We have been residents on the Big Island of Hawaii for over three months now. Warm and sunny every day really suits us well. Even though we had well over a year to “decompress” with our travels through Europe and the US’ east coast, we realized that living as nomads was in no way decompressing. For two NYers, the move to a rock in the middle of the Pacific has in not been simple. Although, I’m sure no relocation out of state is easy.
For the first two months, every day revolved around the essentials–finding jobs, securing a place to live, registering the car–and on it goes. Again, I am sure this is the case with any move. But, things happen slowly here. Getting the basics figured out has been challenging. Beach? What beach? There’s no time for that.
Life is complicated on a rock in the Pacific.
For starters, Mother Nature puts on a show 24×7. She never waivers in Hawaii. Finding focus is difficult while surrounded by her glory at every turn. For my readers that live in a climate with a defined summer season, think about the way you feel all summer. Long warm days that linger into the night. Time feels like it is always on your side; every day moves slowly in the summer.
Yeah, that feeling, but 365. In the scheme of things, this a big plus, and one of the main reasons why we wanted to live on the Big Island. For settling-in, this is a big negative and partly why so complicated. There is no rush for anything anywhere.
It is difficult to establish an address until you have an address.
You cannot get a US postal box without an address in the state and proof of said address. Technically, the same applies to UPS boxes, but luckily it just depends on the person at the counter. The chances that you will get a call back for a job here without a local address on your application are super slim. Registering and insuring a car can be just as complicated for the same reasons. Luckily, the woman that owned the Airbnb we stayed in was willing to let us use her address to get the ball rolling.
Although there is help wanted signs everywhere, securing a job is not that easy here.
Assume your resume will be ignored until you live here. There is the matter of the address part above. Then, when you get past that, and the interviewer asks you how long you’ve been here, and you answer… they will sigh. Finally, consider yourself lucky if you make it to the grilling on how determined you are to stay.
What if you don’t know? What if maybe for now, or maybe forever? Really, what does it matter if you will live on the Big Island for one year, or three, or more, if you’re qualified for the job?
As it turns out, here on the Big Island, the population is either transient or generational. What we have experienced is a lack of qualified people for many open positions and an over-abundance of over-qualified people for others. We thought, “oh we will just get jobs, like washing dishes or ringing up groceries.” Well, in more major towns like Kona or Hilo this may be the case, but elsewhere it’s less the case.
No, they are not going to call you to be a dishwasher at the local restaurant or cashier in the local grocery store. Even though those jobs are vacant, they are vacant on a rolling basis, until a local person applies. Local being that you have lived here forever, or know the right person that has and can make a call on the good ol’ coconut wireless on your behalf. I understand this, and frankly think it’s essential to the existing communities.
Once we started looking at the transient tourism hubs, we found opportunities all around. The key we have learned is to be persistent. You have to be willing to work for opportunity and show it means something to you. Follow up, follow up, follow up.
We have noticed the system on the Big Island seems to make it difficult to sink your heels in and get settled. The island can chew people up and spit them out.
Take housing for example. It is an incredibly tight rental market, but there are many places like that. With some cash in the bank, we did not arrive worried. Then reality hit us.
Rentals operated through agencies require two months of pay-stubs showing 3x rent as income. That is right, 2 full months of 3xs rent. What does that mean? It means that if you get a job on the day you arrive, you must have that job for two months before applying for a place to live. That’s assuming you then find a place you want to be, and that you get a good paying job on day one.
Thinking this was no problem for us and that we would just pay a six month or 12-month lease in full. Nope. Rental management agencies will not even consider it. Having a job but short the 3xs rent in income still is a no-go for pre-payment.
So what did this mean for us?
We lived in an Airbnb rental for two months and scoured the s out of craigslist for a private apartment. We were in a beautiful studio owned by a lovely woman, but a vacation rental at vacation rental prices, in Hawaii. No Bueno. We had initially planned this situation for one month with the intention of paying a lease in full. We ended up there for two. Each month was equivalent to about three month’s worth of rent in one swoop. And there went a good portion of our safety net.
Scouring craigslist in a tight rental market is a ball of fun. You might call and email a dozen listings the day they are posted only to get no reply. If they do respond, they tell you space is no longer vacant. Or, as we experienced a few times, no response, then a re-listing a few days or a week later of the same unit. Why? Because there was no rush to call people back, no rush to fill their vacancy. They might want a tenant who has been on the island for more than a year or two. Or even more than six months. Worry about it another day; the surf is good today kind of way about things. Womp, womp, womp.
From this, we learned to be quick and persistent. We started emailing, texting, and calling the instant we saw a listing. Then, if we didn’t hear back, our NYerisms would kick in, and we would reach out again the next day, and the next. At least we’d have the opportunity to view spaces and be considered for them.
Then, one day, it all seemed to gel.
We found the perfect listing and instantly connected with the owner. And just like that, one phone call, one in-person meeting, and we had a place to live. We were ok that it was in a suburban neighborhood–even though suburbia was originally on the top of the NO list–we envisioned a rental house in the middle of the country with fruit trees out back and a walk to the main street. Oh, and we weren’t even scared when we realized the keys didn’t work…. hahaha that was a funny moment!
For now, we are pleased in our studio 10 minutes from the beach in the middle of a lava desert. It is a good space and suits us well. We are adjusting and enjoying the slow pace. It is not so shocking now to drive for 40 minutes through a lava field and only see cattle or goats. I have since left that commission job and focus on my copywriting business www.bestdarncopywriter.com. We are starting to feel settled and even beginning to make some friends.