The Lure of the Islands

Aloha!
“She had loved islands from the time she spent her first summer on one. She was eight at the time. Thirty-four now, she still felt the island aura – – an isolation that made worries seem distant, a separation from the real world that lent itself to dreams.”
From “Sweet Salt Air” by Barbara Delinsky

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
When I was a sophomore in high school, my family had the good fortune to spend Christmas break on one of the Florida Keys. Having left snow, sleet, and icy roads behind in the Midwest, I was immediately hooked. Why doesn’t everybody live here? I wondered. And when I first came to Maui, I wondered the same thing. But being so far from the mainland isn’t for everyone. Or how slow the pace of life is. Or how hard it is to get things. Or, and this is a biggee…the high cost of everything, particularly real estate.

So what draws those who live on islands to be there? With the pace of life today, I offer another quote, this one from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

So maybe THAT’s what it’s all about. I get letters weekly from people who want to move to Maui and have many questions. Is everyone just really trying to get to the simplicity on the other side of the complexity that our world has become?

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

The Things You’ll Do to Live on Maui

Aloha!

The old song says, “The things you’ll do for lo-o-ve 🎶” and the same is true of Maui. It truly can be like falling down the rabbit hole. And just like Alice, the longer you live here, the more normal it becomes. Case in point: my hairdresser. Just finding someone to do passable blonde highlights on the island ( without having to sell your car to pay for them) is a small feat. Those hotel/spa/hairdresser prices don’t fly on a Mauian’s paycheck!

My hairdresser used to work at the fancy hotel. Then at the fancy salon. Now he works out of his home, which is a postage stamp-sized Ohana (cottage) behind someone else’s house in Kihei. He could no longer afford to rent a station at the high-priced places. There is no air conditioning, so the minute he slaps that plastic gown on me, I’m sweating like a sumo wrestler. Then there’s the lighting, or rather, lack of it. I peer toward the mirror and have to squint to see myself.

But the most interesting feature is the rinse bowl. It is out in his shed… the garden shed, like, from Sears. He leads me to it through the small yard, and it is dilapidated and falling down, and feels about 50° hotter than his already hot house.

I close my eyes as he rinses my hair, and go to my happy place. You know, the way they say when you’re stressed, you should picture yourself on a beach or a tropical island. Oh, wait–I’m already on that island. But this is one of the ways people afford to live here.

Like Wonderland, when you live on Maui, many things are upside down, inside-out and backwards of what you’d expect. But hey, I have some affordable blonde highlights.

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like

Aloha!

Remember the line from the Eagle’s song “Hotel California” that says, “You can check out anytime you like… But you can never leave”?

Seems like someone could’ve written the same about Maui. There are tourists who come here, fall in love with Maui and Hawaii, and really don’t want to go home. I was one of them.

This can have a flipside. I’ve talked to many people who move here and then can’t leave, even if they want to. They’ve quit their jobs. They’ve paid a lot of money to shut down their lives on the mainland, ship their cars, all their paperwork, and all their worldly possessions, and here they are. Stuck. Can’t afford to do it in reverse.

One man had a business here where he placed banks of computers in hotel lobbies, including the hotel where I worked. When we chatted he said, “(Expletive) Maui. I moved here with my wife, found out we can’t stand it, and now we’re stuck here.” And his business was quickly obsolete – the hotels installed Wi-Fi for guest’s laptops and iPads instead.

This is why I encourage anyone to give Maui a trial–run before pulling up stakes, selling their homes and businesses, and paying shipping fees to get their lives here. A recent blog post had a letter from a reader on Kauai who moved there five years ago. She gave a wonderful overview, but also said, “Would I do it again, knowing what I know? I don’t know. ”

Recently a friend who came to Maui twenty years ago said, “When I moved here, everyone told me, ‘Maui is healing place.’ Well, they neglected to mention that you’re supposed to get healed…and then leave!”

Could be why so many people stay only two years. They’ve gotten what Maui could offer them, from the sun, the ocean, a major change… and they’re done. Yes, my friend is one of those who feels stuck….bought a home and is self-employed. Now what? (“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.”)

Realize, too, that each Hawaiian island is different. Each has its own culture; on Oahu it can be a bit easier to assimilate because the military is there, and they are used to outsiders. There are that many more tourists, that many more more people. It’s different on Maui where people who grew up here often have a very negative view of people who move here and “spoil” their island. Caucasians are suspect, because in their history it was the Caucasians who stole their islands from the monarchy. The same person who posted the long comment recently beginning with “You seem to have left a lot out” also said, “Once you submerge yourself into the culture, ‘Welcome to Hawaii…now leave,’ has quite a bit of meaning and truth to it.”

