Archive for the 'Courage & Fear' Category

5 Hard-Earned Tips for Hawaii Work-Trade (& WWOOFing) that will ensure Success

During my adventures on these Hawaiian Islands, I have witnessed some remarkably unconventional and intriguing ways of living—ways that aren’t nearly as common on Mainland USA.

The single most profound difference I’ve encountered on these islands is the social agreement known as Work-Trade. Before I came here, I’d never work-traded anywhere. Heck, I don’t think I’d even heard of it before, but it turned out to be the best way for me to live cheaply on the Big Island while I wrote my 2nd book. No joke.

If you’re not familiar, work-trade is a type of living situation where a person (i.e., a work-trader) does a certain type of work in exchange for lodging. This is especially common on Hawaii, where jobs can be scarce. But even beyond that, many people choose work trade for the community benefits it offers. Nowhere else in the world have I seen so many intentional communities thriving than on Hawaii, and many of my friends here believe that community living is the future (not to mention the past, too).

Before I came to Hawaii in April 2013, I thought work-trade would be a fantastic way to save money. After all, helping people with their technology in exchange for free rent, laundry, and internet service sounded like a stellar idea.

What I didn’t know at the time was how much of a growth catalyst this would be for me. I’d never lived in community before, and I was in for a bit of an adjustment. I’ve managed condense what I’ve learned into the five tips below, that, when applied, can highly improve your experience.

Five Wise Tips

  1. Be Totally Crystal Clear what your agreement is before you begin. If the agreement is 24 hours per week, please be sure of which days that entails, and exactly what that work will be. Some managers are more free-spirited than others and just want someone there to hold space, while others will micro-manage you. It’s up to you to clarify what is expected of you before you begin.
  2. Realize that agreements are up for negotiation as long as you keep an open ear and behave honorably. Some places will charge you a security deposit (or give it some other name), and I was able to cut the deposit of my first place in half by doing some extra work in exchange. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in a place where jobs and clients can be tricky to find, saving a little extra cash is helpful.
  3. Run the Work Environment through your gut. Do you feel good about living on the same property with the person who will also be your boss? Having your manager also be your landlord is perhaps the largest mental shift associated with work-trade. Working with someone who you get along with is great in a job situation, but it’s just about mandatory when it comes to work trade. You will see that person most every day, so test for resonance before you agree to anything. If you get into an agreement with someone who simply doesn’t get you, anguish will result. However, if your manager understands what you have to offer, and you both do your part, a beautiful, highly-supportive relationship can result.
  4. Be sure you want to be part of that Community before you arrive. If the community is relatively transient, obviously you’d better be equanimous with unexpected personalities coming and going every few weeks. Do you resonate with the culture of the place? Do you enjoy the people there now? Have you noticed new people arriving that you also feel good about—or don’t? In a place with a high turnover rate, like a hostel, this is can be a double-edged sword. Know yourself.
  5. Be prepared to share Utilities like kitchen, laundry machine, and bathroom. If you haven’t had to do this before, it can be a bit of an adjustment, but usually the least of concerns, which is why I’ve placed it here at the end. If you are the kind of person who is interested in community in the first place, you will most likely adapt to this quickly.


Overwhelmingly Positive

Double Rainbow over Hana Bay, Maui

Overall, living in a various work-trade situations has been overwhelmingly positive for me. Once I adjusted, I found the work-trade situations on the Big Island to be intriguing and of a relatively low time commitment (usually less time than a part-time job).

If you’re able to land a place that really resonates with you, it can be the best decision you’ll ever make if you want to really delve deep into a place while travelling, especially in Hawaii. You’ll expose yourself to new growth experiences, many of which you can’t anticipate. Living in a community, no matter how small, has the effect of exposing elements of yourself that you can improve on, as well as revealing your greatest strengths.

A Final Word of Warning: Once you start doing this, it may be difficult to stop! When I started house-sitting in mid-2014 after living in community for over a year, I found the adjustment to living alone rather pleasant at first, but then I came to miss living in community. The social support to be found in community is powerful, even if it’s just one or two other people.

