I think many of us cannot even conceive of the idea of actually living in Hawaii, living in paradise. I know I certainly couldn’t imagine it when I was at Keesler Air Force Base in 1984, having almost finished with “tech school.” We had just pulled our first duty station assignments off the board and mine said Hickam AFB, Honolulu, Hawaii. I was sure there was a mistake. I didn’t know anything about the islands. I could have probably found Hawaii on a map after a few minutes of looking. I knew the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii and had all kinds of weird experiences. That’s all I knew.
I pictured bamboo huts and slums. I didn’t know whether Hickam was in the middle of a jungle somewhere, or on a barren landscape with nothing around. I pictured eating a lot of fruit like pineapples and coconuts. Mangoes, I hadn’t even heard of yet. We don’t have mangoes in Western Pennsylvania where I grew up.
All I knew was that town of 3,000 people I grew up in. All I knew was small-town life. I knew mountains and woods. I knew trout fishing. I knew soccer. I knew a whole lot of people that didn’t make anything resembling decent wages. I’d never seen a Lamborghini or Lotus. I’d never seen a lotus flower. The world was so unknown back then. In 1984 we had a library for information. We had a video store where we could check out movies that might have been made in Hawaii. We had National Geographic magazines that showed places beyond the USA. We had very little information at our fingertips.
So, I did what I could. I went to the library at Keesler and read up on Hickam Air Force Base. It was dry reading, but I read every word a couple of times. I felt better about the base having some great facilities like gym, tennis, fishing, grocery store, department stores for clothes (Base Exchange (BX)). But I had no real idea what the Hawaiian Islands were like. I saw on the map that they were thousands of miles away from other major land masses. They were just little dots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
So, I was afraid I wouldn’t like the place. Still, I didn’t have a choice when I climbed on the plane to fly over to Honolulu. What I found was truly paradise in every way. I was isolated from what I knew – and that turned out to be a very good thing. There was so much to explore. Beautiful things, beautiful people, amazing scenery was everywhere I turned. It’s really like living a dream when get there and the reality hits you – that you are not just there for a vacation,
HAWAII IS HOME!
Today we’re in a different era. You can research online and find thousands of pages of information about life in Hawaii. You can find millions of photos, hundreds of thousands just on Flickr.com alone. You can see exactly where you might live. You can find a map with street view and elevation charts. You can see how far you will be from the beach. You can watch wave cams to see what the waves are doing that day, that minute. You can chat with people in forums that are living on any island right now – this second – and ask them questions about life there and how things work.
Still, no matter how much you know before you go, the beauty of Hawaii clouds your head when you arrive. It literally puts you in a fog as the place is overwhelming. Pulling your rental car out of the airport you see towering palm trees and blossoming flowers everywhere you look. Well, until you hit Nimitz Hwy. at least!
I think most of us cannot conceive of living in such a place. I think most of you reading this will never give it a chance and move over to the islands for a while to see if you can make it a lifelong home. Though I’ve lived there for six years – not continuously – in blocks of years, I never really came to the conclusion that I could stay forever. That I should stay forever. In my mind I always felt like it was temporary. It was home while I was there, and I loved living there, but in the back of my mind I knew that I’d be leaving.
I just couldn’t fathom the idea that I could live on Maui, Oahu, Big Island or Kauai for the rest of my life. I could pull it off for some years at a time, but forever? I guess I didn’t have the confidence that I could make it forever. I mean, as much confidence as I have, still it wasn’t enough to make me stick it out and look at life in Hawaii as a very long-term, a ‘forever’ home.
And now I know.
I can live in the islands forever. It has taken me nearly thirty years since I first arrived in Honolulu to realize it. To believe it. To be sure of it.
Today I’m thinking about all the people that come to this site and read something about Hawaii and say to themselves, “Ah, that must be nice.” Most people don’t go beyond that. They might visit, but most of the people reading this won’t even take a short vacation over to see Hawaii. Those that do are hit with the reality of it – the stunning beauty of the place. A visit to Hawaii can change your life. Literally, it can. It does. It changes not only whatever state you were in before you arrived, and alters your mood and the few days that you are there – but it changes you inside forever. Your world-view expands and you see something that is so different, so alluring (to most), that you begin to think in new ways.
Seeing Hawaii for the first time is a little like seeing a UFO for the first time. It’s just unexplainable. It’s impossible to grasp in one trip, and so it lives on in your memory as you try to come to grips with how it could be what it is. As a result of your mind not being able to rationally explain it, you look at it as a magical place. Something that defies logic. And that, it is. Hawaii is a place that is very hard to put a finger on. It’s hard to nail down with thought. It has to be experienced.
Visiting Hawaii and living in Hawaii are two vastly different experiences. Though the islands retain their beauty, the magic slowly fades as one lives continuously on one of the islands. When you come to live with the right attitude, with a lot of planning and foresight, you’ll accept the reality better than if you come without any. While visiting the islands you see little that is negative, and what you do see is quickly forgotten as the positives greatly outweigh them. You might see a homeless man on the sidewalk begging as you walk by in the crowd, think about him for a few seconds, and then you’re on to focusing on something else you can buy with the six hundred dollars you brought with you to spend in four days. You might see traffic one night as you walk along Kapiolani Blvd and think it’s exciting because Waikiki seems like it’s just packed with people and things to do at night. If you lived on Oahu you’d probably have a slightly different take on things.
So the dream and the reality are not quite the same thing. The reality of life in paradise is different for sure. Still, it’s quite livable, I assure you! There are worse places to be! There are less beautiful places. There are places that don’t have waves at all. Places you cannot camp on the beach at all. Places without three hour hikes leading to the tops of mountain ridges where you can see the whole northeast side of an island. There are places where there is less homelessness. Places where it rains less. Places where the leaves change color in the fall.
Hawaii has many things, but not everything. It may have what you’re looking for. Like me, you might not even know what you’re looking for, but find it in Hawaii.
If you are even remotely considering moving to one of the islands to try it, I strongly encourage you to do so. Even if you stay for a couple of months, it will change your life, I’m sure of it. One way or another, but probably in very positive ways, it will change your life and the person you are. It will change your ideas of what life is and what life could be. It will change your ideas about work and friends. It will change your ideas about what to do with your free time. It will give you hope that things can get better.
Hawaii can do all of this and more. Though you might not be able to imagine living in a place like this, it is there for you. It’s available. There are rooms for rent. There are jobs to get. There are places to see that are so stunning they will bring tears to your eyes. There are people to meet that will change your life. There are life lessons to be learned daily in the islands. I found living there to be an endless source of inspiration in so many areas of my life.
Don’t just think about it. MOVE TO HAWAII and see how your life changes. Make the effort, whatever it takes. Make a one year plan, a three year plan, whenever it makes sense – but, make it happen and move for a while. Don’t say forever. Just move for a bit and see if it’s a place you can call home, not just with your mouth, but with your soul. See if it’s a place that you can stay forever.
I know from experience it’s a place that always stays with you when you do leave. For that reason alone, it is worth going!
Best of Life! Aloha!