Martin Lenny, age 50: When I first arrived on Maui, I didn’t have a job. So I’d pay waiters at Mama’s Fish House $20 to work their shifts, and then pocket $60 in tips. Whatever it took to live here, I was willing to do it. Living in Maui is that sort of commitment. Mama’s hired me as a busboy. Eight years later I was the manager.
That’s what a lot of people don’t realize. You work hard to live here. But the rewards are consistent. Today, 25 years after a vacation that I never let end, I still get calls from local fishermen when they get a big catch and have extra fish to sell.
My willingness to work has made it possible for me to surf, sail or paddle with someone in my family almost daily. I’ve been lucky to get into real estate, which lets me make my own schedule and make time for us as a family to get out on the water together and enjoy what Maui has to offer.
And while it’s a beautiful place, and we speak English and use American dollars, Maui is a foreign country. We have different things we eat, different ways of talking to each other. But if you give aloha, you get aloha. In time, you understand what that word really means: that you give without expecting to receive. It’s interesting how adopted Hawaiian words have come to define our lives and our identities here. The word for people who have been here a long time is kama‘aina. There’s no specific rule to how it applies. Sometimes my wife and I still feel like newcomers. Our kids? They will always be kama‘aina. But after two and a half decades, we’re at least akamai – in the know. We’ve learned the idiosyncrasies of life here, and the island has taken us in.
What do I miss about the mainland? I don’t know. Cheese blintzes. Jazz over dinner in a Chicago restaurant. When we go back, the things we took for granted on the mainland are suddenly exciting. We look forward to a big city. But that’s the toughest thing about an island – you have to throw a plane ride in to do a road trip.