The following is a guest post from my friend Beth, who I met playing beach volleyball (big surprise there). Beth moved from LA to Hawaii almost two years ago, and although we miss her around these parts, I’m very happy for her (and OK a bit jealous) every time I see some of her awesome pictures of Hawaii living on Facebook. Beth explains that although it is a paradise, it does come at a cost.
I am a proponent of Joseph Campbell’s guidance to follow your bliss, so when it was time to look for a new career opportunity, and as I have always made major life decisions based on weather, Hawaii pulled on my heart strings, and I relocated to the island of O’ahu.
So many friends have asked me what it is REALLY like to live in Hawaii, and is it as amazing as my Facebook profile portrays?
So no, I’m not trying to make my mainland friends jealous with my Facebook postings of my mauka to makai (from the mountains to the sea) life. For me, the biggest pro to living in Hawaii is the outdoor, adventurous and active lifestyle I’ve come to embrace. I’ve spent my weekends on awe-inspiring ridgeline hikes, rock climbing above the Pacific with whales breaching below, BBQ’ing with friends on the beach, kayaking to offshore islands, climbing up waterfalls, scuba diving through lava tunnels, swimming with dolphins and honu (turtles), watching the best surfers in the world surf Pipeline (this is one of those activities where I am better as a spectator!), and camping on a secret island.
I feel so blessed every day that these adventures are a part of my current reality. I honestly DO feel like I am on vacation during the weekends, and I try to do a “staycation” every few months by staying at a resort (Kama’aina rates, baby!), camping, or traveling to another island. I LOVE exploring this island chain…the adventures do seem endless, and being here doing things I love to do MAKES ME FEEL ALIVE.
Not everyone here is as enamored as I am with this island lifestyle and perpetual summer. Traffic can be horrendous-the highway infrastructure just does not support all the cars on this island. Island fever does indeed exist, and I have found I need to travel every few months or I will get restless, and it is SO far and expensive to travel outside of the island chain…Hawaii is the most isolated populated landmass on the planet; although leaving and returning makes me appreciate this place even more.
Hawaii can also be a difficult social scene. As I see it, there are three categories of people here…locals, the ones who grew up here; military, those assigned here; and those who I call ex-pats, the surfers, hippies, divers, sun-worshippers, etc. who have moved to Hawaii for the lifestyle and to pursue their passions. But Hawaii can be very transient and it took me over a year to find a good social circle, and many of those friends move on for one reason or another.
And it definitely took some adjusting to the laid back lifestyle. I grew up on the East coast and have always been a city girl, and Hawaii has a completely different and slower vibe.
Oh, and of course, there are lots of bugs! I have been battling with ants for the past week; the cockroaches are huge AND fly, and you do not want a close encounter with a centipede…
And then there is the cost…
Navigating the expense:
No question about it, Hawaii is a ridiculously expensive place to live. And O’ahu is especially expensive…everything from housing, groceries, electricity, gas, and sunblock is more than anywhere I have ever lived. To mitigate the cost, I moved in with a roommate, and even though electricity is expensive, there is no need for heating, and I prefer the cool air from the tradewinds to air-conditioning.
A lot of the adventures I love here don’t cost much at all…a small investment in a good pair of hiking shoes and a Camelback were all I needed to explore much of the island on foot. And the beach and ocean are completely free! I bought a used standup paddle board which holds its value (same with surfboards) if I ever need to sell it. Some yoga classes are donation based. And someone is always having a potluck BBQ – family or ohana is everything and locals will spend a Sunday at a beach park grilling out or have an impromptu pot-luck in their carport. Socializing here is cheap!
One big realization I had moving to Hawaii from Los Angeles is that you don’t need fancy clothes or shoes (you kick off your slippahs as soon as you enter someone’s home), so truly a few pairs of flipflops are your footwear essentials. Leather products don’t weather the Hawaiian humidity so I put most of my designer bags on Ebay and really only need half my previous wardrobe. I don’t feel the need here to go shopping except I enjoy supporting local boutiques and designers like Hanu Hawai’i for local style bikinis (shout-out to my cousin!). I also only buy my produce at the farmer’s markets which costs less than grocery stores, and I know I’m supporting the farmers and local economy.
So is it worth it?
Well, from my standpoint…a resounding yes if you are like me and love summertime, outdoor adventures, and being around passionate active people. I would rather have less money and be in a place that makes me truly happy. But the bottom line is to follow your paradise, whatever or wherever that may be. While Hawaii is an expensive place to live and it is not palm trees and rainbows all the time, I am so happy with my decision to be here, and choosing to live in a place that has so many elements that make me happy has, well, led me to my bliss.