Island Bound 4: I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

[continued from Island Bound 3: Plan A]

off Maalaea
off Maalaea

Plan A suggested that the only thing we needed to do immediately was get the Kula house rented. That assumption is pretty much where Plan A began to fall apart. We needed some repairs done before we could rent the place out, and getting construction work done on Maui isn’t exactly predictable. Even on the mainland, contractors have multiple jobs, distractions, budgeting issues and crew changes. That can be more pronounced in a place where people, both employers and contractors, embrace the concept of Island Time. It can be frustrating – but you have to remember you’re entitled to embrace that concept too!

The guy I’d asked to do the repairs wasn’t going to be available until about April. This being January, we were talking about two or three months of double mortgage payments without rental relief. Also in January, we flew out to visit our house, live in it for a week, and get the feel of things. During that week, we fell more in love with the house, the neighborhood, the island. I also met my contractor face-to-face, and we really hit it off. All of these things contributed to the beginning of the Downfall of Plan A.

We also felt like we should get our Issaquah house on the market – we’d heard too many stories about how many months it took, realistically, to sell a home. So we engaged an agent and started the process. We didn’t hear it at the time, but another piece of Plan A crumbled and crashed into the sea.

The Collapse of Plan A

Fast forward a few weeks. We’ve been preparing for an open house to launch our home on the market. Cleaning, repairs, staging the place. The weekend arrives, and we have to take the dog and make ourselves scarce for both days as strangers tromp through our house. Also during that week, lots of calls from agents who want to show the house – many of whom either (a) can’t figure out how to disarm the alarm and set it off or (b) can’t seem to remember to arm the alarm when they’re done. An uncomfortable time, strangers in the house and the unknown ahead.

The week after the open house, I had to travel east for work. That week, a number of things piled up: first, some aspects of my mother’s estate resolved themselves, and the entire thing was closed. Then on Wednesday, I talked with our realtor, who informed me that we had four offers. After six days on the market. The best offer, from a lot of perspectives, had two downsides: we had to decide by 9pm PT that evening (declining not really an option as the offer was well above our asking price), and if we accepted the offer, we had to be out of the place by March 27th. It’s February 19th. A few other planets aligned during the week, Sarah and I had a few very long talks, took some deep breaths. Then we accepted the offer. We now had about six weeks to stitch all the details together to pack and leave our home of the last seven years to live… somewhere: Enter the beginning of Plan B.

Plan A is dead, long live Plan B

More decisions. One direction was renting a house in Issaquah for a year or so while we rented the Kula house. The more we thought about it, this option just wasn’t that attractive. And after spending a week in the Kula house, getting to know people and places, we were now highly motivated to become island people. On Friday the 21st, while I was still traveling, we both gave notice at our jobs, and Plan B, the process of immediate relocation, began in earnest.

Now for the logistics. Plan B means an incredible set of interlocking to-do lists, calls, emails, forms filled out, etc. Thank you OmniFocus. Moving so soon means that Beast can’t go right away – he’s not eligible to arrive on Maui until May 9th because of his Rabies quarantine, while I have some things on Maui I need to start pursuing (things like jobs) as soon as possible. So Plan B resolves into two separate migrations: the first at the end of March, shipping my car, all of our stuff getting shipped in a “ReloCube” (our entire life into a 6’x7’x8′ container), our house cleaned and vacated. Then I rejoin our stuff and my car on Maui, set up housekeeping, get all the utilities and construction resolved, and look for work. Sarah takes Beast and spends some time with her family since we won’t be able to drive there from now on. The second migration happens when I fly back to Seattle, rejoin Sarah and Beast, see Beast off at Air Cargo, ship Sarah’s car, hop on our own flight, and then we all end up in our new home together. Easy!

First cut of Things to Think About looks like this (without any of the really detailed stuff):

