Simple is Good. Our Life in Hawaii, and Simplifying, Anywhere.
It seems fitting that as I fly back to Hawaii today, I would republish a post from exactly one year ago, when I returned from the same crazy month of surf contests in California. I have made some changes to this post, especially in light of the many questions I have been asked over the past year. I hope this post gives you a little more insight into our life, and might speak to that part of you (I think we all have it in us,) that wonders how life would be if you could just simplify…
Here’s the post ~~~Oh, and Happy Fourth of July! (a quick trip/surf update at the bottom of this post-)
After a month in California, I am so excited to get back home. I hear it’s hot and muggy there now, (and no–we don’t have an air conditioner,) but I still can’t wait. There is no place like home, and also: I really do love our simple life in Hawaii.
People sometimes tell us that we are living the dream, or say that they admire our ability to get out of the rat race, and raise our family in a more simple way. Honestly, I didn’t always see it. I wasn’t sure if our life was really so “simple” because obviously, we are pretty normal people—we keep a schedule (of sorts,) and we pay bills, use electricity, and drive cars that use gas.
But after being gone for over a month, I can’t help but notice the contrasts between our life, and the pace and pressures I feel when I’m on the mainland. I realize more that maybe we really do live a pretty simple life in Hawaii.
We really didn’t set out on a mission to simplify. I know some people do that, and they have really neat stories of making big changes and finding all kinds of peace in getting really intentional about simplifying.
Those stories also often include getting rid of television, or purging closets, and that is all good too. We are working on some of those things, but we didn’t really set out with specific goals like that.
I suppose for us simplifying has been a bit of a process. Each step we have taken has meant embracing one thing while letting go of something else. Each step seemed to lead to another, and very naturally we have found a simple rhythm to our life. I hope we keep moving in the same direction.
To be fair: I truly love my time in Southern California. There is a part of me that could imagine living there–I mean really. (Trader Joes and juice bars on every corner-kind of-really.) I just have a feeling I might get caught up in the rushed pace and more materialism if I ever lived there.
Of course I know families in Southern California–and all over the country, who are working to be intentional, and trying to live a simple life. But I know it isn’t easy, going against the tide of materialism and non-stop activity when you live in the middle of it. There’s a vibe in the air, and yes it’s in Southern California, but it’s really everywhere, if you let it in: And it’s this vibe that I realize we have drifted away from since our family has settled on our little hill in the country. We got away from it, and have not missed it a bit.
And now that I’m seeing the contrast, I’m thinking about what is the thing that has changed the most?
Is it a geographical thing? Does it come with living on an island, and the feeling I get when I drive across pineapple fields with the vast ocean in view? Is it about being surrounded by the beauty of nature, and the smells of paradise that draw me to a simple and restful place?
Or is it more of a lifestyle thing? Does it relate to homeschooling, and the freedom that comes with that? I don’t have to rush my kids out the door in the morning, or through their homework at night, and most days our home school environment is pretty peaceful.
I’m pretty sure I feel it when my husband hauls in a massive crop of bananas, or pours me a glass of coconut water—straight from the coconut. There is a simplicity to eating off your own land that satisfies the soul.
Many of us in Hawaii have a simple lifestyle because of the high expense of living on an island…Instead of spending money on entertainment, or travel, we enjoy free things like a splash in the ocean, or star-gazing on a perfectly clear night. Unless we took out a few personal loans, expensive cars or clothes are not an option for most of us because we are paying so much for every little thing. (and saving every penny for that one family trip to see relatives on the mainland!)
Maybe it’s a family thing…a choice we’ve made—intentional or not—to hang out together, a lot. We don’t get involved in a hundred activities, and at some point I quit worrying about what my kids were missing by not being in a traditional school or in a typical neighborhood. I quit pondering the pros and cons of living here or there or what it would be like if…(____ fill in the blank.) I cherish the simple times when all four boys are together, and happy. My husband and I have very few outside commitments, and the kids have friends, but actually choose to hang out together most of the time. Since this is all my kids know, they don’t mind it, and I think–they actually enjoy it.
So, I suppose the simplicity that we enjoy is really a combination of all of these things. And maybe more. It’s obviously not for everyone, this life we live. Some people would go crazy on a small island, but instead find their happiest times surrounded by buildings, and people. Some people of course love the mountains, or the desert, and probably most people need more variety than we have on our island to be fulfilled. And I’m guessing there are a million ways to simplify your life, wherever you are, if you want to.
