Monday, October 26, 2015

Retire early on $5500 a year!

I was reading Robert Bell's latest post on his blog, Living Stingy, Living on $7000 a Year?  He supposes that it is impossible to live in the United States on $7000 a year...maybe in Africa, but not in the USA. At his blog site Mr. Bell is able to use the Google Blog Analytics to see what search words people use and eventually end up at his blog, or in this case another website that sells a $17.95 book that promises the path to extreme early retirement on $7000 a year. As you can imagine both sites are quite popular..... alas, the latter site is specious, spurious and pure bullshit, but popular. If you wish, you may read the entire article as Mr. Bell always does a stellar job of exposing bullshit, sophistry and the incredible stupid behavior by the general population idiots. 
In the article, Mr Bell, a patent attorney, self-admitted mistake maker in early adulthood and part time RVer, honestly states that he has no interest in living on even ten times that amount because, well, he likes to eat great food and do cool shit. So sitting here in my favorite jungle bakery, surrounded by dirty hippies, who are eating Eggs Benedict and paying for it with food stamps, I decided to use those words "extreme early retirement" and "retire early on $5500 a year!" in today's title. I too have access to Google Analytics, so it will be interesting to see if they flock to this site as well. And I am not trying to sell you anything.
However, my taxable income last year really was $5500. Let me be clear, that is taxable income, not effective income. Nonetheless, the following post is a record of some of the things I have been able to do for the past several months on a taxable income of $5500. Agreed this lifestyle is a tricky proposition with no safety net and that living in a modified tent in the rain forest of bumfuck Hawaii is not Mr. Bell's nor 99% of the rest of the country's idea of extreme retirement. The other deluded 1% of us, who do see living in textbook poverty as freedom gained from the treadmill, do things like this on, say, a quiet Tuesday afternoon. So far, it works for me.....the "what if this or that happens" crowd warn that maybe I'm gonna die eating sardines in a tent....but look where the tent is and the sardines are packed in extra-virgin olive oil.
So I present various vignettes of how one might live if they make the incredibly unwise and risky ballsy and prudent decision to throw in the towel and live like I do in Hawaii on $5500 a year. The above pictures were taken on a recent camping trip to Laupahoehoe Point Park.

Cost to set that tent up in the first picture at the above location:  $0
Long ago settled by ancient fishermen and taro farmers, more recently Laupahoehoe (leaf of lava) was in the middle of sugarcane country and at one time was a busy harbor with two to three thousand inhabitants. The harbor, however, did not allow large ships to be loaded directly. Smaller boats were used to ferry shipments from land to big ships anchored off shore. The establishment of the railroad system for transporting goods to the Hilo Harbor for direct loading of shipments reduced the use of the Laupahoehoe Harbor and the eventual collapse of the cane industry spelled the doom of Laupahoehoe.

Laupahoehoe had a thriving little community from the 1800's on. There was a church, school and a hotel where for a dollar a day one could rent a room and go across the street to eat at a little Chinese restaurant. 

Laupahoehoe is also infamous for the 1946 tsunami, when three towering tidal waves roared over the peninsula, killing many residents, including 23 students and four teachers. The children were happily gathering the fish (in this field below where an old foundation is now sort of a basketball court)  that were deposited from the huge, but not deadly, second wave. In this interlude as well, the teachers used the time to return to their quarters and change into dry clothes. Then the final huge, third and deadly wave hit (some say it was 50 feet high). No one had noticed all the water being sucked out of the bay until it was too late. 
A monument with the names and ages of the children and teachers has been erected on the school site. Most nearby residents and the school itself were later relocated to the top of the ridge.

Site of the old cane works.
In an area where it is common to see the Kingdom of Hawaii flag blowing in the breeze or the state of Hawaii's official flag flown upside down, it was interesting to see what I have to assume is an old timer's patriotism. The middle flag was USMC and I am guessing the resident is a veteran of Korea or WWII.
I went snooping around the site of the old church and found that all that remained was the graveyard. Many of the graves were marked with piles of rocks, which I am guessing pre-date missionary times.
If you look closely at this gravestone you can see Japanese or Chinese writing.

There were many unknowns that had been removed for some reason.
This giant monkeypod tree was in the courtyard of the school. The old gym in the background escaped the deluge.
All that is left of the school are these stairs
and this sink, which was to the right of the stairs and is still hooked up to the drain.

