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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. These are the best years of your life and you deserve to be FREE! 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for 5.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York in 2013. You can read my full story here. I’m now living my dream, settled in Bali, Indonesia, fully independent and working happily on projects that support my deepest passion! 

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I now make my living helping others break out of ordinary living and get clear on their mission in life. I get paid to help people MANIFEST THEIR DREAMS like I did — how cool is that?  

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’ve always done things a bit differently and I think there are SO many feasible ways for people to live “off the beaten path”. I hope my blog lets you see what’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Drop me a line at elaina@lifebefore30.com or apply to work with me directly! 

The Ultimate Budget Guide to Hawaii: How to Live in Hawaii for Cheap

Posted on April 2nd, 2018

Living in Hawaii for a bit was a critical life bucket list item for me for awhile — and I finally checked that one off!

 

Despite how expensive Hawaii really is (think: spending $700+ per month to live in a 10×10 toolshed with no running water or electricity on Maui), there are ways to do it for cheap. If you’re dreaming of spending a few months living out on Hawaii, it’s definitely doable on a budget.

 

Sample breakdown of my expenses (as high as it gets)

 

To be straightforward, these were my expenses while I was living on the Big Island. Let’s keep in mind that I work online and have a pretty steady income stream so I was not living NOWHERE NEAR as cheaply as I could.

 

I did, however, figure out how to basically live for free so you don’t have to spend nearly as much to have a similar experience. I’ll get to that, as well as answering some common Hawaii-related concerns, in a minute. 

 

Housing: $600/month

This was for a tiny hut with no toilet, running water, or electricity. I was seriously living worse off than I have in many developing countries for an outrageous amount of money. Thankfully, I learned that lesson so you don’t have to!

 

Car + gas: $150/week

I got very lucky as this is an insanely good rate for Big Island vehicle rentals in peak season. I’ll share some hints below for how to do this for even cheaper or not at all. 

 

Food: $150/week

Food is one of the things you can’t really get around spending a lot of money on in Hawaii. You’re living on the most isolated (non-deserted) islands in the world and most of the food has to travel a very long way to reach your grocery store. I’ll share some tips for saving on food below, but in general, budget at least this amount per week.

 

Events: $30/week

At least on the Big Island, there are community events happening virtually every night: ecstatic dance, farmer’s markets, drum circles, festivals, and beach parties. Most events cost around $10 to go or, if it’s free, you’ll wind up spending that much on parking or food. 

 

Total monthly cost: $1920 

This is what it’ll cost you to “live the as-good-as-it-gets-as-a-hippie” life in Hawaii, with a non-tent structure to live in, a car, decent food, and an active social life. 

 

If you’re willing to hitchhike, work on a farm, and live in a tent, you can live for closer to $500-750/month, or maybe even less if you get really thrifty. 

 

$2000 a month sounds like a lot, but if you’re living in any major metropolitan area in the US, Europe, or Australia, that will barely get you a one-room apartment, whereas in Hippie Hawaii that gets you a car, shelter, food, AND drum circle nights! That means if you save up $6,000 you can quit your job and live for 3 months in paradise.

 

Or you can follow the steps below and make that same $6,000 last for a year! 

 

Which island should I go to?

 

This is the first critical step to your Hawaii journey. There are 7 islands and it’s said that each island corresponds to a different chakra — and they each have a palpably different energy.

 

Big Island: I went to the Big Island, which if you have some personal transformation work you want to do or just want to feel the most intense energy possible on Earth, then Big Island is the destination (read about my intense experience here). There are two sides to this island: Kona and Hilo. Kona side is sunny, beachy, and more touristic, whereas Hilo side is rainy, jungly, volcanic, and the absolute hippie capital of the USA. No tourists whatsoever seem to land here as I’m sure the guidebooks say: “Only pull over if you want to smoke weed, play guitar, or run around naked.” There are a ton of conscious communities, farms offering work-trade, and weekly social events. I really recommend Big Island for the most authentic Hawaii experience!

 

Maui: Most of Maui is very touristic and is often referred to as the California of Hawaii. Surfers will love the north shore of Maui near Haiku and Paia Bay. Vacationers flock to the west coast. I really like the far eastern side of Maui near Hana, which has a magical energy, close to something you’d find on the Big Island but geographically even more spectacular. There are some farms and work trades here, too. Search Google for cacao farms and you’ll come across some cool stuff on Maui. 

 

Oahu: Home of Honolulu and a lot of people living on a very tiny island. The north shore is home of the most famous waves on the planet, so if you’re a surfer, you’ll want to base yourself here. If you’re looking for a “real job,” Honolulu is by far your best bet. 