There are those who come here, love it, and would never dream of leaving. And then there are the others, whose dreams go up in (cane) smoke. Food for thought, in case you’re considering checking into The Hotel Maui. (“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door… I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.”)

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

How Living on Maui Changes Your Money Habits

Aloha!

Well, you spend your money differently. The mainland has all those temptations that Maui doesn’t: Bed, Bath, and Beyond, for instance….which I call “the place with everything you never knew you needed, but have to have.” Same with Bath and Body Works. Wander through a place like that on the mainland and you’re buying those scented pump soaps because they’re five for $25.00 or whatever, and that’s money you hadn’t planned to spend. Now take away Michael’s huge craft store (and Richardson’s). Not to mention Kohl’s, JC Penney’s, Victoria’s Secret….Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Restoration Hardware, The Container Store. And of course, Nordstom and Neiman Marcus (“needless markup”) as my friend calls it.

But, you think, I’ll just end up ordering those things online. How will this save money? One word: shipping costs. Recently, I tried to order a sunscreen/moisturizer online that I’ve been using for years. Usually, I buy it when I’m on the mainland and bring it back (just like everything else) but I hadn’t been to the mainland lately. I’d had some luck ordering from them online before, but this time, two little bottles of cream were going to be $45.00 for shipping. (Would have been about $7.95 to ship on the mainland). I pleaded. Wheedled. Cajoled. “Can I just mail you a flat-rate shipping box? That’s $12.00, and I could get ten of those suckers in there!” No, they said. They were sorry, but shipping to Hawaii had gone way up, but most of it was the “handling.” Guess my sunscreen needed to get a massage before they could put it in a box.

These are not luxuries, they are everyday items that people on the mainland take for granted. Eventually, you just learn to do without. Eventually you learn to stop wanting. A Pottery Barn chair? That’ll be extra shipping (see the special little “shipping to Alaska and Hawaii” box), then an additional $250.00 just ‘cuz you have the audacity to live on an island.
Actually, it’s probably much more than that, because I haven’t bothered to check on Pottery Barn anything in like ten years.

So, you think, I’m gonna save a bundle without all these tempations, right? Uh-uh. All that money you’re saving goes right to the high costs of food, housing and gasoline.

Before gas prices dropped, World News would say that California (or wherever) had the highest gas prices in the country. They would name some figure like $3.68 per gallon. We would want to throw a shoe at the telecaster. Hello! We’re paying $4.68 over here. Are we not part of the country?

Actually, when you live on this island, you’re not. You are on a rock in the middle of the ocean. Entire fashion and housing trends pass you by like they never happened. People on the mainland get their shorts in a twist about things that don’t affect us, and we have major situations here that mainland people are blissfully unaware of. (The Big Island dock damage /closure after the earthquake comes to mind.)

Living on Maui, you not only spend your money differently, you think differently, act differently, feel differently.

Stay long enough, and this island will forever change you.

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Interisland Airfare Question Answered

Aloha!

A reader wrote to ask about the cost of travel between the islands. I try to post the letters that have the broadest audience…

Message: Greetings!

I have been thinking of moving to Maui (Makawao, specifically) and renting a house owned by a friend of my family with my sister. I am hoping to take classes through the University of Hawaii; however, I noticed that the University of Hawaii: Maui College doesn’t really offer the classes/majors I am interested in. So my question is this: is there some sort of pass I could pay for to use for regular commuting between islands, or would I have to buy tickets separately? P.S. – Your blog has been EXTREMELY helpful in giving me a new perspective of what it is like to live in Maui, thank you so much!

Aloha,
Thank you for writing.
Unfortunately, nothing like that exists any more. In the old days (15 years ago, when I moved here) you could buy a coupon book, and the interisland fare was only $25.00. It was very helpful to residents who wanted to go visit family or even to just go shopping for things they needed on Oahu. Christmas shopping, even.

Not any more. We had an airline war. Mesa Airlines (operating as go! Airlines) put Aloha Airlines out of business. Now THEY they are out of business… which means Hawaiian Airlines basically has a monopoly, so we don’t expect to see prices drop anytime soon.

