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Returning Home to Hawaii After Years Abroad

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Beyond Sun and Surf: Six Reasons to Work in Hawaii

1. Work-life balance is ingrained in the culture. Ilima Loomis, now managing editor for Maui-based Spirituality and Health, a nationally distributed magazine, agrees: “Here, people support and value you having a family. There isn’t the same pressure to be putting in a 60-hour week, or to be (at work) every weekend.”

2. You can broaden your portfolio. Whereas IQPR specializes in one or two business sectors in San Francisco and New York, says Lori Teranishi, “In Hawaii, we have every kind of client you can imagine. That’s what you do in a smaller market. For me it’s a positive, because you get to learn and do so many more things.”

3. Family can help you have it all – or, at least, more of it. “The subject of working mothers is so big right now: how to succeed, and ‘lean in,’ and all of that stuff,” says Loomis. “I think grandmothers are the best-kept secret of being able to do that. For many of us, I think, having that help is literally the difference between success and failure sometimes – not just for childcare, but for everything. It’s a huge advantage.”

4. The online and mobile revolutions have multiplied your list of potential clients. “Anything you put on the Web is international,” says Vanessa Kaneshiro. “I’m collaborating with New York very easily,” says Teranishi. “Technology, and the way the world has evolved, is making boundaries less so.”

5. Hawaii’s business cycles run on a different rhythm, which can be a good thing. For nearly three decades, Andrew Ishii (Campbell High ’72 and UH ’77) lived and worked in financial centers all over the United States. Then, in 2007, the commercial real estate business “evaporated with the recession,” but “the banks here still needed people.” He returned to Hawaii with his wife and daughter, then 6. She got to grow up surrounded by family, and Ishii became a VP at Bank of Hawaii.

6. You get to write your own script. “If I was still in Silicon Valley, I would still be at Apple,” says Brian Dote, who founded Tapiki, a successful Hawaii-based app-development company: “That (corporate) umbrella is incredibly powerful. I have many friends back there still, and I’m like, ‘You guys have so much talent. You guys could leave from under the wings of Apple and start your own companies and turn them into multi-million-dollar companies,’ but it’s hard.”



Timing Is Everything

When is the right time to move back to Hawaii? We asked returnees and compiled the most common thoughts.

Early in Your Career

Pros: From a practical standpoint, this is the easiest time to head home. You’re probably single and only need to worry about yourself, and a salary reduction of 30 percent may be easier to take if your pay is smaller to begin with. Moving back when you are young also means you have a lot less ground to make up against high school classmates who chose a college in Hawaii and have been networking ever since.

Cons: If your high school friends have also moved off-island, chances are they’re still MIA – and that can be isolating when you come back. Also, coming home before you’ve really competed in a national marketplace can leave you wistful about what might have been.

After You’ve Made Your Mark

Pros: You left Hawaii not just to see the larger world, but to be part of it. If you fight the fight until you’ve been a part of something big, you’ll take that sense of accomplishment wherever you go.

Cons: It is hard to choose to slow down your career momentum unless you have a compelling reason, and truly lateral moves to Hawaii from high on the career ladder can be very difficult to achieve. You may need to be flexible if you’re looking for employment, or strike out on your own if you want to maintain your title and/or your compensation level.

When It’s Not Just About You Anymore

Pros: Grandma. Cousins. The beach. Barbecues all year. A whole keiki-friendly culture. Need we say more? Having children tends to tip the balance; this is also the time when returnees we spoke to say their friends with small children began to flood back, too.

Cons: Don’t wait too long, because the younger your children are when they move, the easier will be their transition, and the greater their sense of growing up in and belonging to Hawaii.

When You Feel Your Priorities Changing

Pros: Life in a big, anonymous city can be exhilarating when you’re young. But, as you get older, the fact that, in Hawaii, you can’t go to Longs without running into someone you know may seem increasingly appealing. When you start feeling like you want to drop out of the rat race and put down roots, and you want those roots in volcanic soil, it’s time to think about making a move.

Cons: It’s hard to foresee this shift in advance. By the time you feel the urge to get back to the Islands, you might already be married to someone who feels an equally strong connection to, say, Duluth. Have this conversation before you feel you need to.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Jun 14, 2013 05:41 am
 Posted by  Kalena6Girl

I am that ex-pat who's returned. I came back to be near my aging mom & be around other family. I also wanted to reinvent myself. Transition has been difficult, but there are many great people & networking opportunities out there.

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Jun 17, 2013 03:34 pm
 Posted by  Kyle Oura

Great article. I think about home often and in phases. Aging parents back at home was my biggest regret since moving to the Mainland, so I finally moved my dad to the Bay Area to live in assisted living. It's been a nice transition, and I got to spend father's day with him and every chance I get. Also, having my future kids "be from Hawaii" is important to me. I always dream about making it in Hawaii nei, but I've seen some folks up here work a week in HI every few months. That's nice.

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Dec 3, 2013 03:55 pm
 Posted by  LizKerrigan

CASTING CALL for new RESTAURANT OWNERS in Hawaii to appear on Major Cable Network!
A Major Cable Network is looking for people who are moving from the hustle and bustle of a busy city to the Hawaiian tropics to open a food related business!
To apply: email your contact info (phone, email, city of residence, and location of restaurant), along with photos of the business and you and your family or you and your business partner to: please submit your info ASAP!!!!

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Dec 31, 2013 07:10 pm
 Posted by  johnsonwkchoi

Best to make your first bucket of gold or with a supportive well to do family (rich) before heading back home to Hawaii. For every success profile here 90% who left us say NO thanks and they are very happy to stay put, willing to work at any place, but Hawaii. For those that has the skill and continue their successes coming home, congratulation.

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