 

Kauai: The last major island that people go to live on. It’s known as the grandmother, so Kauai has a much more gentle energy and absolute spectacular geography. It’s extremely laid-back with most long-term visitors working on farms by day and playing music by night. Don’t expect much of a party — you come here to chill and be with Grandma Kauai’s beauty. 

 

What time of the year should I go?

 

Hawaii is fine all year ’round, but peak hippie season is November-February. I’ve been told May-August gets weird as the “cool” long-term residents flee the intense summer heat and travel for a few months to escape the inevitable island fever. Expect torrential rain on the Hilo side of the Big Island any time of the year. 

 

What are some good places to do work trade?

 

Any island will have plentiful work trade opportunities. Check out Workaway.org or WOOF for general opportunities. Here are a few I personally know about and can recommend:

 

  • Hawaiian Sanctuary (Big Island) – If you want to get a certificate in permaculture, this is one of the best places to do it. You’ll pay about $750/month including a hut (known as hale in Hawaii) and all your meals, plus real experience working on an established permaculture farm. No free work-trade options.
  • Kalani (Big Island) – WELL-KNOWN AND I DO NOT RECOMMEND. This is if you’ve got big pockets and you can pay $2000 for 3 months. But then you work some crappy job for 30 hours a week and you’ll have no free time and you’ll probably live in a tent anyway. I don’t understand why anyone does this. Skip. 
  • Hedonisia Hawaii (Big Island) – Where I stayed. You can live in a tent for about $200/month if you work 3 hours every day except weekends. Cozy community, predominately women, but owner is a little wacky so I only recommend this in the off-season when he’s away. 
  • La’akea (Big Island) – If you can stay 2+ months, Lakea has to be one of the best conscious communities in Hawaii — well-established and totally free to stay if you work an unstructured 14 hours/week. 
  • Cinderland (Big Island) – The fallback option for hippies who arrive with absolutely no plan and soon find themselves at risk of sleeping in the local kava bar (although many seem to do that anyway). They’ll provide tent space or a hostel bed for $5-10/night. It’s utterly wild — even CNN did a special on this place. I’m shocked at how respectable their website looks. 
  • Gaia Yoga (Big Island) – You can live for free in return for 15-20 hours of work/week. Visit in person for details. 
  • Moloa’a Organica’a Farm (Kauai) – A friend of mine works here. One of the best farms on Hawaii. 
  • Cafe Attitude (Maui) – A conscious community for artists. Show up on Sunday night for the open mic night and talk to the owner about finding a place to stay if you’re willing to live completely off the grid and concentrate on your art. It’s exclusive and mostly word-of-mouth to get in. 
  • Chicken Shack (Maui) – Good luck finding this. It’s somewhere near Haiku and rumored to be the Cinderland crash-pad for hippies on Maui. You can stay there for around $150/month without working. So they say. 
  • Camping – Truly you can camp almost anywhere on Hawaii for cheap ($10-20/night) or free. I slept in my car for some of my adventures around the Big Island, sneaking into a quiet state park after hours (it’s Hawaii, they don’t pay anyone to work past 5pm so as long as you’re up at sunrise and gone before they open, you’re good). Kipahulu State Park on Maui is absolutely gorgeous and costs $25 for a 3 night max. 

 

What are some cool communities or events to check out? 

 

I can only speak for the two islands I’ve visited.

 

Big Island: Monday night open mic at the Kava Bar (Pahoa town), Tuesday night is a potluck at Cinderland, Wednesday night is market night at Uncle Robert’s in Kalapana, Thursday night is ecstatic dance at Garden Temple (Kalapana), Sunday is the famous morning dance at Kalani followed by drum circle at the local black sand nude beach, plus kirtan and free pizza at the elusive Krishna Farm (good luck getting anyone to tell you how to get there) and plenty of other things popping up spontaneously. 

 

Maui: The only things I know about specifically that are pretty much word-of-mouth and very local are the drum circle near Paia Bay on Friday afternoons, the drum circle at Little Beach on Sunday, and dinner and open mic night at Cafe Attitude in remote Kipahulu. 

 

How will I get a car sorted out?

 

If you’re staying longer than 3 months, I’d recommend trying to buy a car. You can get something that runs (and you’re kind of revered for having a beat-up vehicle in places like Puna and Paia) for ~$1500 on Craigslist and you can sell it when you leave, costing you almost nothing. You can alternatively rent a car from my contact in Puna (just email me and I’ll hook you up) or on turo.com. Some AirBnbs may be able to hook you up as well.

 

Many people avoid the whole car thing altogether by choosing to hitchhike, which works quite well on Big Island and probably on Kauai since there’s only one road going around the whole island. Anywhere on Hawaii, scooters and bicycles are NOT recommended (no bike lanes, no shoulders on the road, high speeds, winding roads, rain, no lights, limited visibility, etc) and unfortunately many deaths have occurred by those who choose to move around on two wheels. 

