Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Tale of Two Islands


On the surface, you wouldn’t see them as having much in common.  One is fourteen times the size of the other, with six and a half times the population. It’s also a tropical rainforest island with low unemployment and a thriving economy, while the smaller island is a desert landscape oasis amid a country of no-end-in-sight Great Depression times.  And they are separated from each other by virtually half the circumference of the globe.

One is Kauai, the most undeveloped of Hawaii’s main islands, the other (of course) is Mykonos, among the most developed of Greece’s Aegean Cycladic islands.

I’ve never been to Hawaii before, and after a week in Honolulu at Left Coast Crime, we headed off for five days on Kauai.  Quite a difference between those two islands, though both are beautiful. But Oahu is dominated by a big city, whereas Kauai seems dominated by the desire not to become one.

We did the touristic things…running all around Kauai to all the places reachable by car—the Mustang convertible is the rental car of choice here for good reason (see, sunburned nose).  Kauai truly is a paradise…as the crush of tourists and places catering to them attest.

I’m not being judgmental on that point, just honest. Frankly, Mykonos is far more touristic in season than Kauai.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

As Barbara and I like to do, we ferretted out local places, and spoke with locals. We also read the local papers.  The result was simple:  Compared to our home island of Mykonos, it’s déjà vu all over again.

The locals are battling developers who “promise” their developments will not change the basic nature of the island.  They’re also battling commercial interests seeking to establish mega-ventures in the heart of residential enclaves, notably a huge dairy farm…upwind of long established homes. Upwind means that the scents embracing your island home will not be ambrosia carried on trade winds.  To use the phrase I’ve heard (not herd) island lovers mention in describing the situation, I think “bull shit” sums up both the proposal and aroma succinctly—even though “cow shit” may be more accurate for a dairy farm.

So, what are the similarities between Kauai and Mykonos? There are no dairy farms on Mykonos, but there are sewage treatment facilities and dumps, and continuing debates over both.

There’s also the changing life style phenomenon common to both islands. Kauai has been discovered by celebrity types…Mark Zuckerberg paying a reported 100 million dollars for oceanfront property is the most current big story…and though celebrities living there are nothing new (Pierce Brosnan, Ben Stiller, Julia Roberts, Bette Midler), it appears everyone believes they can get equivalent amounts for what they have to sell.  Or rent…to tourists and locals alike. 

Zuckerberg Property

For sure, that’s now the established norm on Mykonos.

And once that mentality takes hold—that the dollar or euro is what matters—those who follow its lead only add to development, desecration, and despondency of those who truly care for their island. 

Perhaps Kauai will be different. After all, it functions under an American system of laws and has an indigenous people highly motivated to protect their history, plus a lot of newcomers willing to join in the battle.

We shall see.  After all, the worst that can happen is Kuaui will begin to look like Oahu.  I leave it to you to choose which you prefer. There’s no right answer.



Bottom line: Different strokes for different folks. And neither island is likely to give you one. Yes, we’ll be back.

Aloha—as we fly off to NYC today.  Or should I say, “Oy vey?”



  1. So how'd you like the chickens? I understand there's quite a flock of free-ranging chickens on Kauai.

    But, unfortunately, the answer always seems to be Joni Mitchell...

    1. The rooster is the symbol of the island. Wild chickens are everywhere...and the wear about as many clothes as those famous hippy members of Kauai's Taylor Camp--era 1969--started by Elizabeth Taylor's brother. Perhaps that's where Joni got her inspiration (via Graham Nash perhaps), though I know that a well known song of hers was inspired by time on Crete.

  2. Welcome back to our island home, my brother. Dinner at The KnicK?

  3. We'll be a bit late as we don't leave Honolulu for 5.5 hours. :). But yes once we get organized ....

  4. Very interesting comparison. I am so glad you spent the extra days going somewhere else. I still enjoy Oahu but now I'm intrigued to go elsewhere...though I hate the idea of destroying the peace.

    1. After having had the distinct pleasure of spending time with you at LCC, I can safely say without reservation, Sujata, that you will bring only peace to Kauai. It's a soul thing. :)

  5. You stole my line: was about to say "Oy vey." But to the possibility of the "modernization" of Kauai, that beautiful island. Hope it remains as it is, but those developers are pushy.

    Hope the people can hold out and keep their island untrammeled.