“Why would you ever leave Hawaii?”
This has got to be my most frequently asked question.
“You have a great career, make good money & live on the beach in Hawaii, why would you give that up for something that’s not guaranteed?” ”Why don’t you just keep your job & travel two weeks a year, just like everyone else?”
Welp... that just wouldn’t be me.
My wanderlust started when I was living in Washington State and planning a trip to Hawaii. I decided that vacationing there just wasn’t enough. I wanted more than just a week in paradise; I wanted to live in paradise.
Washington is a beautiful state after all, but I felt the area I was living in lacked culture, opportunity and, well, sunshine.
I needed more.
I started researching what it took to live in Hawaii like an obsessive crazy person.
I’d heard things; “you’ll get island fever", "you won’t make enough money", "you’ll miss your family too much", "it’s dangerous", and "you’ll be back”.
I knew moving to Hawaii was the biggest goal I had set for myself up to this ripe old age of 24, and if I was really going to do it I needed to make some serious sacrifices.
Then I asked myself, where do I start? How was I really going to make this dream a reality? Is Hawaii really where I wanted to go?
I was born in California and was already familiar to the area, and knew I’d still get the diversity and the culture I craved, why don’t I just go back there?
I mean after all, it would be easier.
So I created a pro’s and con’s list - a giant one. I literally ripped a sheet off of a large desktop calendar, flipped it over, nailed it to the wall and made a T-chart. Hawaii vs California, which sunny state did I want to move to? Really there was pro’s & con’s to both, so I decided to create a formula to rank the importance of each item on my list. I listed everything from distance to family, job opportunities, the cost of living & moving, having friends established vs. not knowing anyone, & many, many more. I rated everything on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being extremely important to me, 1 being not so important.
By the end of my list the results were uncanny: California 72 & Hawaii an astonishing 164.
There was the answer, written in black and white.
Okay, so I picked Hawaii. Cool. Now what?? How was I actually going to acheive this goal???
I’d need money & lots of it - I thought, because moving there would be very expensive, and I had no friends there and no job lined up.
I knew that even though I wasn't making much working in marketing for a small community newspaper, it was enough to put some away if I cut out some of my frivolous spending habits.
So I spent the next 12 months saving, not going out every weekend, consciously aware of every purchase, asking myself: Did I really need this or did I just want it?
I spent a lot of free time looking online for other stories of those who’d moved from the mainland, how they did it and what they'd needed to do it.
I had a list & planned to follow it.
I anticipated there would be surprises once I had arrived, so I wanted to eliminate any chance of failure before I left.
I was on my own, after all.
12 months later, in July of 2011, I made the move from Evergreen state to the Aloha State, later finding out it was the best decision of my life.
I’d heard everything from my friends and family; “You’re running away from life”, “You can’t go live in Hawaii without being perceived as a beach bum”, “It’s only temporary, you’ll be back”.
Remember when you were a kid...
...and your kindergarten teacher told you that you could be anything you wanted in the world? An astronaut, a doctor, a fireman, that the world is your oyster. At what point in life did we all decide we can’t be whatever we wanted? That we are limited by things outside ourselves? That we simply just can’t?
I’ve been faced with ‘I can’t’ my entire life, only later to realize the things holding me back existed only in my head.
Once I overcame this, the world really was my oyster.
When I arrived on the gorgeous Island of Maui I was greeted with the smell of plumerias in the ocean breeze.
Within a week I'd accepted the first job that was offered to me at an Urgent Care facility as a front desk receptionist for $9 an hour. Knowing that wouldn’t get me by for very long, I instantly started chatting up locals and inquiring through my new found network for every opportunity I could find.
One huge lesson Hawaii taught me: Your network is your best tool for success.
Sometimes it really is all about who you know, and within three months I’d been offered a lucrative position as a Marketing Executive at a local radio & media company with a hefty salary and endless opportunities.
I’d finally made it.
This brings me to the major question at hand:
Why did I give up my executive position in Hawaii to travel the world?
I’d reached every goal I set out to, I was making great money, had a 401k, 2 weeks vacation a year, lived on the beach in Hawaii, had the flexibility in my schedule to work whenever I wanted, and a talent for marketing.
How was I still not content??!!
This experience in my life made me realize a major distinction about myself - I am not driven by money or things, and all the perks in the world didn’t make me happy if I wasn’t working toward my passion: Wildlife Conservation.
I want to continue traveling around the world helping to prevent the permanent loss of endangered species.
I went to seek guidance from a career counselor & knew what I had to do.
It was time to quit my job & work towards my goal of traveling the world & saving animals.
Okay, that’s a broad statement.
Like, it should be printed on a t-shirt or something; I want to travel the world and save animals.