 

Other tips and tricks

 

  • Do NOT bring leather or nice clothing to Hawaii. It will MOLD, especially on the Big Island. I lost a good leather jacket, even though it was stored in plastic in my suitcase. I had a bunch of other clothes mold even as I regularly wore and washed them. 
  • Prepare for communication breakdowns. There are huge chunks of Big Island and Maui where there’s no phone signal or wifi (and probably on Kauai too although I can’t speak from experience). Expect to regularly be out of touch and ask about signal connectivity at the place you plan to stay if you’re looking to work remotely. For the record, I worked remotely for the entire two months I was there and had no issues once I learned where and when signal would drop off. 
  • Be prepared to live in community or in utter isolation. There’s really own those two options on Hawaii, and most choose the former, which means sharing a kitchen with ~20 people, using a shared compost toilet, and being around each other 24/7. I was NOT prepared for the demands of such an arrangement.
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  • Food: shop at farmers markets, buy local Hawaiian fruits and veg (limited selection depending on the season), cook at home, and get used to rice and beans. 
  • Kava: If you haven’t tried it before, it’ll be on offer all around Hawaii, many times in lieu of alcohol (ie. there’ll be events at the kava bar, not the regular beer bar). It’s an herb and has a mild relaxation effect. 
  • Crazy people: There’s a surprising number of truly wacky people living out on Hawaii. There’s a woman who continuously circumnavigates Maui on foot and unfortunately there’s a lot of Meth use in some districts.  
  • Festivals: Try to be on the Big Island in January/February for the annual Flow Festival, one of the best conscious gatherings I’ve been to anywhere on the planet. Rainbow Gathering also happens on Big Island around the same time. Here’s a sample of some of the great musicians that typically show up at Flow. 
  • Swimming: Be very careful getting in the water in most places in Hawaii. The waves are (in)famous for a reason — huge, powerful, tons of currents. I rarely got in the water in Hawaii and when I did I was inevitably picked up and tossed out violently, genuinely scared for my life. Many drownings happen at the famous Kahena beach on Big Island, so swim with caution — or just enjoy laying in the sand! 

 

There you have it, all my lessons learned about living in Hawaii for as little money as possible, as well as all my local tips for enjoying some of the main islands.

 

Here are some of my favorite photos to give you a peek at what hippie life in Hawaii is really like. Hint: It’s absolutely worth the price tag. Hawaii is home to the most spectacular scenery on the planet and I lived in the straight-up jungle next to an active volcano for two months. The energy is out of this world and I did some of the most powerful transformation work on myself I could have imagined. (Most of) the conscious communities are legit, truly embodying the principles of returning to nature, living off the grid, and honoring all our fellow humans. 

 

Hiking to waterfalls in eastern Maui

 

My home for two months at Hedonisia Hawaii

 

Drum circle Sundays at Kahena beach, Big Island

 

Sunset over volcanic rock on Kona side, Big Island

 

A glimpse of Hawaiian eco-community living

 

Meeting the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele, face-to-face after a 7 mile hike across lava rock to one of the only places on Earth where you can stand next to hot flowing lava, Big Island

 

Typical views driving along the eastern coast, Big Island

 

More waterfalls along the Road to Hana, Maui

 

Working from my hut, Big Island

 

A cheap place to get your fruit, Big Island

 

Gorgeous black sand beach, Kahena Beach, Big Island

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. These are the best years of your life and you deserve to be FREE! 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for 5.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York in 2013. You can read my full story here. I’m now living my dream, settled in Bali, Indonesia, fully independent and working happily on projects that support my deepest passion! 

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I now make my living helping others break out of ordinary living and get clear on their mission in life. I get paid to help people MANIFEST THEIR DREAMS like I did — how cool is that?  

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’ve always done things a bit differently and I think there are SO many feasible ways for people to live “off the beaten path”. I hope my blog lets you see what’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Drop me a line at elaina@lifebefore30.com or apply to work with me directly! 

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Currently in: Bali

 

Previously in: India

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Hey friend, thanks for finding me!

 

I’m sure there’s a reason you landed here. Maybe we’re meant to work together and your whole life is about to flip upside down… That tends to happen with my clients as they transform from the inside out.

 

I work with extraordinary, brave, and self-inquiring souls who are ready to do the inner work required to launch them into the next huge chapter of their life. I work with people who are willing and ready to wake up and become more alive and aligned than ever before! 

 

Does any of this sound like you?

  • Successful on paper but not fulfilled inside
  • Feeling like you’re working so hard but not getting anywhere
  • Knowing you’re destined to do

Read more

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