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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#Kauai – Things I See on My Walks

Daily walks are a fact of life following our recent trip to Japan—I never want to be so out  of shape in another country again. To keep it fairly mudless, I decided to walk sections of Ke Ala Hele Makalae (The Path that Goes by the Coast) from Kapa‘a to Kealia to Paliku Beach, also known as Donkeys Beach. The one-way distance from Kapa‘a Community Center to the north end of the path is about 3.4 miles, and Kealia Beach is a nice midway turnaround.

Sunrise, April 17, 2017, Kapaa

Sunrise at Kapa’a Community Center

So, over the past month I’ve walked at least one hour each day at 3–3.5 mph (5–5.5 kmh) while observing tide changes as well as familiar and unfamiliar scenery along the way. When conditions are just perfect following a good rain one can see Wai‘ale‘ale and Makaleha Falls from the north end of town; on days like this, you just know that they’re out there.

Manicured Hedge & Makaleha Mountains

Manicured hedge & Makaleha mountains from Kapa’a

Just over that hedge is the north end of the Kauai Products Fair, a kitschy little tourist trap. The path overlays the roadbed of the former Ahukini Terminal & Railway company right of way, and thus features many of the elements one might expect to see on a train ride. Below is a shot taken within the cut at the summit between Kapa’a town and Kealia. I took this shot not only to reveal the striations in the soil but the various wildflowers growing along the top and left face of the cut. The fence in the foreground is to catch falling rocks—a recurrent hazard along the path.

Creeping Vegetation and Slide Fence

Creeping Vegetation and Slide Fence

Just beyond the crest, the landscape and flora change rapidly. Here, overlooking the mouth of Kapa‘a Stream are plants that look like they were plucked from the Sonoran Desert. They are growing out of inhospitable rocks, but as the soil improves downslope, they give way to the usual and customary specimens.

South Kealia Beach

Looking down to Kealia Beach from the Little Cut

One morning I was fortunate enough to glimpse Makaleha Falls, looking west at the intersection of Mailihuna Rd and Kuhio Highway (56) near the mouth of Kapa‘a Stream. That photo bomber at left center was a Nene, the indigenous goose, I believe.

Makaleha from Kealia

Makaleha Falls from Kealia

Typically, at low tide the scene from the north end of the bridge, looking south, resembles the one at left. For the first time since we moved here I caught the windless shot at right. The old railroad cut is evident in the background and clearly illustrates the effect of the prevailing wind on plants along the coast.

I often park at Kealia Beach because it expands my options for going north or south, or a little of both if it suits me, and that variety helps keep the walks interesting. Other days, I walk up from the house, and down Mailihuna Rd and cross Kuhio Highway at the north end of Kealia Beach, then head back to town, and home via Kawaihau Rd. Below, the Kealia Lifeguard Station, as seen through the windshield from the parking lot.

Lifeguard Station

Lifeguard station at Kealia Beach

Proceeding north out of Kealia, both wind and ocean, deafening at times, are constant companions.This shot was taken about halfway between Kealia and the Pineapple Dump.

Pathway north of Kealia Beach

Beyond the 2.0 mile mark, north of Kealia Beach

Next stop: the Pineapple Dump. Once upon a time, the sugar trains were idled only on Sundays, and an engine and side dump cars were made available to the cannery at Kapa‘a. Pineapple tops were hauled out onto the little pier, tipped and emptied into the ocean to be carried far away. Sometimes the tides and wind were not so favorable and the tailings were slammed back into town along the beach, and the smell was… awful, so I’m told.

Pineapple Dump at the Horizon

Pineapple Dump at the horizon

Looking back on the Pineapple Dump, and on the way to Donkeys Beach. Again, the direction of the prevailing winds is easily distinguished by the habit of the trees and shrubs hugging the coast.

Pineapple Dump from the North

Farewell to the Pineapple Dump: going north

Stopping to study another planet, or so it seems from the random distribution of stones on all but lifeless red dirt.

Red Scabland - Like Craters of Mars

Red scabland – like craters on Mars

Further along, I encountered what looks like a nursery for table rocks. Yes, if you have a state or national park and are seeking table rocks for your collection, this may be where they’re born and raised.

Tropic Table Rocks

Tropic table rocks

“Reindeer Slug,” the first thing that came to mind when I looked up and saw this old snag lying on the ground. We do have some pretty big slugs and snails here.

