OUTPRICED: Local Moves to Hawaii (Opinion)

By Natasha Bourlin

Reno has been my home since the late 70s. Born in Las Vegas, I’m one of a small but proud group of native Nevadans. But the time has come to move on; my hometown has now made it nearly impossible for me to live here any longer.

I remember when Reno was known only as Vegas’s quirky northern sibling, our stunning mountainous region a well-kept secret from most of the world. I’ve seen its evolution from just a gaming town in Tahoe’s backyard to one that now invites major corporations from across the globe to set up shop, elevating the Biggest Little City’s stature while flooding the town with workers and transplants.

Decades have been spent riding Reno’s roller coaster economy and housing market, often with extreme downturns and upturns. I’ve watched housing prices skyrocket, then plummet, then skyrocket beyond their previous limits once again.

Hawai’i is more economically feasible for me to live than Reno.

But it’s always been my home. One I adore.

Until some recent, dramatic life changes necessitated my seeking residence on my own after years of sharing expenses. I’m a freelance writer, one who can basically work anywhere when armed with wi-fi and a computer. Nevertheless, it’s not the most lucrative career, and many others here aren’t either.

So, after looking at one- and two-bedroom apartments, studios and even just a room ranging from $1,000-$1,800 and up in the Truckee Meadows, I’ve made the decision to relocate to Hawai’i because it’s now more affordable than the town in which I was raised.

That’s something I never thought I’d say: Hawai’i is more economically feasible for me to live than Reno. It’s an island paradise, one many people only inhabit full time in dreams and fantasy.

By 2020, I’ll be trading pine trees, meandering rivers, hundreds of nearby lakes and the surrounding Sierra for palm trees, year-round beaches, vibrant flowers blooming ceaselessly and different mountains. Those that can explode at times. Different storms, those that can blow through and also devastate structures, as the worst blizzards and windstorms I’ve experienced here also have. Just differently.

The culture and lifestyle are also vastly dissimilar, yet glorious. After a lengthy exploratory housesitting mission there to see if I could be island-bound as my own life evolved, hanging laundry out to dry, taking 10 minutes to check out at the farmers market because the folks in front of me were chatting (welcoming me into their conversation), and the laid-back environment was a far cry from the now-inundated roads transporting people constantly in a hurry, often upset.

If you live like a tourist, it will be expensive. You just don’t need to. I can pick breakfast from my backyard. Items at stores can be more, but I’d rather shop directly from the reasonably priced local producers anyway.

Sure, not all parts of Hawai’i are affordable to live. Many outprice Reno by a long shot. A housing crisis exists there also. It’s a diverse archipelago with many areas and islands to choose from, and much of the housing is exorbitantly priced.

However, I don’t need to live oceanfront. I just need to live.

Faced with the option of renting a one-bedroom apartment sandwiched by neighbors, with views of other apartment complexes here for $1,100, or a two-bedroom single-family home with vistas of the tallest mountain on the planet and some of the most gorgeous, swimmable beaches I’ve ever visited mere minutes away for $1,200…well, what would you choose?

Reno will always remain in my heart and on my itinerary, as some of the friendliest, truest people I’ll ever know live here and are beloved to me, as is my remaining family. But it’s time to start over. I’m island bound.

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10 Comments

  1. What a fantastic piece, Natasha! I am having much frustration with the fact that my husband and I make decent money, but can barely afford to live here! We are on a budget that we stick to religiously but the rent alone is not allowing for us to save up anything to buy our own place. I look every other months for less expensive places, but I just cannot live in a one bedroom for $100 less a month. I am sure there are plenty of less expensive places in Hawai’i as well as far more expensive! And why not go!? It’s not like you have to move there and can NEVER move again! Live your life, have fun, be the Island Queen for 5 minutes or 5 decades! You will make your time there beautiful and amazing no matter what others think. I wish that I could move with you, no matter what the cost. Your strength is positivity, run with it!

  2. Such bull$hit. There’s no way in hell that living in Hawaii is cheaper than living in Reno. Sure Reno has gotten more expensive but Hawai’i!!! Come on! It costs so much more for everything in Hawaii! It’s out in the middle of nowhere! Haven’t you seen on every commercial they disclaim “prices higher in Alaska and Hawai’i.” Seems like you wrote this opinion piece to justify moving there because you have doubts in the back of your mind that you are making the right decision. There are a lot of reasons to want to leave Reno for Hawaii but cost of living is not one of them.

