Opinion: Rock fever: The downsides of living on Maui as a teenager

John Kirton, Staff Writer

When I tell people outside of my immediate circle that I live in Hawaii, they are often fascinated. After a series of questions regarding my life on Maui such as:
“So, you surf, right?”
“Is it like the movie ‘Moana’?”
“You’re tan. You must be Hawaiian.”

I am almost always faced with the common statement: “I bet you love living in Hawaii”

About two years ago, my first and usual answer to this question would be, “Yes I love it.” But as I have entered my teenage years, I have realized that even though I love living on Maui, I have been faced with major disadvantages growing up on such a small and isolated island despite its beauty and sense of community.

Growing up on Maui, I am guaranteed two things: that I will never have problems relating to snow (excluding the top of Haleakala mountain), and that I am able to go to the beach within twenty minutes of almost any location on the island. These guarantees are definitely selling points. Although Maui offers convenience, beautiful waterfalls, almost perfect weather, and a sense of safety, it lacks very key and important things: an environment of multiple and various activities.

A major disadvantage of living on Maui is the lack of fun things to do, such as going to a waterpark, playing laser tag, and attending major concerts. These simple activities are ones that a person on Maui cannot enjoy. Due to this disadvantage, I often feel as if I am missing out on a more fun and exciting adolescence that other teens on the mainland have a better chance of experiencing.

Another limitation of growing up on Maui is the lack of athletic opportunities. Personally, I am constantly affected by the isolation of Maui and how it influences my growth as an athlete. Ever since I started playing polo at the age of nine, I have never been more passionate about something in my entire life. Since I was just getting started and trying to figure out what I was comfortable with, the small polo community made me feel safe and at home.

Once I got better at polo over the years, I developed the drive and desire to be play in more competitive games. I have always played on the mainland (California and Florida) during school breaks and summer. The big and embarrassing gap of experience between my teammates when I have played on the mainland shows significantly. The lack of experience and exposure that I face living in Maui is the reason why it is so hard to keep up.

Since the polo community is small in contrast to the big clubs on the mainland, I am often at a disadvantage in my playing due to Maui being so isolated from the center of the polo world. In addition to other disadvantages, I regularly have to put thousands of dollars and miles in to getting to good games on the mainland that will better me as a player. These problems I face living on maui today are ones that affect me and my possible future in polo significantly.

Living on an island 2,471 miles away from the mainland, I often feel distant from my family members I was once close with. When I moved away from the majority of my family at the age of five, the only family I had on the island was my parents and older sister. Although my family was and still is supportive, I miss the environment of a large family I once had. I miss the feeling of belonging and the sense of safety of having cousins, grandparents, and other relatives on special occasions when I first moved here. Now, as I have made close friends, I do not feel the disadvantage of having barely any family on island anymore, yet the lack of family and exclusivity I feel living on maui away from the rest of my family still stings.

Growing up on Maui has been an experience with many pros and cons. While I have loved the beauty and safety of the island, the isolation of other opportunities has been a disadvantage I have had to learn to deal with over the years. I am extremely grateful for the childhood I have had on Maui, yet I am constantly wondering if living on Maui is making my future less of a success it could be if I could live on the mainland.