Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 7)

Hawaii’s kupuna are loved and respected (photo credit: Hawaii Magazine)

I have gray hair and I look my age. Unfortunately, as it happens with all too many older people, I have sometimes been judged by the color of my hair and the wrinkles on my face and quickly dismissed, deemed to be an out-of-it old geezer who knows nothing about technology, or about the world or what’s going on. It’s not always true, of course, but it has happened to me enough to have been noticeable.

Although we work hard to stay healthy and active, and living in Hawai’i helps keep us this way, we know a time will come when we will need more care and assistance, especially for possible medical conditions. I’ve covered some of the issues involved with growing old in the islands, especially as it pertains to housing, and present below some more advantages and disadvantages, and how things operate here:

  • PRO: The strong influence of both native and Asian cultures translates into greater respect for the elderly in Hawai’i overall. The islands have a long history of caring for its elderly, or kupuna. Kupuna literally means ancestor but also infers someone who is both wise and beloved. Seniors outside of family are traditionally referred to as “aunty” and “uncle,” and the terms are used by children and younger people of all ages. Both Brett and I have yet to be treated with anything less than full respect here from everyone we have encountered, no matter their age, a somewhat different experience than we encountered on the mainland at times. The trend in Hawai’i is to keep seniors living on their own for as long as possible, and many services exist to help the elderly remain independent, including van service to doctor appointments, senior centers, Meals on Wheels or community meals, and low-cost or free housekeeping assistance. Traditionally families care for their kupuna but with demographics and the state’s economy changing, family care is changing as well and more and more elderly are turning to services provided by the state.
  • CON: While the number of assisted living and retirement centers has been growing in Hawai’i, the costs for them are growing as well. Even with more homes and senior residences available in every price range, with the growth in the elderly population there is a waiting list for vacancies. If round-the-clock health care is needed, nursing home costs in Hawai’i are approximately 44% higher than the national average. However, even having enough money to cover your costs does not mean there will be an open spot when needed. On some of the islands, private homes offer boarding where elderly can live and receive care. However, these are sometimes operated according to the ethnic background of the owner with different cultural norms, customs and even diet a part of the experience. Boarding in a private home can mean a loving, pleasant experience or it could be a nightmare of abuse and neglect. However, Hawai’i conducts unannounced inspections of licensed private boarding homes, and inspections have shown there to be thankfully few problems with these homes.

Brett and I moved to Hawai’i with the intention of remaining there until the end of our lives, but life has had other plans for us. With our son in Japan, and our daughters living back on the east coast, it makes more sense to eventually relocate somewhere other than Hawaii in spite of our love for the climate and lifestyle here.

All of the points made in the past few weeks about Hawaii retirement can of course be extrapolated to any other place. Some of the pros and cons are unique to Hawaii, but all still give ideas for consideration when deciding whether to stay in a location or move elsewhere in retirement.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 6)

Container ship loaded with cars (Photo credit: iStock)

Whether or not to bring your car along or buy here is a big question when considering a move to Hawaii. Maybe you dream of living without a car and using public transportation, or living with just one car in retirement. There are both pros and cons to bringing shipping a car over, and while public transportation is an issue that may not affect many, as with everything else in Hawai’i there are both pros and cons, especially depending on the island you live on.

PRO: The cost for shipping a car to Hawaii from the west coast of the U.S. isn’t as expensive as one might imagine. We paid just $1000 for the service in 2014 but these days the price runs between $1500 – $2100. However, if you own a paid for, used car in good condition or are still making payments on a newer car it can make sense to pay to ship your car over because replacing your car here can cost a whole lot more.

Car registration fees in Hawaii can be inexpensive compared to other states on the mainland. There is an annual base state registration fee of $45 each year, and each county then assesses their own registration fees. On Kaua’i the rate for cars and passenger trucks is $1.25 per pound. We own a Honda Civic, a fairly light car, and our registration fees and inspection came to $178 this past year.

The availability of affordable public transportation means that seniors have the means to stay mobile and active longer, even if they can no longer afford to maintain a car or just want to reduce the amount of driving they do. People aged 65 and older can ride TheBus all over the island of O’ahu at a discounted cost. Those over 60 receive a discounted fare to ride the Kauai Bus, and 55 and older can get a discounted monthly pass on the Mau’i Bus. Bus transportation is free for seniors aged 55 and older on the Big Island’s Hele-On public transportation system (you must provide ID each time showing proof of age).