One morning on a coffee stroll around the point....
I saw this carving, totem, anchor stone? I have no idea if this a recent carving or was left in the beach rubble by the canoeists of yesteryear.
After another day of doing nothing but absorbing the beauty of the place, I found what once was a Jodo Pure Land School a branch of Japanese Buddhism that may predate the arrival of Christianity to the islands.
Located nearby is Kolekole Park that was also the victim of the 1946 tsunami. The steel bride above is one of several that were built as railroad bridges for the sugar cane trains that travelled between Hilo and the deep valley sections of the Hamakua Coast.
The park is very popular today with the locals from the Hilo area.
Boilers and other parts of the old sugar mill still litter the park from 1946. Because of the damage, the railway was abandoned, sparking the construction of today's scenic highway using the same bridges. If you like train systems of yesteryear read about The Hawaii Consolidated Railroad
As much as selfies bug me, this is the only current photo I have of Teri, who you will recall is from a place in Manitoba that nobody has ever heard of, or cares about. Teri lived in tent across from me, egad, has it been over two years ago when we were both newbies at this jungle game. We had our only WooWoo experience in Hawaii with her husband Chris  Do these people look capable of having a ghostly encounter? one evening at Volcano National Park.
She returned to Kalani after almost two years for a MONTH'S long vacation while Chris stayed behind in bumfuck Manitoba and WORKED. Thus so, off we went a rambling on a couple of adventures.
On our first stop, Teri and I stopped at a much more basic, smaller and similar intentional community operation nearby called Cinderland. These places abound in lower Puna and this one is actually one of the more established. 
Living quarters, library and kitchen at Cinderland.
Instructions on how to use their toilet.
Teri decided to give the bathroom a pass, but on a follow up visit, Kerry tries it out, not without some concerns, reservations and advice.
Especially about/to our knowledgeable tour guide, Ava on the left, who was well schooled in the nuances of hippie jungle life. Kerry was worried that Ava might fall in that giant toilet and no one might notice for a day or so.

In the beginning of today's post I stated that my income last year was $5500. I am able to do all of these cool things because my effective income is much higher. In exchange for "volunteering" at an educational yoga retreat center as a chef three times a week I am given the stipend, room and board, classes, laundry, one week vacation every three months, one hell of a social life and so on. I rarely carry a wallet.

So the trade off from where I work and Cinderland? Kalani has three great meals a day, including fresh ahi tuna twice a week, rainwater pool, sauna, laundry and so on and so forth, but it is not a flophouse and you have to work. At Cinderland, work and rules seem much less stringent, but offers no running water, a little off grid solar or maybe no electricity, sporadic prepared meals,  (when we stopped in, some very bleary eyed major dudes were cooking breadfruit on an open fire because as we learned, the propane had run out). Even in the day, I liked my creature comforts too icy cold Kona Brewing Company Beer after an arduous day of adventuring to make the trade. Kalani camping is as close to the Earth as I am going to go. Cinderland does have Taco Tuesday every week, a bring your own clean plate (yup, it's that basic) social affair. The day Teri and I stopped in, one of the bleary eyed cooks said it was going to be boiled breadfruit instead of tacos this week.

When on adventures with people, I always stop at Malama flats where the wave action makes photo ops infinite.

In 1955 these series of vents opened up on the eastern fault line of Kilauea volcano. These are rows of splatter cones that are made up of airborne cemented blobs of ash, cinder and splatter (called tephra) next to the the fissure that fed the eruption.

At one point in 1960 there was a lava fountain coming out of this vent shooting higher than the Empire State Building. It was eerie as Teri and I poked around these now quiet and isolated cones. The landscape offered plenty of opportunities for a good fall into the bowels of the earth.

In the 1960 episode, other vents again spewed out enormous amounts of lava and buried all but two subdivisions of the town of Kapoho. At the old site of the town there are some old mailboxes and a steel gate closing off the area. Every time I have driven by this area the gate was locked except one day when Teri and I were driving around. I suggested that we drive out on the lava fields and poke around. We found these buildings but not much more. As we headed back to the road and the gate was locked. Who friggin locked us in?

Teri and I looked at each other as if to say "oh no, two years after the last ghostly encounter and now some spirit thingamajig done gone and locked the gate".

We returned to the building above and eventually encountered a pretty little hippie girl sitting at a table, enjoying some serious bliss time. She seemed nonchalant at best, that we two had just appeared at her table in a shack on a deserted lava field from what should have appeared to her, as out of nowhere.
We explained our predicament and she calmly and kindly told us the key was in the old mailbox.