And the question might be: Can you be in the middle of the rat race, and not join it? Can your family take steps to simplify…to embrace more beauty, and less insanity, regardless of your location?
I think taking steps towards simplicity is good for everyone. And it can come in many ways: It might be growing your own vegetables, or it might be saying no to more things. It might be unplugging more often, or having a family dinner a couple of times a week. It might be cutting your to-do list in half, or getting more fresh air…(or finding some sand to roll around in.)
There is always room for improvement in this area of simplifying. I think it starts in how we think. We can live in the present–embracing each moment, and loving those right in front of us. We can quit wishing for what’s next and instead make the best of the now. For me, choosing gratitude in the every day is a path to simplicity.
One thing I’ve found about simplifying: You never regret it.
And the more we learn to embrace the simple things, the easier it is to loosen our grip on all of the stuff that fills our calendars and minds but will never fill our souls.
What does simple look like to you or your family? Share some of the ways you have simplified, or maybe what you would like to change in order to enjoy a more simple life. I know I’ll be inspired by your comments.
Also: For those of you with Hawaii on the mind, perhaps I ought to do a follow-up post about some of the specific, practical things we have traded for the simple life we enjoy…Feel free to let me know, or leave me any questions below.
Quick travel/Surf Update: Luke made it as far as the quarter-finals in his National Contest. Even then he held 2nd place for the entire heat until in literally the last minute another boy scored a wave that knocked Luke to third (therefore not advancing.) Painful? Yes! Luke’s buddy from our North Shore ended up winning Nationals, so we are happy for the home team. Of course we wanted to see Luke in that final round, but we are fully accepting the outcome. Many more contests to come! 🙂 We wrapped up our trip with fun stuff like a day at Knotts, going to the movies, and some seriously good rest. Thanks again for all of the support, and see ya from Hawaii in a few days!
Hi I enjoyed your post and wondered if you could share further tips/advice on how you saved money once you moved to the islands as it is a big change from the mainland. I’ll be moving to Kauai in a few weeks (I’ve visited multiples times the last few years and have a fair idea of the big changes). I’ll be moving in with my significant other and his family for now, However I know there will still be new adjustments once actually living there.
My family and I are also seriously considering making the big move (from Denver) to Hawaii. We are going to be planning a trip soon, but would love some guidance as to where to be the best places to scout out while we are there! Somewhere close enough to a city where we don’t feel totally isolated and off grid, but definitely more remote. Ideally a smaller, family oriented community, smaller minimalist houses with an acre or so, or even just a good place to buy a lot and build a small house of our own! All the islands are within our considerations.
Hi Stephanie, that is so exciting! I’m glad you’re taking a trip over because that really is the best way to get a feel for the island(s) and see the communities. There are not many communities near a city that you can get an acre…that is just not Hawaii at all. Most properties are very small and very expensive. The Big Island or Kauai might have more acre size properties but again not near a city. Youll just have to explore, I think that is best. I wish I were more help but that is not my specialty (I haven’t even been to all of the islands! :)) But once you’re here and looking around you will hopefully find some areas that really connect with you! All the best and keep me posted! aloha-
Aloha Monica, I really enjoyed your post and it further motivates my wife and I to make that final push to move. Being a California native(San Francisco), the cost of living doesn’t seem that far off from Hawaii (from what I’ve heard and read), but I was wondering if you could elaborate when you stated “Expensive cars or clothes are not an option for most of us because we are paying so much for every little thing.” Though we don’t care for expensive clothes/cars, I was wondering what you were referring to by “every little thing” ? I mean is that high utility, insurance,& food costs? I still say it’s worth the trade of but I’d still appreciate insight (if and when you have time).
Mahalo for your post and any response.
Hi Mel, thank you and that is super exciting for you guys! I wish I could give you a more specific answer. All i know is that everyone who moves here or visits seems to be amazed at how quickly money flies out of your wallet when you are here. Milk is expensive, electricity is expensive, gas…food… To hire someone to clean your house is twice as much here as anywhere I’ve heard of (so I don’t! :)) but it is just about everything. Of course we don’t need the entertainment or clothes or much that we would in other places, so it does all even out, but that is just how we live. Of course there are wealthy people on the island, and some who drive fancy cars and wear expensive clothes; you won’t see them as much living on the north shore where we are (this is more a surf community) but in Honolulu you’ll find plenty of that. Regardless, it’s a wonderful life and I recommend it to anyone who wants to try it! 🙂 Keep me posted! aloha-
Aloha and Mahalo for this inspiring story you’ve shared, Monica.