CON: If you’ve shipped your car to Hawaii, the system for registering your car in Hawaii is convoluted and complicated. The first step requires getting your car inspected, and since it isn’t registered in Hawaii it will automatically fail. The failed inspection inspection report is then taken to the DMV, where you show the title and/or any lien, pay the registration fee, any taxes due, or other costs based on the age of the car, the weight, and so forth. Once that is done you’re given your registration and Hawaii license plates. The car then has to go back to the inspection station to get approved, and inspection stickers are applied to your license plate (you only pay the inspection station when you pass the inspection) and you’re good to go. A new car purchased on the island receives an inspection sticker good for two years; all other cars, including new cars shipped from the mainland, only receive a one-year sticker.

Used cars on Hawaii go for higher prices than they do on the mainland and may not be in as good a shape. Rust, salt and sun damage are endemic. In some cases, it can make more sense to purchase a new car on the mainland and have it shipped over. There are no luxury car dealerships on Kaua’i, for example, and if you want one of those you will have to pay extra to have it barged over from Oahu.

As for public transportation, the system honestly isn’t very good. Other than on O’ahu, public transportation is less than ideal and seniors without a car usually must rely on cabs, ride share, friends, and relatives for transportation. After 10 years and still going, the much anticipated Honolulu light rail system is still under construction and only half complete, and costs for its construction have more than doubled. Bus systems on islands other than O’ahu are also less extensive. For example, on Kaua’i, while the bus travels all the way around the island from Kekaha in the southwest from Hanalei in the north, there are limited bus stops along the route, sometimes with several miles between them. If you don’t live near one of the bus stops then public transportation isn’t very convenient, useful or even worth considering, especially if you need to use it for shopping. It’s the same for the bus systems on Mau’i and the Big Island – they are limited. There is no public transportation on Molokai.

Our entire family were big fans and users of public transportation in Portland, and we were initially interested in using the Kaua’i bus here. We noticed during visits that the system appeared to be used quite a bit, with buses often filled to standing room only. However, the reality turned out to be no bus stops anywhere remotely close to where we lived during our first stay, and the bus schedules didn’t fit the girls’ after-school schedules either.

Staying mobile might not seem much of a hassle in Hawai’i, especially if you plan to bring your car along or buy one here as soon as you arrive (in many cases it costs less to ship your car than buy here). Except for Hawaii, the Big Island, the islands aren’t all that big. Still, gasoline is expensive, there’s wear and tear and premature aging to your car from the elements and you may find yourself sitting in traffic every day if you commute. We considered public transportation, and we currently live nearby to a bus stop, but so far our little car gets the job done and doesn’t cost us much to operate.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 5)

Year-round growing weather means an abundance of fresh, local, and affordable produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands in Hawaii.

Back when we were still in Portland, when I would mention to anyone that we were planning to retire in Hawai’i, many would sigh and talk about paradise in one breath, and then turn right around and talk about how expensive Hawai’i is. Then they would sigh once more and mention paradise and the weather again.

Weather was the number one item on our list when it came to choosing a retirement location. It made no sense for us to move from the cold, dreary and wet winters of Portland to an area with even colder winters just to enjoy a lower cost of living. However, cost of living was still a major factor in deciding just where we could actually afford to live. Paradise is wonderful, but if you can’t afford to pay the rent or get out and enjoy it, then there’s really no point in living there.

The next two points about retiring in the middle of this series of pros and cons of retiring in Hawai’i (or not) are here for a reason. After working your way through the first four, the pros and cons at in this post can and should cause one to pause and maybe even reevaluate whether or not to move all over again.

