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Big Island, HI
Thomas J. Story

"Expat" Cheat Sheet

Christie Cash, 42

Moved: From Los Angeles to the Big Island in 2007
Old life: Executive producer for a film post-production company
New life:  Owner of Puakea guest ranch (puakearanch.com) in North Kohala; lives in Waimea
The aha moment: I was running a post-production company in L.A. and after months of negotiating a complex merger, I realized, Wait, do I really want to be doing this in five years? If not, what do I want ownership in? And then I thought: Hawaii. I've always loved Hawaii. We chose the Big Island because it's the most diverse and feels the least touristy to us. When we found the ranch—a 33-acre former sugarcane plantation with jacaranda and plum trees—we fell in love with it and wanted to share it. There is still magic here.
What I gave up: Friends I'd had since my 20s, amazing restaurants, museums, theaters. There aren't many occasions to get dressed up here, and there is still a part of me that wants to wear my fancy high heels.
What I gained: Motherhood. A 9 p.m. bedtime. An oceanside "commute. " And if you'd told me 10 years ago I'd be a horseback rider, I would've laughed.
Take my advice: You will always be an outsider to folks who have been here for generations, and you may need to work a bit to make friends. I volunteer at my kids' schools, and most of my close friends are other parents or business owners. Respect the fact that you're a newcomer in a place with deep roots, and you'll be fine. Don't speak pidgin!
I knew I was a local when: We picked up our daughter one day after school with surfboards strapped on the car.

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