Off-Grid Gravitas: Homesteading in Hawaii (Pt. 1)

Off-Grid Gravitas: Homesteading in Hawaii (Pt. 1)

It wasn’t really the result of extensive deliberation to decide to try out homesteading in Hawaii. In truth, just three weeks after deciding to leave our housekeeping jobs at the Grand Canyon, we touched down on Hawaiian sands for a brand new adventure. I guess it was the thought of magic beaches, coconut trees and the Tiki Gods that inevitably called us to the Big Island.

Hawaii has always been a place that sat in our minds as an expensive oasis, some vacation land where people could exhaust themselves of tiresome duties for a few days of the year, somewhere that, for us would probably be out of reach for a good long while.

So how are we doing it?

We just took a leap of faith and hoped that the clouds would gently assemble themselves beneath us, all the while whispering solemnly in our ears, “Trust the process.” 

Really though, the truth of it is that there’s a whole thriving community of people out there who travel through work exchanges. Essentially, you could see the entire world in exchange for just a few hours of your time by helping other people manage and build out their property.

Worldly Excursions for Work Exchanges

If you don’t know about WWOOF, Workaway, or HelpXthe concept for all three is generally based on helping others fulfill projects at home or on the farm, all in exchange for a place to sleep and some warm meals each day.

Projects may vary between locations and in your day to day tasks, but you can usually expect to be provided with a bed and some food for the work you’ve done.

Not easy, but definitely fun.

That’s all there really is to it. 

Putting it all together.

You get the opportunity to travel to a new location every few weeks, or months if you choose, while only spending on transportation between destinations. It’s simple living to let sleeping and eating become the two greatest luxuries of your days.

The additional benefit of exchanging labor in some novel location, like an off-grid homestead in Hawaii, comes with the chance to absorb information from individuals who are living in ways you may aspire to. For example, we’ve both learned loads of information about solar energy and building to code, all of which we hope apply to our own off-grid homestead one day.

As far as we know, it’s not uncommon for travelers of work exchanges to become addicted to the methods of food production, the values of hard work, and the underlying motivation to find property of their own to tend someday.

What Kinds of Daily Projects Are We Doing?

As far as our current situation goes, for the past few weeks we’ve been building a cabin in the jungle (I.e. “The Jungle Hut”), complete with a full deck made of pallet wood, a 55 gallon drum collecting rain water, and wireless internet. 

Shabby shack
This shabby shack was being swallowed by the jungle.

When we first arrived to the homestead and toured the property, eventually leading to the back acre of the property through a dense trail in the rainforest, The Jungle Hut was no more than a shabby shack with a tarp slung across the top to block the rain.

Aside from the decorative muddy footprints left by the rats, the cabin was no more than a forsaken project left behind by a previous helper. We certainly knew that it was going to take some work to make the structure not only habitable, but comfortable.

Fortunately, the hosts we’re staying with have been so wholeheartedly accommodating and we stayed in their spare bedroom for the first few days of making The Jungle Hut livable.

It took tons of work to have a comfortable little nook in the jungle.

After building a solid roof with two-by-fours and metal panels, and securing the exposed areas with animal wire, we’ve managed to caulk the extra cracks, build shelving units, and paint the floor and walls.

Aside from our work on The Jungle Hut, we’re learning to how to set up solar energy systems, preparing to raise baby chicks, and processing tropical fruits, each an integral part to our experience of homesteading in Hawaii.

Living Our Workcation in Paradise

If I were to see our present situation from the eyes of a me that was ten years younger, I’d say, “Pinch me now, I’m dreaming.”

Aside from the bit of work that we maintain each week to uphold our end of the exchange, we’ve also been humbled by how easy-going our hosts have been with their desire to show us all around the island.

We’ve been to an open air night market where we feasted on some Thai chicken satay while watching hula dancers sway to the rhythm of a live Hawaiian band.

Captain Cook's cove.
Captain Cook’s cove.

We’ve gotten tipsy on some jungle juice while watching huge waves crash down on flocks of hippies at a nude beach.

Heather came face to face with a “mostly-docile” reef shark while we snorkeled above one of the last remaining healthy coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific.

We were even charged by a wild boar in the dead of night as we walked back from the general store with a box of crackers and some candy.

Opening a coconut with a rock
If there’s a will there’s a way.

There’s almost too much to account for in the confines of this article in regard to all of the extraordinary experiences we’ve had here, but it’s surely been an incredible ride thus far. 

Our favorite experience so far was perhaps making a two mile hike through the jungle to swim in shallow tides with a handful of sea turtles. They have a wisdom unsurpassed when you get the chance to see them up close. There were also stone ruins of ancient Hawaiian homes along the trail and trees with huge spindly roots.  

The day we spent at the turtle sanctuary was also the day that I proudly opened my first coconut using just two rocks.

Indiana Jones Jungle
Jungles fit for Indiana Jones.

Where in the World Will You Go?

I suppose what we’re really learning from all of this is that there are many alternative means for traveling when the whole thing is boiled down. After all, living is living, and if life experience is your primary objective, there are plenty of opportunities to be had outside of the traditional means of living.

So you’d love to work on an olive mill in the Italian Alps? There’s a listing for it.

How about painting murals in a relaxed hostel in Morocco? There’s a listing for it.

Ever think about being a caretaker for rescued horses on the shores of New Zealand? There’s a listing for it.

Sea turtle
Sea turtles, anyone?

Or maybe the idea of homesteading in Hawaii is what you’re after. I can assure you, there are many listings for it.

And if that voice in your head is saying, “Yeah, that all sounds nice, but I’ve got too many bills to pay on,” you can rest assured. There are tons of paid work exchanges around the world, and if you can land a remote job, many places have WiFi and will let you set time aside to bring in a little extra income.

Think about that: You can essentially be getting paid while you’re “vacationing” in different locations around the world!

What more could you want?

Taking it One Step at a Time

Homesteading in Hawaii wasn’t necessarily where we’d thought we’d end up in our sequence of places to see after setting forth with plans for long-term travel. It just kind of happened that way.

Aside from being stranded out in an island with a big active volcano on it in the middle of the Pacific, I’d say we’re living each day with incredibly minimal levels of stress. In ways, it’s exactly the kind of experience we were looking for.

We’ve not only been able to get our hands dirty with physically fulfilling projects, but we’ve also found the time and space needed to begin really digging in to the world of online income.

Black sand beaches and sunsets on fire.

Even better than that, we’ve escaped one of those  unremitting Michigan winters.

So they say spontaneity is the spice of life, right?

This is just another step for us to show others that it’s completely possible to travel cheaply and effectively.

If you’re tired of what you’re doing day in and day out, try looking into homesteading in Hawaii. You might just be fatefully surprised by how feasible it really can be.

In the end, what can we say about what it means to be human, if it’s not decorated by the colorful entanglement of experiences in a wholesome life lived?

Beach photoshoot
Aloha from Hawaii.

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to read part 2 of our adventure in Hawaii, you can find it here.

And if you’re interested in watching the video of our Hawaii adventure…


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