have lived all over the US and in Europe and I have been treated badly in some places; insulted as I walked down the street just for being a foreigner -- I get it. I know some of it is just kids being mean (as kids will be) but some of it is definitely because she's not local, and she stands out with her blue eyes and blond ringlets. I'm not trying to shelter her from everything. But there's some things she can learn later in life. I never ran into this anywhere else I've been with my daughter -- and when she was born we lived just outside Boston in a very "local" town with a diverse population -- but other moms (strangers at the playground and library) always talked to me, and their kids came to say hi to the baby.

I don't want anyone to think that this is in the majority of our experience. It's not. But it happens, and it happens more than "once in a blue moon." Watching your daughter cry because kids 2-3 years older told her to go away and she wasn't allowed to play there -- at the playground? Not something she needs to experience on an ongoing basis - and something we never experienced until coming here.

My advice for anyone thinking of moving to Hawaii:

1.) No matter how much you hate waiting and how much you just want to go for it, save up and try it first. Rent a vacation rental for at least 2 months, more time would be even better. Even if you have to move places every two weeks (actually, it's not a bad idea to rent in different places on the island to get a feel for what you like the best). We did it for 3 months in 2011. Even so, living here was another level entirely -- but at least a "tryout" will get you past the "vacation" mentality. We came here knowing it would be hard! It was! But not in the ways we necessarily expected.

2.) Do not treat it as a vacation. If you have to take time off work to come for your trial, ask if there are distance assignments you can do, or give yourself a "job" of learning about Hawaii, starting an internet business, or something else. Work. Do not experience this place only as a vacation playground. Work, shop, take your kids to playgrounds, check out the hospital, visit schools. Go to the library. Try driving the highway at rush hour, and do the drive back from the airport at 3:45pm. Go downtown on a weekend. Live without air conditioning. Visit everywhere you can on the island on the weekends.

3.) Think hard about the future. Moving to an island in the middle of the pacific means you will be far, far away from everyone. All your friends, your family. Some of them will maybe come visit at the beginning -- after that, the brunt of it will be on you. If you have aging parents, or you are getting older and have health problems (medical care here is another issue), you need to seriously consider what a move to Hawaii will entail.

4.) Have a job already. Seriously, for the love of all that is good and holy, don't just show up and think it's like the mainland, where your skills and experience will land you something. Work with your current employer and see if they will let you distance work or telecommute. Or find a job that WILL let you. Start a business that you can run online. Getting a job here is quite a lot about who you know and much less about your skills and experience. We could only do this move because my husband already had a telecommuting position -- the same one that will pay for our plane tickets back.

All that said, this place is paradise indeed for some! Gorgeous beaches, beautiful weather, live music everywhere, amazing farmer's markets, a really laid back vibe.

We found out we are not "endless summer" people and don't like being hot the majority of the time. If you do your research, come try it out, and find that the culture, expense, and uniqueness of Hawaii suit you, excellent. We are all trying to find our place in the world.

I'm happy to answer questions.
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Old 07-25-2013, 07:51 PM
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
5,451 posts, read 11,537,953 times
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Excellent post. Hopefully I will remember how to find it to direct all the dreamers to read!

Good luck with you next adventure.
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:11 PM
Location: Kahala
11,747 posts, read 15,806,055 times
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You've only been here about 4 months, right? Was the original intention to stay longer?
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:12 PM
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Thanks for the write-up, willowkim. I'm also curious: did you as adults meet other adults and get to do social activities? I am a telecommuter as well, and I know how hard it is to meet local people because of it.

I know that my first year on the island with my then-fiancée, we didn't have a good circle of friends. We kinda wandered between some new-age people who were open to fresh-off-the-boat transplants and some hippies living on beaches who didn't care who we were. I mostly knew they weren't our "tribe," but they were welcoming and friendly and so were we. After the 2nd year, when our daughter was born, we met other families and among those parents we found adults that we got along with. That's how we built up our social group. But even then, some of those people have since left.
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:17 PM
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA
61 posts, read 182,116 times
Reputation: 236

Yes, we've been here 5 months and we originally thought we'd stay for a year for our trial. But medical health issues in our family caused us to rethink this -- and once we started going down that road, we realized we wanted to rethink our initial plan.

We called our property manager here to start the conversation about finding new tenants, and she called back 5 minutes later to say the folks we "beat out" for this house wanted to move in ASAP -- as in, in time to be in this school district (the best elementary in the Kona area) for the school year. "Can you move before the end of the month?" she asked. We weren't thinking we'd move this quickly. But then we realized we could go back in time to get my daughter back in the preschool we loved (another thing that's very different on the mainland -- her preschool there as a 4-year-old will be 3x weekly for 2.5 hours. There's no equivalent here, it's all 5-day, either half or full day.) Once we made that decision, things sort of fell into place.
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:30 PM
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA
61 posts, read 182,116 times
Reputation: 236
Originally Posted by KauaiHiker View Post
I'm also curious: did you as adults meet other adults and get to do social activities? I am a telecommuter as well, and I know how hard it is to meet local people because of it.
We did, actually. We have a church here that we love, and we regularly went to events, met new people, and did family stuff. I also made a couple of friends off of KonaWeb, and I worked hard to be outgoing (hard for me) with new people that we met and set up play dates. My husband also had a couple of friends to go have beers with at Kona Brewing. So we weren't socially isolated.