‘Yeah, lady, you and everyone else’. ‘Wanna just drink wine and take naps, too??’
Travel the world and save animals, what does that even mean? What sort of education do I need to do this? How can I actually make money doing it, at least enough to survive? And how was I really going to save animals, or was I just going to travel the world and pet puppies and kittens all day?
So I started the process the way we all do in the 21st century, I Googled it. And Googled it and Googled it some more. I probably even owe Google some royalties for that sentence. I researched every type of career with animals possible, and to no big surprise, the only one that made semi-decent money was a Veterinarian.
There was my next big goal, I thought.
Vet school, jeez.
In the past I’d spent a lot of my free time volunteering at local humane societies, but always felt I was never really making a significant impact.
When I was 17 I’d landed my first job as a Veterinary assistant, but remember feeling trapped between the four white walls of the clinic. I wanted to be outside, and I knew if I was going to work with animals that I needed to be the decision maker, aka the Veterinarian, not the assistant.
Now that I was working as a Marketing Exec in Hawaii and wanted to get back into the field of animals, I knew I needed to get back into college. So there I went, a late 20-something year old female, with my books in my bag and a coffee in my hand, off to my first day at the University of Hawaii in the Animal Sciences Pre-Veterinary program.
Quickly I became overwhelmed by the demands of my career and classes, so I gave myself an ultimatum; school or career, pick one. Within a month I had put in my resignation at the radio station, and put everything I had into my education.
Okay, so I quit my career to go back to school, people do that all the time. At what point did I decide to travel world?
Three years into Pre-Veterinary School.
I was really feeling the pressure. I questioned my goals. Was I sure this was what I really wanted to do? I needed to test my passion, make sure it was still what I wanted. I decided to take a hiatus from college and volunteer at the Honolulu Zoo to gain some hands on experience and build my network.
And I loved it.
I was working with primates & the public, educating children & their parents on the sufferings caused by human consumption to the world’s most precious & endangered species.
Soon after I was hired at an Animal Hospital as a Veterinary Technician, and could clearly see my 5 to 10 year plan - 40 hours a week, two weeks’ vacation a year, a 401k, and then suddenly an overwhelming feeling that my spontaneous, freestyle life was over.
I was back to square one.
That was another major turning point for me.
I had two career talents, marketing and veterinary medicine, and two passions – travel and wildlife conservation. Yet neither of my career choices quite fit.
I decided I wasn’t ready to settle down; I wasn’t ready to know all the details of my 5-10 year plan.
I wasn’t ready to commit.
So then where was I going to go? Who was I going to do it with? I can’t go alone, I thought, after all I’m not made of money and have no trust to fall back on. And International travel is way too dangerous and scary for a single 20-something year old female to do by herself, right??
Or is it?
I considered the sources that I’d gained this perception from.
They’d all shared one consistent factor; none of them had ever traveled outside of the country. I knew they meant well, but I needed to change who I was seeking advice from.
But there are so many amazing places to see, how was I supposed to pick just one?!
Another wonderful perk about living in Hawaii is the relationships you gain with the cultured locals.
Most weren’t born there, and over half were foreign to the United States. The benefit of knowing people from all over the world is the diversity in their experiences. Through my network, I found many women just like myself who had already traveled around the globe, and did it solo!
I was recommended many places by my international friends, but Thailand was preferred across the board for beginning backpackers.
Within a month I had completely liquidated all of my assets, packed everything I owned in 3 suit cases, strapped my dogs service animal vest on and I was off.
Back to the mainland where I faced my biggest fear of all
The feeling that giving up Hawaii was like taking three steps back.
I knew if I’d ever wanted to really travel and get involved with international conservation organizations I needed to sacrifice, yet again.
One of the best perks of Washington is that it is a renter’s state. It’s cheap to rent, cheap to live, and the minimum wage is highest in the country. However, none of this would have mattered had my family not resided there.
So here I was, back in the Evergreen State, working nights as a bartender and renting a small room just to save every penny I could for my goal. It took about three months to save before I bought my ticket and announced my plan to friends and family.
The support I received from everyone was astonishing.
I had finally ceased the doubt in their minds.
I knew that I wanted to travel to different countries, to work with many influential causes & projects while helping make a difference on the effects on wild life.
When I was in Thailand I found my true passion: Advocating for animals exploited for tourism entertainment & educating travelers on how to support responsible tourism.
While I was on my first trip to Southeast Asia, I went looking for my purpose.
I came back with a mission.
With my marketing background & passion for wildlife conservation & travel, I knew I needed to integrate them into a resource that could truly make a difference.
And so this blog was born.
The support I’ve gained through my network has truly been my inspiration to keep going and accomplish something so different.
Thank you for reading this story. I hope it inspires.