Sitting with my husband on Valentine’s Day, 2010, on cold wet sand, on a chilly beach in Santa Cruz, in the middle of the Great Recession, we were called to the Big Island.
We were both miserable.
We were looking at what our future looked like thanks to the housing crisis, and we realized we could not afford to keep both our condo in Kona and our house in Los Gatos. We bought the condo in 2005, at the height of the real estate market, and now we were underwater on both of our homes. We had thought it best to sell the condo in Kona, as it was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo in a retirement community. Not a place we could easily raise our two small children. We contemplated our decision as we watched a surf competition, and the huge waves reminded us of the winter storm waves we loved to watch at the “End of the World” near Keauhou. Maybe it was the giant waves, the sound of the crashing surf, and remembering the feeling of body surfing at Kua Bay… or perhaps it was the call of Pele herself, but my husband and I got the same feeling at the same time. We had to move to Hawaii.
Moving to Kona Full Time
We looked at each other and both shared that we had a feeling we were supposed to live on the Big Island. We both knew our two children would have a better life, growing up slower and without the distractions of Silicon Valley, even if it meant living smaller. Later we would say that it felt like a bolt of intuition. We immediately started talking about selling our home and getting to the island as soon as our daughter was out of school in June. We reclaimed our light!
Driven to get the house staged and listed, we spent hours each weekend on landscaping and improvement projects, all the while envisioning our life as permanent residents of Hawaii. As the universe has a way of working its magic when you are on the path you are meant to follow, my husband was offered a full time job as the resident manager of our condo complex. My boss at a local real estate association agreed to let me telecommute from the island for one year, at which point I’m sure he felt I would get island fever and come home, just as we did after the first year we had spent on the island, in 2005-2006.
Leaving Our Stuff
We held one epic garage sale where, standing on the driveway looking at the boxes and piles of personal treasures, I had to embrace the fact that I could not take all my stuff with me to Kona. I watched strangers walk off with my keepsakes. I threw away four-foot tall photo collages that had been hanging in my home since I was in my early thirties. Painfully, I stored my wedding china and glassware at the in-laws’ storage shed, knowing that I would most likely not have formal parties in Kona. For years after I made the move, I would counsel people who wanted to make the leap to island living that in order to assimilate to the island culture, you have to leave your stuff behind. I was determined to let go of being defined by my stuff, but it was a gargantuan task and a sad day selling off my possessions. Of course, I forgot about most of it when I moved into our already furnished condo that we had used as a vacation rental for four years. As for the wedding china? I ended up shipping it to Kona in 2018 and most of it was smashed by the USPS! I have learned to revel in consignment store plates and reusable plastic wine glasses for BBQ beach parties.
A Message From Pele
On one of our first excursions as happier-than-hell new residents, we went to Volcanoes National Park. My husband was walking near the caldera to bring an offering when he heard a woman’s voice say, “Welcome home, Eric. Did you think it was a coincidence that you are here?” When he came back and told me that, it was the moment I started to believe that Pele was an actual entity here on the Big Island. (I had thought of Pele as the Hawaiian’s mythological diety.) Soon afterwards, I started blogging about the island and felt compelled to share the spiritual stories with my readers, along with the beautiful and inspiring places to visit. I started connecting with others who felt called to our wonderful island home, and realized that Pele was bringing us together.
If you talk to anyone who has been here over a few years, you will hear that Pele tests you during your first year. We had THAT year when we first came to the island in 2004 and fought loneliness and homesickness, along with financial adversity. We were a family of four living in 750 square feet with grumpy elderly neighbors who could not believe an infant and a four year old were living next door to them. When I returned to the Bay Area, I was excited to spend less on groceries and coffee, and have friends to help watch my children. However, I missed the warm ocean, the unexpected sight of a Hawaiian sea turtle poking its head out of the water, the joy of the Hawaiian spinner dolphins jumping and twirling in the morning sun, the excitement of watching the Humpback whales breach, and the scent of plumeria in the evening. Heck, I even missed watching the lime-colored geckos attack and eat the gnats and cockroaches on our lanai each evening. It was not until we moved back full time that I missed the spirit and energy of the island, too.
The Energy That Connects People to Hawaii Island
Over the years, I have left the island to go on vacation, or business trips, and even to bury both my mother and my father. I even moved off the island in 2016 for a year spent in Lake Tahoe. While I’m away, I can actually feel the sense of missing home. Not just missing my family or the routine of daily life, but the feeling of the connection to the Big Island. There is an energy force that we have connected with here that we have never felt anywhere else. If we try and tell our friends in the Bay Area, they think we jumped into a metaphysical “woo-woo” land over here. As my daughter said recently, “There are so many strange things that happen on the island, I believe just about anything.” From energy vortexes, to night marchers, to the ancient Kahuna protecting the area around Keauhou Bay, it’s all part of the mix here.
One thing we have come to believe is that there is SOMETHING interesting happening on this island. In reading the stories of the Hawaiian heiau, and where they are placed, there is a defining energy around these sacred places of worship. (In the Celtic tradition such places that give us an opening into “Presence” are called “Thin Places.”) Where we chose to live, Keauhou, has many heiaus and the area is known for a “special energy.” We’ve had a few spirits visit us, and in particular, my husband saw a young girl with long black hair standing in our kitchen one night when he awoke. He called out my daughter’s name wondering why she would be in a long white gown, and then she disappeared. As I tell some of my friends, “You can believe me or not. I am just telling you what happens here.”
“What Brought You To the Island?”
Residents on the Big Island when first greeting a new acquaintance will not ask what someone does for a living, as was the case in Silicon Valley. They’ll ask “What brought you to the island?” What we used to tell people is that we concocted our plan to move to Hawaii when we received holiday newsletters from family around the country sharing stories of their kids in soccer or violin classes. We wanted to really shock everyone by writing in our holiday newsletter that we were leaving the mainland far behind and moving to Hawaii for a year, and that our kids were learning hula and how to paddle a Hawaiian canoe. We did shock everyone and we certainly shocked ourselves by making Kona our permanent home in 2010. With gratitude still in our hearts, we wrote our 2018 holiday newsletter once again inviting everyone to visit us on the Big Island.
Now, when asked what brought us here, we say we had a choice to make and we chose to come here for a better life for ourselves, and for our children. And to a special few, we tell them that we were called here.
(I wrote this as an essay for a project about being called to the Big Island. I invite you to leave comments below about your own personal experience about being called here!)
If you are considering making the move to the Big Island, I wrote two resource guides AND we offer Realtor referral services and inside advice. Connect with us directly at Julie@Ziemelis.com