Whitenend Fallen Tree by the sea

Reindeer Slug

Even weeds are special here. I cannot identify them all, but enjoy them nonetheless. Three or four varieties of morning glories thrive on and off the path, some low ground cover that looks rather more glacial than tropical, and here and there so hardy bright yellow flowers.

There you have it then, 3.4 miles in what, 20 minutes? You’re fast! There are many more plants, people, and other animals to see along the path, but my objective was to cover a considerable distance as quickly as possible, exercise that is, so whether you live here, or you’re just visiting, take a hike; have a look.

Happy To Be Home Again

The sunset out over Hawai'i from the plane window

Heading to the  sunset out over Hawai’i. The clouds in the distance are from two hurricanes approaching the islands.

I arrived home after a very, very long and tiring travel day yesterday and am so happy to be back. My suitcase has been unpacked, the washing machine is doing its thing, and Brett and I will be heading off to the farmer’s market in a short while (we’ll do our big Costco shop tomorrow). It’s hot and humid here, but after all the dry air I encountered while I was gone, it feels wonderful.

The entire trip was a total success, but it was totally exhausting as well. I suffered from jet lag the entire time I was gone – I could never quiet adjust to where I was. Four of the eight days of the trip were spent flying to one destination or another or waiting in airports. The shortest flight of the trip was the two and a half hours spent flying from Denver to Seattle. One flight was over four hours (Boston to Denver), and the rest were all over five hours long.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday back in Colorado (2:30 a.m. HST) prepared for a slow drive down to the Denver airport because of traffic, and also to give myself time to gas up the rental car, get some coffee, and turn in the car at the rental agency before heading to the airport. Although I had been warned about the possibility of heavy traffic heading down to Denver, there wasn’t any to speak of that morning and I flew down the highway at 80 mph, with other cars passing me the whole way! None of the tasks took any time at all, and I was pre-checked through TSA so I ended up at my gate at 7:30 (If I had had to go through the regular screening it would have taken a very long time because the lines were so long). My flight didn’t leave until 10:30, so I spent my time walking through the airport and reading.

Fish & chips, and clam chowder, from Anthony's Fish Bar in Sea-Tac airport

Fish & chips, and clam chowder, from Anthony’s Fish Bar in SeaTac airport

Our plane arrived in Seattle on time, which meant I had an exhausting five-hour wait until my flight to Kaua’i. The first thing I did was to head to Anthony’s Fish Bar for some fish & chips and clam chowder, which had been recommended. That was a good move – I was very hungry, and the food was reasonably priced, hot and delicious. After I finished I again walked through the airport a few times and did some more reading, and then finally boarded on time for the 5+ hour trip home.

First Class dinner menu - it was very, very good (I had the pork but only ate the potatoes and bok choy).

First Class dinner menu – it was very, very good (I had the pork but only ate the potatoes and bok choy).

One of the smartest things I did though was treat myself to an upgrade to First Class for the last leg of my trip. For $150 I had a big, comfortable seat for my weary body, free entertainment, and good food and other treats to enjoy on the way home. The upgrade cost less than half of the extra I would have paid for First Class if I had booked the ticket upfront. I’ve already informed Brett that from now on we are including enough in our travel budget to allow for last-minute upgrades if possible on the way home.

A selfie with Mom. She was fascinated by it, and also by my Kindle.

Two old ladies: A selfie I took with Mom. She was fascinated by the selfie process. She also was fascinated with my Kindle, and wanted to know how the whole thing worked.

I had a very good visit with my Mom in Colorado. She knew who I was the minute she saw me, but I doubt today she remembers I was there – her short-term memory is very weak. We spent our time sharing memories from the past, and photos on my computer of Brett, the girls and Hawai’i (she knows that’s where I live). On the second day there she asked to go to Trader Joe’s with me, and she enjoyed walking through the store with me and looking at everything while I bought some things to bring home. I got her some figs, peaches and avocados, because she had said she missed them. All things considered, her condition was better than I imagined, and it appears her cancer is progressing slowly, at least for now. It was sad for both of us to say good-bye to each other though.

The house seems empty without WenYu, but the room she shared with YaYu is now clean and organized, so I guess that’s a plus. I know it will take some time to adjust to her being gone when evenings arrive, but she is doing well back at Wellesley and settling in. I caught a glimpse of her in a photo taken at the annual convocation held today, which did my heart some good.

