Life in Hawaii: Wonderful, But Not Perfect.

Everyone assumes that here on Maui—anywhere in Hawaii, for that matter—we’re living in paradise. But there’s good and bad, pluses and minuses, no matter where you hang your hat, and we have our share of both.
For one thing, Hawaii is the most remote populated spot on the globe, a minimum of five hours by jet to anywhere, and lot of people have trouble dealing with that. Those same people tend to get “rock fever”, a kind of claustrophobia. It hits when they get in a car with the ocean right behind them, they drive for 20 minutes, go over a hill, and there’s the ocean again. Some people can’t handle that.
It’s expensive to live here. Newcomers picture themselves living in a cottage an easy stroll from the beach, but the reality can be a shared studio apartment overlooking a freeway for $2000 a month. Visitors get sticker shock in our supermarkets because everything has to be shipped in over great distance. The really expensive stuff takes up a lot of space in the containers, but doesn’t weigh much: like paper towels or Corn Flakes.
We have a tourism economy and that means a lot of the jobs—bussing tables, opening doors, parking cars—don’t pay much. For the better jobs, many employers prefer hiring locals because someone just off the boat could be gone in six months. That’s not as big a problem today as it was 50-plus years ago when I got here, but it’s still an issue for many local companies.
If you live in Hawaii, you’re part of an ethnic minority. No one group has 50% of the population … not even close. For me, and for pretty much everyone who lives here, race is not an issue. In fact, it’s one of the interesting and unique things about Hawaii. But some people who move here never get used to being in a minority … and they leave. Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to be an issue with tourists.
Then, of course, there’s our weather. It’s almost always nice, but even that isn’t for everyone. Years ago, I worked with a man originally from Minneapolis. I passed him in a hallway one morning and asked him how things were going. “OK, I guess,” he growled, “considering it’s another one of these goddam beautiful days!”
He eventually moved back to Minnesota and, in another week or two, he’ll probably be shoveling snow. I hope that makes him happy.