"J" asked a few more questions.
"Why do people have such a hard time acclimating to Hawaii, do you think? I've heard of "island fever" and the high cost of living."
Island fever doesn't really apply to Big Island. It's called "big" for a reason. In fact, all the other Hawaiian island combined are less total square miles than the Big Island alone. So yes, it's big. It's big enough that it's not uncommon for people on one side of the island to say that they've never been to the other side. And very few people regularly travel out of their quadrant, unless it's to go to a distant job.
Island fever might be an issue on the other islands. I can't say, but they are a lot smaller. But travel between the islands is easy, so it wouldn't be a big deal to live on one and take day or weekend trips to the others in order to break any monotany. But I say this as one who has already done their world traveling and is content to be at home. The concept of island fever hasn't affected me.
The high cost of living is another thing. Some things in Hawaii are indeed much higher in cost. But others are much lower or non-existent. We researched the cost of living before moving to Big Island and discovered that our lifestyle would cost just about the same as it did in NJ. Of course, the cost of living in NJ is high, so people living in the middle of the US would see Hawaii cost of living to be much higher by comparison to their own.
Another issue when trying to relocate here is that people didn't fully analyze their move. They fall in love with the laid back island lifestyle, but then bring their high stress mainland habits with them. To be successful, you need to ditch those mainland ideas before you leave the airport. You need to stop competing for a parking space, start letting other people into line in traffic, stop rushing here and there, stop trying to out do the other guy, etc. Hawaii isn't the mainland.
New people all too often didn't seem to notice before they moved to their new location that all the stores and services they wanted were a long drive away. I've overheard people complaining that they only have an Ace Hardware to buy from, not a Home Depot, Sears, Lowes, WalMart, whatever. They are unhappy that our little town doesn't have multiple gas stations, hairdressers, dentists, whatever. What? No Starbucks? Somehow they missed the fact that it's a small, small town. I hear others complain about too much rain, too dry, too hot, too cold, too windy. They failed to determine in advance what their chosen location was really like.
Another regret that they can't adjust to is that they've left all their family and friends behind. I'm not sure how they missed this point before moving out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
"Have you been able to avoid/mitigate the high cost of living there by growing your own food and doing things yourself? "
The best thing we did to mitigate the high cost of living was to sit down and analyze where we spent money. From there we could make a budget and determine where we could cut out spending our precious dollars. Health insurance was our greatest expense, but at our age we choose not to eliminate it from the budget. So we targeted other expenses to eliminate.
Providing for our own food helped, but there were costs upfront the prevented instant savings. Tools, seeds, and supplies had to be purchased. We had to invest in water catching and storage systems. I bought a farm pick up truck, which made things possible like hauling in manure and green waste, going out for foraging, taking excess produce to market, hauling in resources. In the long run, providing for our own food via growing it, foraging, and trade saves us money because of the high cost of store bought food here. But the savings aren't as significant as people assume.
Learning to do things ourselves surely helped big time. We built much of our house. We cleared our own land. Built fencing. Built small farm buildings. We learned to do solar electric. We installed our wood stove and gather our own firewood for it. All these sorts of things translate into cash not being spent.
A major step to mitigate the high cost of living was to change our lifestyle. This made a far greater impact than anything else. We stopped buying new clothes, stopped going out to dinner all the time, stopped going to movies and entertainment events, stopped hairdresser trips, had cellphones that were prepaid minutes and not monthly plans-- then didn't use the phone unless necessary. We shopped at local thrift stores or rummage sales. We stopped making weekly trips to Kona and stretched out those trips to every 3-4 months, or greater when possible. We ditched the TV and movie rentals. We looked at each item and service that we were spending money on and tried to figure out if we could live without it or reduce the expense. Because of this step we ended up reducing our propane use to 1/4 of what we had been buying. A great reduction. We store rain water rather than buying truckloads for irrigation. We make our own fertilizer rather than buy pallets of commercial fertilizer. We have literally saved hundreds each year by producing much of our own garden seed. These are just some of the things we did, and do, to reduce our cost of living.
Now this may sound really "hillbilly" but I've willingly become known as a local scrounger. Thus I have become the recipient of many a useable castoff. Fencing. Lumber. Trash cans. Various containers. Rope. Tools. Hardware. Clothing. Linens. Animal feed. Paint. Furniture. Kitchen utensils. Gardening supplies. You name it, I've most likely received some. This is just another small means of making living here affordable. As I've said, it's a big lifestyle change for us, but we're doing it.
In the midst of our change over, hubby decided that retirement wasn't rewarding for him. So he picked up some temporary contracts in his field (he can work from home via the Internet). So life suddenly became easier for us for a stretch there. But he's about to fully retire again, so all those things that we've learned and practiced along the way will become our permanent lifestyle. I think we will be prepared and ready, at least as best we can.