From Hawaii to Amsterdam

Canal at Night

Tonight we leave Hawaii and head off on the next chapter of our lives in Amsterdam.

At Hale Kakahi

Reminiscing at Hale Kakahi earlier this year

A quick recap: we sold our beloved Hale Kakahi in early 2010 and then sold our business, Hawaii Holiday Vacation Rentals, later that year. By the end of January 2011 we had packed our belongings into two storage units near Hilo and embarked on a magical trip over the next 13 months. It was a mix of living in a few places (Seattle, Boston, Amsterdam) and traveling and sightseeing. We were exploring and also trying to decide where we wanted to live next. But also, by design, we planned the itineraries so we could see lots of old friends and family along the way. After spending seven months in the US and six months in Europe, it turned out to be one of the best years of our lives and, in the end, life-changing.

When we left Hawaii in February 2011, we thought Seattle would be the choice for the next phase of our lives, and indeed the three months we lived there was wonderful. But after we spent four months being seduced by enchanting Amsterdam, that city and the friends we made there won our hearts and we never wanted to leave! We did leave it, however, in November 2011; we had to because our visa was running out, but we also wanted to get some distance in order to figure out if this was true love or merely a summer fling. We spent another six weeks exploring other parts of Europe, including a lot of time with our adopted family in Switzerland. It was great to be so close to them after being far away for so long; living closer to them is certainly another advantage of our Amsterdam decision.

We left Europe in early January 2012 and made our way back to Hawaii over the next couple of months, landing back in Hilo last March. Our job since then has been to downsize, organize, sell, give away, donate, or otherwise dispose of most of our possessions in preparation for the move. Harrison also digitized all of his music, movies, and audio archives — no easy feat since he had thousands of recordings. Believe us, moving to a foreign country is not for wimps and certainly not for people who cannot let go of “stuff.” It took us five months but we are now down to only one storage unit, enough to fit into a single 20-foot shipping container and maybe even into a typical Amsterdam apartment! It was a long process, much of it painful — seeing how little a lifetime of things that mean so much to you are worth on the open market — but we were able to keep some beautiful family items in Harrison’s family by sending them to relatives on the mainland.

With Amelia

With Amelia at Volcanoes National Park

Even though it took us five months, we did have some fun. In between packing and organizing, we saw lots of our friends. Amelia, our hanai daughter from Switzerland, spent 10 days with us in Hilo. We made visits to California, Maui and Kauai, and we have spent the last month here in Honolulu where we still have a condo. Is it any wonder we’re sending this out? No one ever knows what time zone we’re in!

We know there will be some challenges ahead of us. We need to get our immigration papers approved (for those of you who are interested, we are immigrating to the Netherlands under provisions of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty). We’ll be looking for a home to buy in an expensive city where the euro is not in our favor. We’re getting there just as the weather is getting bad and days are getting short. And we need to learn Dutch! We might be crazy — it would have been so much easier to move to Seattle or stay in Hawaii. But we look at this move a little like we looked at the move to Hale Kakahi over a decade ago. We can do this and we want to do this, and if we don’t do this we will look back five years from now and say, “Why didn’t we move to Amsterdam when we had the chance?”

When we moved from California to Hawaii, it seemed like a dream come true. We invited everyone to come and visit, and come they did. The first year we were at Hale Kakahi we had 32 sets of houseguests! We’re making the same offer for Amsterdam, and in just our first two weeks we’ll be seeing two friends from California, so here we go! The offer is sincere; our first apartment will be temporary and the second bedroom has just a sofabed, but if you can handle that, come on over. But if you expect your own bathroom… HAH! Get over it; this is Europe!

So for the last time in quite a long while, we will say ALOHA and A HUI HOU (until we meet again),

Sharene and Harrison