For lots of visitors, once they’ve spent a few days at the beach and had a mai tai or two, the idea of permanently moving to Hawaii begins to kick in.
The idea of moving to Hawaii is really tempting. Hawaii is a place that almost everyone dreams of visiting at least once in their lifetime. People get to Hawaii and then start to dream about relocating to make their home on one of the islands. Who wouldn’t want to spend every waking moment of their day on a warm, sunny beach? However, some recent transplants often end up fleeing paradise for the mainland after a year or two. How come?
As with any relocation, making Hawaii your permanent home requires an adjustment. The reality of moving to Hawaii isn’t just trading the mainland for Honolulu, or Oahu (the most populated island). In fact, out of the many resources available for those considering a move, we’d say the vast majority only concentrate on what Oahu has to offer. What a shame! Hawaii is much, much more.
Regardless, you’re transporting yourself to a little speck in the middle of a vast blue ocean. If you choose Kauai, the Big Island, Maui or Molokai, there are going to be fewer similarities – perhaps no movie theatres or franchise restaurants within convenient access. No freeways, and maybe just one highway with slower speed limits. It’s hard for mainlanders to shed their ways while on vacation, but you’re considering a longer term. So, while there are so many positive advantages, you’ll make a better adjustment if you let go of a few things. These won’t be just your belongings from the mainland (which is an entirely different post), but aspects of mainland mentality that you may not even realize.
What is mainland mentality? Preconceived notions having to do with the way life “should be” lived are common wherever we’re from. On the mainland, though, we can become used to certain pathways and ideals in life that may or may not fit on island. Relax, this is probably part of the reason you’re drawn to make a change.
The first big difference you’ll notice is in the value system. The island lifestyle is more laissez faire. All the trappings you might associate on the mainland with prestige, wealth and station – clothing, cars, houses, Ivy League schools – just don’t translate. After moving to Hawaii, you’ll notice people don’t care overly much about that stuff.
Whether you’re in business or social situations, power players look just like everyone else. We enjoyed a lot more diversity in our friendships, as people count folks from all types of different backgrounds as friends. Not to say we were stagnated in that regard on the mainland, but you do get comfortable and perhaps don’t extend as much as you do when you’re in a new place. We found it refreshing and fascinating to hear about where people were from and what they had done with their lives.
There’s really not a lot of call in Hawaii for business suits and fancy footwear. If you’re a guy, you’ll be in shorts and a t-shirt. Wahine (women) often just wear a bathing suit, with a pareo or sundress as an outer layer. Footwear is typically “Locals” or other inexpensive brands of slippers (flip flops) you can purchase at the grocery or drug store for about $6 a pair. In wetter locations, items made of leather will develop mold seemingly in a matter of hours, so those expensive handbags, belts and other accessories are going to break your heart if you try and keep them.
The typical suburban mainland lifestyle isn’t the best fit on island. Commuting takes on different attributes depending upon how you make your living. Some people cobble together a lifestyle by working multiple part-time jobs. Many others work from home. It seems as though more flexible schedules are the norm, as opposed to 9 to 5.
After moving to Hawaii, you learn to watch the water for what might be a good beach day. A fancy new car is just as affected by salt-water air and sand as one that isn’t so fancy. If you’re going to surf or do other water sports, you’ll want a vehicle that will haul your gear around with the least amount of hassle. This generally means some kind of truck, van or SUV.
While it’s true you pay for proximity to the ocean, moving to Hawaii will change the way you think about where you live. Island homes tend to be smaller and more expensive when compared with the mainland. Many are open to the elements, with screens and louvers replacing window glass. Yours may not have a dishwasher or clothes dryer. You could be doing laundry in a carport, garage or semi-open structure. And you may find it’s not in your best interest to own a home (you may not be able to afford it, or you may not want to commit); instead you’ll rent.
Rental housing can vary from a little surf shack all the way up to a plantation-style mansion, with everything in between. Lots of the time, rentals come furnished and some will include utilities, particularly if there is more than one household on the property yet not separate meters. This housing can range from basic to complete (our house was a former vacation rental, so it came with everything down to forks and spoons). There may be an “ohana” (literally, “family”) unit in a lower level or separate structure in back of the house.
Leases are generally six months to a year in duration, and then you go month-to-month after that. So you don’t have to commit for a lengthy period of time; once you get better bearings, you might decide another community, or even another island, might be good to try. Because much of your new life will be spent outdoors, you’ll not require as much space compared with what you had on the mainland, too.
High-priced groceries are another observation that visitors make when evaluating whether moving to Hawaii would be feasible. True, almost everything that comes to Hawaii has to be shipped in from other places, leading to an inflated cost of living. Yes, grocery items from the mainland are more expensive and the selection may be disappointing.
But, you’re going to be eating differently and probably in more healthy ways. Instead of cow’s milk, perhaps you’ll change to coconut water or fruit juices. Processed and frozen foods will give way to fresh. Local organic fruits and vegetables are plentiful at the many farmers’ markets. Enthusiastic gardeners can grow to their hearts’ content – the season is 365 days a year, quite an adjustment for those who gardened in colder climates.
Newcomers may have difficulty adjusting to the time differences. For example, football games and other sporting events are on in the early morning and afternoons rather than at the hours typically set aside by mainland fans. Other mainland TV which is time-sensitive is on too early to catch, or will be broadcast on delay. Mainlanders often forget that you’re on island time, or the concept of time zones, entirely; we frequently got texts and phone calls in the wee hours from businesses and individuals alike. Grrrr! 🙂
These are not the only timing issues that grate on the nerves of recent transplants. People in Hawaii often take a laidback attitude towards timeliness itself. “Island time” can mean repairmen may or may not show up for an appointment. Your haircut may go on longer than you expected. And you may wait on your dinner reservation as your table’s previous occupants linger. This is all perfectly acceptable behavior on the islands. I actually came to believe it was rude to arrive on time; what if the hostess had fallen behind with preparations? Wouldn’t it be stressful to be completing things while guests looked on? Ten or fifteen minutes after the appointed time started to feel better.
Another aspect of moving to Hawaii that travelers often experience is cabin fever. Most of us who live in the contiguous United States think nothing of jumping in a car and driving several hours to attend concerts and sporting events. In fact, there are few sporting events in Hawaii and popular entertainment takes on different forms. People often forget how far away from everything else Hawaii truly is. Those leaving for the mainland or other destinations can expect at least a five hour flight to get to their journey’s end.
Except for the higher prices, which even longtime residents complain about from time to time, the easiest way to adapt when moving to Hawaii is by adjusting expectations. Remember, you’re thinking about moving to Hawaii because in some way your mainland lifestyle isn’t serving you. No matter the reason behind the move, if you make an effort to embrace the more relaxed, natural and spiritual lifestyle that drew you to the islands in the first place, your mainland mentality will become a distant memory of how you used to be. Aloha!