We won’t be doing any more traveling again until next March, when we are scheduled to go to Japan. In the meantime we’ll be beefing up our savings, and enjoying our retirement and more time with YaYu.

It’s good to be home!

Finding Our Place In the Sun

FullSizeRenderWay back in 2011, Brett and I both independently came to a realization that we didn’t want to stay in Portland after he retired. We had lived in Portland for nearly 20 years at that point, and while we had put down deep roots and there was much we loved about the city and the Pacific Northwest, he and I had both grown very tired of the dreary winters and wanted to live someplace where we could enjoy the sun a bit more consistently. While we loved all the green that came with Portland, we were both weary of hibernating all winter, of having to go to work and school in the rain, and of everything else that came along with all the cold and damp.

So, we decided to create a list of priorities to help us choose where we might relocate, and came up with the following:

  • Weather (lots of sunshine)
  • Cost of living
  • Schools (because two out of three girls would still be in high school)
  • Ocean nearby
  • Mountains close by (less than a day’s drive)
  • Western U.S. (proximity to Japan)
  • Sizable Asian population (our girls are ethnically Chinese)
  • Military facilities nearby

We initially didn’t weight any of these as more important than the others, except for the weather, and other than the weather we didn’t consider any one item to be a deal killer on its own.  I’m an ocean person but Brett loves the mountains and wanted opportunities for hiking. Although we really hadn’t had anything to do with the military since Brett’s retirement from the navy in 1992 other than renewing our ID cards, receiving retirement pay, and using the health insurance, we figured having military facilities nearby was something we might need or want to use as we grew older. Good schools and a sizable Asian population were important for the girls.

After that we came up with a list of sunny places that we would consider:

  • Several cities in Southern California
  • The Southwestern United States (Arizona & New Mexico)
  • Florida
  • Hawai’i

Hawai’i was on the list as a joke, because we knew there was NO WAY we could afford to move there. We also considered a couple of overseas locations, but the language and/or visa requirements were more than we wanted to take on. Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the South did not make the list. Finally, we created a spreadsheet to match the different places we had chosen with our “want list.”

Florida was the first to be removed from our list. We had lived in Florida while Brett was in the navy (Key West), and although it’s plenty sunny we had absolutely no desire to ever spend another summer there. Alligators and snakes were also a black mark. While there are some good schools in Florida, they are mainly in expensive neighborhoods that were out of our price range. Florida’s Asian population is negligible (1.7% of the entire state), and there were other things about Florida we just didn’t care for. Plus, it was a l-o-n-g way away from Japan.

The Southwest was eliminated next. It had many things going for it, except for the ocean thing, and the Asian thing again (3.4% of the population in AZ, 1.7% in NM). Plus, it’s very dry there, too dry for me actually, and it’s HOT. The Southwest wasn’t as far from Japan as Florida, but still not very close.

So that left southern California and Hawai’i on our list.

Can you tell what very important item was left off of that list of priorities? If you guessed taxes, you’ve guessed right! I grew up in southern California and there are many places there I could have happily retired to except . . . our retired income would have been eaten alive by state taxes. California already had a high cost of living strike against it, but the taxes, both income and sales, made it unaffordable.

And that left Hawai’i, our “joke” location.

But guess what? Hawai’i had beautiful weather, an ocean view every day and loads of beaches, mountains for hiking, easy access to Japan, a large Asian population, and close proximity to military facilities. It was also very tax friendly for retirees, especially those receiving government, state or non-contributory pensions (which would be us). Seven out of nine items on our list of priorities gave it a very high score. Hawai’i! Who could have guessed?

Cost of living and schools remained BIG issues though, as did the state’s isolated location, but we figured if Hawai’i had everything else we wanted, then we could figure out how to work around those issues. We began researching the state, decided which island we wanted to live on, and eventually which school we wanted our daughters to attend (we actually wanted them to attend a private school, but after a tour they nixed that in favor of the public school, which turned out to be the right decision). We asked lots of questions, read forums, and tried to learn as much as we could from long-time residents and successful transplants about dealing with cost-of-living and other issues unique to living in Hawai’i, and made sure to add travel expenses as part of our budget.