I currently live in SOcal and even if I’m not working full-time, I do feel the pressure of doing more. I lived on Oahu and miss the simple living so much that it makes me cry whenever things go well in socal. I feel a strong need to escape.
Your eyes story brought me back to how things were on Oahu and inspired me to look in to moving back.
Good luck with your jouney.
I will be visiting Hawaii in September to look for a good, affordable piece of land that is big enough for me to grow my own food. I would also like to live off the grid. Do you have any suggestions in regard to the best rural areas with farm land on the big island of Hawaii? Thanks.
Wow Christopher! How exciting! Good for you–such an adventure! 🙂 I do not know much about the big Island, I’m sorry. From what I hear though you will have a lot of options there! Keep me posted as you go, I’m sure you’ll love your new way of life! aloha-
I couldnt say more, more am amazed. I would like to visit Hawai one day
Hi Monica, Beautiful post:). I am on SSI disability and I may be able to work a 20 hour a week job (entry level and not too physically demanding job) in a low stress atmosphere. I have had a desire to live there for many years. And have felt the need to leave USA for healing to distance myself from the overall anxiety and civilzation here for twenty years. But my income is a limitation. So, i would like to know if it is realistic at all to move there, not crammed in a poverty city that is stressful obviously, but peacefully as you say. Oh, and I can’t actually eat any fruit which seems a huge staple food there… Mostly just meat, tofu and veggies. Where would I start if this is realistic at all. Thanks and blessings. SJ
Very informative article and great photos. Thank you!
I love reading your post. My husband and I and our 5 kids are a travelling family, but live mainly in Costa Rica. I can feel you. I love being there and everything is so calm and simple. but I have to say I get curios about Hawaii reading your posts 🙂
So, how and why did you move there ?
Love and Sunshine
HI Katie–Costa Rica sounds pretty fabulous!
We moved here for my husband’s medical residency program fourteen years ago. The lifestyle just fit us so well, we stayed. Our family is all on the West Coast so we don’t feel too far away. It’s always a big decision though where to settle with your family for sure!
lovely pictures !! I read your blog for a long time and I like your photos very much.
I would love a follow-up post… I’m a doctor’s wife with 4 lovely children and we are a homeschooling family as well, and it’s a true dream of ours to live in Hawaii some day. We are working fervently toward our goal of being debt free (oh student loans!) so that we can do so in the future when the time is right. We actually just returned from two amazing weeks on the North Shore and I although it was vacation and vacation is NEVER the same as real life, I can feel the difference of the pace of life there, the things valued, versus here in Utah and my heart aches to be back there living more simply. It would be helpful to hear from someone similar in situation as to what the trade-offs are, we have obviously discussed them inside and out but it’s nice to get a first-hand experience from some one. Mahalo.
I stumbled across your blog a couple months ago and I’m so glad I did!! My husband’s job is moving our little family (we have a 4 year old and an 11 month old) to Oahu (from the Midwest) in a couple months and this post is making it hard to wait these last two months! My husband travels a lot for work and he won’t have to as much once we move so, I’m excited to “reset” our family life and live a little simpler again. I’d love to see a follow-up post specifically about living simply in Hawaii.
What a blessing it was to read this post. I recently returned from my very first trip to Hawaii…Maui to be specific. I had a completely life changing experience there…down to the core of my soul…and so unexpected but much needed. I got out of a bad marriage last year and have been working daily to heal the wounds and become a more whole person. It’s been a struggle to have peace about what God’s will is for me and just be still, knowing He has a plan. But while I was there, I realized that I was the most free I’ve ever felt. I was happy and at total peace! The Aloha spirit was alive and surrounded me every day. I felt such a connection with the local people and the strong sense of simplicity and happiness with what they have…however modest it was. It was infectious. I fell in love with Hawaii and everything it encompasses. Coming back to the mainland (SoCal) has been an adjustment to say the least, but I came home with an overwhelming sense that I want to live in Hawaii at some time in my life…maybe sooner than later. Until then, I’m trying my best to keep what I learned there in the forefront of my daily life…live simply, love openly, give generously, and laugh frequently. And pray of course!
