When I first broke the news to my family and friends that I was moving to Hawaii, the reaction was consistent: “You’re going to paradise? Your life is a dream!”
It’s a totally understandable reaction. And yes, I would giggle with excitement at the hope of pursuing all my biggest dreams in a place truly portrayed as paradise. I naively moved to Oahu expecting to fall in love with a place, but instead I fell in love with a community – and a way of living that is far richer than the coconut drinks and hula dancers so stereotypically broadcasted to the world.
Calling Hawaii home has been the biggest blessing. As we prepare to pack our bags, there are some things I will seriously miss (some that you will easily find on a tourist brochure, others not so much):
- The people: Growing up in the MidWest I thought I knew friendly, but Hawaii really takes this to a whole other level. You don’t just make friends, you make family. You become an aunty or uncle without having to be blood-related, and your co-workers aren’t just acquaintances, but comprise an even bigger extension of your ohana where “talking story” becomes the best part of your day. What makes this concept even more beautiful is the cultural diversity of Hawaii, where the West meets the East.
- The food: This diversity is also what makes the food so awesome. Whether you spend top dollar for Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a fusion of the best of each
culture, or you stop at one of the numerous shabby food trucks serving up the best shrimp, you can’t go wrong. It was an adjustment at first leaving behind the cheese and carbs of my hometown, where there is enough pizza within a 5-mile radius to feed the whole state – and Chipotle and Olive Garden always within reach – but trading in those comfort-foods has been the best thing to happen to my taste buds. I’ll take acai bowls instead of ice cream, sushi rolls instead of pizza rolls, manapua over biscuits, and Taro chips over Sun Chips, please!
- Yep, the beaches win: Do listen to the tourist pamphlets telling you how
Hawaii’s beaches are among the most stunning in the world. They are. And even after living here for several years the beauty is still jaw-dropping. Venture beyond the famous Waikiki Beach to explore the real gems, like my personal favorite, Sherwoods Beach off Kalanianole Highway. Also, don’t limit your travels to the island of Oahu. Hawaii Island is home to the rare black and green sand beaches, which take my breath away. I’m not a surfer nor a swimmer, but I will miss these beaches for the rejuvenation and peace of mind they always feed my soul when I need it most.
- Workplace norms: Most of my time in Hawaii has been at work (the cost of
paradise isn’t cheap), and embedding myself in this unique business community has been so empowering. The many small but appreciated customs make for a warmer and more comfortable experience at the office. Suits and blazers are not needed – unless you’re a lawyer – aloha wear and business casual will do. Forget sterile handshakes, prepare for hugs and kisses on the cheek when mixing at events – and lei greetings depending on your role. In Hawaii, where Fridays are “Aloha Fridays,” and humility matters more than power, it is quite easy to find a workplace you genuinely enjoy calling your second home. And even though Honolulu traffic is among the worst in the nation, you’ll never hear horns honking. That aloha spirit keeps drivers in a civil if not friendly state, making the frustrations of traffic totally tolerable.
- Kokua: Or, “giving to others,” is a concept that has stuck with me the most. Sure, I grew up learning to share and help others in need, but not at the level with which I’ve witnessed the spirit of giving within Hawaii’s community. It’s interwoven in the values of treating others as family, and respecting the land that provides so much. It has made me a better person, and I live with an attitude that has shifted from “help when you can, but fend for yourself first,” to “help when you can, for it is through giving that you will better yourself.”