    • Nope. But you seem to believe you’re right even though I just moved back from there, and there’s a balance economically, nature is entertainment and free. Housing where I’m going is factually and indeed cheaper. Produce and meats are cheaper by far at the farmers markets. I don’t eat crappy processed food from the grocery store. So, maybe it’s not cheaper for everyone, but it certainly is for me. I didn’t just pull this out of my arse…I lived it and researched it. Did you?

  3. Something should be done regarding the cost of living in Reno. It’s completely ridiculous that someone on their own with a blue collar wage cannot afford to live here. I’m speaking from experience, I’ve been here for 62 years. Right now I could not go find a place to buy or rent to live on my own. It’s horrible that long time residents are moving out of their beloved home town because they can’t afford to live here any longer just to make room for transplants and their different ideas.

  4. Well Natasha I wish you well after you transplant yourself to Hawaii. But a particular kind of isolated paradise seen over and over again, is like coffee and donuts for every meal. They taste great at first, but not every day for the rest of your life. Hawaii is beautiful but so is Fiji. Living on islands eventually dulls your senses…something that happens no matter where you go on the globe. But on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui and the others, the scenery never changes and stimulus fatigue takes over. And after that you can come down with a terminal case of “rock fever.” It’s a local term for loving what you see but being, down deep, bored out of you mind from seeing the same ole scenes everyday.. If you love northern Nevada and the Sierra find a way to stay and maintain your ability to travel wherever you want without having to fly 5,000 miles to get there. I say these things because I was a surfer “Hawaiian-guy” and traversed all the major islands…and try as I might…my mind memorized every nook and cranny there was and it became “same day, same mountain.”. So when you get “out there,” realize that feeling trapped on a great big rock is not all its cracked up to be. You can always come home. By the way, housing prices are about to plummet across the country because of new technology in “dwelling construction” that has FINALLY migrated from Europe that cuts housing costs by more than half. So don’t let housing costs drive your strategic life decisions. You can have have your home and all your friends and the vitality of the “mainland.” You can have your cake and eat it too. Because no woman is an island….

    • Excellently put Dave. I may add that having grown up in an Island (Puerto Rico in. my case) you are spot on. In addition, there is no way Hawaii is cheaper than Reno. By a long shot. Natasha but you might want to research it a bit more before you get there and get “sticker shock”. Regardless I wish you the best.

      • Thank you, Fernando! I lived there for months already and did plenty of on the ground research…and indeed, as I said, where I’m looking at going is hundreds less in rent. I know. I just left a two-bedroom home that was $1,195/mo, utilities included…and it’s all a balance. See above comment, if posted… 🙂

    • Thank you, Dave! What a great reply, one I fully comprehend and appreciate. I actually spent much of my youth on Oahu, while my homebase was Reno. So I do understand “rock fever” for sure, however I also believe that same effect happens in the Sierra also. Or wherever you reside for any length of time. As NorNev has for me. I spent the first half of my life in the mountains, while traveling frequently as the daughter of two airline employees (both of whom spent years living/working in Hawaii). Recent life changes have spurned a desire to spend the next on the beautiful, peaceful Pacific rock. 😊

      • I think this is the key- Recent life changes have spurned a desire to spend the next on the beautiful, peaceful Pacific rock.

        Regardless of price, etc. this is what you want and you can make it happen without the financial differences that existed until recently. Don’t go because it’s cheap. Go because you want to! Reno will still be here when and if you decide to return, and if you want to keep going there is another peaceful rock waiting for you. Maybe in another ocean 😉

      • Well, most definitely you are the Empress of your own ship. But keep in mind, when you want to re-visit the mainland, just to get to the western-most North American airport, it’s around 3,000 miles. But there’s also a lot to see on the Big Island with all that astronomical “big wow” astronomy park atop Mauna Kea (and soon Mauna Loa) so you might decide to travel light years around the universe, feeling that our tiny blue dot in an endless space is just the jumping off spot for you!! I helped research the site for the first telescope up on Mauna Kea which now has up to 9 telescopes, if my memory recalls correctly.

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