And sure enough there it was. Who in the fuck locked that gate remains a mystery because we never saw another living soul.

Another day we went to Volcano NP and almost went to the top of Mauna Ulu above. Mauna Ulu was also a flank eruption of Kilauea that erupted massively from 1969-1974. This short hike is not for the easily frightened or the faint at heart.
 There are several steamy areas where thin, shelly lava breaks beneath your feet. You may only drop an inch or two but your adrenaline tells you otherwise. The edge of the rim of the crater above is even less stable, is nearly straight down, steaming and crumbling all the time. If you get too close, the edge might break off, you may fall in and then you are *really* out of luck.
It was getting dark and rainy and considering our ghostly encounters together, Teri and I decided to adjourn and agreed to fight the good fight another time.
As Pele would have it, PeopleFlow provided me with major Chicago Cubs fan Kerry, shown here as we summit the crater a month later. Notice those cracks on the rim behind her? To stand on the other side of those cracks to get a selfie of the maw that is getting deeper everyday, is to seriously risk becoming *really* out of luck.
Another shot of Kerry on the crumbly rim looking down into the crater of Mauna Ulu. I was getting vertigo just watching her up there, images of the big fall racing through my head and what exactly I would do about it in this isolated spot, as, well, I had brung her. But she didn't break both legs and spine and we retired to the bar at the Volcano House, where we actually could not sit at the bar because there was a Mets fan there hooting it up at the outcome of the game and this poor child couldn't bear that.
When I want to do nothing somewhere different I usually head out to the Pahoa library or hang out with all the other home free characters at  The Tin Shack Bakery The Punatic PeopleFlow stumble in and out from their jungle abodes which makes for great people watching. The great food, drinks and WIFI make for a pleasant morning's diversion. Here Jade from Rotorua, NZ and of Maori descent, joins me for one or their specialities: Eggs Benedict.
Folks, I think long and hard about a place that offers Hollandaise Sauce, especially if it is a bakery housed in an old transmission repair shop, that is literally an old tin shack. At the best of times, one would get Knorr's Hollandaise Sauce Mix at most places, less than that in a place like this, but joy of all joys, at the Tin Shack it is the real thing, On top of that most people can't poach an egg properly.....not the case here as well. Yet another pleasant diversion in this part of the Pacific.
The other day I was taking a shower and looked up and saw this bunch of bananas growing. The banana tree itself is growing under a fully loaded avocado tree. Maybe I will have a little lunch after the shower.
Above is the Seaview "subdivision" lawn, that acts as a park of sorts on Red Road. It was a day that a hurricane was passing by a few hundred miles away. Hawaii is such a small target in the huge Pacific that the odds are infinitesimal against a direct hit. Fun doing nothing watching the surf though.
This is the Hawaiian Kingdom flag that you seeing being flown by a certain type of person, not unlike the certain type of person that flies the Confederate flag. Racism works both ways. When these certain types are gathered around either of these flags, both insisting it is a cultural pride thing, I usually go sit somewhere else.

The shots above are of typical small business ahi tuna fishermen that call Pohoiki Park homebase.They are short and stout rigs with lots or horsepower. These fishermen catch the tuna the old fashioned way, with rod and reel.

In August I attended the one week "Tuning into Source" workshop. These workshops are offered to volunteers at a steep discount. An expensive as it is to leave the gates of "the bubble", and expensive as it is for mainlanders to attend these workshops, it behooves me to sometimes make my vacations staycations and stay on property and just chill out. Hangin' out while becoming enlightened at da crib.
   That would be Maxwell Starkhouse on the left and Toby Gant on the right, the facilitators of the Source workshop. Our group included guests from Japan, Switzerland and various Western US states. There is a huge market for these workshops folks.
Excepting Jackie, from the not so exotic Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Jacky works hard so she can go to places like Esalen, Omega and Kalani and do the shit she really wants to do in life, but alas, she is trapped on the treadmill. She went on a adventure with Allison and me and got an earful about the differences between being a one week guest and a long term volunteer. Ears musta been a burning of the news gossip from the coconut wireless.
Maxwell, Mike from Boulder and Toby relax after lunch and before afternoon classes. Maxwell was the Yin and Toby was the Yang. One afternoon, Toby's Yoga class was so intense, I had to leave because I thought my soul would be better served by reading by the pool. I also puzzled Toby one day by pondering why there is no device to measure the energy flow of chakras. We can measure the wiggling of an electron light years away, we already have such things as electrocardiograms and EKG's to measure all sorts of energies, but why not one for chakras?
The week's activities included Ecstatic Dance, different kinds of Yoga, Sanskrit chanting, pretty much a sampler of every new age concept that is offered in these parts.
Meet Allison from Beaufort SC,  a hospitality student and intern in the kitchen with me. We were the two volunteers in the group. Our price for the week was $90.
Mike supports me in the Watsu pool while a beam of pure Hawaiian sunlight (of course) helps facilitate a deep state of relaxation. Watsu was developed at Harbin Hot Springs which sadly burnt to the ground during the recent California wildfires. Many habitues of Kalani frequented Harbin as well. Good luck on the re-building effort there people.
Mike keeps me afloat in the natal/primal broth.

