Lucky to live Kaua’i! (all the above photos come from Unsplash/Kauai)
I almost don’t know where to begin with how different living on Kaua’i has been for us this time. We spent our four previous years discovering the island, enjoying the weather, beaches, and the people, and getting two of our three daughters through high school and on to college. We had lots to learn and adapt to, like figuring out how and where to shop for everything and what things cost here (the real cost) but the laid-back and friendly lifestyle fit us well. It wasn’t perfect though: after living in a low-humidity location for nearly 25 years the humidity on Kaua’i about drove me mad. Still, the island grew on us, and when we left on our Big Adventure in 2018 big parts of our hearts were left behind.
At that time, we honestly didn’t think we’d be back for a variety of reasons. We felt somewhat discouraged with our life here when we left, but realize now that was mostly restlessness after 40 years of raising children. Brett and I wanted to do something big and different with our life as empty nesters, and with YaYu heading to college we grabbed our chance. We were honestly (and pleasantly) surprised when our daughters suggested we move back when we finished traveling, and also surprised by how homesick we felt for the island when we visited again in early 2020.
Brett and I love living on Kaua’i again, and are so grateful now that we were encouraged to return. We’ve been safe here from the COVID pandemic, although with the return of tourists and increased inter-island travel the number of cases is rising again, so we’re starting to get a little anxious about how this turns out. However, with the changes we’ve made this time, aspects of island living that were discouraging before are no longer an issue:
The five points listed below were the things that wore us down during our first four years on Kaua’i. For a variety of reasons, all of these have been turned around this time, and we couldn’t be happier and more satisfied with our current life. I’ve highlighted the changes in blue.
- Our daughters’ schedules: Brett’s and my lives were completely organized around WenYu’s and YaYu’s schedules before, and all the activities they were involved in from sports to clubs to community service to their social lives. It was extremely difficult for us to put together a quick trip to the beach because of their packed schedules, let alone go shopping or out to have lunch, or even take a walk or enjoy other aspects of island life. We understood the need for their involvement and supported all they did, but we still felt very constrained and very frustrated at times, and it clouded our entire island experience. While we miss our girls, being able to live on our own schedule has made a HUGE difference. The pandemic has kept us close to home for the most part, but it’s wonderful knowing that each day is our own to unfold how ever we like. We feel relaxed these days, and enjoy operating on “island time.”
- Traffic: Living on the east side of the island, in Kapaa, meant that we had to deal with standstill traffic every time we went out to shop for food, or go to the dentist or any other appointment south of us. When we arrived on Kaua’i in 2014, it took us approximately 15 minutes to reach Lihue but by the time we left we had to give ourselves a cushion of about 45 minutes. It was miserable. While traffic was not an issue during the pandemic restrictions, it’s returned right along with the visitors. Relocating to the south side of the island versus back to the east side has been one of the best choices we made this time. We live further away from Costco and Lihue, but can get there in less than half the time it took us to drive from Kapaa, even with the return of visitors. We otherwise have everything we need right in our area. We also love being so close to the west side of the island and the Barking Sands base, which use to be nearly a two-hour drive from our home in Kapaa. We always thought of the south side as being sort of dry, and full of tourists, but it’s actually quite lush where we are, and it’s easy to avoid the heavily trafficked tourist areas. With lovely breezes nearly year-round and good airflow through our apartment, humidity has been much less of an issue as well.
- Dust: Dusting was already my least favorite chore when we moved here in 2014, and on the east side, every day we dealt with heavy amounts of dust and dirt, from who knows where. We had no idea that such a small island in the middle of the ocean could produce so much dirt! I hated it. I don’t know if it’s because our little apartment now is located at the back of the building away from the street or if it’s something else, but we get very, very little dust back here other than the “regular” stuff.
- Noise: We lived in two different neighborhoods during our previous four years (both in Kapaa) and the noise was awful. Dogs barked around the clock, roosters and chickens were a constant presence in our yards and crowed or squawked all day and all night as well. We had noisy neighbors that yelled, drove loud cars, threw noisy parties, or were always running their noisy lawnmowers, leaf blowers, or saws at all hours of the day. We knew about the potential noise issue before we moved over here but even though we are pretty patient people it beat us down over time. Our current location is extremely quiet. Our neighbors are quiet. I think we’ve seen less than five chickens in our yard since we moved here and I can’t think of the last time I heard a dog bark although there are plenty in the neighborhood. I can be up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours and not hear a rooster crowing somewhere which I still find amazing. The quiet has made a huge difference in our sleep and mental well-being.
- Crazy landlords: Probably the most discouraging part of our previous stay was our landlords. We discovered we liked renting, but struck out twice in this part of the deal. The first wasn’t as bad as the second, but that’s because I don’t think anyone could have been. The houses we lived in worked for us, although both were very uncomfortable when it turned hot and humid due to design issues and a lack of airflow through the houses. The landlords, especially the second one, made living in each one a nightmare at times, especially when it was time to move out and on. We have a dream landlord this time – we never hear from him or see him unless absolutely necessary, but he makes sure the property is kept up and things work like they’re supposed to. The rent is reasonable, and we don’t feel like we’re being gouged like we did before. J is an all-around nice guy, born and raised on the island, and absolutely night and day different from the landlord from hell we had to deal with last time.
No place is truly ever perfect, but Kaua’i seems to be for us this time around. Although we feel very isolated from our family, housing costs are astronomical, and food and gas prices are climbing, Kaua’i is still the right place for us to be now, and we have a hard time imagining living anywhere else (and we’ve tried). The island remains incredibly beautiful, and the locals, weekly farmers’ markets, and (mostly) good weather make life here worthwhile. The humidity still has the potential to drive me crazy, but we now live in a place that gets cooling breezes and that has made a huge difference. Leaving before, even though we felt discouraged and were looking forward to traveling the world, was still difficult, and we already know this time is going to be a whole lot harder.