Much mahalo for sharing your story and inspiring so many.
Hoping to meet you and your family sometime in Sept, love your blog.
I stumbled onto your blog about raising boys via Facebook – over an hour ago!;) My family and I also live on Oahu. While reading through some of your different posts (non-sleepovers, Quinoa cookies:), homeschooling, no-social media husband, surfing, simplicity), I’d say out loud to my husband, “We could be friends with these people; they’re weird like us!” Haha:) That being said, can you please subscribe me to your blog? Is that even how you say it?;) Thanks Sisterrr!
Wow! that is so much fun Amy! Thanks for commenting. What area of the island are you?
I’ll put your name in my subscription tab, and you will just have to click on “confirm” in your email. 🙂
I love this post and I think so many of us feel this way. My husband and I are always debating where we should live and why we should live there and why the place we are living isn’t right. And its just crazy – we live on the gorgeous Oregon Coast.
This was such a good read!! After just getting back from staying at our friend’s house up in very country Washington, we are really really craving an even more simple life. We do live in So Cal, but it’s a rural area, still we have neighbors closet by and live on a street, but they are bigger lots. Being away for 2 weeks together was the longest the 5 of us had every been together just us. Which is kind of sad when you think we’ve been 5 for 2.5 years now. I was a little worried we would all get on each others nerves, but it truthfully didn’t happen! Granted we were on vacation, so there wasn’t much “house stuff” to worry about, but let me tell you the first thing I did when I got home was unenroll my kids in so many activities. We went from a LOT to just 2. We don’t have cable and since being home i’ve been tempted to just get rid of the tv all together, it seems to always be a battle of what movie they can watch or not watch etc..and they are fine playing outside or with their toys. Anyways, slowing down has been SO nice and there has been a lot less fighting! I think it’s really life changing to get out of your element and come back with a different set of eyes 🙂 I’m so happy to read your post Monica, thank you for sharing!!
One more thing…..no Trader Joe’s? Ever? Why did you have to ruin a perfectly good post with news like that?
Funny, God has given me three words that I guess are goals for this upcoming homeschool year: rest, joy, ans simple. He’s been showing me how they are all related.
I think homeschooling does make it a little easier to simplify life. Not that there aren’t plenty of ways to complicate even the homeschool life! In fact, I’m taking a close look at how we spend our time to see if there are more ways we can cut back on excessive commitments.
I also think just the culture of Hawaii lends itself to a simpler existence. I don’t worry as much about keeping up with the latest anything here. And I feel so at peace here. We don’t live the country life like you all, but I do think we live more simply here than we did on the mainland. And I’m going to be looking for even more ways to simplify! Beautiful post.
hi Monica! it’s my first time here and i am coming through Jen loves Kev. i agree with you, simplicity is relative. we live in busy Miami and i think that as we grow, the longer we live, the farther away we feel part of all the business Miami has to offer. we choose to cook and eat at home almost every night and we choose to have a simple life. simple to us. much simpler than it used to be but perhaps not as simple as it one day will be. beautiful post and you live in a beautiful place. cheers! Claudia
LOVE this post. Simplifying has been a challenge of ours and something I want SO badly! Jen led me to your blog and I love this post. Thanks so much!
Every time I come home from my aunt and uncles in maui, I vow that I will come back to So. Cal and live a much more simple and less materialistic life… That usually is all good for about a month or so…. then it’s back to the way it was… =(
Ok I’m packing up and moving to Hawaii, right NOW!
I’m also glad you’re back home, I missed Hawaii while you were gone. Does that makes sense? ha ha…I’ve never visited Oahu but feel like I’ve been there thru your beautiful blog 😉 Mahalo for that!
I could relate so well to everything you said. We’ve lived on oahu for the past two years but we’ll be moving next summer and it makes me so sad. We have really enjoyed our simple and family focused life while we’ve been here. Hawaii really is a great place to slow down and do that. Hopefully now that we’ve experienced the beauty of the simple life we can create that same kind of life when we move to Tennessee.
You do a wonderful job with your blog. Thank you for the beautiful and fun messages that you share.
Thank you Katrina! Oh it must be tough knowing you are leaving…But I can imagine finding a sweet rhythm to life in Tennessee as well. 🙂
Thank you for the kind words. Say hi anytime! 🙂 aloha
Beautiful Monica. Welcome Welcome Welcome Home. E Komo Mai!
