Anyone who has moved, regardless of how far, has had to make the same adjustments. It starts with the perils of packing, making travel arrangements and house hunting.
Even after signing a lease, the chores continue, from visiting the DMV, updating your address, to meeting the neighbors (maybe), and finding your bearings with the help of Google Maps.
But, leaving Hawaii has an additional layer of adjustment. It is a state like no other, and, it’s why you’ll often see former Hawaii residents constantly posting flashback photos of paradise as they go through withdrawal. Here are my most comical struggles – and joys, too – in coming back to the Mainland thus far:
- What are these obnoxious signs?: I got used to driving around the beautiful roads of Hawaii with no distracting billboards in sight. Abruptly coming back to these enormous signs plastered all over Mainland routes makes me feel claustrophobic. They’re everywhere, and it drives me nuts!
- Grey is a color: I have been spoiled by year-round blue skies, sunshine and warmth – with the occasional rainy day or tropical storm. Seeing grey skies and foggy mornings only makes me appreciate Hawaii’s natural beauty even more, but it also makes me grateful to finally have a guilt-free excuse for lazy days now.
- Static electricity and chapped lips: With the grey days and colder weather comes coping with the cold. I forgot how to “do cold.” My chapped lips are such a nuisance, and I keep accidentally shocking my dog thanks to static electricity. My first winter back here will be a hot mess as I re-train myself on how to endure a real winter.
- Free shipping: Yay! All those former free shipping offers are no longer followed by the disappointment of “does not apply to Hawaii or Alaska.” Similarly, it won’t take four weeks to receive orders, and I’m finally eligible for giveaways that always exclude Hawaii.
- Big Box retailers: Locally-owned, family-run businesses are the pillars of Hawaii communities. Now, I am 10 minutes away from Kohl’s, Target, Panera, Olive Garden, Chipotle, CVS, Best Buy, Pier 1, Petco, Lowes, Michaels, and of course Walmart. It is sensory overload, and I miss the small-town charm and character found in Hawaii communities.
- Where is the good kine?: The food in Hawaii is unlike anywhere else. My usual cravings for acai bowls, shrimp tacos, mac salad, sushi, taro chips, malasadas, okinawan sweet potato, opah, kalua pig, and more (oh, so much more), are not exactly being met by the offerings around. *Sigh.
- So … much … plastic: After living in a state that had just banned the use of plastic bags, I am once again surrounded by plastic bags. Hawaii is working toward 100% renewable energy through its Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, but beyond its policy goals, the people there just seem to care more about the land, and it is contagious. This isn’t to disregard the work that other states are doing to meet similar goals, but Hawaii’s is certainly the most aggressive.
- No time for talk story: When my husband and I first shopped at a grocery store in our new town, we immediately left and said, “Why does everyone seem so angry?” Rewind four years, and we probably said the opposite of this after first shopping in a Hawaii store: “Why does everyone seem so happy?” This isn’t to say that we haven’t felt welcomed in our new town – we absolutely have – but there is definitely something powerful to that Aloha Spirit.
- You want me to swim in that? Our new home hugs the Atlantic Ocean. We’re also near lakes and bays – none of which lure my toes into the water now that I have been spoiled by crystal clear, warm blue waters. Thanks for that one, Hawaii! But I’m certainly up for boating and fishing instead.
Not to confuse these funny struggles with any sort of negativity … how lucky are we to have experienced Hawaii, and more than that, how lucky are we to be able to keep exploring. Mixed emotions, sure, but proof that it is entirely possible to love both the comforts of where you left and the unknowns of where you’re headed. Change is both a loss and a gain.