- "We can
really understand why young folks don't want to live in Hawaii.
There's just nothing to do here!" We hear this all the time.
We even hear it when we tell folks that our own kids, four young
adults all in their 30s, don't want to come visit, have no interest
in being in Hawaii and for sure would never want to live here.
"Nothing to do here" is always the reason.
- We do have some
trouble trying to figure out why not even one of our kids likes
it here. Seems like a lot of city folks really don't much care
where they live as long as they have a job. My son's reply is
that he needs to live where the money is. He lives in the SF
Bay Area, a place that enjoys one of the highest costs of living
in the country. But even the fact that he could live comfortably
here on half of the salary he's getting now won't inspire him
to consider living here. He graduated from high school here and
almost immediately left for SF, and "the money." He
loves that kind of energy.
- Another of our
kids just likes it over there where it's only five minutes to
a bewildering assortment of fast-food places, and of course the
malls. The grandkids love the malls.
- So what, exactly
is there to do here for young folks? Well, we know a few of them
quite well and all they wish for is more hours in the day so
they could do even half of all the stuff they're into. For those
interested in nature, science, oceanography, biology, comparative
cultures, art, theater, or any number of myriad outdoor activities,
there is no end of opportunities for things to do. For outdoor-inclined
people, the recreational opportunities seem to us, anyway, to
go far beyond what's available in most mainland places.
It's long been a fact of life here than if you know how to do
anything well and have some integrity and a passion for what
you do, you will have more work than you can handle. The caveat
is that if you're looking for a straight job, maybe one like
you left behind on the mainland, you might be looking for a long
time. The thing that is needed here is skills. Labor is cheap
here and there's lots of it available. The people who do remarkably
well here are those who can find a need and fill it. If you have
any amount of entrepreneurial spirit and a good work ethic, you're
- I first came
here when I was in 1972. I was 35, and I was one of those who
knew with my first breath of Hawaii air that I had come home.
From that day on, I have never, ever felt like my activities
were limited by my Island Life. I did move back to the mainland
three years later and didn't come back for good until 1993. The
reason was that in '72, I was living on Oahu where the cost of
living meets or exceeds all of the rumors we hear about the insane
cost of living in Hawaii. I made several trips to the Big Island
in those days, but never stopped to check on housing prices there.
I assumed that hey, it's all Hawaii, so it must be about the
same there. Had I stopped to ask, I would have never gone back.
- I was living
in a tiny house on the Windward side of Oahu that was for sale
- Back then, it
might as well have been $9 million as far as my finances were
concerned. The business I had going on then fell apart and I
could no longer afford to live on Oahu, so I went back to California,
then on to Oregon, where I stayed until 1993. It was on the way
home from a trip to New Zealand when my flight stopped over in
Honolulu and I decided to delay the mainland leg of the trip
a few days so I could visit a friend on the Big Island.
- Turns out, this
friend's sister was a Realtor. She was at my friend's house when
I got there and of course, as happens when one talks to a Realtor,
the talk got around to real estate. I related the above sad story
to her and she told me about how you could buy a nice house here
for around $100K. I said, "Yeah, right,"
- She asked if
I would like to see a few the next day and I said sure, so the
next morning she showed me five places priced from just under
$100K to about $150K. I was BLOWN AWAY!
- One of these
homes was a beautiful five-year-old home on a beautifully landscaped
acre of tropical forest. It had a 500' long, curvy, palm-lined
driveway going up to a turn-around in front of the house. In
back was a 1200 sq. ft. shop! I'm a shop kind of guy all the
way. I bought the house right then and there, and two months
later I was living there. Awesome!
- The thing that's
hard for me to get my head around is the perceived distinction
between what young people want to do and what older people want
to do. One of the things I've always loved about living here
is that there seem to be no real boundaries between young and
old, rich and poor, or even all our different cultures. Go to
just about any event here and everybody is represented. At the
beach, kayaking, cycling, hiking, theater venues, dance classes,
cultural events, Harley clubs, churches, art classes, even university
classes, everybody is represented. Age doesn't matter.
