Moving to Hawaii: For many of us, it’s the stuff of dreams—whiling away the hours with a life of trade winds, sunny beaches and endless mai tais.
Sure, Hawaii is all of those cliches, but it’s so much more than that.
For people seriously contemplating a move to the islands, there’s are many factors to consider.
We had a chance to sit down with Julie Ziemelis, author of the upcoming book “How To Move To Kona.” With her husband and two kids, she did just that a couple of years ago.
Ziemelis and her family chose Kona on the Big Island for their move from the suburbs of San Francisco. They preferred the more holistic environment there, over the other islands. It’s far removed from the big city atmosphere of Oahu—not to mention the Honolulu traffic, which is some of the most congested in America.
“When we first thought about moving to Kona, it all seemed like kind of a fantasy,” she said. “We had envisioned a never-ending happy hour or that we’d be living like Jimmy Buffett. We learned pretty quickly that it’s not like that at all. You can’t come to Hawaii, spend a couple of weeks and think you’re ready to move here.”
They loved Kona for its “less is more” mindset; it was kind of like moving to a farm in the middle of the ocean. They loved that it was a place that made them want to give back, both to the Earth and to the community.
What they hadn’t considered was the island’s culture and how it would affect their lives.
“The islands are dominated by a population that’s been there for generations,” Ziemelis emphasized. “Often, the people who live in Hawaii are distrusting of those they see as outsiders. Jobs are few—especially those that are high-paying—and they often go to family members or friends of the people who have been here the longest. That was a hard pill to swallow.”
Moving to Hawaii also is a pretty expensive venture: It’s an expensive place to live, and it’s an expensive place to ship your worldly possessions.
“When you’re moving to the islands, you have to have a plan,” she cautioned. “You have to know where you want to live—on which island—and put real thought into finding a home. The rental market here, like the job market, is very tight, so finding a place isn’t as easy as it is on the mainland.”
Ziemielis noted some differences in the various islands, too:
She added, however, for all her words of caution, that moving to Hawaii has been one of the most gratifying decisions of her life.
“We came here to focus on life,” Ziemelis said. “We love the islands’ feeling of ‘ohana—that’s Hawaiian for ‘family’. We love that we live inside a picture postcard. For us, it’s paradise.”
So if you’re considering that move to Hawaii, do your homework. Think about where you want to be and why.
If you do that, you might just find your own paradise, too.