PRO: The warm weather and tropical climate of Hawai’i is very kind to aging bodies and bones, and conditions like arthritis. Temperatures average between 75°-85° on most parts of all the islands during the day, and rarely fall below 65° at night. Both Brett and I definitely notice a difference in how our bodies and bones feel here. I have arthritis in one knee (from a bad fracture years ago) and the Brett has mild arthritis in some of his joints. We have absolutely no symptoms at all while we we’re here; in fact, we forgot we even had arthritis until we started traveling back in 2018. Anecdotally, I know of elderly who have been able to reduce their use of medication that was necessary back on the mainland, and who are in better health than ever. The tropical climate also means there is quite a bit of humidity, which can drive me nuts, but it’s honestly nowhere near as bad as what we experienced living in the eastern U.S. and Japan (the humidity here is child’s play compared to those places). Year-round warm weather also means a year-round growing season, so (affordable) locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are always available, and it also means you can stay active year round as well.

CON: We call it the “paradise tax,” but everything costs more in Hawai’i. Everything (except maybe a trip to the beach). Although we save on income taxes, housing is more expensive than on the mainland, as are utilities (Kaua’i costs for electricity are the highest in the nation). Gasoline costs more. Food and medical costs are both expensive and also taxed (4%, although prescriptions are exempt) as Hawaii imposes a general excise tax versus a sales tax. All living expenses should be carefully investigated and evaluated before deciding whether a move to Hawai’i is feasible. The best means of keeping costs down in Hawaii is to not expect to live like on the mainland, but to learn to live like a local. That can mean changing habits, learning to eat new foods (and giving up old favorites), and practicing frugality at every turn.

I think the biggest reason Brett and I have succeeded here is because we w-a-y over-budgeted before we ever arrived. We researched rental costs for nearly a year to see what we could get for how much and where. We kept up with gasoline prices on the island, and food prices as well, and did our best to understand how much utilities would be. We made choices on where to live based on how a location would affect our budget. Once here, we learned over time where to shop and how to shop like a local (Costco, Walmart, Big Save, farmers’ markets and farm stands). We stuck with an economical small car and kept/keep our gasoline costs down. Our determination to live under our means in spite of the high cost of living here has provided us with a quality, healthy life using only our retirement income, and has allowed us to save, help our girls get through college, and enjoy travel out of the state and overseas. Living in Hawaii is expensive, but it can be doable.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 4)

One of our favorite parts of living in Hawaii is giving and receiving the Shaka. It can mean hello, thank you, take care, right on!, goodbye, but most of all . . . aloha. (photo credit: Kukui’ula)

Once we decided that we wanted to retire in Hawai’i, Brett and I began reading as much as we could about the state and living there as retirees. We also talked with as many different people as possible, those who were living on Kaua’i when we visited, or had previously lived in Hawai’i, to pick their brains about the best and worst of life in the islands. This week’s positive and negative reasons for retiring in Hawai’i are the two aspects that almost everyone spoke about or mentioned most often.

PRO: We have found that Hawai’i residents are, without exception, the friendliest people that we have ever encountered. From locals who were born and raised on the islands, to those who relocated years ago to recent residents, almost everyone we meet takes the time to talk with us (‘talk story’) and offer help when needed. Almost without exception, everyone we pass on our walks greets us, friends and strangers alike and asks about YaYu. Residents gave us tips on how to settle in, get involved and make friends, and let us know where volunteers were needed. We were told about the best hula instructors, where to learn ukulele, take cooking classes and so forth, but also the best markets to shop and find bargains, best places to eat, best places to visit. Aloha is something we read about, but to experience it is something else.

CON: Geographically speaking, the Hawaiian islands are one of the most isolated places on the planet, alone and surrounded on all sides by thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean. One of the most difficult adjustments new residents face is that distance from everything else, especially family and friends. Almost everyone we spoke with before we moved here told us the importance of budgeting in an amount every year for travel off the island you live on. Whether it’s to reinforce ties with family and friends back on the mainland or just to visit another one of the islands, everyone said it’s important to be able to “get away” somewhere once a year.

The spread of the virus has made it difficult to impossible for us to get away since we arrived back in March of 2020. Visits to Japan are off the table for the foreseeable future as they deal with their own surges and quarantines remain in place, and we haven’t felt any desire to return to the mainland. Savings goals have kept us from visiting another one of the islands. We’re looking forward to our daughters’ visits at Christmas this year, and to see other friends next month when they come to Kaua’i. In the meantime we stay hunkered down in order to stay healthy, but we do miss greatly being able to get away once in a while.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 3)

This week’s positive and negative factors for retiring in Hawai’i both concern housing. If you’re retiring and plan on buying a house, in spite of extremely high prices there is some good news; if you need specialized housing, the news is not so good.

