Yarber-Lee Family Announcement…Moving to Hawai’i

As we have traveled for the past 8 months, our future plans continue to develop and deepen in ways that are meaningful, exciting, and challenging. When we left for our Year of Volunteer Travel Discernment, we knew that our end-goal was to find land to open a small retreat/education center. We knew the undergirding philosophy: intersectional ecofeminism. We knew that we wanted to create the retreat in a way that left us debt-free. And we knew that we wanted to spend part of the year close to family, which is primarily in the southeast. Because of all these things, we assumed we’d likely find inexpensive land somewhere in the North Carolina mountains, lead retreats for about half the year, and travel for about half the year from henceforth. Amidst all the things we “knew,” we also remained open to the changes travel would bring: new inspirations, new wonders, new ideas, new connections. We don’t just want to “live differently” for a year, but for our lives!

The things we knew when we left are still realities for us: 1) undergirding ecofeminist philosophy, 2) debt-free, 3) near family for half the year. Our assumptions, however, have changed a bit. After a lot of searching in North Carolina, we’ve accepted that we’re likely priced out of creating our retreat center there if we want to remain debt-free. The only places we could even potentially afford are too conservative to accept a family like ours and a retreat like the one we want to create. A major assumption also changed when we arrived on the stunning Big Island of Hawai’i.

hilo sunset

The sunset that awaited us the evening we arrived in Hilo

The possibility of living in Hawai’i had never even entered our search simply because we assumed it would astronomically expensive. Well, we learned that this assumption was wrong. It turns out that the price of land and building on the east side of the Big Island is actually incredibly affordable and naturally lends itself to an off-grid sustainable lifestyle.

family onekahakaha

We’re pretty happy to be outside most of the day!

We have been enlivened and inspired by this island: its beauty, the diversity of people, multiculturalism, access to living off-grid, access to growing your own food, its rich culture and history, access to a vegan lifestyle, and the ability to live the majority of our life outside.

The Big Island is also much more progressive and open-minded in ways that would better suit our retreat center and our little family. So, the big news is that we’ve purchased an acre of land in the Puna District, specifically a place called “Hawaiian Paradise Park.” It is four blocks—a brief 5 minute stroll—from this whale watching spot:

Seriously. We’re not kidding. Who wouldn’t want to go on retreat here?!

It’s about 15 minutes from the town of Pahoa and 25 minutes from Hilo, beaches, tide pools, hot ponds, waterfalls, and Volcano National Park…

rainbow falls

It’s an ideal spot for walking, running, and biking. Right now the land has 2 mango trees, a guava tree, and a ton of wild orchids and tea trees growing amidst lava rock; over time we plan to plant many more fruit trees and create a nice raised bed vegetable garden.

Our plan moving forward is to build and create our retreat center on the Big Island, living and leading retreats for most of winter and spring. In most of summer and fall, we will remain in North Carolina where Angela will continue to teach at Wake Forest (as long as they’ll have her!). At first we will campground host in our camper during our time in North Carolina so that our living expenses will be minimal while still having inspiring and beautiful surroundings. While we are in North Carolina, our Hawai’i home will operate on Air BnB. We may also rent out our camper while we’re in Hawai’i, so both of our “homes” will provide income during the months we are not living in them. We hope 🙂

We are beyond excited about this plan. It was made with much intention, care, and research. And we are confident that these choices will better coincide with our values and goals even more so than our original plan of creating our retreat in North Carolina. Plus, since Hawai’i is one of the most sought after and beautiful locations in the world, we’re confident that the business side of things will be more fruitful, as well. More important than the business side of things is how this plan reflects our values and provides an endless array of opportunities for Riah’s development (and ours!).

Right now we are working on the permitting to build our family’s simple home, a 450 sq/ft house with a large lanai where our little family will live while on the island. When we’re leading retreats, this home will function as the main hub of the center. Everything will be entirely off-grid and sustainable with solar energy, water catchment, and propane gas. Once we build our small home, we plan to build multiple teeny tiny homes (think 100-150 sq/ft)—called ‘ohana homes in Hawai’i as ‘ohana means “family”—for retreatants to stay in on the land. So, we’re certainly open to hosting visitors and groups with some construction skills who want to help us build some of these ‘ohana homes! Friends, family, and fellow professors and clergy who lead service projects, check your calendars…if you want a free place to stay in Hawai’i in exchange for meaningful work, we’re your people! Seriously. We’re not joking. And if you know anyone at Tiny House Nation, for crying out loud, tell them to pick us for their show and help us build our home!

And friends, family, clergy, and professors, if you want to partner with us for retreats, workshops, and land-based intensive classes, let us know! Embodied Ecofeminist Spirituality, Queer Family Camp, Women’s Spirituality, Queer Spirituality, clergy and activist retreats, writing retreats, yoga retreats, and maybe even body-positive feminist fitness retreats…all these things will become our realities within the next few years once we finish creating our retreat center!

We know that creating and sustaining life and community in two places will have challenges. Yet we are choosing to accept these challenges with open hearts and minds. We will not be fancy or rich. What we lack in money, we flourish in love, beauty, and wonder. We made an important choice when we left our jobs and sold our home: to live simply, remain open to wonder, and explore this big, beautiful planet we call home. So, that’s what we’re doing. We hope you can join us along the way!


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