Many Thoughts About Returning to Hawaii

Navigation:/, moving to hawaii/Many Thoughts About Returning to Hawaii
Though not many people move there, Kauai has overwhelming natural beauty. If you're single - and have a chance - do it!

Though not many people move there, Kauai has overwhelming natural beauty. If you’re single – and have a chance – do it!

I don’t know that I’ve written a personal journal type article here within the last year or so. So here goes, some thoughts about moving back to Hawaii.

I’ve been living in Thailand for the past decade. Prior to this I lived in Hawaii for a couple years, and fifteen years before that I lived on the islands for four years. I love it that Hawaii doesn’t seem to change, each time I move back or go back for a visit and too-short vacation. Hawaii is timeless. It has basically (on the outside) been the same since 1985. Sure things have changed internally, some say it has gotten ‘worse’ while others say it’s better than it used to be in the 1980’s. Personally, I liked it then and I like it now. I seem to be able to overlook a lot.

Living in Thailand for ten years has been lovely. I’ve relaxed to the point that I’ve changed as a person. For the better, I’m sure. Thailand has so much less stress for residents moving here from abroad. There is so little to worry about, or even think about on a daily basis. Weekly basis. It’s paradise. It’s Paradise in Asia.

There are many similarities between Thailand and Hawaii. Mostly geographical. The climate is similar, though Thailand is definitely hotter and more humid in the south where we are. Chiang Mai and other areas north get cold in the winter, much colder than anywhere on the Hawaiian Islands. If I had to compare the two, not being a fan of cold weather of any sort, and loving the Hawaiian temperatures and trade-winds, I’d have to say Hawaii has the best weather I’ve ever known. So, when I’m dripping sweat in Thailand I sometimes think about how cool Hawaii was in comparison.

The ocean, though it is warm in both places, is much cleaner and more blue in Hawaii. When I think about Hawaii’s ocean I remember the bright blue of Bellows AFS, and the deep royal blues of the west coast of Maui. There are spots of pristine light blues in Thailand, but I don’t live near them. They are harder to reach – must take a boat for most of them. In Hawaii you just jump on your motorbike and you’re there within an hour. That’s a nice feeling.

Another nice memory I get when thinking about moving back to Hawaii is the fresh air. Of course I’m talking about outside Waikiki! Maui’s air is magical. The entire island has that magical feeling about it. From the time you get off the plane in Kahului, I expect little menehune to pop out from the trees on the road and start dancing around. Or, do you remember Alice in Wonderland, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I have that feeling about the place. It’s just too nice to be real. And yet, there it is for anyone with the gumption to make it a priority to get there.

And most people won’t get there. I’m sad when I think that my brother and sister probably won’t see it unless I move back. My nieces and nephews, my son and daughter. When you’ve seen the islands you want to share them with the people you love. Something changes inside when you see the Hawaiian Islands for the first time. Though indescribable, I once said the feeling was like “I don’t deserve this.” It’s just so outrageously beautiful that you can’t understand why everyone on the planet doesn’t move there to live. I think most people, though they know about Hawaii, just cannot believe it could be that good. I can assure you, it is that good and more.

When I’m hiking in Hawaii I think about the original Hawaiians that roamed through the woods while hunting, looking for fresh water, and gathering fruit, plants, and wood for fires. When I’m off on a path that looks very old, I’m sure that there weren’t but a couple hundred people on that path since the time the Hawaiians walked them. Sometimes I’ll go completely off-trail and wonder how many people have been in that exact spot before me. Maybe one or two. Maybe nobody ever had. Hawaii gives me strange ideas when I’m alone walking the trails.

I have a feeling of guilt about being in Hawaii sometimes. I was born in Western Pennsylvania. What right did I have to come to Hawaii and walk all over it? What part am I playing in Hawaii’s loss of culture, history, civilization, by being there? If you haven’t read up on some of the history of the Hawaiian Islands and how the United States ended up with them, it’s well worth a read. Fascinating, and horrifying all at the same time. I’m so glad to have the chance to walk on the land, but the way it all came about is distressing. The powerful take what they want, through force or persuasion, backed by force. The world operates like this – always has. I do hope we change at some point.

