If you've ever been to Hawaii's Big Island -- even if you've just seen a picture of its dramatic, volcanic landscapes -- you've probably heard the call. You know the one: "Pack your bags and relocate to the land of aloha." Ana Wildflower, 58, felt the pull (from none other than the goddess of fire, Pele ), and eight years later she still couldn't shake the feeling. So in 2008 she moved from her home in the Pacific Northwest to a new way of life in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. Ana told us what Hawaii's call sounded like to her and why it was just too loud to ignore.
What was it like the first day you woke up on Hawaii's Big Island and realized, "I live here"? It was May 1, 2008. I remember seeing the stars from my bed the evening before, then waking up to a beautiful day with a great breeze and a great view. I felt like I needed to be in the moment, so I went to the ocean. It had been months of working on getting here, so the realization hadn't sunk in yet: I was actually here.
What had happened in the months leading up to that moment? Moving here was a huge experience. In the end I had to let go of things I had had for 30 or 40 years because the cost to ship via land and sea was too much. So I found good homes for the small amount of material items I had, things like my wooden rocking chair that I varnished in 1968 or my wooden two-drawer file cabinet that I assembled in 1990. I still miss my Schwinn bicycle, which was the only new bike I ever owned, and the rocking chair. But every- thing else I was able to let go of. So even though this was a huge move, it was meant to be. I've moved around a lot, and the Big Island is the only place that feels like home. It was not a dream for me to move here, but a calling.
Can you describe what kind of calling? I have had callings to move somewhere before, and it starts with an inner voice. This one was the same, an inner voice calling me to the Big Island. But it was more of a suggestion than a demand! Anyway, I had already made my airplane reservation to go to the Big Island in December 2006 for a vacation, and the calling came that October. During my vacation I went to the Kilauea Caldera at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, near the Halema`uma`u Crater. There is where I got a message from the goddess of fire, Pele.
What was the message? To love and be loved. And that I was definitely to move to the Big Island.
And so you moved. Besides the satisfaction of answering your calling in life, what are some of the perks to living on the Big Island? I love the pizza with goat cheese topping at Cafe Pesto in Kawaihae, which is near where I live in Waimea. And for dessert they serve the best macadamia-nut cookies with chocolate chunks -- warmed up so it's like it just came out of the oven! Also, since I have not had a tan in some 20 years or so, I spend Saturday mornings outdoors: From 9 a.m. until 10 a.m., I lie out in the sunshine and then do yard work. After that, I eat a late lunch, get cleaned up and dress up. I go to the Blue Dragon in Kawaihae, where I have a Kona coffee and listen to the Ollie Phonic Horns, a local big band.
Sounds like the makings of a great weekend. How do you spend the week? Currently, I rent a studio and take care of the property for my landlady. Before I moved, I was an escrow assistant at a title company in northern California for close to four years. Now that I'm here, I have applied with mortgage comp- anies, a macadamia-nut company and two resorts -- one for a position in landscaping and one for a clerical position. For now, though, I'm living off of my savings.
Living on your life savings is quite a leap of faith. What is it about the Big Island that makes you so brave? I love the clean and refreshing air, the trade winds, visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, seeing the ocean every day, spotting the pueo (Hawaiian short-eared owl), but most of all the aloha spirit of everyone here. In August I volunteered at the Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. At the opening and closing ceremonies, everyone chanted and held hands in a huge circle; here's where the flow of the aloha spirit was the strongest for me. The two days were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It all was so uplifting -- what fun and what magic! I feel like I am on the Big Island because I was called to be here, but I also have had a side benefit that I am so lucky and grateful for: I am having the best life I have ever known, and it has gotten better as each month goes by.
Does that mean you're picking up on some new Hawaiian interests and hobbies? Not yet. But I do want to join a women's outrigger canoe club and take a hula class. There have been alot of inner changes since moving here -- all for the good! I must say that I am rather enjoying this new me.
Facts of Life
- Climate: Tropical
- Population of island: 170,000
- Population of Hilo, Hawaii: 45,000
- House starting price: $349,000 for a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house in Kohala
- Main hospital: Hilo Medical Center in Hilo
- Price of a local beer: $5 for a pint of Fire Rock Pale Ale at Kona Pub and Brewery
- Languages: Hawaiian and English
- Ease of immigration: Easy
- Ease of buying a home: Easy
- Website: gohawaii.com