Even now as I write this, I am on the eastern side of Maui, typing inside one of the most terrific living rooms ever: a fully-enclosed geodesic dome, complete with couches and a guitars along the edge. My friend’s farm here in Hana is a wonderfully eclectic mix of sacred architecture, abundant fruit trees, and creative souls — not to mention a wonderful home base for my brief time here on Maui.

Seems I just can’t get away from community, can I? ;)

Why the Law of Impermanence is Key: Non-Attachment in Relationships

When it comes to relationships, I’ve found that it is vital to retain a certain level of non-attachment.

Notice that I didn’t say “detachment.” Non-attachment is different.

Non-attachment is a term for anicca, which is the buddhist concept of impermanence, something I’ve been learning a lot about during my experience here on Hawai’i. I like the term “non-attachment” because it’s a pretty good approximation of what the original Pāli word means.

The concept of anicca (pronounced “a-ni-cha”) is a concept that has been around for thousands of years as one of the major ideas in Buddhism. Basically, it means “impermanence.”

To be clear, I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, but the more I grow to understand and put into practice this concept, the less suffering I experience in literally every area of my life. (I tend to use pieces of different belief systems inasmuch as I find them effective.)

You see, I have this bad habit. (Well, multiple bad habits, I suspect, but let’s deal with just one for now.)

Here’s my habit: when I’m in a relationship, I often analyze my interactions with the other person, their responses, my responses, and try to come to reasonable conclusions.

There are some upsides to this approach, but there is a hidden downside. By coming to logical conclusions, I unconsciously create an expectation of future events.

Yes, you read that right. By using reason, I can still perpetuate suffering.

Here’s why: it’s possible to cling to anything, including reason. And by clinging to reason, I was also clinging to the results of my own reasoning. This would all be fine except that (and you may have noticed this) life is not always reasonable. It can be absurd, unpredictable, and sometimes downright stupid.

The Antidote

So, how do I consciously reduce this tendency? As we already know, clinging to a certain outcome always brings suffering in the end. (Don’t believe me? Try it.) The only constant is Change, which is why non-attachment is my key to peace, happiness, and yes, even joy.

I’ll provide an example.

Say, for the sake of argument, that I was seeing someone who was very special to me. And say, for the sake of argument, that she and I have excellent chemistry, shared interests, and an open flow of communication. I may even see this person as having excellent longterm potential as a relationship partner.

Now say that she is struggling with her past and allowing it to rob her of enjoying life in the present. What if she got scared or overanalyzed the situation? What if she even used the F word that no man in a relationship wants to hear? “Friendship.”

If any of these things happened (again, purely for the sake of argument), I may be tempted to go back over our relationship and try and look for signs and draw logical conclusions. But again this is fundamentally flawed.


Because humans are not always logical and are often far from reasonable. If, for instance, a suspension bridge had failed, drawing logical conclusions based on hard data would be a fantastic idea, but people are not bridges and their inner workings cannot be inspected with a microscope — which is where non-attachment comes in.

When I look a such a situation with non-attachment, with true anicca in mind, I see it as merely one crest of a massive, ever-changing wave. If something happens that I feel aversion toward, I could feel bad. But that response is a choice. If I am conscious of that choice, I can choose to focus on anicca instead, the fact that “this too shall also change.” In the same vein, if something that I want to happen does not happen, the natural response to this is to feel suffering, but again, that response is a choice. (Over time, I’ve even realized how this feeling shows up in my physical body. For me personally, it usually shows up in the form of a tightness or anxiety the pit of my stomach. If I ever wake up with this feeling, I know there’s something bubbling up from my unconscious mind that I need to observe and release.)

Not only do my relationships flow better when I remember the Law of Impermanence: everything flows better, because integrating anicca changes my relationship to life itself. By remembering in every instance that all is changing and “this will also change,” I can free myself up to see reality in a new light, a truer light, for here is the Grand Secret:

Anicca is fundamental to the nature of the universe, and once I began to grasp that, everything changed.

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