Life in Hawaii left me so focused on the magnificence of nature. The power of the wind, the waves, the animals that play under the surface of the ocean. There is little litter strewn about Hawaii, in contrast with Thailand. Thailand is like the USA was in the 1970’s, people in cars throw bags of garbage out the window as they drive. I’ve not seen that in Hawaii, and that’s nice. People seem to care a lot about Hawaii looks. It looks absolutely incredible, so its natural beauty helps us to keep in mind that we want to do our part to keep it pristine.

Comparing Hawaii and Thailand just on the basis of looks – the mountains, the volcanos, beaches, and other geology, they are pretty comparable, but Hawaii seems more untamed. Does that sound funny? Hawaii seems more raw, more powerful, more mysterious, dangerous, awesome. I don’t know how to really explain it, there are some things in Thailand that are amazing too – but I do like Hawaii better.

Thailand is the second worst place for car accidents and deaths on the road – in the world. Though I’ve ridden a bicycle on the streets, it doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. I don’t mind driving in Hawaii. I don’t like the traffic on Oahu, but Maui or the other islands are just about right. I love riding the bike on Oahu, just heading out from Waikiki and up to Sandy’s or Bellows on the northeast side.

If you golf, and I don’t, but there are amazing golf courses on all the islands. Basketball courts, tennis courts, tracks, pools, beach volleyball courts, big open grass areas to play whatever you want – Hawaii has heaps of these. Thailand, not much.

I’ve hiked a lot of the trails on Oahu and Maui, and I have to say, they beat hands-down anything I’ve found in Thailand. The cooler air really does it for me on Oahu. Here in Thailand I have one decent trail I run up and down but it’s an hour shorter and 500 meters lower in elevation than most of the trails on Oahu. I’m looking forward to getting back to Oahu and running on the trails for hours, maybe even attempting the trail across Oahu some day. A dream at the moment.

Wildlife in Hawaii is, I don’t want to say non-existent, but in comparison to Thailand – yeah, that’s probably the right word. I’ve really enjoyed walking through the tropical rainforest here and finding scores of different snake species, frogs, geckos, scorpions, tarantulas, lizards, turtles, slow loris, etc. There is always something amazing to see during a walk through the forest day or night. In Hawaii, that is sadly lacking. A few lizards, and some great fish and other species under the ocean is what Hawaii has to offer. Oh, and birds if you’re a birder. I’m not one, though maybe I’d be forced to become one if I moved back. I will fish and snorkel, and maybe that will have to be enough. I would miss the variety of wildlife species I have here in Thailand.

Our daughter is four years old now. I’ve been thinking a lot about where the best place is for her to grow up. I’m not sure it’s Thailand. In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Is Hawaii any better for a little keiki girl – half Thai – half American? I don’t know the answer yet. We are also considering some other places like Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and who knows, maybe even back to Florida. It’s such a tough decision. I think Maui would be good for her, and I’ve met some great people on Maui with kids. They all had their kids in private schools and they were happy enough. I’ve met some teens that grew up on Maui – they all seemed like great kids.

When I think about Hawaii I can’t help thinking about the cost of everything. I remember spending so much money on food. Sure I ate out a lot, but that’s what I like to do. I like to eat the best food I can. The healthiest and sometimes the least healthy – but everything costs so much money. In Thailand we can live for about 1/3 what we’d spend in Hawaii. We could live on less, but I guess I’ve grown accustomed to certain things. A car, two stories, motorbike, fairly frequent vacation getaways.

Living in Hawaii our mode of living, our lifestyle, would take a big hit. We’d likely live in a 1 or 2-bedroom apartment somewhere. Maybe a town-home if we’re lucky to find one. In Thailand we have 4 porches, a car port. Big rooms and plenty of space. In Hawaii space is always at a premium. It’s a consideration. Not only that, but in the future, home ownership is not difficult in Thailand since the cost of a house is around $60,000 USD. In Hawaii that wouldn’t buy you the cheapest condo, then you’d still be paying the association fee and taxes. It would be difficult to justify moving to Hawaii until home ownership was at least possible in the foreseeable future. At the present, we’re not close.

