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Hawaii’s New Remote Work Program Includes Free Flights

By Michelle Baran

Dec 18, 2020

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There are worse places to take your Zoom calls.

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There are worse places to take your Zoom calls.

Those who are selected must stay for at least one month (brutal, we know) and volunteer with a nonprofit for a few hours each week.

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If you work remotely and love Hawaii, this is your chance. The state recently launched a “Movers & Shakas” program for remote workers who would consider relocating to the islands for at least a month.

Fifty lucky applicants will even get free round-trip airfare to Oahu, where the initial batch of digital nomads will be hosted. What’s the catch? You will need to donate a few hours of your time each week to a local education nonprofit, assigned based on your skill set.

The program was launched at the end of November as part of a public-private effort to help bolster and diversify Hawaii’s economy, which has taken a huge hit due to a downturn in visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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How the Hawaii relocation program works

Movers & Shakas’ main goal is to “help foster an economy that is resilient to economic downturns by seeding industries that aren’t necessarily tied to transportation across the ocean,” according to the organization’s website. “Our hope is that the program will help to build a more resilient Hawaii economy.”

In order to apply, interested individuals should be gainfully employed, 18 years or older, be a domestic U.S. worker, have the flexibility to work remotely, and be willing to invest in their new island-based community through volunteering. Couples and families are welcome to submit an application. The program is intended for those who live outside of Hawaii—those currently residing in Hawaii don’t qualify, but former Hawaii residents are welcome to apply.

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The organizers plan to review all the applications and then conduct video interviews with finalists. Those selected will receive free round-trip flights to Hawaii and access to discounted hotel stays and to coworking spaces, if need be.

They will also be required to spend at least 30 consecutive days in Hawaii but can stay longer—they will be expected to move to Oahu (where the current program takes place, though the hope is to possibly expand to additional islands in the future) within one month of being informed that they have been chosen to participate. The deadline to apply for the current program is December 15, and the 50 selected applicants will all be notified sometime before Christmas.

The chosen ones will also be asked to volunteer a few hours of their time each week by sharing their expertise and professional know-how with local children and emerging talent in the community to help them have better access to global job opportunities.

Movers & Shakas “seeks to build a reciprocal relationship between newcomers and the community such that Hawaii is enriched by the trend towards remote work.”

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The offer comes after Hawaii launched its pretravel testing program on October 15, allowing travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result procured no more than 72 hours prior to a flight to the islands to avoid an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine. (Effective December 2, Kauai has opted out of the program and reinstated a 14-day quarantine requirement—but all other Hawaii counties remain in.)

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In some cases a second test is needed. Maui has voluntary secondary testing for visitors. And the Big Island requires a second rapid COVID-19 antigen test upon arrival for visitors to avoid quarantine (free of charge). The tests are being administered at all three Hawaii island airports: Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole, Waimea-Kohala Airport, and Hilo International Airport.

There is also a partial interisland travel quarantine requirement in place. This 14-day quarantine applies to anyone traveling to and between the islands of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. The interisland quarantine does not include interisland travelers arriving on Oahu, and it also does not apply to a layover in Honolulu en route to another island.

Tips for relocating to Hawaii

For those strongly considering applying to the program, Movers & Shakas offers several tips for a successful relocation, including how to find shorter- and longer-term housing. The program suggests using Airbnb or Vrbo for a stay of one to six months, and sites like Zillow, Trulia, HiCentral, and other island-based realtors for rentals for six months or longer. Several hotels have also linked up with the program to provide discounted rates for stays of one month or more. (You can email info@moversandshakas.org for a list of properties and resorts participating—as well as with any questions regarding the program.)

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A car for getting around is highly recommended as well, which can be found for around $1,000 per month through traditional car rental agencies. If you plan to stay for more than three months, you can ship your car for about $1,500 each way—the going rate for shipping one from California to Oahu, according to organizers.

The Hawaii time zone is two hours behind California and five hours behind New York, which is important to consider in terms of aligning with office hours on the mainland and kids’ remote learning schedules.

Movers & Shakas also has a whole section of its site devoted to how to bring your dog or cat along—which according to the organization is doable but requires some careful preparation (about two months’ worth of advance prep).  

>> Next: AFAR’s Ultimate Hawaii Travel Guide

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