PRO: Houses in Hawai’i are an extremely costly proposition these days. However, Hawaii property taxes are still fairly low (we are frankly amazed by how low they are in Hawaii compared to other states), and senior homeowners receive additional exemptions on their taxes. Back when we were considering buying, because our ages our annual property taxes would have only been around $150! Currently, all Hawaiian homeowners receive a $160,000 tax exemption on their home but seniors 60 and over receive the following exemptions.

  • $180,000 for ages 60 to 79.
  • $200,000 for age 80 and above

Every little bit helps!

The old Lihue theater has been refurbished and repurposed as low-income senior housing.

CON: Inexpensive elderly housing and assisted living can be difficult to find in Hawaii, especially if you need it sooner rather than later. Housing for seniors, government subsidized or otherwise, exists on most of the islands and as might be expected, most of it is in Honolulu. However, space in these places is limited, they can be costly, and it can take years to gain a spot in a government-subsidized housing facility. We know of three retirement/senior living facilities on Kauai, although there may be more. One is a full-scale retirement and assisted living center in Lihue. It is fairly new and is also very expensive. Another housing option for low-income retirees is the old Lihue theater, which has been remodeled and turned into subsidized one-bedroom apartments for seniors, a very clever way to save and utilize a historic building. There are income limits to qualify for one of these apartments, and our income is too high. Another senior housing complex exists in Kalaheo, near where we live, but we again have too high an income to qualify. I’ve recently seen openings advertised on Craigslist – when we lived here before I never once saw an ad – the only notice I ever saw was an announcement on the theater marquis.

In Hawaii, it’s very common for extended family to live together and manage care for elderly family members, possibly with help from the community. Continuing home health care is a frequently used option for seniors here, and Kapuna Care (kapuna = grandparent, ancestor, or honored elderly), funded by the State of Hawaii, allows seniors to stay in their homes and provides assistance with daily living activities. Other private companies and services exist as well to help elders remain in their homes or with family.

While not the only reason, current housing costs play a major role in our decision not to remain in Hawaii, as does the lack of options on Kaua’i for senior care, which may be needed in the future.

Retiring In Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 1)

It’s tempting to think of sunny weather, palm trees, ocean breezes and mai tais in the evening when contemplating retirement in Hawai’i. For Brett and I, the weather was probably the main factors in deciding to retire to the islands, but there are many other things about Hawai’i that work in its favor as a retirement location. However, there are also several other factors that are not so positive. While it’s easy to consider the good, the negative or not-so-good aspects of living on the islands must be honestly considered as well.

Before we relocated to Kaua’i in 2014, we did a lot of research. A LOT. One of the best resources we came across on relocating to and succeeding in Hawai’i was So You Want to Live in Hawai’i by Toni Polancy. Besides having loads of a great information about the ins and outs, ups and down of daily life in the state, the book also had a chapter on retirement, and outlined eight good reasons to retire in Hawai’i as well as eight good reasons NOT to retire in Hawai’i. All of these pros and cons were factors we weighed carefully before making our move to Kaua’i in 2014.

So You Want to Live in Hawai’i doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2010, but the general information presented in the book, for the most part, is still on point and worthwhile. I ran this seven-part series several years ago in a former blog, and in the coming weeks, I want to again present two points based on Toni’s list from the retirement chapter, one positive and one negative, and discuss where we how we have dealt with them.

