Itchy Nomads Rich and Linda, have lived an adventurous life. They recently moved to Maui, Hawaii and when we asked if they would like to impart a bit of their wisdom they immediately provided the great posting below. You may never plan to move to a distant island, or you may think it is out of reach, but Rich has done a great job sharing the nuts & bolts of such a move. Thank you Rich and Linda for the excellent writing and beautiful pictures. You have shared a more realistic side to island life then the casual visitors would come to understand.
From Rich and Linda, Itchy Nomads in Maui, Hawaii:
We are itchy nomads, with “next,” (the curse of all wanderers), always calling to us. We know there is no place “perfect,” nor are we. We can always find something to do, wherever we are. We like our own company and, we don’t get bored very easily. We’ve never looked for “paradise,” a place free of worry, debt, or crisis; there’s no place on earth to hide from those things.
But our latest “next,” came partly from the “romance” of life in the islands, living off the lotus, tradewinds, tropical air and water temperatures, and friendly near-naked natives described in novels by Melville, Twain, Stephenson, Roth and Payson. We’re wanderers, experienced enough to know better, but still, there’s something to that fantasy that drew us to living in Hawaii, on Maui.
We’ve been here on vacations, stayed at “lux” resorts, and did everything the tourist guide books tell you to do in 10 days or less. It was wonderful!!! But we are more about immersion, at a much slower pace. We want to see how the locals live, how they can afford one of the highest costs of living in the US. Could we adapt the way we live to new surroundings? The “key” is the same for real nomads,–It’s always been—”live simply, within your means, sharing simple pleasures-your life’s goal.”
We’d lived on a 50 ft sailboat for 25 years, sailed 15,000+ miles, sold it, and then lived in an RV for 4 years traveling 35,000 miles around the good ol’ USA, so making the move across the ocean, we had a practical head start.
All the furniture is built inside boats and RV’s and stays when you sell, so we only had a “few” boxes to ship when we moved. You don’t need closets full of cold weather clothing here. Shipping household belongings to Hawaii is “by the pound,” and takes 3-4 weeks to get here.
We shipped 60-24”x24” boxes, I did say a “few” boxes, things we had some sort of attachment to, and it cost $3200!!! With what it cost to ship our pots and pans, plates and glasses, art, linen, sporting goods, snorkel gear, clothes, photographs, music, books, you could buy all new stuff when you get here and start with a clean slate.
We had a 2013 “new” car and didn’t want to take a big loss selling it, so we put the car on a ship in San Diego, we flew here, then rented wheels ‘til our car landed 4 weeks later. If I had that to do over again, I’d sell the car on the mainland, and buy something small, fuel efficient, with a roof rack for surf boards here. Shipping the car cost $1200, car rental was $250/week, both together was about the amount we would have lost selling the car.
We took the proceeds from the sale of the RV and RV lot we owned outside of Temecula CA, and put a big down payment on a condo in Kihei, half a block from the beach. Prices vary the closer you get to the ocean. There are plenty of properties owned as “investments” by mainlanders, and they rent them by the week or month. We had to rent a “vacation rental for 3 weeks for $2500, ‘til our condo was vacated by renters. Monthly rentals for an average 2 bedroom-2 bath condo is roughly $1500 and up, per month. Our mortgage payment, with modest HOA fees are less than $1100/mo, in a real estate market that did not lose much value in the past downturn and now is well on track to go northward. With current low prices and interest rates, it’s a good time to buy in Hawaii.
We wanted a place with a 5 minute walking distance to the beach, and wanted a house we could make into “our home.” The 1986 condo was in good shape and had “new” appliances, but needed updating. I’m pretty handy, so we jumped into a DIY project that included new paint, wood flooring, new kitchen cabinets and counters, light fixtures, bathrooms, closet organizers, window treatments, etc. We had to buy living, dining, and bedroom furniture(x2). We waved–longingly–at our budget as we blew right passed it.
All that–is just the “price of admission,” not unlike any other new adventure for nomads.
After 10 months here, was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!! And it’s the people that make it worth it. Hawaiians do live “Aloha”–welcome, and “Pono”–do the right thing. They are warm, friendly and quick to smile and share a joke. They tolerate “haoles”–non locals, with grace and charm, and can spot you a mile away.
Once you’ve been here a bit, and bought really cheap flip-flops, tee shirts and shorts, get some sun, insert a little pidgin English into your conversations, slow down, have respect for and interest in the local culture, and always begin every conversation with a smile, you become “kamaaina”–non-natives who live here. You feel a sense of “ohana”–family, more than with any other culture I’ve ever experienced.
There are other benefits to being kamaaina. After a year, property taxes and car registrations go to comparitively zero. If you own property here and live outside Hawaii, you pay a premium. “Locals” rates for restaurant food, tourist attractions, golf, most products and services apply by showing your Hawaii drivers license. The discount is roughly 20%. Gasoline prices are highest in the nation, but if you know gas prices in California, it’s not shocking, and distances to whatever you need are much shorter. “Town,” Kahului/Wailuku, is 8/10 miles from Kihei. Lahaina is 20 miles. Food in the markets is only 10% higher than California. Eat like a native once a week, fresh fish and rice, and you’ll hardly see the difference.
And unlike going to Cabo, the Caribbean, or the Societies, here we use American English, money, cell phones, postage, road signs, American trained health and dental specialists, etc. And, it’s only a 5 hour flight from the West Coast. So, family, friends, even casual acquaintances and near strangers want to visit. Just make them do a Costco run by the airport before they show up.
The other obvious benefits are just as you have dreamed about– dependable 80 degree water and air temps, tradewinds to keep the humidity down most of the time. The weather is phenomenal, beyond the rare, occasional, el nino hurricane, three this year.
That’s a record and our fault. Wherever we travel, we bring with us 20 year record high and low temps, rains, snow, sleet, drought, plague and pestilence. Good thing we’re not insecure and think somebody is “out to get us.” We learned long ago on boats that the weather gods can’t screw everybody everywhere, at the same time, with a head wind, so we hope for a hurricane break in 2015.
And Maui has the additional benefit of being in the “storm shadow” coming up from the southeast, by the Big Island of Hawaii with it’s two 12,000+ ft. peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. It has protection from the north shielded by Molokai, and from the southwest and west by Kahoolawe and Lanai. And Kihei sits between Haleakala and the West Maui mountains, so we had no hurricane damage here.
The ocean is impossibly clear with lots of aquarium fish, and the beaches are uncrowded like Big Beach at Makena and Kihei with surf breaks and SUP patches that are heralded around the world. There are tropical landscapes laced with scents of plumeria and pikake. The diversity of topography from the heights of Haleakala and Iao Needle, up-country farm land like Kula, to funky beach towns like Pa’ai and Hana, to the tourist low spots like Lahaina keeps “island fever” at bay, for us. It is breathtakingly beautiful here.
But, we’re itchy nomads after all, there’s always going to be a “next.” Just not anytime soon.
Aloha and Mahalo Rich and Linda!
Wishing you continued fun and joy in your new life in the islands.