Seems that many of you believe I should just sell the boat, pack up the cats, and head west…real far west…to the land of pineapples and grass skirts. Namely, Hawaii. Well, works for me! But not yet.
Firstly, let me clarify a few things. For all my grumbling about the cold, cold winter we have been having here in Key West, it ain’t all that bad. I’ve become way more used to the heat than the cold and it affects me more than it should. I don’t have sufficient winter clothing, nor will I go get any, and for now, I don’t have to be out in it unless I want to. Besides, it’s more fun to grumble.
As for Key West itself, I still love it here and the Keys in general. Despite setbacks, despite a lack of sufficient income, and a few other things, it’s still a place I enjoy living in. Riding around the island, catching the occasional sunset, doing the kayak tours now and then reminds me why I wanted to live here in the first place. But, as with anyplace, there are downsides that over time may convince me to seek other islands. Economics, crowds, and a general desire to travel and see other places all factor in. And when I say other islands, I mean small bodies of land surrounded by ocean. Real, genuine islands.
There is a certain mindset you get when you live on a small rock like Key West. Your outlook on things changes. I can’t imagine going back to the mainland and buying a house. Worrying about lawn care, dealing with commuter traffic, living in a homogenized community that has no character. Here, on the rock, life has a different feel. People come and go from all over the planet. There are festivals, oddball holidays, even the conventional holidays are different. The boating community itself is even a step further away from those who live on the land. The ocean is always there, is always a part of your daily life. You can’t help but see it every day.
With the warmer weather (despite the recent unpleasantness) comes a somewhat lax attitude regarding all things such as dress, activities, and peace of mind. You dress for the weather, not for the fashion. There is no dress code, at least not where I hang out. It ain’t hard to find some out of the way spot to just sit and look at scenery. Scenery that is more sceneryous than your standard back yard/cul de sac/city block.
I guess what I am trying to say is island life fits me quite well and I can’t see myself ever living back on the mainland again. Which leads to the question…if for some reason I had to leave the Keys, or if I decided to leave for whatever, where would I go?
Judging from the comments, most of you have chosen a destination, Hawaii, so let’s do some comparison shopping shall we?
Let me begin by saying I have never been to Hawaii. I have no idea what it is like other than what I can glean from the interwebs. It looks pretty damn nice, appears to have all that I am looking for in terms of weather/water/and other stuff. But how does it compare to Key West?
Through said interwebs, you can find out quite a bit about a place without ever actually setting foot there. It’s not a substitute for actually making the journey but it does give you a good idea of what to expect out of a place. So I have, every now and then, been researching all about the Hawaiian islands online. The local newspaper, Craigslist, and whatever blogs I can dig up. Trying to go beyond the standard chamber of commerce tourist propaganda. (Still looking for the equivalent of the Manatee Fritter out there but haven’t found it yet). What I have found is pretty interesting and I am finding a lot of similarities between Hawaii and the Keys.
Number one, of course, is the weather. Hawaii appears to be warmer than the Keys. Depending on which island you are on, and which side of said island, you can be in hot and dry, hot and rainy, or in some cases go up the side of a mountain into snow. Pretty diverse. But overall, it appears to be much warmer all year round. No cold fronts, from what I can gather.
One side bit: The humidity and heat are on par with the Keys. As a result, Hawaii is also plagued with things like rust and corrosion on all things metal, plenty of cockroaches and skeeters, and other tropical pests, so I would feel right at home.
Natural disasters: The Keys have tourists and hurricanes. Hawaii has tourists, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami’s, and the occasional threat of being bombed by some asian country. Eh, call it even.
Accommodations: There is no rv living in Hawaii. Doesn’t exist. Living on a boat, prohibitively expensive and hard to find. So, that leaves apartments/cabins/houses. Buying something is out of the question of course, but judging from what I see in the listings online, rents are at or less than what you find in the Keys, depending on where you are.
Transportation: There are vehicles out there and plenty of highways, and really expensive fuel prices. Anyplace I would consider would have to have mass transit and bike infrastructure.
Employment: Same as the Keys. Mostly low paying service/retail/worker bee type. I will need to have my app business well established with a working income. A worker bee is still a worker bee, no matter where you are. Nope, self employment is the only way.
Attire; I would have to trade in my fishing shirts for Hawaiian shirts. Works for me. I used to have a nice collection of Harley printed shirts made in Hawaii. Very comfortable. And this old fritter looks good in a Hawaiian shirt. At least I think so.
Food: I hear a lot about how more expensive food, and everything else is for that matter out there. Like the Keys, most stuff needs to be shipped in. You hear rumors of $7 gallons of milk and such. But from what I read in some of the blogs, it just ain’t so. There are the standard grocery stores on the islands and yes…wallymart too…but you do have choices. The local cuisine sounds interesting and there is a strong polynesian/asian slant to all the cooking. There are the standard chain restaurants of course but local places as well. I could do with a change in diet.