  • PRO: Statistically, living in Hawai’i may add four more years to your life. You may also be thinner and more active in Hawai’i than you were on the mainland. Hawai’i has the fewest overweight people of any state. Those are statistics, but the (mostly) good weather and availability of outdoor activities mean that there is more potential to get out and stay active here year-round. The abundance and affordability of locally raised fruits and vegetables and the higher cost of food otherwise has turned out to mean we eat less of some things (like meat) than we might have in another location, but more fruits and vegetables overall. It’s truly easy to stay active here, whether that’s walking, swimming, hiking, doing yoga, or participating in other activities – we just want to be outside as much as possible! I honestly believe we’re in better health, and in better shape here than we would have been in any other location we considered.
  • CON: Although you’ll be living in paradise, once the initial thrill is gone it’s possible you’ll miss family and old friends more than you imagined. Loneliness is a major issue for many who move to Hawai’i, especially those who have grandchildren back on the mainland (or like us, in another country). The average stay for new residents is under two years, and loneliness is a major factor in many transplant’s decision to return to the mainland. We currently don’t live near any close relatives, nor do we see them frequently, and Hawai’i didn’t actually put us nearer to our son and his family as flights from Japan to Hawai’i are about the same length as flights were from Japan to Portland. Our distance from our family has been one of the most difficult aspects of living here for us but we have found ways to communicate frequently and keep up with each other. There have been no rose-colored glasses either when it comes to settling in and making new friends and connections here, or what we gave up leaving Portland. People are very friendly, here but it can take time to make friends and find your place in your community as locals have seen newcomers come and go for years and like to see first whether someone is committed to staying or not.

The B Word: Boredom

I did not think I would ever get to a place where I felt bored, not after the last few years anyway, and certainly not here on Kaua’i. But I woke up yesterday and realized that I was indeed bored. Very bored, in fact, and feeling a bit depressed as well.

Two months ago Brett and I were walking around and exploring our immediate neighborhood in Tokyo, discovering all sorts of new things right around the corner or just down the road from where we lived. We spent time with our family and felt like we were contributing something important. We were excited about our upcoming visit to Mexico, seeing Meiling in NYC, attending “Hamilton” on Broadway, and then heading on to WenYu’s graduation in Massachusetts. We are blessed and thankful to be healthy now, and safely back home again on Kaua’i, but I’m just beginning to realize what a shock it was to our system to have to have all the plans we had carefully put in place discarded and changed so abruptly.

The moving, shopping, and setting up our house is finished. No more packages are expected except for a spice order from Penzey’s, but I think YaYu is more excited about that than I am. The house is as set up as it can be until our shipment arrives, but there’s still been nothing happening with that. We walk most evenings, and although the view when we arrive at the beach never gets old, the walk itself sort of has. We’re stuck at the apartment almost every day unless we go for a walk or go food shopping but neither of those outings lasts very long. We do have a wonderful deck to relax on, and we thankfully all get along very well, even in our small space, and still seem to have plenty to talk about.

The potential was there though for me to mope, grow bitter, or even more bored, so I spent a good deal of yesterday reflecting on what I could do to change my attitude, as well as how to use my time more effectively to improve the situation. Just telling myself to snap out of it is not an option, and it’s still going to be a while before we can get together with friends or go to the beach. Our budget is going to be tight for the next couple of years as well so I have to deal with that as well.

After deciding on some things I could and wanted to do now, I decided to go back to my old card system, at least for a while, listing and checking off tasks to make sure the things get done every day and so that inertia doesn’t set in. I came up with six items for both mind, body, and the future:

  • Drink eight glasses of water every day
  • Walk 1.5 to 2 miles at least five times a week
  • Read for pleasure 45 minutes every day
  • Study Japanese for 20 minutes every day. YaYu and I signed up for a new online program called FluentU and will be doing it together.
  • Earn at least 50 Swagbucks a day. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I figured out that at an average of 50 SB a day for two years I can earn $400 in Southwest Airlines gift cards, which will help keep the cost of YaYu’s travel down as Southwest now flies to Hawaii.
  • Spend 45 minutes a day on future travel planning (because it’s fun).

The card system has worked very well for me in the past because I’m someone that once there’s a list in front of me, I have to check off all the things. The items on these cards are all small activities that won’t overwhelm the day but will keep me productive as well as motivated and moving toward future goals within the current situation we’re in. They’ll also give each day a bit more structure.

One other thing I’ve learned from my card system is that time seems to go a bit more quickly, and before I know it it’s time to fill out a new set. Fingers are crossed that’s the way it goes this time as well, and that in five weeks some changes will have occurred and some new habits set.

The World Turned Upside Down

We’re going home.

The U.S. State Department announced today that all overseas travelers should arrange for an immediate return to the United States unless they are prepared for an indefinite stay overseas. Since we cannot extend our visa, we are cutting our stay in Japan short and will return to Hawai’i on Monday. 