After a nearly three-week vacation/research trip in 2012, Hawai’i was no longer a joke. We committed ourselves, and less than two years later, after much downsizing and planning, we made our move. We came to Kaua’i with no expectations other than we’d enjoy beautiful weather and see the ocean every day. Everything else we decided to let unfold in its own time to let us know if we’d made the right decision (or not) for our family.

Did we? I’d say yes, over and over and over. Kaua’i has provided everything we hoped it would, and more. Our oldest daughter returned to Oregon after six months on Kaua’i, and that has been the right move for her – she manages living on her own and going to school very well. But, WenYu and YaYu have thrived here, and are now very happy we came; they love our little island and the friends they’ve made here. We’ve pretty much figured out the whole cost-of-living thing, and our simple life these days actually lets us live on much less than we did back in Portland. Kaua’i is very lush and green, with flowers blooming and farmers’ markets open year round which make me very, very happy. I’ve been to Japan twice since we’ve been here, we’re going again next year, and our son and family have come to visit us here. We’ve all made trips back to the mainland, but discovered that there’s nothing as wonderful as coming home to Kaua’i.

The Older I Get, The Less I Want

Just a very few of the things we brought back from Japan

Just a very few of the things we brought back from Japan. Our home looked like a museum of Japanese antiques.

When Brett retired from the navy in 1992, it was at the end of a three and a half year tour in Japan. He spent most of that tour deployed on an aircraft carrier; I spent most of those years shopping and accumulating stuff.

We had always lived fairly simply and had not acquired much because of the small weight allowance for moving our household goods, but at the beginning of our Japan tour our household goods allowance was upped by several thousand pounds. In the second year of our tour Brett received a promotion, and along with a nice pay raise he also received another increase in our household goods weight allowance. I, to put it mildly, went nuts.

Shopping became my primary form of recreation, a way to keep busy while Brett was gone and our son was busy with school and friends. I was teaching English conversation, making good money, and all I did was buy, buy, buy, especially antiques. We came home with 15 (yes, 15!) antique tansu (Japanese chests) of all types and sizes, loads of antique porcelain and other items that I convinced myself we had to have and couldn’t leave Japan without owning. I told myself these things were an investment. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a day that I wasn’t shopping somewhere for something. Looking back, it was obscene how much I shopped. The only good thing, if I can claim it, was that I paid cash for everything. We had no debt and actually had a decent savings account as well. And the shopping stopped when we arrived home in the U.S.

Our household goods were supposed to arrive back in the States about 4-5 weeks after we did in 1992. Four weeks arrived and no shipment. At five weeks we called to check on the status of our shipment and were told it could not be located, that it had been lost. Initially all I felt was panic, deep, deep panic that almost everything we owned was gone forever. But then something changed. As I began to think about having to start over, I also began to feel liberated, like an incredibly heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. As I moved through the near-empty rooms of the house we’d rented, I began to question why I had ever wanted all of those things. I felt deep, searing pain when I thought of the photo albums, the few items of our son’s I had kept from when he was a baby, the truly irreplaceable items that might be gone forever. But for everything else, I felt no attachment whatsoever.

I wanted our simple life back again.

Our household goods were eventually found, delivered, and squeezed into our small house, but they never held the same appeal for me they did when I bought them or when we lived in Japan. We spent the years after Brett’s retirement slowly divesting ourselves of most of our Japan things. Brett was unemployed for almost three years following his retirement, and the sale of several of those items saw us through some hard times, so maybe they were an investment after all. The sale of other items helped fund our adoptions, pay down our debt, and get us moved to Hawai’i. I haven’t missed even one of the things we sold, and never regretted that we let them go.

When we left Japan, our household goods weighed 12,500 pounds and filled five huge crates. Our shipment of goods to Kaua’i two years ago weighed just 4500 pounds, and barely filled half of a 20-foot shipping container. We live with much, much less now and manage quite nicely. The things we kept are functional, or like my bells or jubako, carry special memories that we’re still not ready to part with.

Shopping holds no thrill for me these days. The girls, of course, love shopping and love stuff, but even they have downsized. Brett, the former King of the Pack Rats, got bit by the downsizing bug, and made immense strides in reducing his hoard. He’s no longer in thrall to having or holding on to stuff.

Maybe it’s a function of aging, or just heredity. When I was young and stayed with my grandmother, she always let me go through her things and choose something to take home because she was “thinning things out.” She said she didn’t need so many things any more, even though she already lived very simply. My mother also divested herself of most of her possessions and downsized when she got older. She would rather have traveled than maintained or worried about a lot of stuff, which is where I’m at now as well.