- We have lots
of wonderful theater happenings here and it is so good to see
"actors" of all ages, from two to eighty-two (literally)
on stage. Every weekend all our many beach parks are filled with
happy beach-goers. There are families, college kids, old folks,
really old folks, and of every skin-color we can come up with
here. And you know what? Everybody gets along! Everybody shows
respect for others. Everybody takes care of each other. It is
like nowhere else I've even been.
- So what to these
young folks who are so terminally bored here "do" on
the mainland? About the only things I hear about are huge concerts,
lots of choices in pubs and night-life venues, and of course,
the ability to jump in the car and drive to anywhere in the country.
- But then when
we ask some of these folks, uh, like our kids, what have you
done in the last year that was something you could not have done
here, we get mostly that they're so busy working overtime to
pay the bills that there's no time left for anything else.
- Well, as I pointed
out in the entire chapter in the book devoted to the topic, Hawaii
is definitely not everyone's paradise. It is my feeling after
all my years here that it isn't age that matters. Some love the
feeling that is pervasive here, to others it simply doesn't work.
To me, sweet little Hilo Town reminds me every day of my old
home town of Berkeley, back in the sweet, gentle 50s when I was
fortunate enough to have been raised there. From that upbringing,
I got used to living among all kinds of people. To me, living
on the Big Island, where everybody is a minority, feels right.
When I visit the mainland where I am among about 90% Caucasians,
I feel out of place; out of my comfort zone. To others, it is
just the other way around.
- And this is
- There are the
visitors who say they could not live here because they like going
to the opera. When I ask when was their last opera experience,
they say, it's more about being able to go than actually going.
Well, if you're going that infrequently, then do an Island hop
and go to the opera in Honolulu. It's a big deal there.
- Another item
some folks say they miss is being able to go to any number of
shopping malls. We have a big mall here in Hilo; the only one
on the Island. I avoid it like the plague. Way too mainland for
me, and I'm not alone in that feeling. The mall is mostly deserted
because, this is my feeling, people prefer to go to stores for
what they want rather than walk down the sterile hallways of
a mall listening to canned music.
- The bottom line
is that I do not believe age to be the determining factor in
whether or not there are "enough things to do" here.
The young people who thrive here and would live nowhere else
are testament to this. They are fully involved, participating
in their communities, and having the time of their lives. There
are just as many old folks who are out of their comfort zone
- To thrive here,
you have to feel good in a society where people care about each
other. It is expected of you to give back to your community,
to participate and be a part of it all. People here will stop
in traffic to let you into the flow. It is just a part of life
here. It's never the "me first" attitude pervasive
on the mainland. It's called aloha.
- People help
each other out. Elders are respected by everyone and not shuttled
off into a home and forgotten. They remain a viable part of the
family and of the community. When someone takes a spill on a
sidewalk, the first one to get there helps out. Others help out.
It would never happen that somebody could take a spill and passers
by would just pass by pretending they didn't notice. It's called
- It doesn't matter
if you're rich or poor here. In the first place, usually nobody
would ever even know, because it is so not part of the culture
to demonstrate one's position in life by sporting around in an
expensive car or in expensive clothes. Sure, there are some here
who do that, but in most cases they are the recently-arrived
folks from the mainland who haven't yet figured it out. Here,
you'll get to know a neighbor who drives an old rusty pickup
and maybe ten years later you'll find out somehow that this guy
is a Ph.D. of considerable wealth. It was never important to
him to let you know. Here, it's what is real that counts, not
what you wear or drive.
- OK, this is
rambling a bit, so I will close with a recap of my original thought:
Age is not the determining factor in whether or not one will
be at home in the Islands. There are young folks here who every
moment of the day feel blessed to be here. There are old folks
here who feel the same. There are young and old folks who wouldn't
live here if you paid them. Fortunately for everyone, they usually
don't stay long and the rest of us get to buy all their great
stuff at the garage sale when they leave.
- Aloha Nui Loa!
- You are also
welcome to check in to the Affordable Paradise
Blog and respond to this article and to talk story
about your concerns. You can read some of the many postings there
and learn from the conversations of others, too. You can also
go on konaweb.com and punaweb.org and either participate in the
discussions or just eavesdrop for a while!
- We wish you
all the best, and never forget to
Thomsen & Ohana