Have you felt called to live on Hawaii Island? I had heard so many stories of this “phenomenon” that I asked friends of mine who live here to share their stories with me for a project I was putting together with the aptly named, “Called to Hawaii”.
I wanted to share this essay written by my friend Katie Minkus. When she sent this to me originally a few years ago, I was coming off painkillers from oral surgery and either that or just the “that’s how I feel about this island, too!” emotions had me crying during this essay! I will be posting a few of these stories so you can enjoy them, too!
When You’re Called, You’re Called – Katie Minkus
One of my childhood friends used to go to Hawaii every summer for vacation because his father was a United Airlines pilot, and his mother was a flight attendant. He’d come home with his nose crispy fried and a faraway look in his eyes. His stories were exotic and yet the experience of flying to Hawaii from California in the 1970’s was simply out of financial reach for most middle class Americans. We went camping and on road trips instead.
In 1994, I went to The Big Island for the first time, as a “fluke.” By then I had already traveled millions of air miles to many different countries all over the world, and as I continued to explore foreign lands and cultures, Hawaii (although I hadn’t been there) just seemed, well… boring. It was just always “there,” in California’s “backyard” so to speak, and frankly, I believed the flight was too short to offer much in terms of an exotic culture or an “Un-American” experience.
Then I landed at the Hilo airport in June of 1994. Hilo. Although small, this is not a “boring” airport. I could smell rain, mold, fresh air, and I saw hula dancers and exotic looking people giving leis and greetings in a language I didn’t recognize. I was knocked off my center, and I wasn’t scared. Instead, I was hooked. Instantly. This place had culture… and roots… and heart.
During that first trip — a women’s retreat at the Kalani resort in Puna — I had several of the most powerful experiences of my life. I walked across the lava fields (Dangerous! I didn’t know then that I shouldn’t be walking where I could see lava in the cracks beneath my feet.) I swam with sea turtles and dolphins and snorkeled with all “kine” exotic fish. I crawled into a lava tube at night under a full moon and felt the volcano, the earth, and Pele breathing along with the beat of my heart. I went to Waipio Valley to see the verdant and lush mountains and feel the mana of this sacred space.
I came back again two months later.
That was the start of my obsession with Hawaii. I would visit every chance I could, multiple times per year, every island around the state. We found friends of friends and made our own friends, who would ask us to house sit for them when they went on vacation. Hawaii truly felt like my backyard playground. And yet I still thought of it as a place to “retire.”
September 11, 2001 is a date the world will never forget. My husband Dave and I had been talking for years about “when we retire to Hawaii.” The events of September 11th woke us up to a different level of understanding the concept, “live in the moment.” We started buying property on the Big Island and every time we would leave to fly back to California, I would sob on the plane as if my heart were broken. Because it was. It broke every time I had to leave this place to go “home.” So, we made the Big Island our home.
For years, when people would ask me, “Why did you move to Hawaii?” Besides the snarky answer, “Duh, have you been there?”, the only way I could describe my experience was to say, “I feel like we were called.” Hawaii… the Big Island… this place, in retrospect, felt like a foregone conclusion. That it was meant to be. I had no idea WHY we were called to live here (still don’t, in fact), but I knew in my soul there was no other choice. Our experiences since then have only solidified that. In fact, several of our close Hawaiian friends have told us they believe we were here before, and were called back to live here again.
Fifteen years later I don’t think of my journey anymore… except occasionally when I shed a tear as my plane is taking off from the Kona airport. I have become a part of this place; it has absorbed me, taken me in, made me feel alive and whole like no other place on the planet. It is intertwined with my soul. People ask me, “Would you ever move back?” and my heart doesn’t even understand the question. “Back to what? To where? Why would I move from here?”
I’m fortunate to work in an industry, real estate, where I’m constantly reminded of the very real struggle many people face in loving this place and trying to find a way to live here. Recently one of my best friends was encouraged to pursue a job opportunity on the mainland where he could earn $1million-plus, per year. His response? “We work with billionaires who are trying to get to Hawaii and live the lifestyle I already enjoy. Why would I give that up for money?” Why, indeed?
Last November, I caught up with my childhood friend who visited Hawaii every summer to see Dave and I. He was on Maui with his wife and child and we met for a long lunch. He still visits every year. And now he’s trying to figure out a way to be here — to live here — full time. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years and we spent most of our time together talking about Hawaii, what it’s like to live here, and brainstorming how he can make that happen for his family. Full circle? Or meant to be? And does it matter? When you’re called… you’re called. And in my experience, not answering that call will only break your heart.
If this story makes you think you may wish to finally call Hawaii home, read my book, “How to Move to Kona” or if you are considering purchasing a home on the island, I wrote, “The Insiders Guide To Buying Real Estate on the Big Island”. I also do referral real estate with my husband, a licensed agent, and we can make an introduction to a fantastic agent, including Katie’s husband, Dave!