Whatever the reason, it seems the older I get, the less I want as well.

Hot Times

1I adored summer when I was a child. Long sunny days with no school were spent at our beach house, or swimming in the neighbor’s or the community pool; playing ditch’ em, softball or other games with the neighborhood kids; or riding bikes to the park or to the library to get more books. I don’t think I ever wore shoes during the summer, or even flip-flops. I never gave a thought to the temperature, and southern California summers were hot.

I sure don’t enjoy summer that much any more. Why? Because it’s hot, and here in Hawai’i it also can get very humid. My body doesn’t enjoy the heat like it did when I was child, and it definitely dislikes the increased humidity. I get cross more easily when I’m hot and I feel sluggish a great deal of the time. I’m also the one responsible these days for chores and such that I’m sure my parents and other adults probably hated having to do in the summer heat.

Most houses in Hawai’i don’t have air-conditioning. It’s expensive to operate here due to high utility costs, but the islands are also blessed with trade winds that blow nearly year round, usually keeping the temperature reasonable. However, as the earth heats up, that’s changing too. We’ve gone through two summers now where the trade winds have come to a halt for more than a month in late summer, and temperatures have sometimes climbed above 90°. Long-time residents also say that the trades are not as strong and cooling as they were in the past. We’re keeping our fingers crossed though that the past two years have been an anomaly rather than a trend.

We rely on several things to stay comfortable during the hot summer days here:

  • Running the ceiling fans: Unlike the house we started out in, our current house has plenty of BIG ceiling fans placed strategically throughout the house, including one in the kitchen. The bedroom fans do a fabulous job of keeping the bedrooms cool at night, and the big fan in the bathroom makes short work of the steam and humidity that build during a shower.
  • Opening windows: Although we shut the windows at the front of the house at night, Brett gets up early in the morning and opens them and the front door, which allow the morning trades to flow through the house, keeping things nice and cool until early evening, when the trades seem to die off for a while, and the western sun beats down. Our house is situated though to avoid most of the late afternoon sun, unlike our old house with its big windows on the west side which caught the afternoon sun and heated up the entire house, especially the dining room and kitchen (it didn’t help either that our house was on the second floor, with the heat from below rising up and hanging around).
  • Turning on the stove as little as possible: How I cook is definitely different these days than it was back on the mainland. Mainly, I try to avoid turning on either the oven or the stove if at all possible. If I do have to turn on the oven, I try for early in the day, and I leave the ceiling fan on. I avoid recipes these days that require long cooking times on the stove top, and let the girls handle stir-fries and such because they can tolerate the heat better than I can. We grill and use the slow cooker and rice cooker a lot as well to keep the kitchen area cooler.
  • Saving chores until night: I do many of my cleaning chores after everyone else has gone to bed, like the dishes, the bathrooms, the floors and such. During the day just lightly pushing a broom around can cause me to sweat heavily. However, at night the temperature and humidity usually have dropped to more comfortable levels. Some things though, like the laundry, still have to be done during the heat of the day – ugh.
  • Dressing appropriately: One of the things I love about living on Kaua’i is that no one here cares what you wear. So, I dress in my baggy linen pants every day with a loose, sleeveless linen or cotton top or t-shirt. It’s not the most flattering look for me, but it’s very comfortable in the heat. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a pair of close-toed shoes here.  I’m not sure if Brett even own a pair of long pants any more ;-).
  • Staying hydrated: I drink from the moment I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I start with a cup of coffee and move on to a couple of glasses of iced tea, and then water and non-caffeinated drinks after 1:00 in the afternoon (so I can sleep at night). We stop for shave ice more frequently during the summer, and Brett and I enjoy refreshing gin & tonics and mojitos for our weekend drinks rather than sticking to wine.
  • Getting outside: One of the reasons we grew to dislike our old house was that we had no outside space to use when it got hot. Due to the stream running behind the house, and other drainage issues, the lawn was filled with mosquitos and other bugs, and our icky downstairs neighbors claimed all the patio area as theirs. We now have a lovely, large, private covered lanai in front that we can enjoy, especially in the morning and evening. We also live closer, and get ourselves to the beach more frequently than we did at the old house.