We have been scrambling all day to get our flight changed (Delta reps have been amazing), start packing, and put together the things we will be taking over to our son’s. Our rent here was due today, but our landlord appears to be out of town, so we will be exchanging the yen back to dollars; our DIL will work with the landlord if there will be anything still owed.

We are returning to Kaua’i, and after a two-week self-quarantine at a condo we rented through Airbnb we will hopefully be able to begin to look for a place to live and get started on getting ourselves resettled there. YaYu will be staying in her dorm for now, but we are prepared to fly her to Kaua’i immediately if and when the dorms close.

I have been crying ever since we got the news. The grandkids have not been informed yet that we are leaving, but we’re going to take them to a toy store tomorrow and let them both pick out their birthday presents for the year (our grandson’s 9th birthday is a week from tomorrow). We’ll have dinner with them before coming home and continuing to pack, and then spend the day with them again on Sunday. They have promised to come to Hawai’i as soon as international travel is feasible again.

What a crazy time this is. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve made plans and then had to change or cancel them in the last couple of days. Every time we have tried to get out in front of this pandemic, things have changed before we even have time to catch our breath it seems. At least we are well, and our family is well, but we want to do what’s best for everyone else in the U.S. and ultimately for our family. We will be OK. We have enough in savings to get ourselves set up again on Kaua’i, including getting our stuff that’s been in storage shipped back over. There have been 26 reported cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii (two on Kaua’i), and the island is on a partial curfew as I write. They are moving to a full shutdown though, so we want to get in and get settled as soon as possible.

What a time we’ve had though! Our traveling days are not done, but we’re going to take a break, get through this pandemic, get YaYu through college, and then hopefully hit the road again although not full time. Thanks to all of my wonderful readers for sticking with us all these years.

I’ll post again after we get resettled on Kaua’i.

P.S. Our mystery destination was San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

 

#Kauai: Bucket List Progress Report

 

The view of Kipu Kai beach, the last stop on the ATV tour, did not disappoint!

With just three months left to go before we set off on our Big Adventure, I figured this was a good time to check our Kaua’i bucket list and see how we’re doing.

Experiences:

  • Rent a beach cottage for a couple of nights at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, to enjoy the beach and experience the gorgeous sunsets. We have reservations for a two-night stay in early July. We have a two-bedroom cottage, so YaYu is going to bring a friend along.
  • Hike Waimea Canyon. Brett, YaYu and her friend will hike somewhere in the canyon while we’re staying at the PMRF cottages.

    Brett, YaYu and her friend will have several trails to choose from for a hike in Waimea Canyon.
  • Hike the Wai Koa Loop/Stone Dam trail. The trail and the dam were destroyed during the April flooding, and are currently still closed. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do this or not, but I’ve heard rumors the trail may be open again later this summer, but I doubt it will be as beautiful as it once was. Even if I don’t get to go, I’m grateful that Brett and the girls had the opportunity.
  • Take an ATV tour out to Kipu Kai Ranch This was so much fun – Brett and I did it in April with our friend Denise, and it lived up to the hype.
  • Get up early and hike out to watch the sunrise from the Pineapple Dump. We’re going to do this after we move over to the condo in late July.
  • Take the tubing adventure tour. I did this with my grandson and daughter-in-law, and it was very fun and total worth going. I highly recommend!
  • Visit the Kaua’i Museum in Lihue. Another activity we plan to do after we’re staying at the condo.
  • Tour the Limahuli Gardens & Preserve. The garden, located on the north shore, was severely damaged during the April floods and remains closed. Actually, I don’t even think anyone can even get there any more because of damage to the roads.

    Flood damage at Limahuli Garden

Food:

  • Celebrate our anniversary this year at Duke’s Kaua’i. Brett and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here: great food, a terrific view and a HUGE complementary slice of their famous Hula Pie!

    dea4ae67c4ddc178ef21d801225c8f54
    We were seated at the table on the left and enjoyed this same stunning view.
  • Have a lunch date at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler. Another nice outing earlier this spring, and we enjoyed our lunch.
  • Have dinner at The Eating House 1849. We are planning to take YaYu with us to eat here the night before we depart Kaua’i – we think it will be a great ending to our time on the island –  and at Bar Acuda in Hanalei. We’re currently undecided about this. Not that it isn’t good, but will we have the time and $$$?
  • Try breadfruit. Glad we got to do this with WenYu – she loved breadfruit! We all thought it was delicious. WenYu ate hers with butter and syrup.