  • plan my migration
    • book my flights there and back
    • shipped stuff I want to have there on arrival (tools, etc.)
    • assemble docs and materials that should not be sent, shipped or checked in baggage
      • passports
      • SS cards
      • originals of car registrations
      • bank documents
      • cash
      • camera gear
      • laptops, servers, RAIDs
  • plan our joint trip in May
    • book one-way flights for both of us
  • downsize
    • living space: going from a 2 floor, 5 bedroom, 2800 sq. ft. house to 1 floor, 2 bedroom, 690 sq. ft.
    • garage: no more 2-car garage, only carport – downsize there too!
    • climate: no more long wool coats (they rot), down vests (they rot), leather bags (you get the picture)
  • get rid of extra stuff
    • sell all unneeded stuff on Craig’s List
    • schedule a garage sale to get rid of what’s left
    • donate stuff that didn’t sell
  • ship our stuff
    • identify a shipper
    • schedule container drop off at Issaquah house
    • schedule container pickup at Issaquah house
    • get an estimated date for arrival of container at Kula house
  • schedule my car for shipment
    • identify a shipper for our cars
    • research the rules for shipping a car to Maui
    • book an interim rental car on Maui for until my car arrives
    • research the rules of registration transfer from the mainland to Maui
      • figure out how to deal with the car having to be registered within 30 days, but Sarah not arriving until day 35, and we’re both on the registration
    • start the process of changing insurance
    • start the process of title transfer
    • get written permission from our lender to ship our cars
  • schedule Sarah’s car for shipment
    • [all the same stuff as for my car except no interim rental]
    • figure out what to do when her current registration expires during shipment (of course)
  • figure out how to get Beast to Maui
    • identify a pet relocation service
    • get the paperwork done:
      • AQS-278 form, filled out, signed and notarized, original delivered to Hawai’i Dept. of Agriculture
      • Neighbor Island Permit received from Hawai’i Dept. of Agriculture
      • Health Certificate issued less than 5 days before Beast’s departure
      • additional stuff to go with Beast and his carrier taped to top of carrier
    • book a pet-friendly hotel for the time between when we vacate the house and when I fly out
    • schedule the vet for Health Certificate exam
    • book a hotel between Beast’s departure and ours, pet-friendly should he not make his flight
    • book a rental van because we’ll need it to get Beast and his carrier to Air Cargo, and Sarah’s car will already have been shipped
    • schedule the vet to meet Beast at Kahului on arrival
    • book a kennel in Kahului for Beast until we get there the day after he arrives
  • after all the dust has settled
    • Hawai’i drivers’ licenses (Kama’aina rates are really helpful!)
    • change mobile phone numbers to 808
    • open accounts at a local bank
    • jobs!

And the list grows daily.  Plan B is happening!

[next: Island Bound 5: Relocated!]

Island Bound 3: Plan A

[continued from Island Bound 2: Timing is Everything]

view from our lanai
view from our lanai

So now we owned two homes: one in Issaquah and one in Kula. But we lived in Issaquah, we had jobs, friends, family reasonably close by. It was comfortable. But those dual mortgage payments were highly motivating: we had to decide next steps. 

Plan A was pretty straightforward: make sure the Kula house was ready to rent (some repairs were needed) and get someone in there on a 6-12 month lease, and pretty much defer all other decisions for a while. In the meantime, get our dog (Beast) in for his Rabies Titer test.

Beast Transport

Taking your pet with you to Hawai’i is far from a simple thing. They don’t have Rabies in the islands, and they’re determined to keep it that way. For a long time, the only way to bring your dog with you was to fly him out, then wave goodbye as he goes into The System for 4-6 months’ quarantine. You could visit him daily, but he had to stay at the quarantine kennel facility – and you had to pay for that. This rule was inviolate. Now, however, the rules are a bit more flexible (my suspicion is that had something to do with that wacky heiress bringing her giraffe – I am not kidding – with her and negotiating with the authorities to let her “pet” do the quarantine at her mansion). These days, if you jump through all the procedural hoops, you can actually meet your dog as he comes off the plane, go through a bit of paperwork, and take him right to his new home. That procedure starts with a blood draw, which goes directly to Kansas State University or to the CDC. Results are sent directly to the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture, who then informs you (by allowing you to search for your pet’s chip ID in a 300-page PDF that’s published weekly) of your dog’s “eligibility date”, 120 days from their receipt of the test results. A four-month wait – but then your dog is eligible to arrive anytime after that waiting period for three years. So getting Beast in sooner than later didn’t have a down side.

from IATA
from IATA

The other thing about getting our pet to Hawaii is that they have to fly. For smaller to medium-ish dogs, most airlines will take them in checked baggage for a couple of hundred bucks. No so our boy: he is a Malamute, an Alaskan Malamute, and big for the breed at 105 pounds. The International Air Transportation Agency (IATA) has rules about pets on planes. They actually have an acronym for it: LAR, for Live Animals Regulations – IATA LAR. They also have a Pet Corner.  The carrier (“container” in IATA speak) has to be big enough that the dog can stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably. All makes sense. But a fine point is that, while sitting or standing, their ears cannot touch the ceiling of their container. Period. For our boy, his stand-up ears make him about 37″ tall. That meant taking an IATA 700 “Giant” carrier (35″ high) and adding a 4″ spacer. It also means all bets are off for baggage compartments since the carrier is now 39″ high. Welcome to the world of Air Cargo, Beast.

Titer? Check. Container? Check. Paperwork? I’m used to wading through bureaucracy: check more or less. Flights? Whoa. Whole other story. As a 100,000+ annual traveler, I’ve seen some insanely-complicated travel arrangements and connections. But trying to get any understanding of how to get Beast on planes to Maui defeated me: the plane, the airline, the time of year, the phase of the moon (okay, I made that last part up). So Plan A [pet sub-plan 1] was to find an outfit to do all this for me.

All seemed good: get the Kula house rented and see where things are something like a year from now. Solid plan.


[next: Island Bound 4: I Love it When a Plan Comes Together]