There was also a ferry that ran interisland, “The Superferry”, and most residents were very excited about it, because they could ferry their cars over and not have to rent a car. But that got torpedoed by environmental groups who felt that it harmed the whales (and probably the rental car companies…)
So we are back to paying around $87.00 and up for a one-way ticket to Oahu. Times that by two or four or five in the family, and it becomes very prohibitive.

I would not suggest trying to attend school on one island and live on the other if your budget is tight.

I wish you the very best as you plan your future. Thank you for writing, and for reading along.

A hui hou. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

The Psychology of Place

Aloha!

Hold on – this isn’t as esoteric as you might think.

I was watching the writer’s commentary for the hit TV series “True Detective” (the show got nominated in every major Emmy category for which it qualified, 12 in all, including a best drama nomination for writer Nic Pizzolatto.) In the commentary, Pizzolatto mentioned the “psychology of place,” in this case, New Orleans, where the series was filmed.

Many writers talk about place as a character, and I most enjoy movies where the sense of place is very strong. So part of what has intrigued me is that 1) I’ve never been to New Orleans and 2) all I knew of it was Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, mostly from movies.

Kind of like that’s the only way some people know Hawaii.

But this series showed the gripping underbelly of the Bayou – a whole different world… an insider’s world, as the writer is from there.

So I started thinking about the “psychology” of any place. A girl I know on Maui is from the upper Peninsula of Michigan, the “U-P” as it is known – -another place I’ve never been. Her assessment of her home: “Everyone drinks, and everyone hangs out in bars, because that’s all there is to do there.” It’s winter most of the time, and there’s nothing to do. To her, that’s the psychology of the place.

So what is the “psychology” of the place where you live? And what do you see (as a visitor or resident) as the psychology of Maui? Of Hawaii?

Please send me your thoughts. We’ll discuss this for the next couple of posts…

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Reader Question Answered

Aloha!
Since Mike had his knee replacement I have been behind on answering letters. Could be because I am bringing him ice, making him food, giving him shots and working through the exercises with him…anyway, his rehabilitation is going much more slowly than either of us anticipated.

A reader named Susan wrote:

Hi Jamaica,
Your blog is very informative. My daughter lives on Maui and has for the past 6 years. She loves it. I’m 61, single, a retired teacher and am seriously considering moving to Maui. I have visited the islands many many times and know I will have to work but don’t want to teach again..so I’m thinking I can make my way in the tourist industry with skills aquired in teaching. It will be a forever move..I am planning on selling everything and moving..I also think buying a condo in Lahaina vs renting may be more practical for me..My concern is getting to know people who are around my age..How easy is it to socialize? I’m not a drinker, I don’t frequent bars…and it seems like the island is full of young people. ..so what can u suggest to get settled and make some friends.
Susan

Dear Susan,
I take it that your daughter lives in Lahaina and that’s why you want to live there. We found that the Westside was full of young people, and also there’s a whole lot of drinking that goes on there. There’s a bumper sticker that says “Lahaina: a drinking town with a fishing problem.”

So that’s the basic reason we moved Upcountry. But there was more to it. We were looking for a community feel, less touristy and more local. Everyone seems to start out on the Westside… they think they want to live near the beach. But then they discover that living among the condos and hotels and tourists can get very annoying after a while. For that reason, I would suggest that you rent at first to get a feel for it and not buy right away.

Volunteering is probably your best in-road to meeting people. There’s the Lahaina Historical Society, and the library. If you’re willing to drive, many people volunteer at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (known as the MACC) and you’d get to see free shows, to boot. The Humane Society near Kihei is also always looking for volunteers.

You can find a cause and join, such as the Sierra Club, or fighting the GMO’s, or do beach – clean up, or join a hiking group. There are Maui Meet-up groups for things like boardgames, hiking, etc. (google Maui Meet-up). Many times, getting involved in these groups is what will lead to a job.

Otherwise, people can find it a tough go… They have skills from the mainland, but find that it’s mostly the hotels where those skills can be used, and there are many, many people in line in front of them for those jobs. Sometimes, a nonprofit is a better bet for your type of skills. For instance, recently there was a job opening with Canines for Independence in the front office… Low pay, but probably very rewarding. It just takes lots of time and patience to find a job sometimes. That’s why I always advise people to move to Hawaii with a fully padded bank account.

Susan, I wish you the very best as you plan your move to Maui!
Mahalo for reading along…

A hui hou. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica