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“My family and I moved to Hilo from Texas when I was a young teenager. I spent my teen and young adult years in Hawaii. I was a Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion on the varsity tennis team. I graduated as valedictorian of Hilo High School and got a free ride scholarship to UH Hilo.

“I first met my husband as a junior in high school at his private school’s summer camp, and we got married in Waikoloa about eight years after that. Hawaii Island is and always will be my heart’s home. But in the summer of 2013 we returned to Texas because the economy in Hawaii was so poor. We both had two jobs each but still had to make ends meet using credit cards because the income was just not enough for our family. It was not financially sustainable for our family to continue living where we grew up and had made so many memories.

“I would cry often that first year we were here because I missed Hilo so badly. We miss the local lifestyle and the way everyone in Hilo is like a close-knit family. I miss how people are more genuine and not so arms-length and fake.

“If we were to move back to Hilo, our family would need hundreds of thousands of dollars saved up to afford it all — the extremely high cost of living and the costs to maintain living there, the high state taxes, the costs of shipping cars and the minimal, necessary belongings, finding and affording a quality house for our family near Hilo, the costs of replacing furniture and other household necessities. We’d need to set up solar panels so our electric bill could actually be affordable and not close to a car payment. We’d both have to find really great jobs that would allow us to make ends meet and still function as a family.

“But we know that this most likely won’t ever happen.”

Amanda Bjornen
Fort Worth, Texas
Former resident of Hilo, Hawaii Island