Our group from all over the world. We all left a little more "aligned and balanced".

I could go on about the things I can do on $5500 a year, but I will wrap it up with a camping trip to Hilina Pali, also in VNP. This little shelter is at the end of a nine mile road to the center of VNP, and faces a huge earthquake caused cliff (pali) and is infrequently visited. Asim, Kiwi Lucie and Jon rounded out the team.
The night before, about eight hippies and their three annoying dogs, showed up in our shelter as we were watching the Milky Way. They were just as surprised to see us as we were them, as they had come the nine miles at dusk and were counting on crashing in this this shelter. As is almost always the case with the hippies around here, these people were seriously (and intentionally) unprepared for camping: no tent or sleeping bags. Dinner was a cup of coffee heated up in half of a beer can that was filled with rubbing alcohol. My, there were some longing eyes made on our well prepared bivouac. As possession is 9/10th of the law, we managed to make it uncomfortable enough for them, by spreading our gear all around and keeping their grubby hands out of our well stocked coolers, that they eventually got the hint and moved on, obtensively to camp in a cave near South Point.
But not before Jon and myself gave them an impromptu concert under a shining Milky Way, glowing Kilauea volcano and shooting stars (man did they have their eyes on that cooler chocked full of icy Kona Big Waves and that two liter bottle of Early Times once everyone got relaxed for the concert). Asim, born in Pakistan but raised in LA and pronounced AWESOME, has been with me in the kitchen a couple of years now and is a professional photographer. His more better shots of this trip and two songs are here Wandering with Uncle Ted I did not know he was recording these songs...alas the perils of a codger living in a iphone 6 world.
I shoot Asim shooting Lucie overlooking the pali during early morning coffee. His pictures are definitely worth checking out.
We finished up the trip going to source of Rainbow Falls, a popular scenic stop near Highway 11, but the mob of tourists don't make it up this far.
When we made it the top of the falls sequence I thought: $5500 a year and we are the only fucking people up here except for two Hawaiian girls gathering some type of tuber or water plant on a goddamned raft? The cost to us was a potentially dangerous jungle walk...fucking free in my book.
So there you have it friends.This blog started out in 2012 on what I thought was going to be a journal of a semi-retired chef's RV adventure in the Western parts of the USA. I would ramble around and pick up chef's jobs here and there and things would fall into place. Somehow it morphed to a two and a half year adventure in rural Hawaii and has been more successful that I could have possibly imagined.

Alas, the word on the coconut wireless around here is that the longer you live in Hawaii the more unfit you become to ever live anywhere else.

I studied and still follow the blogs (and appropriate some of their ideas occasionally) of the people who are on my homepage, who write on how does one exactly fund and undertake such an endeavour as living free? These bloggers stress that this lifestyle is not a permanent vacation. It can be Life as a perpetual stranger, far from family and old friends, 22 miles from the nearest band-aid and in my case, walking the fine line of hanging out with people that are sometimes ~30 years younger than me without beginning stories with "well dudes, back in 1974" or generally being a creepy Captain Snarky.

I figure I have to be Ted somewhere and this current situation suits better than the downside of treadmill and cubicle life.

So I am not selling anything here, but free advice is worth what you paid for it.

You searched something like "retire with no money and have all the fun you never had while you were working"" and ended up with me on the Big Island.

 My advice to wannabes then: Everything has a price. Figure out what the price is for what you want and pay it. It may be money, it may be not seeing family and friends, it may be quitting your job, it may be dumping the Missus, it may be selling everything you own so you don't owe anybody anything, but figure out the price, pay it and be gone with your bad self.

Thanks for Stopping By