Thursday marked one month that E and I have been living and working on Maui. He works at the farm stand selling banana bread that’s baked fresh every morning. I work in the kitchen making candy and hot sauces that we also sell at the stand. We both work in the vegetable garden and around the rest of the property, pulling weeds, clearing space for more beds, spreading mulch. We sleep and store our things in a cabin without electricity. One of the farm cats likes to hang around the cabin, and sneaks in to sleep by our feet at night; her name is Munchkin.
I’m not much of a cook, but E has been whipping up all kinds of delicious foods from scratch — empanadas, bagels, orange-flavored tofu, soft pretzels, popsicles made from fresh fruit. We ride bicycles, we hitchhike, and we walk, usually to get to the beach, or we hang around the farm and chat with the other people who live and work here — our “farmily.”
A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of the women here while she was working at the stand, and she told me a story. Before she came to Hawai’i, she was visiting some friends in Arizona, and one guy — a friend of a friend who is “kind of a tool” — upon hearing about her plans to live and work on an organic farm on Maui said, “it’s not fair that people get to live in paradise.”
I disagree for a number of reasons. Most importantly, there are people who are born and raised in Hawai’i, be they Native Hawai’ians or any other race or ethnicity, for whom these islands are home just as Rhode Island is my home and guy-who-is-kind-of-a-tool calls some other state his home. Just because guy-who-is-kind-of-a-tool considers Hawai’i “paradise” doesn’t mean there aren’t people working and living there. People in Hawai’i do more than serve drinks to tourists on the beach, and the ones who are bartenders and waitstaff have lives outside the tourism industry. There are people in Hawai’i who work in hotels and office buildings, hospitals, schools, and grocery stores, and at the end of their shifts, they go home to their apartments and houses, and they watch television or they walk their dog, and they have hobbies, and I bet some of them even plan vacations to places other than Hawai’i.
I listed in the first paragraph what life has been like for E and I this past month. It’s an alternative lifestyle; it could be characterized as cool or interesting or shocking, and it’s what we want to be doing right now. We feel lucky to be here, to have the opportunity to pick up and move to a place where 65ºF (18ºC) is cold, where there are mountains and ocean, and coconut and banana trees. This is a fun and interesting experience for us because it is different.
But if you refer back to the list of our day-to-day activities, you’ll notice that we work, and we cook food, and we chat with our friends. We have a pet cat. Sometimes it rains, and sometimes it’s sunny.
Paradise is relative.
Living and working in a place is not the same as vacationing there. Again, I feel very lucky to be here, and I wouldn’t trade this opportunity. I realize that working 25 hours a week and commuting to work by walking past a papaya grove is not the same as working a fulltime office job. My life is not hard, my work is not drudgery (not that office jobs have to be drudgery). At the end of the day, though, I’m living in paradise because I’m living the life I want to be, not because I’m doing it in Hawai’i.
Have you ever lived in “paradise?” Did it feel like a permanent vacation or was it relative?