I have struggled with living in Hawaii, even though I prayed for it, only because we are separated so much from our families back on the mainland. Living on an island is very comforting to me because I do feel it simplifies things. I don’t ever have to drive “very far,” there aren’t as many options for places to go and things to do, even though there are a TON of places to go and things to do on O’ahu & after nearly 3, “tree!” years living here, I still have a long list of things to do & see…but I love it. Love feeling comforted by being surrounded by Mother Ocean. Love the idea that we are so lucky to be on this incredibly gorgeous tropical island farther away from any land than anyplace else. I’ve always gravitated towards “The Road Less Traveled,” so it feels very natural to me to be out here. It’s so nice to hear how you appreciate it too. We are traveling to the E. Coast to visit my husband’s family for “tree” wks soon & I anticipate feeling very similar to the way you have upon return, which I am already looking forward to before even having left the island!
Welcome back home! It’s the best feeling, isn’t it? My husband and I long to someday to have a home, in the country preferably near the beach. For now, we try and live a simple life. At times, it’s a struggle especially with how temping “keeping up with the Joneses” can be, but we know that for us living simply brings us more contentment than running the rat race. Anyhow. Thank you for sharing such beautiful and inspirational words. 🙂
Aloha Monica!! I keep up with your blog and think of you often… Life on the big island is so wonderful for simplifying a life… It’s a lot like the North Shore 🙂 but man, I struggle with how much to get involved with outside of school… Maybe this year we take a break from all the sports and just hang at the beach 🙂 God bless you guys and if you are ever on this island you guys have a place to stay!
I loved this….I’ve gone over it a million times in my head – how to slow down, connect, breathe & live each day deeply & intentionally without so much noise. It’s hard, with 5 kids, to figure out where to cut things out….but it’s something I’m committed to during this summer season. We live in a rural area in south Jersey, but life is still fast-paced in the NE. I try to slow down and it feels like I can’t! But I know we all make our own choices for how we spend our days, and I’m making some tough choices in order to set a new rhythm in our family. Thanks for your beautiful post.
Thank you Susanna. Five kids–Wow, I can only imagine how busy that must be. It sounds like your thinking and heart are right. This will naturally lead you to where you need to be. Much aloha, and keep up the amazing work!
Thanks for writing this! I was so interested to hear how you felt about Hawaiian living after California for a month.
Love this post. It is the life I want for my family and I. Not sure that Hawaii is ever in our future, but a home in the country with a garden, some chickens, and a whole lot of nowhere and nothing is (I hope). We don’t have a lot of outside commitments (other than church, which also happens to be my job), and it is funny how we are looked upon as being reclusive at best and rude at worst. We just enjoy each other’s company. My wife and I know that our son who is 12 now won’t be under our roof forever, and so we treasure each moment we have together as a family. Life just seems better that way.
Thank you Art! I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting. 🙂 Yes, when you are happy with your own family, you have a treasure! I hope that you find your country garden with chickens and a lot of space! (We have chickens, but they’re all wild…haha. We talk about raising chickens, but our dog is a little too eager to get at them, so not sure how that would work…)
Much aloha to you and your family!
This post was beautiful to read. I’ve been struggling with my attitude of gratitude lately, and in a way you just helped calm me down. Our current circumstances are unconventional, and difficult to compare to (comparison is bad news anyway, right?).. life is really busy for us -only because it has to be- hopefully for a season. We have no other choice, and I dream of simpler days. There’s a lot of sacrifice that’s involved when your family is trying to create a new path from scratch.. so I guess you could say we’re trying to find a balance with simplicity, all while trying to stay afloat. Andrew and I definitely both dream however for a simpler life on the island, so maybe someday we’ll be as lucky as your charming family. 🙂 Thanks again, I’ll definitely be counting all of my blessings this week.
Arica!!! You…just be in the moment my friend! This is a huge season for you, and simple will come later. Just do what you need to, and keep your family life as uncomplicated as you can. Sometimes simple can even be busy–that sounds weird, but hopefully you know what I mean. When you are focused on just a few things, it can be busy, but it is intentional. Hang in there and always be grateful–your family is doing amazing things! aloha
Love this. I am so going to miss island life when we have to leave.