Brett and I both swore we were never going to live in a humid area again after finishing a two year tour in southern Maryland followed by two years in Key West, Florida – and we had A/C in both places! Of course, we left Key West to go back to Japan, where the humidity in the U.S. is mere child’s play compared to what they experience there every summer. Our last Japan tour helped us decide where we would settle after Brett retired: Portland got wet, but it didn’t get humid.

And yet, here we are on Kaua’i, where it’s humid year round, and we’re loving it. We found that when we were in Oahu last month that we didn’t enjoy the air-conditioning as much as we thought we would – we spent a lot of time out on the lanai, or heading somewhere else outside.

We know the summer’s heat and humidity here are only temporary, and that in early fall cooler temperatures and stronger trade winds will return (thank goodness), bringing back Hawaii’s beautiful, temperate weather. But for now, times are hot.

We Bought A Chair

The pattern sort of has an op-art feel to it

The pattern sort of has an op-art feel to it

When we moved into our current house nearly eight months ago, the wicker armchairs that had been in our living room in our old house went out to the lanai so we could finally enjoy sitting outside. However, all that left us for the living room was our sofa. It’s comfortable, and seats three, but we felt like the space needed a new armchair. Finding a chair was easier said than done though.

Why did it take us so long to finally find a chair? Two things:

  1. Furniture stores and selection on Kaua’i are limited, and
  2. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

Plus, a great deal of what you can find here is “island casual,” meaning it’s rattan or bamboo, with tropical fabric. We like rattan, bamboo and tropical, but our furniture is mainly contemporary/modern and an island casual piece just wouldn’t fit. Prices are also a bit higher in furniture stores here as everything is imported. There’s a Pier 1 Import store on the island, but they didn’t have anything that fit our style either, and their prices were more than we wanted to spend (plus you have to pay an additional fee for furniture items to be shipped over from Honolulu). We also checked for accent chairs at Walmart and Ross, the other two stores on the island where we might find something, but they had nothing appropriate, and nothing we liked ever appeared on Craigslist either. Special ordering something was out of the question, as that would have had us paying up to several hundred dollars extra in shipping fees.

We were a bit afraid that blue & white wouldn't look good next to our cream-colored sofa, but it does!

I’m glad we decided to take a chance with an armless design, because almost anything with arms would have taken up too much space.

So, for nearly eight months we had a spare dining room chair sitting over by the sofa, which no one enjoyed sitting on.

Then a couple of weeks ago I thought, “why not check Amazon?” We had ordered a nightstand and desk for the girls’ room through them, as well as a memory-foam mattress, and received free shipping through Amazon Prime. An upholstered accent chair seemed a bit far-fetched though, but I started looking anyway and discovered they had several contemporary chairs at affordable prices. Some were even Amazon Prime eligible . . . that is, until I tried to order them and discovered the company wouldn’t ship to Hawai’i, or at least not for free.

It arrived in a chair-shaped box!

It arrived in a chair-shaped box!

I finally found this blue and white slipper chair. We all liked the color and design enough to take a chance on it, and the price was right, including free shipping. I placed the order, expecting to get the now-familiar message that it couldn’t be shipped to Hawai’i or that there would be an additional shipping fee, but the order went right through, and less than a week later we had our chair! All we had to do was unwrap it, and attach the legs. We’re more than impressed with the quality of the chair construction and the fabric, and it’s comfortable and the design fits perfectly in our living room.

If nothing else, living on Kaua’i these past two years has taught us to be creative when it comes to shopping or cooking and now buying furniture. With apologies to the Rolling Stones, we can’t always get what we want here, but we eventually find what we need, and at an affordable price too.

How to Travel Solo and Fall in Love With It

RIshikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, www.bartnikowski.com

Rishikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Myth: it costs a lot to travel.

Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.

It was fun.

The truth is I love to travel solo.

I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.

When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!

I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.

You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.

I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.

I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.

I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.

Advice.

Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.

Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.

You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.

I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.

It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.

So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.

Freedom!

One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.

If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.

If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.

First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.

For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.

I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.

No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.

It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse Siem Reap, www.bartnikowski.com

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse, Siem Reap, http://www.bartnikowski.com

You meet so many people!

When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.

They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.

Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.

Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.

Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.

Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, www.bartnikowski.com

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Safety.

Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.

Your body knows before your mind. Listen.

And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.

Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.

A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.

Change Your Life, join Mary on Kauai July to December for a 3-day luxury private retreat, learn yoga and photography on the best island in the world.

 

#Kauai: Helicopter Tour

Absolutely the best thing I’ve done on Kauai!

I’ve lived on this magical island for 2 years. But this opened my eyes all the way to my toes.

Soaring over the plunging velvety emerald cliffs and mesmerizing turquoise waters was a jolt to my soul.

How could all this amazing enchantment be sparkling in the now moment and I’ve never seen it?

I fell more deeply in love with this 25 x 33 miles tiny island. But no, it’s not so tiny. The power of the landscape made me tingle for hours, it was like having a crush on a hunky man turn into true love.

I was floating. My eyes grew new nerve endings, I could see more clearly and my heart busted open in gratitude.

Wonder and awe guide my life now. And I’ve never been more grateful that I sold my belongings, explored the world, moved to an island, and decided to be happy.

You can change your life. It all starts with that whispering in your spirit that says, yes go that way or no that is not for you.

Listen to it, even if it doesn’t make sense. Logic is not final wisdom.

Would your friends and family tell you not to move to another country or convert a used shipping container into a home? I am considering this.

Don’t live anyone’s life but your own.

It’s enough to do that one thing in your life. Truly live what is in your heart.

Yes courage takes practice. But there’s no other time like right now to start practicing.

Kickstart your motivation here, in my new video on the beach in Poipu.

Mary Bartnikowski, is an author, award winning photographer, and speaker. She has led programs at Apple Computer, Stanford, Intel, and worldwide.

Stay in touch with Mary and get her free ebook, Secrets of Stunning Photographs.

Go with www.sunshinehelicopters.com

#Kauai: Power Places

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Anini Beach, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Suddenly I was on Kauai. My toes tingled and my skin sparkled. 

My mouth dropped open in wonder and awe.

The power of this island surged up from the floor of my soul and out the top of my head. Happy I listened to that urge inside me to leave Hawaii Island and discover Kauai.

I’d been looking for this enchanted place in 32 countries and I never found it until now.

I knew I was home. 

I didn’t think I’d live in the USA again after traveling for 8 years worldwide. But when I found myself lying in the road after a brutal motorbike accident in Thailand, my heart whispered Hawaii.

So with 3 pieces of luggage I came home to the USA and landed in Honolulu, Hawaii not knowing a soul. I’ve never been more thrilled to see the Welcome to the United States of America sign in international arrivals. But this one had hula dancers on it.

Kauai happens to you. And your life is never the same. In the 18 months I’ve lived on this island I continue to discover new secrets that sing to my spirit, and when I visit a powerful place I love I am re-ignited with passion and purpose for my home.

Yesterday I went to Anini Beach in the above photo, and when I got there my heart busted open with gratitude. This is why I live here! Turquoise as far as the eye can see.

You’re dunked in killer beauty and pristine air. Swimming in diamond clear water that wild turtles love to be in!

This place heals you. My toothache disappeared. 

So I’m having dental surgery tomorrow. And I know in the depth of my being, at the core of my spirit that it kicked me into a greatly improved mindset to commune with turtles on Anini Beach.

Maybe I’ll go there right now to get another infusion of fairy dust, see my sea turtle friends, and soar to heaven and back without getting on a plane.

Speaking of that, I went on a helicopter ride and saw all my power places from the sky and it blew my brain cells out of my mind.

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Flying Over Kalapaki Bay, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

I was speechless and that is not an every day thing for me. You feel the radiance of cascading waterfalls, lush emerald green cliffs, and a beckoning bewilderingly blue coastline that delivers instant transformation and peace as you fly over this sacred rock in the middle of the ocean. You feel blessed.

It made me see that you can fly without your body, you just have to steep yourself in a powerful place that calls to you.

Surrender to what you loved as a child. Go see that place on the other side of the world that floats up in your heart when you’re dreaming. You’ll never be the same again. 

Next Post: the video of flying over Kauai in a helicopter.

Mary Bartnikowski, author of 4 books, award-winning photographer, and educator. She has led programs worldwide and at Apple, Stanford University, and Intel.

Join me on Kauai and Discover the Power Places of Kauai. Learn Photography with any Camera, Get Incredible Photos Guaranteed and Change Your Life, includes Luxury Accommodation.

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