Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roughing It , a.k.a- building our own house

Now that we've gotten to meet a lot of people, I'm truely surprised to hear so many stories of how people "roughed it" when they first moved here. And it is quite amazing to see that many of these folks were in their 50's and 60's when they did it! These people were successful in making the transition here. Because they were pioneer types? Because they were willing to sacrifice and work for it? Because they lived within their financial means? Because they were dedicated?

These people came from all walks of life, and not what I expected. Some already had skills in the construction trade, but the vast majority did not. Backgrounds include : teacher, librarian, flower shop owner, auto machanic, medical researcher, college professor, registered nurse, national museum technician, dentist, plumber, office clerk, waste management engineer, truck driver, agricultural worker, electrician, telephone lineman, bank worker, store manager, and a doctor!

They mostly moved to rough, vacant land. Some already had a small shed to use, but most did not. They opted to make temporary shelters while they built their own houses. Shelters consisted of tents, portable carports, storage sheds, used cargo containers, used RV campers, converted old school bus. Many talk of sleeping under the stars the first few nights. Taking cold showers. Cooking over a campfire. Using a mirror nailed to a tree.

They all eventually built their own homes. Some are permitted, some are unpermitted.  Some are conventional type, three bedroom homes. Others are funky, personalized retreats. Some took a year to complete. Others tooks many years. They are all amazing, considering their stories.

These people attained their goals, or else they lowered their expectations. I'm not sure which. A few have told me that they greatly changed the vision of their ultimate house, settling on a comfortable but less conventional building. Some skipped finishing the building (converting it to a barn instead), opting instead for an easy to assemble yurt. But others finished their dream home, even though it was large and grandiose. But they all stuck. That is, they all made the transition to living here.

I'm sure not everyone who tried this approach made it. I never get to talk to the people who failed and moved back to the mainland. It would be very educational to hear from them, to learn from them, and maybe to encourage them to try again.

We had it soft by comparison. We already had a rough, weather proof structure to move into. Of course this means that we spent a little more money upfront. But it was the land that we had our eyes on. We would have bought it as vacant land, and then had tales to tell of living it rough, too.

We did indeed rough it, from our soft mainland point of view. But we were wusses compared to some folks. But other than not living really rough, we did (and are still doing) what they have done....building our own house. We are taking the slow approach and learning skills as we need them. We make mistakes, but back up and fix them. Two days a week are dedicated to working on the house. We're about 7/8's done now.


  1. I loved the `aina. I would have probably done better to start with a more rustic approach, but the situation was that we bought "in town", probably dooming any chance to literally "dig in our roots". I'm doing something like that now, in a rural setting where people are more accepting of us. You have learned to adapt very well!

  2. Aloha Barry! I am really glad that you are trying again. Really! As you are very well aware, not every location works for everyone. So Hawaii wasn't "it" for you, but you're trying something else that might be the right fit. Good for you! We once tried relocating to Vermont but failed. We couldn't adjust and we weren't accepted. I suppose the timing wasn't right. But we learned a lot. Our next move to England was successful.

    Every experience for us is a learning opportunity. What we learned from past moves we brought with us to Hawaii. Perhaps that's part of the reason we were successful this time.

    Adapting is the keyword. You're right on the mark!