Living in Hawaii has a cost associated with it. And, it isn’t just the money. It’s the stress of thinking about the money while living there. In Thailand I rarely give a thought to money. We just don’t have to. In Hawaii I am sure I’d think about money on a daily basis. Most of the residents in the islands do, I’m sure. So, there are costs associated with living in Hawaii. A mental cost as well as a monetary cost.

The people in Hawaii are great. Maybe unbeatable. I know a lot of people in Thailand I like, but Hawaii is different. Everyone seems to be under the same sort of magic spell of the place. Sure there are hateful people, spiteful and aggressive people. I didn’t find it difficult to avoid them while living on Oahu or Maui. I guess if they’re part of your family, you’d have more difficulty! I wasn’t so unlucky. The people I knew, I shared activities with. Usually running, biking, camping, surfing and bodyboarding, snorkeling, fishing, hashing, or even picnics at the beach with the crew from work. One great reason to return to Hawaii for me would be the people and friendships I could rekindle.

One reason I can think of that would be a reason not to move to Hawaii is the remote location. I know, I’m living in Thailand, which is pretty remote and hard for family to reach. Hawaii is similar, but actually better than living in Thailand. Most of my family is on the East Coast of the USA. It would cost maybe $800 r/t to visit us on Oahu, a little more to Maui. To Thailand it is a whole different ballgame, with flights around $1,600 r/t and 24 hours in the air each way. Then, once a visitor arrives in Bangkok, they’d take another plane to us, adding another $200 to the air fees. That’s a considerable cost for a visit. Maybe that’s why I’ve not had that many make the trip!

The cost of starting a business in Hawaii is a consideration. Here in Thailand we can buy a chicken stall and start a business outside our home if we wanted. No permits. Nothing required but good food and some buyers. I love Thailand for that. Hawaii is one of the hardest places to start a business in the USA. Maybe in the world. It’s really difficult, not just for the beauracracy of it, but just to create something that works – that profits – is extremely difficult. I don’t know what we would do there. I’d have to find something that worked, and yet it would probably be just online ecommerce like we’re doing in Thailand, but then we have the huge shipping cost problem from the islands. Shipping from Thailand is very cost-efficient. Having a brick and mortar business in Hawaii is a liability, a stress, and probably a money loser. Just a consideration I think about sometimes because I do love creating my own small businesses.

I do miss a lot of the amazing food in Hawaii. Mahi-mahi sandwiches… mmmm. Ono in walnut sauce! HO BRAH! Ahi poke limu! Shoyu! Just so many mouth-watering foods that get me going when I allow myself to start thinking about it. Thailand also has an incredible variety of great foods, but I’ve been eating them for ten years, I’d love a change.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts as I look toward the future and moving back to Hawaii – probably Oahu, but hopefully Maui. If you have a chance to move there for even a short time, I would encourage you to do so. You’ll have the experience of your lifetime, and it will probably be a good experience if you go with an open mind and really try to make it work.

Aloha, and best of life…


About the Author:

I’ve lived Hawaii since the mid ‘80s when I moved here at the age of 21. I arrived site-unseen in Honolulu with zero contacts and about $5k in savings. I worked from nearly zero and today Hawaii has given me the greatest gifts in the world in all aspects: spiritually, financially, romantically (married since early ‘90s w/ 2 children), and most important, peace. My goal with this site is to share the magic of this Land of Aloha and help others who are on a similar quest.


  1. Steve 06/04/2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Damn Vern, you’ve made me stop to consider moving to Hawaii. I just can’t come to grips with the costs. Even Bangkok is far cheaper and since we’re considering moving north our costs there would be even less. What do you need to live in Hawaii? $6k a month? $8k a month? More?

    • Vern 06/05/2014 at 8:45 am - Reply

      See Steve? You’re going to give it some consideration now… after you move out of baan nawk and leave Thailand for good. I think for a family of 3 to live happily, after taxes and all that nonsense, we’re going to need around $8K per month, right. And still, that isn’t ideal. Ideal would be another $5K or so.

      So, I’m hard at work as you might imagine.

      Thanks for the comment. I noticed you didn’t plug TM. It’s funny we both have let our Thailand sites slide into absolute obscurity!

Join the conversation! What do you think?