Moving to Hawaii


Oahu, Mary Bartnikowski

Oahu, Mary Bartnikowski

I moved to Hawaii 17 months ago, by way of Thailand.

Before that, I sold my belongings in Palo Alto, California, in 2009, where I had lived for 20 years, shooting up a storm in my photography business, being a Mom, and seeing Silicon Valley explode with innovation and technology miracles.

My heart told me to fly free.

32 countries later…

and traveling solo around the world twice buying one-way tickets along the way like a modern Mary Poppins, which had been my greatest wish, I had a quiet epiphany.

Would have been easier with an umbrella but planes, trains, boats, rickshaws and buses taught me how to go into the unknown without a phrase book but plenty of pantomime.

After this last gigantic 18-month journey in Cambodia, Burma, Nepal, India, Thailand and a near fatal motorbike accident in Chiang Mai, my heart pounded with one word.


Kauai, bartnikowski

Kauai, bartnikowski

So I bought a one-way ticket to Honolulu, Hawaii and said goodbye to Thailand.

Cool trade winds, warm turquoise water, and fresh pristine air.

It was calling me. And the wind cried Mary.

Yes I felt fear but knew in my heart I had to do it.

When I was lying on the pavement, my motorbike still running on top of me, I noticed I was still alive.

It was the busiest intersection in Chiang Mai. I could have been run over while I was down there but angels helped me. And my Dad and Mom who passed over a few years before. I felt them with me. Thank you for saving me!

And in that epiphany of locating my arms, legs, and accounting for the fact that my brain wasn’t bashed in, I felt relief and joy.

I was alive.

So I reached into my heart and pulled out a dream I had buried in there.

My mind told me, “You’re crazy, it’s too expensive to live in Hawaii. You don’t know anyone there.”

I don’t know anyone in most countries I visit. But I visit any way. This was no different and I would get to speak English. And communicate humor and swim in the ocean every day.

That did it.

I arrived in Honolulu with two checked bags, one carry-on with all my media equipment, and no bathing suit.

It was deliciously freeing and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.



As soon as you step off the plane and smell the pristine air you swoon. It’s fragrant and full of freshness. It’s not sweltering hot like the monsoon season in Asia. I’ve been thru 3 monsoon seasons in Thailand, India, and Nepal. It’s ultra wet. Go when it’s dry.

And the bananas. So many different kinds here: ice cream bananas, apple bananas, they’re all good. Mangoes and papayas grow on trees here. Without GMO.

The lettuce is the best I’ve ever eaten in my life. There are many different types to choose from. Farmers markets are every day not just on weekends. Every day!

You become a local fast.

Locals recognize each other by the way we smile at one another for no good reason. Just that we’re alive in paradise, that’s all.

If someone doesn’t smile its likely they’re a tourist.

You are happiest where you want to live. It might not be Hawaii but your dream destination is calling you.

I don’t feel the frustrations and anxiety I felt in other countries. People say you take your self with you wherever you go, but this version of me here on Kauai is calmer than I’ve ever been in my life.

I’ve noticed other people are too, Hawaii gets under your skin and stays there. It burrows its way into your spirit and becomes part of your soul. Or maybe your soul is here and I re-discovered mine.

The expense? 

If you shop at farmers markets and refrain from buying stuff that has to be shipped in all the time you’ll spend less money. But hey we have Costco on every island here. I might even become a member.

star fruit, Kauai

star fruit, Kauai

Yes rents are high but not as high as San Francisco, and we have the warm ocean here, there is nothing more entertaining than that.

It’s the only medicine you’ll ever need.

We have aloha spirit — the smiles and the motioning people into the flow of traffic to go ahead of you. It happens every day here. In the 20 years I lived in the Bay Area I don’t recall anyone telling me to go ahead of them when I was driving.

So the benefits in a nutshell are:

the freshest water you’ll ever swim in, aloha spirit, sparkling clean air, and being healthy.

It’s really that simple.

Grateful to be here on the most remote and isolated land mass from any other chunk of land in the world. Yes!

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Going to Hawaii Island? Don’t leave home without my new book, all the secrets from a local that you can’t miss. Discover the Best of Big Island, Hawaii here.