The Locals: I’ve also heard that outsiders aren’t exactly welcome. I don’t know how true that really is and no doubt a few natives born on the islands may not like another dumb white guy from the mainland coming onto the islands, but, I ain’t exactly been welcome here in Key West either.
Crime: From what I read in the newspapers, crime is just like anyplace else. They even have homeless bums causing trouble.
Stuff to do: Plenty. All the water sports that I still enjoy, touring the islands, hiking, biking, sightseeing.
Overall, Hawaii is a lot like the Keys in many ways. Just a string of islands with it’s own unique way of life. So, with all those big islands to chose from, where would i go?
I’ve been concentrating on three areas that sorta kinda interest me as possible places to visit and maybe settle down, Honolulu, Maui, and the big island of Hawaii.
Honolulu is of course the most popular. A city on Oahu, Honolulu has everything you need. Shopping, reasonably priced living quarters, plenty to do, mass transit, bike infrastructure, but, Honolulu is a city of nearly 1 million people. That means crime, crowds, traffic, and all the bull shit that comes with living in a city. Not knowing one’s way around, not knowing what areas to avoid, could result in some unpleasant experiences. It’s also ground zero for the tourism industry. Just based on the sheer size of the city and what comes with the territory, Honolulu would be third on the list.
Maui: The next major island south of Oahu. I actually had a job offer on Maui about 20 years ago when I was working with Harley. A shop was looking for some help and the owner happened to be in Daytona for Bike Week. At the time, I was 5 years into a suffocating mortgage and other debt. Heard he closed down two years later. But, it would have been interesting. Anyways, Maui has a small town of 30,000 on the middle north side of the island called Kahului. It’s got all the basics, shopping, affordable rents, mass transit, and ain’t much larger than Key West in layout. There is a small airport with service to Honolulu that is cheap enough should one need to go to the big city but the whole island has a lot of good looking beaches and other scenery that could make for a nice place to settle in.
Then there is the big island of Hawaii. At the southern most point of the islands, the big city there is Hilo. 40,000 strong in population, Hilo, like Kahului, has all that one needs. It’s airport even has direct flights to the mainland. The island is the biggest in the chain, roughly 55 miles across by 75 miles long. There are two volcanoes including one active one on the island. Plenty of hiking trails, beaches, and parks. Lush rain forests, and plenty to do. Hilo also has some of the cheapest rents in the islands. I see a lot of decent little apartments for rent in the $600 range and up.
So, given all that, where would I go? As I said earlier, I’ve never been out to Hawaii so before making any kind of decision or just packing up and going, I would need to take a trip out and scout around. A month would do it. Spend a week in Honolulu, a week in Maui, another in Hilo, with a week for travel and to play tourist. Remember as I said, when checking out a place like this for possible living, don’t go as tourist, go as a resident, and see what it’s going to be really like. Anyways, a month should give me a more better feel for which place I would like the best, or I could come away not wanting to live anywhere. You never know. It could just as easily turn into a one way trip.
Right now it doesn’t really matter as it’s all just mental masterbation. Even if I wanted to go out right now I couldn’t for a variety of reasons.
One, economics. I need to have some more cash in the bank than I do now along with a steady income.
B. I have family obligations of a sort. Most of my family up north is getting up there in age. I sorta kinda need to be able to get up there if needed. From here in Key West, a plane ride or even a bus ride is fairly affordable and allows me to be there in a day. From a distant island in the Pacific, not so easy, nor cheap.
3. There is the matter of two furry dependents I have living with me on the boat. There are no rabies in Hawaii. One of the reasons is they are very restrictive about allowing animals in from the mainland. Critters have to go through a lot of tests, shots, and other unpleasantries before being considered entry. And there is the matter of the journey itself. Both my cats are up there a bit in age. They don’t travel well and subjecting them to two or three days worth of air/taxi/who knows what transportation would be cruel and very traumatic. Nope, they are Key’s cats and this is where they stay.
So, for now, any thoughts of making a move to Hawaii will remain just that…thoughts. I have my own age to think about. Do I want to move to another strange land at 60 or better? Who knows what will happen? I will continue to do the research of course. You never know if or when the opportunity may arise where I can at least go out and spend some time there just to see what it’s like. Other things could happen here. A major hurricane, lose the boat or the marina slip and not be able to find anything else, who knows. But I do know that it would be better to go and see what Hawaii is all about rather than just sit around and dream about it, and what could be. So, someday, I’ll go. I’m in no hurry. I’m still living in Key West, on a sailboat.