Off-Island:

  • Make an overnight visit to the Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park. We have flight reservations over to the Big Island for late June, and a reservation at the Kilauea Military Camp, but the camp is closed indefinitely due to volcanic eruptions, and the whole trip could end up being cancelled depending on what’s going on with the volcano at the time of our trip. If we go but can’t visit the park, we’ll drive from Hilo up the east side of the island and around the top and down to Kailua-Kona for the night, making stops along the way, and then go back the same way the next day.

This doesn’t make me eager to visit the Big Island.

Out of fourteen items on our list, we’ve accomplished five of them, have reservations and/or dates for six, one has had to be cancelled because of the floods, one is an unknown, and we’re undecided about one. Not bad!

Forever Nomads (Well, Occasionally)

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi

The other day our son commented that while he thought we were crazy to come here four years ago he was happy things had turned out so well, especially for his sisters. He went on to let us know where he thought we should consider living once the Big Adventure ends, and why.

His comments and suggestions got us thinking about moving once again to a place we’ve never lived before and starting over. Brett and I have been asking ourselves for a while if we’re really willing to do that again, or would it just be safer/easier to come back to Kaua’i at the end of the Big Adventure. It’s been the hot topic of conversation between the two of us for several days now, and a more difficult question to answer than we imagined. But, we know our son has a unique perspective – he’s known us longer than anyone – and is watching us grow older in a different way than his sisters are, mainly because he’s older and at a different place in life than they are. We have been listening carefully to what he has to say this time and what he suggests and why.

Our experience on Kaua’i has been overwhelmingly positive, especially for our children. Both WenYu and YaYu blossomed here, and had many more opportunities to shine than they would have in their school back on the mainland. Their life back on the mainland would have also been far more competitive and materialistic than it’s been here, and life on Kaua’i has given each of them the opportunity to experience and absorb the concepts and ethics of aloha and ohana, which will stay with them always. Moving with the girls has made our experience here a better one for us.

Going forward though it’s pretty much just going to be Brett and me. Like everywhere else, Kaua’i is growing more expensive with the cost of living here climbing higher and higher. In the four years we’ve been here the changes are noticeable, and unfortunately more negative than not. We know the girls would visit us here over the holidays no matter what, but we realize those visits are going to be happening with less frequency as they each segue from college to working, marriage and perhaps children. Our son and family would also still visit, but those trips will be harder to make as their children grow older. We know that it will be easier for us to see the girls if we settle on the mainland, and it will be just as easy, and more likely, for our son and family to fly to the mainland as well.

After thinking about and discussing the points our son has made, and talking with each other about what we want going forward, Brett and I have decided we are willing to move somewhere new once again. We did it over and over when Brett was in the navy, we successfully made the move over here, and we feel we can do it once again. We’re still vagabonds at heart, and will forever be nomads of some sort, even if that’s only occasionally.

This past March I wrote about the things we would be looking for if we choose to settle in a new location including cost of living, taxes, walkability, culture, health care, travel & transportation, and weather. We’ve been looking at that list again this past week and have found that our priorities have changed a bit from when we first made the list. For example, walkability has moved up to the top of the list. We very much don’t want to own a car again if at all possible. In the four years we’ve lived here we’ve had to get in our car to go or do anything, and it’s gotten old. Although we love the slower lifestyle here on the island, we also frankly miss urban living. We ‘d like to be able to walk to buy groceries, visit parks, coffee shops or restaurants, and have access to more cultural events. Staying as mobile and active as possible is very important to both of us as we age further.

We have absolutely no regrets about coming to Kaua’i, and the past four years have been more wonderful than we dreamed. But, as much as we love our life here we realize it’s time again to try something different. We’ve sort of decided where we’ll go, and are at the beginning of planning for that. Travel will definitely remain part of the picture. Nothing is far enough along right now to announce anything, but you’ll all be some of the first to know when the time is right!