Three Years: The Bad, The Good & The Sublime

It doesn’t get any better than palm trees and rainbows.

This month marks the beginning of our fourth year on Kaua’i. It’s almost a cliché to say it, but it both seems like it was only yesterday that we were scrambling back in Portland to sell our house and make our move, while at the same time feeling like we’ve been here for far longer than three years.

Has it been perfect? No, because nothing ever is. Still the good and the sublime far outweigh the bad we’ve experienced since our move.

Beautiful but annoying

Here’s how things look after three years on Kauai:

The Bad:

  • Humidity: As I wrote just a short time ago, I’m not sure I will ever adjust. When it’s bad, I’m miserable.
  • Bugs: Hawai’i is Bug Central. We do pretty well inside our house keeping the critters out, but they are still always with us: mosquitos, centipedes, giant cockroaches, ants, spiders and other small flying things.
  • Dust: Keeping up with the dust here is a daily struggle.
  • Chickens/roosters: They’ve grown on me in some ways (some of the roosters are positively gorgeous) and they eat lots of bugs, but they have torn up everything we’ve planted in the yard, and can be incredibly loud and annoying at times. I guess I just wish there were fewer of them.
  • Frogs: There are poisonous toads (bufo) here and they give me the willies. Thankfully they only come out at night when I’m safely inside, and they too eat bugs. Still, they’re a giant ick factor for me.
  • It’s expensive: We prepared ourselves for the higher cost of living here, and are managing fine, but food, housing, airline flights, etc. are still more here than elsewhere – prices can still be a shock at times.

    One of our favorite farmers at the Kapaa market – we stop by her stand every week

The Good:

  • Farmers’ markets: The abundance of fresh, locally grown, affordable produce has meant we are eating more fruits and vegetables than in the past, and paying less for them.
  • Hawaiian-style: We absolutely love the Hawaiian spin on things, especially the way food is prepared using or substituting local ingredients.
  • It’s casual: Every day is casual Friday here. Really, no one cares what you wear, or what your nails look like, or what kind of purse you’re carrying. No one cares about your car either.
  • Our girls’ experiences: None of our girls wanted to move here, and although Meiling returned back to the mainland shortly after we arrived, WenYu now says moving here was the best thing to happen for her, and YaYu concurs. They have thrived here on the island. All three consider Kaua’i home now.
  • No snakes: It took me almost a year to accept that there are no snakes, poisonous or otherwise, on this tropical island; in the whole state actually. Yeah for no snakes!
  • The expense: While this is one of the not-so-good things about living here, it’s also helped us hone our frugal skills much more than we might have otherwise.
  • Manageability: Although there aren’t loads of stores or shopping opportunities like in other places, and we’ll never get a Trader Joe’s, we have everything we need here, and it’s easy to get to them. The island is just the right size (for us).

    My all-time favorite island view

The Sublime:

  • The slow pace: The slower way of life here suits us perfectly. Everything gets done, but there’s little to no sense of underlying urgency. Feeling stressed is a rare thing these days.
  • The green: There’s a reason Kaua’i is called ‘The Garden Island’ – it’s beautiful, lush and green all year round.
  • The weather: This was the main reason for our move here, and we have not been disappointed. Yes, it rains and can get very humid, but most of the time it is warm, sunny and the trade winds keep it comfortable.
  • The ocean: I love that I can see the ocean every day, and experience its wonders, from crashing waves to spectacular vistas with colors transitioning from clear turquoise to deep, dark blue. And, there are seals, dolphins, big turtles and leaping whales to observe. There is nothing more invigorating than an hour or so under the umbrella at the beach, even if I don’t make it into the water.
  • The moon and the stars: There aren’t words to describe how beautiful the night sky is here. Because there’s no ambient light to dull the view, stars literally blanket the sky. The full moon here shines like a spotlight.
  • Sunrise, sunset: One word: breathtaking. Almost every day.
  • Diversity: Hawai’i is well-known for its population diversity – it’s a daily fact of life here – but we also experience other types of diversity as well. Even a small island like Kaua’i has multiple micro-climates, so a trip to the north shore or the west side of the island means different foliage and temperatures than we have here on the east side. The local culture is also different depending on which part of the island you’re on.
  • The aloha spirit: There is a genuine friendliness here that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in the U.S. Aloha means sharing, living in the present, caring for others and the land, and enjoying life and feeling joy, and we experience these things every day in our interactions with others (even though most locals still think we’re tourists).

Here’s to three wonderful years – lucky we live Hawai’i!

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8 thoughts on “Three Years: The Bad, The Good & The Sublime

  1. Hawaii Planner says:

    I can’t believe it’s been three years. So very exciting to see all of the changes in your life over that period of time. I think those are very tradeoffs to make. We are on the fence for our post-kids out of the house move. We could always stay where we are (love the location, but incredibly expensive), Hawaii is on our short list as well (but, travel distance as my parents age), and have also considered places like Napa. Still great weather, but less expensive. We’ll see where we net out.

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    • Laura says:

      I know – in some ways it feels like we’ve been a lot longer, but we can still clearly remember getting everything ready for the move.

      I think if we were closer to our families, or had parents that were aging, we probably wouldn’t have moved here. But we don’t, so coming here made sense for us, even with having to upend the girls’ lives at the time. But, it has turned out to be a positive for all of us, which was something we couldn’t be sure of at the time.

      We seriously looked at California for retirement, but the housing costs and taxes made it unaffordable.

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  2. Laurel says:

    Great synopsis. Your list of the good and the sublime really outweigh the bad IMHO. Of course, I’m not the one dealing with the bad, but it sounds manageable.

    Your post made me think of what I like and dislike about our current home/location in the Midwest. When we bought our house, I hated the lack of technology (we had only dial up as an internet option!), but that was solved with fiber optic which changed my life. The only other thing I struggled with was the well water that is as hard as anything can be and still flow. We put in a water system and a reverse osmosis system for drinking and cooking. It’s bearable, although I still prefer the water pretty much everywhere else. Otherwise, I have no complaints and a lot that I love.

    Here’s to many more happy years in paradise for you and your family!

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    • Laura says:

      I think the secret to be happy wherever you are is to focus on the positive. There are always going to be negatives, but if you let them drive your thinking you’ll never be happy anywhere. We got lots of good training when Brett was in the navy, and we had to move so often. We decided we’d rather be happy and find what was enjoyable about our location rather than whine and suffer for two to three years.

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    • Laura says:

      I only wish it were less expensive to fly out of here – flights out of Honolulu to Japan cost more than they do from the mainland, and we still have to add in our flights to and from Honolulu. It doesn’t stop us from traveling, but it’s something that always has to be taken into consideration.

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  3. quesoit1 says:

    Congrats on your three years in Hawai’i. I’m sure things worked out so well overall because you did your due diligence (and then some), before making the move, and because you focus on the positive and roll with the punches.

    If you haven’t already seen it, I thought you might like this collaborative version of “Hawai’i Aloha” by Playing for Change. It expresses that aloha spirit. And it includes some performers recorded on Kau’ai!

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  4. Laura says:

    Lovely video, beautiful song. I recognized a couple of the places on Kaua’i (JoJo’s! Anahola!), but the whole thing was wonderful to watch – thank you!

    All that research we did before our move has paid off in spades. We knew up to a point what we were getting into, and after that said we would just roll with what happened when it happened.

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