Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, January 22, 1999

Guide book
to real life
in paradise

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor

So You Want to Live in Hawaii: By Toni Polancy (Barefoot Publishing), $19.95

We see them getting off the plane everyday, bright-eyed tourists who fall in love with our islands and decide to move it on up to "paradise."

Art It doesn't take long for the facts of life to emerge: maybe they'll have to work two or three jobs, they won't have a house or shack on the beach unless they are in the $300,000+ club, and if they are working long hours, they may not get to enjoy much of the outdoors.

It had gotten to the point where I'd make bets with my friends whenever we met ambitious types who moved here hoping to set the town on fire. "Five years," one would say. "No three."

We'd all lose when these individuals would move away in six months to a year. Forget New York's tough reputation. If you can make it in Hawaii you can make it anywhere.

Now there's a book that will save such wannabes from making two expensive moves. "So You Want to Live in Hawaii" was written by Toni Polancy, who moved to Kihei from Pennsylvania, and found success as a real estate magazine publisher on Maui and Kauai.

"There were two people I talked to when I came, who convinced me to write the book," she said. "One of them was a realtor who said one of the saddest things she sees is elderly couples who plan to retire here, then have a hard time. It's a time when their health is going out, maybe one of them dies and the other is left far from family without resources."

Another man told Polancy that he had been having trouble with his marriage, and told his wife he would do anything to stay together. That involved selling his family farm and moving to Hawaii. It took them three years and moves to three different islands to get established here, and that didn't save the marriage.

"Whatever problems a person has, they bring with them. All the sunshine won't help. It's no surprise to residents, but it is to everyone else," Polancy said.

"I came with $20,000 and I thought that was a lot of money. To start a business I had to put another $20,000 on my credit cards and that really scared me."

This was after she had planned her strategy over eight years.

A former reporter, Polancy takes an objective position in presenting the facts about life in Hawaii, neither trying to persuade nor dissuade people from coming here. She serves up enough history, talk about the economy, sovereignty, prospects for dating ("both sexes complained that the islands have small kama'aina or resident populations, limiting choices") to paint a picture and allow readers to imagine themselves in the mix.

Polancy also talks about schools, taxes, centipedes, crime and lifestyle possibilities on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island.

The book is a good primer and should be mandatory reading for anyone who believes that life in Hawaii is idyllic.

"The people who stay come with a plan. They have a little more insight into what life's all about here," Polancy said.

"The reason I came was because I knew I could find something to support me, and I thought about what I would do if my plan didn't work. I asked myself if I would be willing to humble myself and start all over at a low wage and share an apartment.

"I didn't have to do that, but I would have been willing to do that."

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