We have done enough moving to know that it's really at about the 2 year mark that you settle in, have a decent circle of friends, and feel like you're at home. We know that if we had chosen to, we could have made a life here. We simply chose not to put in that time investment -- because there are other things that are motivating us to move back to the mainland, too.

It *is* harder when you are self-employed and work at home (and I'm a stay-at-home mom, so we're all at home most of the time). But I do feel confident that we put ourselves out there are started to build our "tribe." We did miss our friends, but it wasn't that kind of isolated loneliness of, say, a friend of my husband's that moved to the island... single guy, worked at a golf course, didn't have any social networks, didn't go to church or volunteer or play racquetball or join a paddling club... he left after a couple years, very lonely. Of course, he had never lived anywhere but his hometown.
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Old 07-25-2013, 08:50 PM
Location: Volcano
12,971 posts, read 26,537,031 times
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Originally Posted by willowkim View Post
We moved here because we love Kona and wanted to answer the question for ourselves: "is this where we want to live for the foreseeable future?" The answer for us is no.
From my viewpoint, you have succeeded. You got your question answered. Thanks for sharing this.

There is simply no way for anyone to predict how actual day to day life in Hawai'i will occur for them if they move here. Some will love it, while others will have the opposite reaction. And the things one truly loves, or the things one truly doesn't love can be unexpected, surprising, and sometimes not even anything in view at the outset.

That's why so many of us recommend making preliminary exploratory trips, and renting for six months or more before buying, and not dragging a lot of furniture and personal property across the ocean, because you simply can't anticipate accurately what it will actually be like for you living in Hawai'i. Your story will be a good reminder for others of that fact.

Good luck back in the PNW.
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Old 07-25-2013, 10:15 PM
Location: Florida Suncoast
1,815 posts, read 2,025,471 times
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It sounds like your daughter experienced more discrimination and hostility than you did. The schools in Minnesota consider bullying to be totally unacceptable. Although if you go back in time 10 years or more here, people just looked the other way and ignored the bullying. I think if there are policies that prohibit bullying in schools are strictly enforced in the schools, the discrimination and hatred would be reduced outside of schools over time. It sounds like the public schools in Hawaii do not have any anti-bullying policies or they are not enforced. Did you think using a private school would have made a difference?

Did you trying living in the highlands where the temperatures are cooler? Maybe a cooler microclimate would work out better for someone that was used to living in colder climates in the northern states, that have harsh cold winters. I don't think I would miss the cold and snowy winters at all. I've talked to many Minnesota transplants who lived in southern California for many years and I could not find one who missed the cold and snowy winters. I probably would miss the fall colors, but that only lasts a few weeks, and it creates a lot of work collecting the leaves with the lawn tractor or raking them for many hours, not just once but for weeks, over and over. Once the fall colors are over and the trees are bare, it's always depressing to me.

Do you think you might try living in Hawaii again, after you retire, assuming you are in good health? Maybe it would be easier to live there when you are retired. If you didn't have to work, you could live in Hawaii and take extended RV vacations on the mainland to get your 'fix' for cross country driving. To me, cross county driving is interesting for awhile, then it becomes old and tiring.

I look forward to living or snow birding in about 6 years in a warmer climate. I don't think I would ever get tired of 'endless summers'. It would interesting for me to answer that question for myself in the future.
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Old 07-25-2013, 10:45 PM
3,939 posts, read 4,539,286 times
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Good luck to the OP. The Islands are not for everyone. It is good you found out so you can move on. I have lived all over, as well, and in my experience, living anywhere for less than six months is like being on vacation. A long vacation. Maybe that is why you were treated as tourists and not like true residents. My mother is from Oahu and I have family scattered around Oahu mostly. My cousins are quite kind but they are not going to invest too much time into new residents have been around for at least a year or more. People are like this in many places where there is a transient population.
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Old 07-25-2013, 11:13 PM
1,730 posts, read 3,567,426 times
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WillowKim, your posting shows your attitude of wanting to learn, and a willingness to accept that a different path might be better than the one you are on. Congrats on trying something new, and recognizing that is is not right for you, and making an exit without trying to place blame on someone or somewhere else.

As for the picked on 3 year old, it is near impossible to explain to anyone who has never lived in Hawaii the nuances of the prejudices that exist here. The reality is, folks will run into prejudices every in the world, including Hawaii, but we have our own unique mix of cultures, and thus unique challenges that go with that.

Good luck on your next adventure, and from what you have learned by living in Hawaii, you'll hopefully enjoy added ease and adventure in years to come when you return to visit here.
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