Living in the Dark (and Other Things we Miss)

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When we were remotely located, seemingly on the edge of the earth (but in reality on the edge of an island in the middle of the ocean), we occasionally felt trapped. The nearest town was 11 miles away, the nearest road and mailbox was over 1 mile away, and everything else was either in between or beyond.

But now that we are nestled in a developed area on the opposite side of the island, there are a number of things we have come to miss, or at least appreciate about our time at Popai, where we were volunteering in trade for free accommodation on a permaculture property.

This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.


Living in the dark in Hawaii, outside our yurt with a windowless window

With the nearest streetlight being miles and miles away and the nearest neighbour (also living off-grid) over half a mile away, there is no ambient light to work with. None. You don’t know what darkness really is until you have been in a similar circumstance.

Getting used to it was a challenge. The sun sets at 6pm and from then on you are at the mercy of headlamps, one light bulb (assuming there was enough sun that day to power it), candles, and the moon. Darkness envelopes you, and not knowing what is beyond the reach of your light can be scary and claustrophobic at times.

However now that we are here in Kona, we crave that darkness. The blanket of black that surrounded us was comforting rather than disconcerting, and restful for the eyes too. Playing cards by headlamp and candlelight wasn’t terrible, (although the insects flying into our faces and lights was) – but overall it was quite romantic.

I’ll admit, it was made additionally comfortable with the knowledge that no evil critters that could do us any harm lurked in the shadows anywhere….no poisonous spiders, scorpions, or bigger threats like bears or snakes were stalking us to make the darkness scary.


Where are we?! Are we still in Hawaii?! Why don’t people in this area know what a soursop or rolinea or strawberry guava is? Or even a bloody liliqoy (passionfruit)?!?! Why don’t they understand what taro is, and how poi is a classic historical Hawaiian staple and an important part of their history? And why the heck don’t people crack into coconuts here to make fresh macaroons?!?!

I’ll admit, we are foodies to the extreme and love to try new things. But the number of people who live here and don’t eat (or even know about) many of the foods that grow right on our back porches (sometimes literally) in Hawaii is amazing.

Gone are the days when we could walk out our front door and collect a dozen liliqoy and some avocados in half an hour. Or ride a few miles down the road for guava, strawberry guava, and noni fruits. All – for free. At worst, we used to ride to the nearest farm or market and pick up our produce of choice for pennies on the dollar.

Now, if they can be found at all, they’re terrifically expensive – jacked up in price to meet tourist demand, or (even worse) imported from the Philippines.


Where we’re currently volunteering, we are currently sharing a small kitchen and bathroom with four other people. And even our private bedroom houses the belongings of one of our room mates, so it can see a fair bit of traffic too.

Now really – who the heck are we to complain. We’re not complaining. We have a roof over our heads, a safe place to store our belongings, and a very cool place to live in with cool room mates to boot. We have use of a BBQ, hammocks, a (faux) black sand beach out back, and any grocery store imaginable within walking distance. Our second floor deck overlooks the ocean (three blocks away), and inspirational stencilled words and funky artwork surrounds us.

So it’s a reversal of roles. Before, we were far away from anything, and here, we are close to everything. Nice problem to have, really. It just takes some getting used to.

What we miss specifically was our little yurt in the middle of nowhere. It was a private paradise for us, with an outdoor shower (and bathroom), and more privacy than either of us knew what to do with. As much as it was crippling at times, it was a treat when we allowed it to be.


The cat fights in the middle of the night. The constant hum of traffic and city sounds. Clocks. Fans. Lights. Showers. Footsteps. None of these are sounds that were part of our world on the other side of the island.

The sorts of sounds we heard were waves crashing, frogs croaking, and crickets chirping. And as much as I hated those bloody crickets that chirped all night from underneath our bed, there was something oddly comforting in it too.


Although it rotted my socks that we couldn’t get anywhere near the ocean without being swept into oblivion by the raging waves, having such a vast and private piece of ocean on our doorstep was a treat. More than once we brought our chairs outside and watched the waves with a book in hand for hours. It was like television.

When we were hiking with a friend through Volcano National Park, we reached a similar stretch of coast and started reminiscing. We did it again when some big waves came in whilst watching the sun set near Kona with some other friends. It was an amazing experience, and a treat at that to have had an expanse of ocean all to ourselves.


All this is not to say that we’re going to race back to Popai to relive these experiences. But it is amazing that hindsight is great for a lot of things, including new appreciation of chapters past.

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